Wednesday, May 21, 2014

vacuum letterpress...

What you see in the image at left is one of my first attempts to do vacuum letter press printing. A friend supplied the letters and ink, and the idea is to find a way to do letterpress without a mechanical press. If this works, it will be much easier for letterpress printing enthusiasts to do large work without having a large press. You can imagine letter press printing as large as a sheet of plywood, driven by a simple vacuum pump.

My friend's verdict on this sample is that I used too much ink. Not having done letterpress before, I face a learning curve in getting the ink applied in the proper thickness. I also am in need of a better brayer for applying ink uniformly to the letters. The brayer is used to apply ink evenly to a flat surface and then reapply it to the letters. There are a number of additional issues to work out, including how letters can be held in a unit and properly referenced on the paper as it is placed in the vacuum press.

I've done an internet search for vacuum letterpress and find nothing, so this may be a technique I've invented... unless it is a problematic approach abandoned as fruitless by other craftsmen. But if it works, it might enable craftsmen to experiment with letterpress, without the mechanical press.

Five years ago, presses could be had for hauling them off. Now, with a resurgence of interest, presses have become impossible to find without spending $15,000 or more.

Today in the CSS wood shop, my junior woodturners from the 3rd grade had a busy day.

Also, the premier of my Arkansas Living Treasure video has been announced in Little Rock for Wednesday, May 28.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Anonymous5:21 AM

    While veneering is usually a single project at a time and the glue needs time to cure, letter press job is usually multiple copies and as the rotary presses used for newspapers shows, transfer of ink to paper is nearly instantaneous. Making a vacuum letter press for small quantities is probably doable but the challenge is to make a system to seal the bag quickly and without consuming things such as tape.
    I wander if it is energy efficient? [more power lines ;-) ]
    If you look at the bottom of this web page, you'll see an old wooden press.


  2. Doug,

    Congratulations, on both the video and the new craft obsession. Can't stop learning new things now!