So, in our last post, we created a block of text, a form. Then we used quoins and furniture to lock the form up in the chase. Finally, we placed the form into the bed of the press. All of this accomplished through the use of bizarre and confusing words…it is, I’m afraid, time to continue.
Impressions are made on the press when the bed (which holds the chase and inked form) comes in contact with the Platen. The platen is a flat metal plate that holds the paper on which we are trying to make the impression.
In the picture above, you might notice that there is a tan colored paper covering the platen…this is called Tympan Paper. It’s an oiled sheet of paper that is held on the platen by bails at the top and bottom of the platen. Tympan paper accomplishes three things. It provides a clean smooth surface to put the paper on, holds Packing in place that is used to create consistent impressions, and gives the printer a way to attach Gauge Pins. Packing paper of varied thicknesses. It is used to make sure the paper and form press evenly together. Gauge pins are small, usually metal pieces that slide into slits in the tympan paper to hold the paper in place so it doesn’t move while the press opens and closes. The gauge pins help ensure that every piece of paper has the impression created in the exact same place as the others (called Registration).
At this point, we are lacking one key element…ink. Ink is distributed on the form via Rollers (finally an easily understood word!). The rollers roll over an ink disk (another easy word) and then down over the form. The form presses into the paper (which is on the platen) to create the print.
Now you have the key words to understanding letterpress printing. I’m afraid that there are many more…but now you have enough to get you started.