The Printing Process

At the Third & Elm Press, the printing process encompasses a range of manual and mechanical techniques based on the capabilities of the shop’s two presses. Ilse prints her work on an 19th-century Acorn hand press or a 19th-century Golding platen press. Detailed below are some of the techniques she uses, in particular her innovative process of printing a multi color print from a single block.

Operating the 19th Century Golding Platen Press

Figure 1: The Press

golding printing pressA great clattering rig of iron, the 1897 Golding Platen Press is a prime example of the industrial revolution and the height of printing technology in its time. The basic operation of the press is simple but like the operation of many old machines it is a bit dangerous.

Figure 2: Operating the Press

ink printing pressA motorized drive powers the mechanism which repeatedly passes the ink rollers up to the platen where they collect ink and then down over the type. The type and wood blocks are held vertically in the press within a steel frame.

Figure 3: Passing the Paper

ilse-feeding-press-frm-backAs the press opens, the printed sheet is removed and a fresh sheet is quickly inserted. The platen closes, applying hundreds of pounds of pressure to form the impression of the block on the paper. In a smooth, continuous rhythm, Ilse passes the paper through the machine as it opens and closes. Like the operator of any moving machinery, she must remain keenly aware of the position of her hands and the working press bed.

Figure 4: Setting the Type

The lines of type are set by hand. Each letter is gathered from its specific compartment in the type case. One case holds one font.

Figure 5: Block Ready for Print

The set type and woodblock for two projects wait for printing where they will be locked in the steel frame with the expanding spacers.

Operating the 19th Century Acorn Hand Press

Figure 1: The Press

acorn hand press

The 19th century Acorn hand press.

Figure 2: Inking the Block

inking the block hand pressPrinting on the hand press requires the block to be inked by hand with a small roller. The paper is then placed directly on the inked block.

Figure 3: Placing paper

handle of pressThe paper is then placed directly on the inked block.

Figure 4: Pulling the Hand Press

hand press printingThe sliding press bed is cranked under the platen and a pull of the press arm produces the impression.

Figure 5: Multi-Color Pass Through

nesbitt-third_and_elm-shoot2008-09-raw-vx3u0580Multi-colored prints are passed through the press one time for each color.

Figure 6: Rubbing the Print

rubbing printThe artist rubs the print to ensure proper ink dispersal.

Figure 7: Viewing the Print

printing06Ilse lifts a corner of the paper to check the printed impression. She then works the paper by hand to adjust the colors. The artist pulls each woodblock print in this manner, then numbers and signs them.