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printing with an antique copy press

Printing with a copy press

I have been looking for a long time for a press to print my linocuts but I wanted something that would not take a huge amount of space and would allow me to print at least A3 sized prints.

So I was very excited to find a large book press in an antique store.

I always thought these kinds of presses were used to bind books but it turns out that this is probably a copy press. Copy presses were widely used in 19th century offices to make copies of freshly written documents using pressure and damp tissue paper to transfer the ink. Because printing reverses everything, the tissue paper allowed for the text to be read the right way on the reverse side of the paper.  So in a way this is the ancestor of a copy machine 🙂

You can read more about copy presses here in this article by the American Bookbinders Museum:  Ceci Ne Pas Un Printing Press

the copy press was rusted

When I found the press, it had many areas where the paint had peeled and the metal was rusting, so I removed most of the rust with metal drill attachements.

The press is made of cast iron and it is incredibly heavy, I think it weights about 150-200 kg and you need more than 2 adults to move it!

I applied a layer of rust paint to protect the press and keep the prints clean when I am using it.

Once the press had been cleaned and painted, I bought an hydraulic table, the kind that is used in an auto repair shop, as this is the only way I can lift that press off the floor. I might invest in a heavy duty table later on but in the meantime this is very convenient as I can move the press around the studio.

Printing with a copy press

After many unsuccessful attempts, I found a settings that works very well with the copy press. I like that the press is a screw type press versus various press systems with rollers, I makes it less likely to have the paper move from the linoplate and smudge the print. I am sure it will also make the registration process easier.

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Speedball Linoleum Cutters

Speedball Linoleum Cutters are made of the finest quality steel with long lasting cutting edges. They are made of quality steel for long lasting cutting edges.

I had a piece of MDF cut to the dimension of the plates and I use like a platter to move the materials from my table to the press.

Then I place the inked lino with the paper on top sandwiched in a few newsprint so that they will absorb any ink, and then I have a folded fleece blanket on top. It is amazing the difference printing with or without a blanket makes. Many of my prints have large areas of solid black and I was happy to see that the press works really well for those areas.

Here is a video of me printing in the studio with the copy press: