Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A New Press

Folks often ask me what I use for a press. They are always amazed to find out that I don't use a press, or at least a western-style wheel-and-rollers type of press we're all familiar with. Since I pick up block printing after a small hiatus back in 1995, I've used nothing more than either a wooden spoon or a simple barren, which translates to "hand press".

But circumstances change, and when Deb proposed this latest calendar project, I knew I wouldn't be able to hand-burnish a dozen 8x10 relief plates onto thick print-making paper without wearing out my shoulder. I knew I needed a press.

But printing presses are expensive. Real expensive. Prohibitively expensive on our tight budget ($$ available for a printing press = $0.00) What to do, what to do?

The internet to the rescue - I'd heard a lot of talk about a thing called a bottle jack press, about how it's easy to build yourself, about how people have been using them for years, about how great they work.

I tracked down said press, and found building plans through printmaker Charles Morgan
The plans are free, easy to follow, and provided you can saw a 2x4 and cut some metal angle iron, you'll end up with something that looks like this:

I broke down and bought a new 6 ton bottle jack, hardware and a sheet of 3/4" MDF, all for under $50.00 (far cry from the $6,000.00 for a new combination relief/intaglio press...) I used salvaged oak 2x4s for the base and the upper and lower bars. I modified the recoil system to use heavy duty springs instead of bungee cords. This thing weighs about 70 lbs and is solid as a rock. I ran a test proof of an old wood block and the thing works great - I only need to add some press blankets.

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