Wednesday, February 11, 2009

EUREKA! I think I found it!

For years now, I have been searching and testing
different registration systems that will provide accuracy when printing multiple colors and the correct edition yield. With the combination of the pin registration system and old fashion book board, I've been able to create a system that works 98% of the time. The other 2% I attribute to "operator error." (by that I mean, every now and then, you are BOUND to do something stupid to mess up an otherwise flawless system).
The secret here is to anchor or fix everything to a piece of book board that's large enough to fit on the press bed during the print process. That's a rather simple explanation of how it works, Here are the details.

1.) Stainless Steel Pins and Mylar Tabs
They can be purchased from TERNES-BURTON Co.
2.) Book board (the thicker the better)
3.) White Glue such as Elmer's
4.) Two types of tape, Masking and a strong shipping tape
5.) Print paper (tear or cut your paper 1 1/2” larger than the dimensions of your plate.
You will trim them down when you are done printing).
6.) Your plate (wood or linoleum)

A bag of 1000 Mylar tabs and stainless pins
The above assortment should last for years.

This is a close up of the stainless steel pins and Mylar tabs. Notice the button on each of the pins,
they are available in over 120 sizes and variations. The ones pictured above are ¼ .155R. The Mylar tabs are punched with two types of hole configurations and are the non-adhesive type.

A nice piece of book board large enough to hold our plate and the metal pins.
I use book board because Matt board will warp after you glue your
plate to it. For this example, I am using a smaller piece of book board.
You can also use a piece of 1/16" to 1/8" plywood.

White glue (NOT RUBBER CEMENT!), masking tape, and a strong shipping tape.

Your plate (wood or linoleum)

Position both pins with the two tabs attached, one per pin.
Don't glue or tape anything yet, we just need to locate the set of pins
in relationship to our plate. The ends of the tabs should touch the
edge of your plate but not extend on top of your plate. Now take a pencil or a ink pin and draw the outline of your plate on to the book board. Again, the piece of book board above could have been a bit larger.

Now, the pins, tabs, and your plate are located on your book. Next,
take your shipping tape (don't use Scotch tape, electrical tape, or
masking tape when securing the metal tabs to the book board).
Without moving the metal pins, tape both of them on to the book
board. Make sure you press the tape on the pins and book board firmly.
Next, apply the white glue within the marked area of your book board.
A medium amount will do fine. Spread it around to insure good
coverage. Now place your plate in the glued area and press it down
firmly. CAREFUL! It will slide on you.
Your glued and taped assembly should resemble the example below
when you are done.

Now place the assembly between two heavy objects to dry over night.
Once the assembly has dried, it's time to register each piece of paper
in your edition to the plate.
Attaching the tabs to your edition paper will take some time, so get
your best Brazilian jazz CD's and lets get started!
Before you attach the Mylar tabs to your paper, make sure that you
tear or cut your paper 1 1/2” larger than the dimensions of your
plate. You will trim them down when you are done printing.

Take the first sheet of edition paper and slide it under the two tabs as
shown above Remember, your edition paper should be cut at least
1-1/2” larger than the dimensions of your plate so there will be some
over hanging. The Mylar tabs are positioned so that they will not
interfere with the plate during the printing process.

Cut off two pieces of masking tape, enough to cover across the tabs
and make contact with the paper. Using your finger, press the tape to
the tabs, and paper, FIRMLY! If anything goes wrong during the
printing process, tab adhesion is the first suspect.

*NOTE* The above view shows the rear of the print paper.

To remove the paper with attached tabs, release the tabs, one at a
time, from the pins and set it aside.

Now place a fresh set of tabs on to the pins, slide the next sheet of
paper under the tabs, tape it down, and so on, until every sheet of
paper in your edition has a set of tabs attached to it.

*NOTE* the above view shows the front or face of your print paper (this surface will receive the image. It will make contact with your inked plate).

Now that every sheet of paper is tabbed, its time to print.
But first, it's important to understand how this registration system
works. You will notice that everything is “fixed”, or attached to the
book board. Your plate is never removed from the book board until
the completion of your project. The plate is carved, inked, printed,
and cleaned while attached to the book board. Before you ink up the
plate, set the pressure on the printing press and write the pressure
on the face of the book board so you don't forget it. This will also
come in handy if other people are using the press with different
pressure settings.
Once your plate is inked and a sheet of paper is connected to the tabs,
the whole assembly is placed on the press bed,

covered with a piece of newsprint, and the blankets then cranked through.

Because the pins and your plate are anchored to the book board, the
registration will stay true (as long as you DON'T remove the paper
from the pins by pulling on it! Release the tabs from the pins FIRST,
then remove the paper).

If I were printing an edition with 6 colors (white, pale yellow, pale
blue, ocher, green, and black), I would list the lightest color to the
darkest color on the back or front side of the book board, get the
pressure reading from the press, and mark it on to the face of the
book board.
Since my lightest color is white, I'll use the color of of the paper (if it
is white).
1. Carve away all of the areas you want to remain paper white.
2. Next, roll up your plate with your second color, Pale yellow. Print
every sheet in your edition with pale yellow.
3. Clean off your plate and carve away all of the areas you want to
remain pale yellow.
4. Now, roll up your plate with pale blue and reprint the edition.
5. Repeat steps 3, cleaning and carving away the colors you want to
keep and 4 printing each color in order until you have printed the
black color.
Your edition should be finished with the printing of the black. If this is
the case, remove the tape, tabs, and the metal pins, trim down your
paper, and keep the tabs and the metal pins for your next edition.
Again, this system isn't the best, but it has made edition work much
easier and simpler for me. Feel free to forward any ideas you think
will improve this system.

Won't the metal pins damage the blankets during the printing process?
I have not found that to be the case. The blankets are very resilient and will give somewhat when they make contact with the pin heads.
I have tested this system using some 200 plus high school seniors and the first thing I caution them about is setting the proper press pressure. If you are cranking your plate through and it stops, something isn't right! Stop cranking and back things out. Check for the correct press pressure, uncover your blankets and check the press bed for obstructions. Most of all, get a second pair of eyes on the process. It helps to have another person check your procedure.
What if ink from the brayer gets on the book board around your plate, will it (the ink) transfer on to your print paper?
Yes it will transfer on to your print paper. If the area outside of your plate isn't a concern, just trim your paper away at the edge of your plate. If you need to maintain a clean field around your plate, then you may have to construct a "bib" around your plate to protect your print paper. The "bib" could be made from a square or rectangle piece of Mylar, with a piece cut out of the middle so it fit's around your plate. This will act as a barrier between your print paper and the soiled book board. Any ink that gets on the Mylar can be wiped clean with a damp cloth for water based inks.
What do you consider "operators' error"?
"Anything and everything that is humanly possible to screw the process up!" by that I mean, not securing the tabs to the pins before printing, installing the tabbed print paper on the pins backwards, forgetting to place print paper on the plate and printing the image on to the newsprint, or better yet, printing the image directly on to your blankets!
The most common error is not having enough tape to secure the Mylar tabs on to your print paper. Make sure the tape extends across the right and left sides of the tabs and makes ample contact with your print paper. press the tape as hard as you can to the print paper, you don't want your paper to shift, rotate, or separate from the tape during the print process.
Once I have printed, how do I remove the tabbed paper from my plate?
To remove the tabbed print paper from your plate, NEVER pull on the print paper! Always release the tabs from the pins first, then lift the paper off and set it aside to dry before printing your next color.
Will other tabs work as well?
Yes they will, as long as they are the same diameter and configuration as your pins. I have several tabs that were made by another company and they work just as well with one exception. The tabs have a very sticky adhesive on one end. This adhesive is covered by a thin non-stick piece of paper and some of these tabs are missing the non-stick paper. The way these tabs were meant to be used, is rather than using tape to secure them to your print paper, you simply removed the non-stick paper and pressed the tab to your paper. However, after you have printed your edition and wish to reuse the tabs, you must use ACETATE and a cotton swab to release the tabs from the paper. That can make for a very unhealthy task dealing with the ACETATE fumes. Once all of the tabs are off of the paper, you now have to replace the non-stick paper back over the sticky end of each tab before you store them. A very time consuming job to say the least. When I use these types of tabs, I don't remove the non-stick paper and just tape them, non-stick paper side down, to my print paper.
I have printed two of my colors and have another four to go. I have to go out of town for a few days, must I remove the tabs from each of my prints and reinstall them when I return?
The tabs can stay attached to your print paper for a few months, depending on the condition of your masking tape. By that, I mean, if you happen to use older masking tape to secure your tabs to your print paper, the adhesive is probably not as effective as that of a newer roll of tape. In any case, leaving the taped tabs on the won't be a problem,
What about using Scotch tape (Mystic Tape), electricians tape, or rubber cement?
Avoid Scotch tape, Mystic tape, electricians tape and rubber cement! Remember, it's accuracy you are trying to achieve here. If all you have are the above tapes and glue, I would suggest that you wait until you can acquire the right materials
I have finished printing my edition its first color and will soon start on my next color. Do I remove the plate from the book board to clean it?
NO! If you printed a color and need to clean your plate, use a damp cloth (water based inks) and wipe your plate down but don't remove it from the book board or immerse it in water ever! If you are using oil based inks, a rag with mineral spirits (I use vegetable oil) works well.
How large of a plate can this system accommodate?
The largest plate I have worked with using this system was about 30" X 30". It really depends on the size of your press bed and the size of your book board. One may be either too large or too small to work for you. Hand burnishing works, irregardless of size.
There's this product called "E-Z CUT" it's like linoleum only ten times softer, can we use this instead of linoleum?
I wouldn't recommend running E-Z Cut through the etching press, it's just too soft. Because of its softness, it is difficult getting a correct pressure setting from your press. The one time I did use it for printing, my prints had a double image printed on it as a result of the E-Z cut springing back into position after passing the press roller. If you plan on using E-Z cut, burnish by hand instead of running it through the press.
If my plate is glued to the book board, will carving it be a problem?
It's no different from carving a large plate. Your plate must stay attached (glued) to the book board throughout the carving, inking, and printing process in order for this system to work.