Printing a wood engraving with letterpress founts – my ‘LOVE is … Pink Ferry’ card

Following the success of my Pink Ferry linocut I thought that the Pink Ferry would also make a good subject for a wood engraving. I had also been thinking about designing a card for St Valentines Day using my newly acquired letterpress founts and seeing if I could successfully print both these and a wood engraving. I had tried this first with my Sea Fever card but had run out of time before Christmas to get consistently good prints and realised that the combination of printing pressure, make-ready packing and printing ink were not quite right.

I set about designing a simple silhouette of the ferry on tracing paper, transferring the image using red carbon paper onto a lemon wood block that had been dyed black with a light wash of Quink ink. I was a bit undecided how to depict the water so developed this as I proofed the block. I also decided to include a border to support the ink roller when inking up and to try avoid the cleared areas picking up any ink.

I then locked up the block with the typeface in a chase (called a forme) which I had already composed in 14 and 12 pt Perpetua, with spacing furniture and leadings. I then moved the chase to the moveable bed and checked all the typeface is flush with the bed by loosening the chase slightly and ‘planing’ the forme, using a flat block of wood (a planer) and a mallet or similar to gently tamp down the type before the chase is locked up tight. Initially, my proofs showed that the 14 pt ‘LOVE’ was out of line with the 12 pt ‘is …’ and needed a hairs width of spacing to lift the 12 pt up. I found that a small cut piece of Zerkall 215 gsm both above and below the 12 pt worked a treat!

I currently use an old cast iron Waterlow & Sons copying press to print my letterpress and wood engravings as a cheap alternative to a semi-automated press such as an Adana or Albion. I place the block or chase on a moveable bed made from a rigid flat board covered with a thin sheet of clear acrylic (marked up for registration) which I slide under the platen. You apply pressure by screwing down a platen and with a small block like this a hand tight pressure, with only two sheets of newsprint protecting the card to be printed, seems adequate. The platen seems to apply more pressure to the top left of the block and least pressure to the bottom right so the make-ready needs to be adjusted accordingly.

After quite a bit of trial and error I finally got the underlay and overlay of make-ready producing good prints. I used the blocks of wood as bearers to support the card, stuck down with tape.

I used a strip of newsprint over the card to improve the printing of the lower border. I also added a small square of newsprint over ‘share’ for the same reason.

I cut out a registration card for both the front and rear of the card (using my rubber stamp logo on the rear).

I’m very pleased with how this design and its printing has turned out but I suspect that if I had used a traditional letterpress ink instead of the Caligo Safe Wash Etching Inks I would have got better results still. Another lot of inks to purchase!

For more details see here – https://kayabrown.co.uk/portfolio/love-is-sharing-a-ride-on-the-pink-ferry/.

‘Erosion’ selected for Southbank Printmakers Mini Print Open Exhibition 2019

Editioning

I saw this exhibition promoted on Instagram and thought I would give it a go and was thrilled to find out my wood engraving print ‘Erosion’ was selected. The exhibition opened on 1 May and runs until 2 June 2019 at the Southbank Printmakers Gallery, on the Southbank near the Thames (Gabriel’s Wharf), London. One of the prints was sold before the exhibition opened which made me think I ought to finish editioning the print pretty quickly.

I had been thinking about getting a platen press for a few months allowing me to print onto a heavier weight paper at home. I would love one of those beautiful antique Albion table top presses but they are very expensive and difficult to find so I looked on eBay for a cast iron copying press. I managed to find a bookbinder wanting to sell on a Waterlow and Sons, London Wall press at a reasonable price and picked it up last week. It is a rather odd lemon yellow colour over painted with black but, having given it a good clean, it seems to be in good working order and maybe one day I’ll strip it back and repaint it… one day!

My workstation set up in my studio

Having searched the web for any information on using a book press for printing I found a few threads on wetcanvas.com on how to set up a sliding board with a registration plate to make it easier to put the block under the press. I was really pleased with the results – getting better prints than using a galley press.

Registration plate located centrally under press

I used the small polypropylene board that came with my Xcut Xpress with a polycarbonate registration pate marked up with a cm grid on top.

I experimented with different pressures and found that a single sheet of newsprint with a layer of craft felt on top gave a good result. I used a few blocks of softwood and a card registration plate on top to aid placing the paper ready to print.

The press has short screw handles (some have large brass knobs on the end). This seems to be its original design – may be it was a work horse press so didn’t need to look ‘pretty’! I did try putting some extra pressure on with a cut off scaffolding pole but that seems to create too much pressure in the far left hand corner so it seems that I can put on enough pressure without it.

Editions done and hung up to dry