Letterpress / Printing

Printing the 18×24 woodcut by Emily Cohane-Mann

What a fabulous day at PRESS!

Jason and I scurried back and forth between hanging work and finishing work, all the while anticipating the arrival of Emily Cohane-Mann with her 200 sheets of Rives Lightweight. Today was the day to print her large wood cuts. These were the largest images that have ever been printed on the PRESS during my tenure as owner as well as during the tenure of the previous owner. We had a great deal of fun figuring out how to do all sorts of things! We even got to consult the infamous Vandercook Manual to see how to remove the tapes that typically hold the paper to the drum. The very informative pictures kept us guessing the specifics and Google was not a help either. But we figured it out and the printing began.

Everything started smoothly. Emily has printed extensively at Tufts/School of the Museum of Fine Arts and has been watching the press all summer and helping with some of the printing. And, she brought her brother Ethan–a student at RPI, graduate of McCann High School and definitely quick on his feet, a fast learner and able to troubleshoot on the fly. The two of them found a rhythm operating the machine, determining how much and when to apply ink, and when to adjust the pressure.

It was at that moment that I went out for a few minutes.

And that’s when it happened. The tympan decided to completely disengage from the drum sending the metal bar that normally keeps it tucked safely and tightly to the drum into the air for about four inches before tumbling into the rollers. Why did it do this? Lots of use in the past few days, slightly loosened screws, the paper guide tapes not being used–or at least these are some of the guesses.

When I got back, we checked out the situation, determined that the rubber inking rollers did not get damaged, got the tympan out from the inner rollers, and set to the task of getting it all back together. It was a really fun troubleshooting hour. 

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I really did enjoy the fun of it, and everyone took part. The rubber tympan needed cleaning and changing and the rollers needed some adjusting. Ethan’s general knowledge of machines helped when we couldn’t figure out why the rollers weren’t inking evenly anymore. He spotted the little piece of metal that was turned 180 degrees, and once we turned it, it all went smoothly again.

So 200 18×24 images were printed today, in about nine hours, which includes the hour or so of troubleshooting and the hour or so of set-up. Not bad for a days work!

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