Baby Press Unboxing And Tests

Yay, I bought a press! Yes, it’s a tiny one, called a “Baby Press”. Laugh all you like. I promise to only press paper and inked things, no babies.

The arrival had me on pins and needles. Yesterday I received four separate packages. They contained the press bed and three blankets. The packages were marked 2/5, 3/5, 4/5, 5/5. Where was 1/5, the actual press?

[press bed and blankets]
It arrived today, bolted securely into its own sturdy crate. Well done!
[press, bolted into the crate]
It only took a few minutes to attach the feet, turn the height cranks around, and attach the big turning arm.
[all set up and ready to go]
Since it looks exactly like a larger press, here’s a photo to give you a sense of scale. It’s really quite tiny!
[a photo with the artist, for scale]
The first thing I did was to pull some prints. Boy, oh, boy! Every time I try something new I gain more appreciation for how many aspects of the printmaking were handled for us by the instructor of the class I took a few years back. She handled mixing the inks and setting up the press for the type of plates we were running each day of class. Well, I’ve got to learn to do all of that stuff myself if I’m going to be a printmaker!
Here are my first six prints, followed by descriptions of what went wrong with each one.

[first test prints]
  1. The paper moved in the press, smearing the ink. I didn’t know how to handle the paper, the block, and the press at all. I think the pressure was too high, causing the plate to slide instead of feeding into the press.
  2. To keep the plate from sliding, I reduced the pressure. Too much. The block didn’t make very good contact with the paper and the ink sure wasn’t pressed into the fibers.
  3. The pressure is way better, but it looks like I over inked. The coverage is better, but the edges are smeary.
  4. I tried to hand register two impressions. The ink is so thick that the transparency isn’t visible.
  5. Whoops! Over compensating. There is so little ink that there are marks from the brayer in the scant coating of ink.
  6. After a few misses, this multi-pass print turned out kind of OK. Yeah, the ink is a little thin so there are brayer marks. The transparency isn’t very good and neither is the registration, but the pressure seems OK and the overall result is the best that I achieved in this first test.
[embossed back]
I gather from talking to other printmakers that embossing isn’t necessarily sought after in woodblock prints, but I like it anyhow. Especially since just yesterday it was impossible for me to get embossing like this without soaking the paper.
Having a press, even a baby one like this, is going to make a huge difference in the types of prints that will be possible. I can see a path into the future where I use this press to print pieces to fund the acquisition of a larger press.