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FOILOGRAPHY PRINTMAKING

Charles Morgan Mossworks Studio 77 Moss Street Victoria, B.C. V8V 4M2 CANADA revised October, 2006 www.mossworks.com cmorgan@uvic.ca

Contents
I. Introduction .................................................................................. 3 A. Name ....................................................................................... 3 B. Origin ...................................................................................... 3 C. Advantages .............................................................................. 4 D. Disadvantages ......................................................................... 5 Making the Plate .......................................................................... 6 A. Specimen Preparation ............................................................. 6 B. Making the Sandwich ............................................................. 7 1. Composing on the Backing ........................................... 8 2. Composing on the Foil .................................................. 11 C. Finishing the plate ................................................................... 13 1. Etching Press ................................................................. 13 2. The Palm Press .............................................................. 18 3. Rolling Pin ..................................................................... 24 4. Platen Press .................................................................... 27 5. Mallet Press ................................................................... 28 6. Blemishes .......................................................................29 7. Summary Comparison ................................................... 30 Inking the Plate ............................................................................ 31 A. Blind Embossing ..................................................................... 32 B. Inks .......................................................................................... 32

II.

III.

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C. Inking Tools ............................................................................ 34 D. Roll-up .................................................................................... 37 E. Masking ................................................................................... 38 F. Freehand .................................................................................. 40 G. Intaglio .................................................................................... 41 H. Combination Techniques ........................................................ 42 IV. Printing the Plate .......................................................................... 43 A. Paper Selection ........................................................................ 43 B. Presses ..................................................................................... 44 C. Cleaning the Plate ....................................................................46 Advanced Topics ......................................................................... 47 A. Multiple Passes and Plates ...................................................... 47 B. Embossing Powder Plates ....................................................... 49 Revisions ...................................................................................... 53 A. More Comments on Intaglio Inking .......................................53 B. Inking Very Thin Subjects ...................................................... 56 C. Printing Foilographs with a Palm Press .................................. 61 D. Bottle Jack Press Plans ............................................................69

V.

VI.

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I. Introduction I.A. Name Lithography done on aluminum plate instead of stone is called aluminography. So, if you make a collagraph using aluminum foil rather than acrylic medium, you should call it ... alumigraph, of course!!! And that is what I called it when I first discovered it. Because in some parts of the world the word aluminum is pronounced al-you-mi-nee-um, some folks began referring to the process as aluminograph. However, unknown to me at the time, an artist by the name of Nancy Wells used the term alumigraph in an article published in the Spring, 2002, edition of Printmaking Today (vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 28-29), to refer to a rather different process. So, I have decided in fairness to switch to the terms foilograph and foilography instead. I.B. Origin I have been doing nature prints for a number of years, but was not happy with the monotype aspect. You go to all that trouble to get nice specimens, arrange them in a nice composition, and then you get only one print. And often with delicate subjects, the inking of the subject destroys it before you can print it. Many times I have had to peel pieces of leaves, insect wings, etc. from my roller and not been able to get even one print. Or I find when I print that I have over- or under-inked the specimen and it is too delicate to re-ink it. I wanted to be able to print at least a small edition, and with as little damage to the subject as possible. During the summer of 2001, I took a one day workshop on doing lithography on aluminum foil. Part of the process required wrapping some aluminum foil around a plexiglass plate and then putting it through an etching press to smooth it out. We had to be very carful to keep everything spotlessly clean, as the smallest dust mote showed up under the foil. I found I was not that interested in the lithography at the time, but that process of smoothing out the foil wrapped around a sheet of plexiglass was intriguing. I wondered what would happen if I put a leaf under the foil. So, when I got home, I tried it. I was amazed at the result. I played around with it for a while, and finally got a workable process by spring of 2002. I showed examples to a few friends in Victoria, and posted a version of the technique on the

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PrintAustralia web site in the summer of 2002. I have continued to experiment and refine the technique since that time. After a few years of talking to others about the technique, several people mentioned that they had heard of something similar. I have only been able to track down two specific references. Neither of the two is exactly the process I employ, and neither uses the foil plate to make prints on paper. For the sake of completeness, I will briefly describe the references here. A method for making silver pictures is described in the book Things for Children to Make and Do: Craft Starting Points, by John Hathorn and Ludwik Luksza, Methuen of Australia, 1978. In their technique, one begins by glueing pressed leaves down on cardboard. Then one is directed to spread contact adhesive over the leaves and cardboard, and cover all with aluminum foil. Finally the reader is directed to rub the surface with a wad of cotton to bring out the details. A similar method is described in the book A Treasure Trove of Ideas, by Francois Cherrier, Angus and Robertson (U.K.), 1972. One begins by gluing flattened and dried natural material or paper cutouts to cardboard or plexiglass, essentially making a collagraph plate. Then glue is spread over the entire surface before covering with aluminum foil. Next a couple of layers of soft fabric are laid on top, and finally a board on top of all. By hammering on the board, the foil takes the imprint of the design. Although the author talks about making prints using a small press, what he describes is using the collagraph plate to press multiple images into sheets of aluminum foil. I would not be outrageously surprised to find that the technique I have called foilography is not completely new. It is so simple, it seems someone must have done it before. But the lack of written material perhaps justifies my writing these notes. I.C. Advantages With collagraph, you glue your bits and pieces to a backing, and then coat it with acrylic or some other reasonably tough coating. There are a number of problems with collagraphs, as with any print making technique. For one thing, applying acrylic medium badly distorts many delicate subjects, such as down, fine feathers, and hair. Further, for many nature subjects, much of the detail is lost by the

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coating. For examples, veins in flower petals and surface detail in leaves get filled in or obscured when coated with acrylic. In addition, the subject is lost forever once it is bonded to the plate and covered with gunk. You probably do not want to take that old rose your grandmother pressed in the family bible and permanently cover it with acrylic. Finally, if you are not pleased with the composition of your collagraph, it is not possible to change it once you have coated everything with acrylic medium. Foilography avoids these problems. Fragile materials such as down, fine feathers, and hair, are not nearly so subject to distortion. Further, the foilograph technique does not obscure details of natural subjects to nearly the extent that collagraphs do; in fact, the foilograph technique brings out many fine details that are hard to see with the naked eye. And with foilography, you can recover your original specimen after printing. If you are not happy with the composition, you can make another plate and try again. The only damage to the specimen will be caused by the pressure of the press. In appearance, foilograph prints are often similar to soft ground etchings. But there are no acids or chemical baths. And the specimen does not get coated with waxy goo. Figure 1 is a foilograph of Oregon grape, one of my very first.

Figure 1: Oregon grape I.D. Disadvantages No printmaking technique is perfect, and there are some disadvantages with

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foilography. Very fragile items, such as eggshell, which would be damaged by the pressure of the press, cannot be printed with this technique. The technique does not work well with very thick items, like pine cones or sea shells. And items with sharp protrusions, like thorny branches, cannot be printed, since they tear the foil. II. Making the Plate Making a foilograph plate is very similar to making a collagraph plate. The major difference is that the material and backing plate are shrink wrapped in aluminum foil, rather than being coated with acrylic medium. First you must make a sandwich consisting of a properly prepared specimen on a rigid baking, loosely wrapped in aluminum foil. Then the plate is finished by applying pressure with some sort of press, and finally removing any blemishes.

II.A. Specimen Preparation For natural subjects, begin by pressing and drying your specimens. You can use well wilted material as well. But fresh natural subjects contain too much water. The water is squeezed out during the process and makes a bumpy surface which prints, obscuring natural details. If you have very fresh material and you do not wish to wait for it to dry naturally, you can speed the drying process by using a microwave oven. Simply place the item between two layers of cheap felt from a fabric store, place the felt between two microwave safe plates, and pop it all in the microwave. The time will of course depend on the power of the machine. It is best to be cautious; start with about 20 seconds and check the results. The microwave oven will heat the water in the specimen, and the hot water will migrate to the felt. When you check your specimen, you may well see steam, and the felt will feel wet. After the initial heating, plant material will seem damp and very limp. Place the limp material between the pages of a phone book and let it sit for a few minutes, and then check it again. You do not need it to be really bone dry; a leathery texture is quite good. You can always put your material back in the microwave for a bit more time if the item is not quite dry enough. You can print items ranging from extremely thin flower petals to things as thick as

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the central spine of large eagle feathers. Thick stems are squashed out of shape and do not show true dimensions or shapes. Very thick items, such as thick stems or feather spines, may need to be shaved on the back to reduce their thickness. Extremely thick specimens such as pine cones do not work well, since they cannot be covered by the foil without tearing it. Of course, as with collagraph, you may make a foilograph using any sort of relatively thin material, such as torn or cut bits of paper, ribbons, string, lace, fabric, etc. For example, you may use tape, cut or torn bits of paper, and similar material to produce images of frames, windows, doors, or even vases and flower pots. You may use crumpled paper or tissue for interesting textural effects. Fine sandpaper will produce a texture that will hold a lot of ink, serving the same function as aquatint for intaglio plates. You may also use thin bits of metal or found objects. You should avoid material with really sharp edges, as these can pierce the tinfoil. II.B. Making the Sandwich To begin, you will need a tough, firm backing for the plate. You could use MDF, hardboard, aluminum, brass, steel, copper, zinc, or plexiglass. Matboard and cardboard do not work well, as they tend to bend and distort. Usually it is important that the backing be SMOOTH. Any grain or surface imperfections will print. Plexiglass is very electrostatic, and you may have some problems getting it absolutely clean. Even very small bits of lint will print, and it is almost impossible not to get lint from the air on the plexiglass, at least in MY house!! In spite of its electrostatic properties, I prefer to use plexiglass. Before making your that you bevel the corners of your corners and edges will and ruin the plate. plate, it is very important edges and round the backing material. Sharp pierce the aluminum foil

Figure 2: Plexiglass backing with smoothed and rounded corners and edges

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You may want a thin knife or spatula, a needle or pin, and tweezers to help position your specimen. For good detail, it is usually best to place the back of leaves facing out away from the backing. On the other hand, I find that I get better results with feathers if the back of the feather is facing the backing. Once you have your specimen and your backing materials, there are two ways to proceed: (1) you can arrange your composition directly on the smooth backing and then cover with aluminum foil; or (2) you can arrange your composition on the foil and then lay the backing on top of the composition. II.B.1. Composing on the Backing Arranging your specimen directly on the backing initially seems natural, but it can be a bit cumbersome when it comes time to wrap everything with foil. When arranging your composition directly on the backing, remember that left and right will be reversed when the plate is printed. As an example of this approach, lets have a look at the making of the plate for my print Dustbunnies. I wanted to show something that would be hard to print using the traditional collagraph approach. I have a beard and long hair, my sweetie has long hair, and we live with two dogs and a cat. Consequently, we always have lots of dust bunnies around the house. So for this example, I decided to print dust bunnies. I got down on my hands and knees and roamed around the house until I had collected a good wad of dust bunnies. I first arranged my dust bunnies composition directly on the plexiglass sheet.

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Figure 3: Dust bunnies arranged on plexiglass Depending on your subject matter, you may find it useful to put a VERY SMALL touch of repositionable glue on the back of some things to keep them from moving around. I find the repositionable glue sold in stick form is the best. I have tried using the spray glue, and it always seems to give too thick a coat, which shows up as texture in the print. I like to use repositionable glue so I can move objects around if I place them incorrectly the first time. And certainly if you wish to recover the specimen after printing, you do not want to glue it down with permanent glue. I find that pressed flower petals adhere very well to the surface of the plate with no glue. Keep the backing as free of lint, hair (not appropriate in this example!), and small bits of trash as you can. Once you have a composition to your liking, place the backing and specimen on a smooth clean work surface, specimen on top. You may find it useful to use a paintbrush to remove any stray bits of lint or other unwanted material from the plate. Now, you want to remove a piece of kitchen aluminum foil from the roll, keeping it as wrinkle free as possible. Cut the foil so it is big enough to completely cover the backing and the subject and still leave enough to fold around by an inch or so on all sides. DO NOT FOLD IT YET!!! Place the foil over the backing with the specimen in place, and gently smooth out the foil. I put the foil DULL SIDE OUT,

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shiny side against the specimen, as I find the dull side takes ink a bit better. Place the backing with specimen on top, on the table, with part of the backing hanging over the edge. Then drape the foil carefully over the specimen and plate. Then you can reach under and lift the sandwich up without disturbing the composition. With the foil on top, carefully pick up the backing, specimen, and the foil as a sandwich. Fold the foil over the edges and around to the back of the plate on the left and right sides. In any case, leave the two ends unfolded for the moment. Then being very careful not to shift the specimen, flip the sandwich over so you can get at the back of the plate.

Figure 4: Foil wrapped on two sides If your specimen is well adhered to the backing plate, you may find it easier to put the foil down on a flat surface, flip the plate with the specimen over and gently lay the whole works down on the foil. From the rear of the plate, you want to tape the foil to the backing. Begin by putting a small piece of tape near the two corners of one edge. Then on the other edge, pull the foil tight without tearing it and put tape at each of the other corners. For large plates, you may want to put more tape. I find I get fewer wrinkles if I press the tape to the foil and then use the tape to pull the foil at a diagonal toward the nearest corner.

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Figure 5: Foil taped to back of plate You are now ready to finish the plate by using some kind of press. II.B.2. Composing on the Foil Depending on the type of material you are dealing with, you may find it easier to use the second approach mentioned above and make your composition directly on the foil. When making your composition directly on the foil, remember that when printed, with regard to left and right, the composition will appear as it does on the foil ... left and right will NOT be reversed. Begin by placing a couple of pieces of thin, fabric store felt down on a firm work surface. Take a piece of foil a bit larger than your backing and place it on top of the felt, dull side down, shiny side up.

Figure 6: Foil on felt, shiny side up

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Then place the backing material on top of the foil and press down lightly to mark the outline of the backing material on the foil.

Figure 7: Press backing into foil to mark outline, and remove backing Next remove the plate and, using the plate marks as a guide, arrange your specimen directly on the foil.

Figure 8: Using backing outline, arrange specimen on foil Being careful not to shift the specimen around on the foil, gently place the backing on top of the specimen. With the foil-specimen-backing sandwich lying on the felt,

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just carefully fold the foil over onto the back of the backing on two opposing sides and tape it in place.

Figure 9: Replace backing, fold and tape foil on two edges You are now ready to finish the plate by using some kind of press.

II.C. Finishing the Plate In order the finish the plate, you now need to use a press of some kind. Because of its high pressure and rolling action, an etching press gives the best results. However, except for very thin material, such as fine down, very good results can be had with a number of other press types. We will begin with the etching press, and then go on to other alternatives. At the end we will discuss how to remove blemishes from the finished plate. II.C.1. Etching Press Once the sandwich is made, you are ready to put it through the etching press. Cut two long "rails" (as long at the bed of your press) about 1 inch wide of the same material as the backing you are using to make the plate. Put the two rails along the two sides of the press bed for the press roller to ride on. Adjust the roller pressure with the felts in place between these rails and the press roller. This prevents too much pressure from being applied to the aluminum foil -- too much pressure causes the foil to "flow" (i.e. stretch) away from the thickest parts of your specimen and

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become very thin, resulting in a puncture or a tear. Place the sandwich between the rails, with the foil covered specimen facing the press blankets, and the hard backing plate (with the foil folded around it) against the press bed. The unfolded ends of the tinfoil should go front and back through the press, with the folded foil at the sides. Arrange the plate so that the first pass through the press will roll toward the thickest part of the specimen first ... so the thickest part of the specimen goes under the roller first. This seems to produce fewer wrinkles. Try to avoid abrupt edges in the specimen. If possible taper the edges of thick items, like plant stems. Run the whole thing through your etching press, with blankets in place. Use pretty good pressure. I usually run the press forward and then back, so the sandwich goes through the press twice. When I first started, I used dampened paper over the sandwich when I was making the plate. You may find that you get better detail with some specimens if you do the same. However, I now usually dispense with the dampened paper and just rely on the pressure and flexibility inherent in the press blankets. After going through the press, you should have a very smooth sandwich with the details of the specimen embossed in the aluminum foil.

Figure 10: Foil package on press bed with rails in place

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Check your composition at this point. If you find the material has shifted, or if you do not like the composition, just start over with a fresh piece of foil. I re-did the dust bunnies plate several times to get it the way I wanted it.

Figure 11: Initial dust bunnies plate from etching press You will find a final version of the plate below. When you look at the plate, you may discover that there are wrinkles in the foil where you do not want them to be. Most wrinkles can be removed by rubbing along the wrinkle with a cotton swab; never rub crosswise to the wrinkle, or it will become permanent. You may also discover that there are small pieces of lint, dust, or other trash under the foil. To remove these, you must carefully untape the foil and lift it. Remove the trash with a fine, dry brush, and replace the foil. The blemish in the foil can then be removed by rubbing it with a cotton swab. When you are happy with the look of the plate, fold the remaining two foil edges over and around to the back of the plate, pull toward the midline of the plate and tape them to the backing. You do not need to run a whole line of tape continuously around the edges, and indeed it is not a good idea to do so. It should be sufficient to use a piece of tape at each end, and perhaps a piece in the middle if the plate is large.

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Figure 12: Undesirable taping

Unless the plate is very small, I do not like to have the back completely covered by foil, as it is in figure 12. It is useful to have bare areas of the plate to which to tape the foil. And if you are using plexiglass backing, you may be able to see bits of lint that need to be removed or see items that have shifted position. Unlike the example in figure 12, you should try to tape the foil to the backing, not to other parts of the foil. Taping the foil to the backing keeps it in place relative to the backing, whereas taping the foil to other bits of foil allows the whole thing to move and shift. If necessary, you are advised to trim the ends of the foil before taping to the backing.

Figure 13: Correct taping

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When taping, although you are pulling toward the midline, you should angle your tension at each end of the foil toward the adjoining edge. You want to avoid wrinkles in the middle of the sides. It is easier to get good tension if you use the tape to help pull the foil. Stick the tape well down to the loose foil edge, then make a tab on the free end by folding the tap on itself. Use the tab on the free end of the tape to pull the foil, and then finally stick the free end of the tape down to the backing. The tab will allow you to more easily lift the tape if you need to re-tighten the foil later. As you print, the foil may tend to stretch a little, and you may want to re-tighten it by lifting the tape from the backing, pulling on the foil, and then sticking it back down. You will find it easier to do if you make a tab on the end of the tape you attach to the backing, as described above. Then you can easily free the tape from the backing, pull the edges of the foil tight and tape them down again. You should now have a complete plate, consisting of a backing, with a specimen on top, all covered with aluminum foil which wraps around everything on all sides.

Figure 14: Finished dust bunnies plate

You will be amazed at how much detail shows in the foil. With leaves, you can sometimes actually see the pores in the leaf. With feathers, you get all the fine detail of the down. And with flower petals, you can actually see the veins in the petals.

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The challenge is to ink the plate in such a way as to reveal these details. III.C.2 The Palm Press To make the best possible plate, you need an action like squeezing a tooth paste tube. You need to start with pressure at one end of the sandwich and move toward the other end, squeezing out air and stretching the foil over the specimen in a continuous movement from one end to the other. For best results, an etching press, lithographic press, potters slab press, or something similar seems to be required. However, there is a way to achieve very good results by hand. The best alternative that I have found to an etching press for making foilographs is a simple palm press. The one that I use is easily made from readily available materials. Go to the hardware store and look at the array of casters for furniture that are for sale. You want a set made to go on a fridge or stove. Careful ... they make a platform type that the whole appliance sits on ... that is NOT what you want. You want a package of four casters. Each caster consists of two small diameter plastic rollers, housed in a metal case. There will be a short threaded stub out the top of each metal case. Your fridge or stove comes with 4 small, circular skid plates, one screwed into each corner of the bottom, essentially for leveling the appliance. These casters are designed to replace the little skid plates with rollers so you can move your fridge or stove around. You will only need one of these little casters, but they usually come as a set of 2 or 4. The threaded stub will have a nut on it. Take the nut off. The threaded stub on the casters I have is 5/16 inch in diameter, and I suspect that is a North American standard. Buy the largest diameter ball drawer pull you can find ... you want something at least 1.5 inches in diameter. Or, you can take a scrap piece of 2x4 and saw out a circle about 2 inches in diameter. Get a 9/32 inch drill, and drill out the hole in the drawer pull; if you cut your own, just drill a 9/32 hole in the center. Now, just screw the handle down onto the caster as tight as you can. Presto ... you now have a palm press. You could also use an old door knob for a handle, if you can find the kind that screws onto the square rod through the door that the old latches used to have; use epoxy to hold it in place.

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Figure 15: Making a simple palm press

To use your palm press to make a foilograph plate, place your backing, specimen, foil sandwich on a firm surface preferably below waist high, like a table top. The backing should be on the bottom, with the specimen next and the foil at the top. Cover the sandwich with two pieces of thin, fabric store felt.

Figure 16: Place felt on top

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Next use the palm press to press the foil around the specimen. Place the palm press on the bottom edge of the plate, put both hands on top of the press, and keeping your arms stiff, lean onto the press with your upper body.

Figure 17: Palm press position In this position, you now roll the palm press forward and off the far edge of the

Figure 18: First passes plate. Pick up the press and bring it back to the lower edge of the plate again, and continue making overlapping strokes from the bottom to the top until you have gone over the entire surface of the plate. Then turn the plate with felts around 180 and

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repeat the process, essentially rolling over the plate in the opposite direction.

Figure 19: Second passes Next turn the plate 90 and repeat the same steps going from side to side.

Figure 20: Third passes

Figure 21: Fourth passes

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Now we can remove the felt to see how the plate looks.

Figure 22: Plate in initial condition One thing we want to do is to cut off the excess of aluminum foil at the ends of the plate, leaving about an inch or so to fold under. We also want to use a cotton swab to rub out any wrinkles that have appeared because of the stretching of the foil. Rubbing lengthways along the wrinkles gives the best chance of smoothing them out. If you rub crossways, you are likely to produce a small fold which will be almost impossible to remove.

Figure 23: Trimming ends and removing wrinkles

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Finally, we need to turn the plate over. If the foil seems loose, it may be necessary to carefully peel the tape holding one edge of the foil, pull the foil to tighten it, and retape. Finally we need to fold the foil ends onto the back of the plate and tape them.

Figure 24: Taping the back At this point, the plate is essentially finished. As with a plate made on the etching press, if there are any remaining wrinkles, they should be removed by carefully rubbing along their length with a cotton swab. And if there are any undesirable bits of lint or other trash under the foil, you must untape the foil, remove them carefully with a dry brush, retape the foil, and smooth out the bumps in the foil.

Figure 25: The finished plate Aluminum foil is quite plastic and will reveal an amazing amount of detail, as long

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as we have used enough pressure in making the plate.

Figure 26: Plate detail II.C.3 Rolling Pin It is possible to make decent small foilograph plates using a rolling pin. I prefer to use a marble rolling pin, although a wooden one will also work well. Rolling pins of the sort we want to use are constructed with a roller about 2 inches in diameter; a shaft runs longitudinally through the center of the roller and through two plastic bushings, one at each end of the roller. Two handles are pressed onto the shaft, one at each end.

Figure 27: Marble rolling pin

As purchased, rolling pins for kitchen use come with quite a small shaft, and under the full leaning weight of your body such small shafts tend to bend. If this becomes

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a problem, it is a simple matter to replace the shaft with one larger in diameter.

Figure 28: Replacement rolling pin shaft Purchase a length of smooth steel rod from the hardware store, about 5/16 or even 3/8 inch in diameter. Remove the handles from the original shaft. Try just twisting them in opposite directions until they loosen and can be pulled off. Remove the original shaft from the rolling pin. Use a drill of appropriate size to drill out the bushings to accept your new shaft. Also drill out the handles to be a press fit onto the shaft. Cut the new shaft to length, using the old shaft as a pattern. Then reassemble your rolling pin. If the handles are too loose on the shaft, then you may have to use glue to hold them in place. The rolling pin is used in much the same was as the palm press. Place the sandwich on a firm surface, with the backing down and the specimen covered with foil facing up. For convenience, I will assume that the bottom of the plate is closest to you and the top of the plate is furthest away from you. Cover the sandwich with a couple of pieces of thin fabric store felt. Place the rolling pin on top of the felt, on the plate at the bottom. With your hands on the handles at each end of the rolling pin and your arms stiff, lean your body weight onto the rolling pin.

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Figure 29: Using a rolling pin By pushing it away from you, slowly roll the pin from the bottom toward the top of the plate and off the edge. Then turn the sandwich and felt 180 degrees, and roll the pin beginning at the top of the plate and off the bottom edge of the plate. Next, turn the sandwich and the felt 90 degrees, and this time run the rolling pin starting at one side of the plate and off the opposite side. Finally, turn the sandwich and plate 180 degrees and roll the plate one last time in the opposite direction. Now you can remove the felt. The plate should look pretty much as in figure 22. As previously indicated, you can now remove any captured dust particles and smooth wrinkles with a cotton swab. Trim the ends of the foil as in figure 23 and finish the plate by folding the foil ends to the back of the plate and taping them in place, as in figure 24. For large plates, the rolling pin just does not seem to have enough pressure. However, for small plates the rolling pin works quite well. For very small plates, you may have difficulty keeping the pin balanced on top of the plate as you roll it along. To cure this problem, simply place two rails, one along each side of the plate, under the felt, for the rolling pin to rest on.

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II.C.4. Platen Press Although a press with a rolling action seems to give the best results when making a foilograph plate, you can obtain excellent results with platen presses unless your material is very fine (e.g. very fine down). A platen press consists of two flat surfaces ... a bed and a platen. Essentially a platen press simply presses the two surfaces together, applying pressure to whatever we have placed between. A relatively cheap, commonly available platen press is a book binding press, sometimes called a nipping press. These presses are usually made of cast iron and are quite heavy. Pressure is applied through a simple screw mechanism by turning a handle. Because of the limitations of the screw action, it is difficult to obtain really high pressures with a book binding press.

Figure 30: Book binding press Better results can be had with a simple home made bottle jack press. There are many designs, and the details are not important. The one illustrated uses a fixed bed and a moveable platen; the bungee chords retract the jack and platen when the valve is turned to release the pressure. The more powerful the jack used, the more pressure can be applied, up to the limit of the press frame. I have found that at least a 6-ton jack is preferable. The larger the plate you want to make, the stronger the jack you should use.

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Figure 31: Bottle jack press The process of making the plate with a platen press is much the same as we have already discussed. Simply cover the sandwich with a couple of layers of fabric store felt, and place the whole works on the bed. Then apply pressure. The more pressure you apply, the more detail will be revealed on the plate. Because they do not have a rolling action, platen presses usually produce more wrinkles on the plate. After removing the plate from the press, remove blemishes and smooth wrinkles as previously described. II.C.5. Mallet Press There was a German patent issued in 1940 for a technique for printing etchings with a mallet. Essentially a mechanism was designed to keep paper from shifting on the plate. In use, an inked plate was place in the apparatus, covered with dampened paper. A pyramidal shaped platen was placed on the back of the paper and hammered with a mallet. I have experimented a bit with making foilograph plates this way. Basically one places the sandwich, covered with a couple of layers of fabric store felt, between two flat boards and then hammers away with a mallet. In theory it should work just fine. The impetus of the hammering should mold the aluminum foil around the specimen. But in my experiments, I did not find the technique to produce consistent

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results. Given the ease of making foilograph plates by other means, I have not pursued this technique. II.C.6. Blemishes After the sandwich has been through the press process, look at the front surface of the plate very carefully. You may find that there are stray bits of hair and dust that have been caught under the foil. Any bump that is visible on the foil will catch and hold ink and be printed. If you do not want these imperfections to show up on your print, then you must remove them. In order to remove a hair or piece of lint, carefully remove the tape and unfold the foil from one edge. You may then use a fine water color brush or something similar to carefully brush lint from the surface of the backing. In some cases the offending particle will remain embedded in the foil, so be sure to examine the foil carefully. Again, use a fine brush to remove any particle embedded in the foil. Because moisture helps reduce electrostatic attraction, you might try using a very slightly damp brush if you are having difficulty with a particularly recalcitrant particle. But you must be careful not to introduce any moisture under the foil. Be very careful not to move the specimen during this whole process. After the offending particles have been removed, you need to replace and re-tape the foil. When re-taping the foil, be sure the tape is firmly attached to the foil and use it as a handle to pull and stretch the foil tightly around the backing. Then tape the foil securely to the back side of the backing. After re-taping, you may smooth out the lint "bump" with the back of a finger nail or cotton swab. Because the foil stretches during the press process, after forming the plate in the press, you may find that there are wrinkles in the surface of the foil. These wrinkles will hold ink and print if they are not removed. If there are any small wrinkles in the foil, you may carefully smooth them out by rubbing them with the back of a fingernail or with a cotton swab. Do not rub across a wrinkle, as this will tend to produce fine folds in the foil which are impossible to remove. Rather, rub along the length of each wrinkle. If your plate is large enough, you may also find that rubbing length wise along a wrinkle with your finger will remove the wrinkle. But be careful rubbing with your finger, as the friction will tend to stretch the foil or even tear it.

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Figure 32: Dust particles and wrinkles After first forming the plate, or after a few prints, you may find that the foil appears to be loose. If the foil is loose, it will be harder to ink the plate properly, and you may introduce wrinkles during the printing process. To tighten up the foil, undo the tape from the backing, carefully pull the foil to tighten it, and then re-tape it to the backing. Having spent a lot of time telling you how to remove wrinkles, let me take a step back and suggest that sometimes the wrinkles can add a great deal to the image. For an example, sprinkle some small seeds on the plate, such as mustard or poppy seeds or small grass seeds, or some mixture. Make your plate, and you will find a network of wrinkles joining the seeds in a random way. The first plate of this sort I saw was made by Carole Carroll. Such a plate can make very interesting prints. II.C.7. Summary Comparison In general an etching press seems to give the best results when making a foilograph plate. But when used carefully, a simple palm press can do almost as well. For small plates, a rolling pin would probably be the next best. But for larger plates, a bottle jack press will generally yield better results than a rolling pin, but not as good as a palm press. For comparison purposes, here are some plates made with the different techniques.

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Figure 33: Etching press plate

Figure 34: Palm press plate

Figure 35: Rolling pin plate III. Inking the Plate

Figure 36: Bottle jack press plate

A foilograph plate is a very low relief plate. The greatest challenge is in inking the plate to achieve the desired results. I think of there being five main inking techniques, each producing somewhat different results: (1) blind embossing with no ink; (2) a basic roll-up; (3) masking; (4) free-hand color application; (5) intaglio wiping. Of course these techniques can all be combined in various ways. Any inking method appropriate for collagraphs (e.g. viscosity inking) should work as well for foilographs, as long as you are gentle and do not stretch or pierce the foil.

III.A. Blind Embossing

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A blind embossing is a design impressed into paper without any ink. Although there will be some loss of detail, foilograph plates are very good for producing blind embossings. If you are only going to do blind embossing, then obviously no inking is required. For blind embossing, it is best to dampen your paper. Thick papers made for etching work well for such an application. If you have particularly fluffy paper and a high pressure press, you may be able to produce acceptable emobossings on dry paper. However, dry paper is much harder on the plate, and the foil will not last as long as with damp paper. Once the plate is made, just place your paper over the plate and run it through your press.

Figure 37: Blind embossing III.B Inks Because it is aluminum, I find that water based inks sometimes ball up on the surface. Speedball water based inks seem to work fine, though their pigment content is not high. I have tried mixing pigments with rice paste, as with Japanese woodblock printing, but the resulting ink just balled up on the aluminum. Some additional plasticiser such as honey seems to be required. Oil based inks seem to work the best. Any good quality oil based ink formulated for block printing will work well. Applying very sticky ink to the plate tends to lift and stretch the foil, creating wrinkles and spreading ink into unwanted areas. Although lithographic inks have very good pigment content, they are far too sticky

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to use unthinned on a foilograph plate. I find that even etching inks are too sticky unless well thinned. To avoid stretching your foil, your ink should have the consistency of oil paint. If your ink is too sticky, then thin it with artists quality linseed oil. Since you will not be using much oil, it is best to buy the highest grade available from an artists supply store. I have gotten quite reasonable results with water-mixable oil colors but again find they are best thinned slighty. When using water-mixable oils, I find that I need to use dampened paper to get the ink off the plate; water-mixable oils seem to dry a lot faster than inks specifically made for print making. I have not tried other oil paints, but they may also work. If you like to make your own inks, you may begin with artists grade stand oil from any good art supplier. The viscosity of stand oil is suitable for inking a foilograph plate. If you are using print dispersions, they may be added directly to the stand oil on your inking slab and thoroughly mixed with a spatula or pallet knife. To ensure proper drying, you may want to add a drop of cobalt drier. I have used stand oil and pigment dispersions from Guerra in New York in this way. Dry pigments are difficult to mix directly into stand oil. They tend to clump and ball up because the oil does not penetrate the powder well. However, dry pigments can be use if you first make a paste with the pigment and very pure isopropyl or ethyl alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol can be purchased in drug stores and can be found 99% pure in many locales. Ethyl alcohol is what is found in booze. In some locations you can buy ethyl alcohol that is 95% pure (190 proof); it is sold under trade names like Clear Spring, Ever Clear, or Pure Grain Alcohol. Mix the dry powdered pigment with enough alcohol to make a paste. Then mix the pigment paste with the stand oil to make your ink; again, you may wish to add a drop of cobalt drier to ensure proper drying. Aluminum reacts very readily with many materials. Some inks may react with the aluminum and discolor slightly. Only experimentation will help you find out what color you will get with a specific ink on your aluminum foil.

III.C. Inking Tools

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You will need a convenient place to roll out your inks; print makers usually call this an inking slab. You can use a piece of plexiglass or a piece of real glass. But a more convenient inking slab to use is a piece of white butcher paper or freezer paper, which you can buy in most large grocery stores. I have specified white because it is easier to see your colors on white paper; but except for color distortion, the brown butcher paper works just as well. These papers have a plasticised side that is impervious to water, grease and oil, so your ink should not penetrate the paper. Cut off a piece of convenient size, and place the shiny, plasticised side up and tape it to a firm surface with masking tape. After you are finished, clean up is simple ... just throw it away. You will also need a variety of ink rollers, or brayers. Brayers come in a variety of sizes and degrees of hardness. Smaller sizes are readily available in most art supply stores. You will want some brayers that are quite hard (often made from plexiglass rod) and some that are softer.

Figure 38: Variety of brayers You will also want to have a few large, hard dabbers. Hard dabbers are useful for applying ink to the high spots of a plate. Hard dabbers are made by using a small piece of dowel or similar material for a handle and gluing or screwing a small disk (1 inch to 2 inches in diameter, depending on the size you need) to the end of the dowel. Furniture glides work well for the disks and are available in a variety of sizes at most hardware stores. For a bit of softness, the surface of the disk may be covered with a thin layer of felt. Finally the disk, and any felt, is covered with a layer of smooth leather or fine mesh silk or similar material, which may be secured in place with string or a rubber band. A hard dabber may be inked with a roller. Or

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it may be inked by using it to smear a bit of ink around on the inking slab. The hard dabber is used to apply ink to the high parts of the plate by carefully pressing the dabber against the appropriate parts of the plate. I make my hard dabbers with smooth leather scraps. They may be cleaned by using vegetable oil followed by soap and water. Cloth coverings would have to be removed and washed after each use.

Figure 39: Hard dabbers In addition to hard dabbers, you may apply ink by hand to specific areas of the plate by using soft dabbers. Do NOT use mat board or rolled up felt to scrape ink across the surface of the plate as you would with an etching. Such measures tend to stretch and/or tear the foil. Instead, you may ink specific areas with a paint brush or a dabber. Paint brushes tend to leave brush marks. Generally you get smoother results with a soft dabber.

Figure 40: Soft dabbers

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Cosmetic sponges make very decent soft dabbers. They may be bought cheaply at most cosmetics outlets or drug stores. Cosmetic sponges are hard to clean, but are so cheap they may simply be discarded after use. You can also easily make soft dabbers from most any close weave fabric, cotton balls, and rubber bands. Simply place a few cotton balls in the middle of a square of fabric. Then bring the corners of the fabric together and twist to make a tadpole shape. Finally, secure the tail with a rubber band. The tail forms a convenient handle. Another useful soft dabber is made from a cut off finger from a nitrile glove. Simply place a cotton ball or two in the tip of the finger, insert a cotton swab for use as a handle, and secure the cut off finger to the swab with a rubber band. To use a soft dabber, hold the dabber by the tail handle and dab the head of it into the ink on your inking slab. A "dab" is a light, bouncing motion. Then dab the head several times on a clear portion of the inking slab until the ink is evenly distributed. Then apply the ink to the plate by dabbing with the inked tadpole. You will have to re-ink the dabber frequently. You can also use a soft dabber to gently smear ink into recessed areas of the plate. These dabbers can be cleaned after use by throwing away the cotton balls and washing the material covering in soap and water. If cheap material is used, it may simply be discarded.

III.D. Roll-up To do a simple roll up, first the ink should be rolled out on an inking slab with a brayer, or ink roller. The tendency of beginners is to use way too much ink. You

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want a very, very thin coat of ink on your brayer ... if in doubt, use less ink. The ink is applied to the foilograph plate by rolling the brayer very lightly over the surface. You should just use the weight of the brayer itself, without applying any other pressure. This process will put ink on the high spots of the plate, leaving a halo around them. If you are using a small diameter brayer, you will have to re-ink your brayer many times. You must be careful to avoid getting sharp lines when you reapply the brayer to the plate. Strive for a smooth transition from lights to darks. Particularly for small plates, you may find it useful to place the plate between two rails of the same thickness as the backing. Then resting the inked brayer on the rails, simply run the roller over the plate. Depending on the amount of ink desired, you may wish to run the roller over the plate several times. You may wish to change the orientation of the plate relative to the roller in order to produce a more uniform inking. If you use a very hard roller, only the highest details will receive ink. The softer the roller, the more ink will get on the shallower parts of the plate. Experimentation will allow you to determine the look you like. The print in Figure 41 was produced by a simple roll up using thinned sepia etching ink.

Figure 41: Memories of summers past III.E. Masking If you want to limit the ink application to only a certain part of the plate (e.g. avoid

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getting ink on the plate around the outside of a leaf), then you can use clear plastic sheet for a mask. Place the plastic over the plate and use a felt pen to draw around the specimen. Then put the sheet on some other backing and use a knife to cut out the shape of the specimen. Use the mask when inking; and when you are finished inking, before printing, use a cotton swab and alcohol to carefully remove any stray ink from the plate.

Figure 42: Mylar mask

You can also make a mask from plain paper. Either make a blind embossing or ink up the plate and then print it with light pressure on the paper mask material. Use dry paper, or else the mask will change dimensions as it dries. Then cut out the mask. Spaying a paper mask with fixative or painting it with shellac or acrylic medium will make it last longer.

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Figure 43: Horse chestnut

Using a mask with a rainbow roll can produce very nice results. For a rainbow roll, two or more colors are laid out close together on one inking slab. A brayer is then run through the adjacent ink, producing a stripe of each ink on the brayer, with a blend between the stripes. Using a rainbow roll on the plate, it is possible to ink with multiple colors that shade nicely into each other. My print of stair step moss was done using this technique and three colors.

Figure 44: Stair step moss

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III.F. Freehand In some cases, you may prefer to apply ink to specific parts of the plate in a freehand manner. Both soft and hard dabbers are very useful for this purpose.You may also ink the plate by using a nitrile or latex glove and using a finger to gently smear the ink around on the plate.

Figure 45: Inking dust bunnies

The dust bunnies plate was hand inked using soft dabbers for the blue, a hard dabber to get black on the suface of some of the hair, and cotton swabs to get color on the bit of leaf and the few wood chips.

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Figure 46: Dust bunnies print

III.G. Intaglio You may also use intaglio techniques for inking the plate. The basic idea is to gently apply ink in blobs to the plate and then gently smear the ink around, working it well into low spots. Remember that you cannot use straight etching ink for this process; it is too sticky and will stretch and tear the foil. Be sure your ink is quite loose. I prefer to use soft dabbers to apply and smear the ink. Others may prefer to use their gloved fingers. Then use news print or old phone book pages to very gently wipe the plate. If the plate is small enough, hold it in one gloved hand; if the plate is too large, place it on a non-slip surface. You will begin by more blotting than wiping. Place a sheet of paper over the inked plate, and use very light pressure with your hand on the paper. Try to gently move your hand in a very small circular motion on the paper. The paper may stick to the surface of the plate at first. Try not to lift of stretch the foil. Carefully remove and discard the paper, and replace it by another. Keep removing the inked paper and replacing it by fresh, and trying to move your wiping hand in a circular motion. Eventually you will feel the paper begin to slide over the plate. Look at the plate to see how much ink has been removed. This

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wiping process will tend to leave ink in the low parts of the plate and remove it from the high parts. By differential wiping, you can produce very subtle gradations of tone. By using different colors of ink on different parts of the plate and carefully blending the areas during smearing and wiping, you can create quite intricate gradations in color and tonal quality.

Figure 47: Light as ...

III.H. Combination Techniques Of course all of these inking techniques may be applied in combinations. Often inking obscures some of the details available on the plate. To reveal details, it may be useful to wipe ink from the higher parts of the plate as is done in intaglio. Alternatively, you may wish to add contrast and modeling by applying one color to the recessed parts of the plate and a different color to the high portions of the plate. After doing a roll-up or using a mask, you can gently wipe the high spots by hand using a nitrile glove or with a piece of newsprint to remove the ink from the high spots. After wiping the plate, you may then use a hard dabber or a hard roller to apply another color to the high parts of the plate.

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As an aid in this two color inking process, one can rely on a technique from intaglio printing, known as viscosity inking. In its original form, the technique relied on the fact that inks of very different viscosities would not stick together readily. A very thin, soupy ink will reject a stiffer ink. On the other hand, a thin ink will cover a stiff ink. In practice, you may use a thin, soupy ink on a soft roller or dabber to ink the lower parts of your plate. Gently wipe the high parts with newsprint. Then use a hard brayer to apply a stiffer ink to the high parts of the plate. The hard brayer will help to keep the ink application on the high parts. This was the process used to produce the print of Oregon grape in Figure 1. A variant of the viscosity technique is based on the fact that in general water and oil do not readily mix. You can apply this principle to get multicolors on your plate, as long as you do not use water mixable oils. In practice, I find that water based inks will not adhere when applied on top of oil based inks. So, one could begin by appling an oil based ink to the lower parts of the plate using a dabber or a soft brayer. Next, gently wipe the high areas with newsprint. Then use a hard brayer to apply a water based ink to the high areas. IV. Printing the Plate IV.A. Paper Selection Having inked the plate you are now ready to print. Paper selection can greatly influence the outcome. Very smooth papers, such as card stock or cover stock, reveal quite fine details. But card stock is very hard paper, and consequently it is hard on the plate. You can also get good detail on oriental rice papers. I really like fluffier papers, such as BFK Rives, but the very finest details sometimes do not show up on it. As a generalization, lighter weight papers tend to give me better details than heavier weight papers. Rice paper must be printed dry. But heavier papers may be printed either damp or dry. Thin Japanese papers may be printed damp or dry. I find I get finer details with dampened paper. As with intaglio, if you use dampened paper, you will pick up the ink in the little crevices of the plate. However, for most subjects you can get quite acceptable results with dry paper. But remember that if you are using water-mixable oils, you will probably have to use dampened paper just to get the color to come off.

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As with most everything else in printmaking, you really need to experiment with papers, dry and damp, to see what suits you and your subject. IV.B. Presses Once the plate is made and inked, you will want to print it. Basically you just lay your selected paper, dry or damp, on top of the plate. Cover with a couple of pieces of fabric store felt, and use some means of applying pressure. You do not need to use an etching press to print it. In fact, there are some good reasons NOT to do so. One of the primary problems with using an etching press to print your plate is that it tends to stretch the aluminum foil, producing wrinkles. The problem of stretching is worsened if the printing surface of the foil is closest to the driving roller. For example, on my press, the driving roller is below the bed. If I place felts on the bed, then the paper, then the plate (printing the plate face down, as it were), then I get more stretching than if I place the plate on the bed, then the paper, then the felts. With the printing surface facing the driving roller, the following sequence happens: the driving roller pulls on the bed; the bed pulls on the felts; the felts pull on the paper; the paper pulls on the foil; the foil pulls on the plate; and the plate pulls on the upper roller. Using the foil to pull the plate, rather than the plate to pull the foil, seems to stretch the foil more. However, some small etching presses with small diameter top rollers suffer from blanket creep ... the blanket tends to be dragged by the top roller, rather than turning the top roller. If you are printing with the plate on the bed, paper on top, and you have blanket creep, then you are very likely to stretch the foil when you print. The blanket will pull on the paper, which will pull on the foil. In cases of blanket creep, you can sometimes lessen stretching by printing the plate upside down ... put a couple of layers of fabric store felt on the bed, then the paper, and finally the plate, covered by the etching felt; use a bit less pressure on the top roller. In some cases, it may help to turn the plate 90 degrees to your normal orientation. As a last resort, you may have to use velcro strips to attach the etching felt to the bed. A second problem with using the etching press to print the foilograph plate is the high pressures which may result unless a great deal of care is exercised. The heavier the pressure, the shorter the life of the plate. Aluminum tends to flow under pressure, so the foil will become very thin at the high spots and eventually tear. Just as when making the plate, I find it useful to put two rails down the side of the bed,

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made of the same material as the plate backing. Leave room between the rails for the plate and the paper. Then adjust the pressure so the roller and blankets are riding on the two rails ... good, firm pressure on the rails should be sufficient. Then the paper and plate should give plenty of pressure to print without stressing the foil unduly. If you are using thicker paper, you should use less pressure. If you are using dry paper, then use less pressure than with dampened paper. If you are not getting good results, try placing an extra loose sheet or two of thin felt from the fabric store over the paper. That little bit of extra flexible thickness is often all that is required to get the pressure just right. Experience is the best guide. To print your foilograph plate, you can use a letter press, a book binding press, an improvised bottle jack or car jack press, a walking press, a marble rolling pin, or even a bean can press. These techniques produce less shearing action, so there should be less of a problem with wrinkling the aluminum foil. Also, these printing options generally do not result in as high a pressure as an etching (or similar action) press, so your plate should last longer and you will get more impressions from it. For simple in-line pressure presses (letter press, book binding press, bottle jack press), just place the plate on a backing board, cover with a sheet of paper, then cover with some cushion material (felt, foam), place the whole in the press, and apply pressure. Since there is no shearing action, there is less wrinkling of the aluminum foil. Walking presses can be quite simple or more complicated. The basic idea is to place the paper over the plate and cover with a cushion (felt or foam). Then with bare feet, walk carefully around on top, using the toes and balls of the feet to apply pressure all over. With foilographs, I find this works best if you put a thin layer of felt down, then the paper, then the plate, and cover the whole with a thick cushion layer. A walking press consists of a simple backing board with a long leather or (or similar material) flap attached at one end of the backing board. The plate-paper-feltcushion sandwich is placed on the backing board and wrapped with the flap to hold everything in place as the user walks around on top of the flap. To print with a rolling pin, place the plate on a firm table between two rails of the same thickness as the backing. Place the paper over the plate between the rails, and cover with a cushion (felt or foam) also between the rails. Place the rolling pin on the rails, lean over the rolling pin with stiffened arms to put pressure on the rolling pin, and roll over the sandwich. You may need to roll over the sandwich several

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times to get a good image. A marble rolling pin works just as well as the very expensive stainless steel pin press sold by art suppliers. A bean can press works in much the same way as the rolling pin press. Place the plate-paper-cushion sandwich between rails as with the rolling pin. Then place a piece of thin plexiglass across the rails, on top of the sandwich. Place a small can of tinned vegetables or fruit on end on top of the plexiglass. It may help to apply a small amount of lubricant to the bottom of the can (e.g., petroleum jelly). Then place both hands on the top of the can, use stiffened arms to put pressure on the can, and rub the can all around the plexiglass. The same technique will work using the palm press described earlier. IV.C. Cleaning the Plate If you get too much ink on your plate or you want to switch to a different color scheme, or when you have finished printing your edition, you will want to clean your plate. In preparation for cleaning, it is a good idea to remove as much of the ink as possible by printing the plate under light pressure several times on paper toweling. To clean the plate, I just wipe it with a damp tissue when using water mixable colors. For normal oily inks, I use tissue and a bit of vegetable oil. Alcohol on a bit of cotton batting works well to clean foilograph plates. Or you can use soap and water. No matter what you use, you must be very carful not to introduce liquids beneath the foil, or you will produce bubbles and wrinkles that ruin the plate. If the ink dries on the plate, I find I can sometimes get it off easily by just buffing softly with a dry tissue. Alcohol and water can also sometimes be used to remove dry inks. As a last result, acetone will generally remove dried inks. After printing, just remove the aluminum foil to retrieve the specimen. Or you can store the plate, provided that the enclosed specimen is well dried and will not mold. If you want to keep the plate, note that the aluminum foil is reasonably delicate, so wrap the plate in newspaper to preserve it for future use. V. Advanced Topics V.A. Multiple Passes and Plates

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In the printing, one fundamental question concerns whether there will be just one pass through the press or multiple passes. Multiple passes and/or multiple plates introduce the usual problems of registration. With foilograph plates, registration is more of a problem because usually the foil wrapped around the edges of the backing does not give a precise registration edge. There are some simple pin registration techniques which work well. Each registration pin consists of a flat, thin tab about an inch long and 3/4 of an inch wide with a small perpendicular dowel at one end. The dowel must be the exact size of the holes made by the punch (frequently 1/4 inch or the metric equivalent of 6 mm). Registration pins of stainless steel may be purchased from lithographers supply outlets. Or they may be made from brass, aluminum or plastic. I made some simply by cutting small pieces of thin plexiglass and gluing a short 1/4 inch plexiglass dowel at one end.

Figure 48: Registration pins

The basic idea is to use double backed tape to attach the plate to one end of a carrier sheet consisting of a long piece of mylar, acetate, or similar material. You could use paper for your carrier sheet, but I prefer to use plastic since any stray ink can be easily wiped off. To be sure the plate stays in position on the carrier sheet, the tape should attach to the backing material of the plate, not to the foil. The carrier sheet must be long enough to extend well beyond the plate. You want to be able to print the plate but keep one end of the carrier sheet from going under the roller or pressure plate. In Figure 49, I have used a piece of blue paper for the carrier sheet for ease of viewing.

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Figure 49: Registration technique Use a two or three hole paper punch to punch holes in the end of the carrier sheet. Use the same paper punch to punch holes in one end of the printing paper. Using the two or three hole punch ensures that the holes are placed at the same position in all of your material. Then you can use lithographers registration pins or similar devices taped to the bed or bottom plate of the press to locate the plate on the bed. Carefully note that the registration pins must be placed in such a way that they do not go under the roller of the etching press nor under the pressure plate of the inline press. That is why the carrier sheet is generally quite long. For a bottle jack press or similar press, you will probably need to make an extra bottom plate or sliding board of plexiglass or other material that extends out to the side beyond the pressure plate. The carrier sheet may be placed on this extra bottom plate with the registration pins positioned out of the way of the pressure plate. You can then position the inked plate+carrier and the paper on the plexiglass bottom plate and then slide it into position in the press. You can then easily remove the carrier sheet, leaving the pins taped in place; but you will be able to replace the carrier sheet exactly where it was before by placing the holes in the carrier sheet over the pins on the bed. So, attach the plate to the carrier sheet. Ink the plate. Position the plate+carrier sheet

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on the pins. Use the pins to place the paper over the plate. Cover with cushions as usual. After one pass through the press, you can remove the paper, remove the carrier sheet with the plate, and re-ink the plate leaving it attached to the carrier sheet. Then you can replace the plate on the pins exactly where it was before by using the registration pins and the holes in the carrier sheet. Then you can use the registration pins to reposition the paper exactly. In this way you can over-print one plate several times, perhaps changing the inking at each pass. You can use the same technique to align several plates to print in registration with each other. Attach your first plate to a carrier sheet as before. Then instead of printing on paper, print on a piece of mylar or other clear material that is also punched and registered on the pins. Remove the transparent print and the first plate with its carrier sheet. Place a second carrier sheet on the pins. Place your second plate in approximately the right position, but do not tape it to the carrier sheet yet. Place the transparent print from the first plate on the registration pins over the second plate. You can then use the image on the transparent sheet as a guide to position the second plate. When you have the second plate properly positioned, use double backed tape to tape it in position on the second carrier sheet. In this way you can register as many plates as you like to each other. Since your printing paper is punched and registered to the same pins as your plates, you should be able to print multiple plates in registration on your paper. After printing, the end of the paper with the registration holes can be cut or torn away. V.B Embossing Powder Plates I owe the idea for the technique of using embossing powder to make plates to Fred Mullet, to whom I extend my very warm thanks. If one is more concerned about artistry and not so much concerned about biological accuracy, then one can produce very nice results using plates made with embossing powder. Much biological accuracy is lost because of the embossing powders tend to form small lumps when fused. But the general characteristics of the subject are retained. Embossing powder is essentially very fine particles of plastic that will melt under

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moderate temperature. You can purchase embossing powders from most craft stores and from outlets carrying rubber stamps. The powder is very fine, and in use tends to go everywhere. So be sure to cover your work area with old newspapers or something similar. The basic technique is very simple. First you make a print of a leaf or similar material on good quality card stock or similar paper, using an oil based ink. You could make a design with a paint brush instead of a leaf print; just be sure the ink is not too thick on the paper. Then you sprinkle liberal amounts of embossing powder over the print. I use an old salt shaker for this purpose. The powder will adhere to the wet ink, but should not adhere to the dry paper. Next, you want to remove all the excess powder. The excess powder can be re-used, so you want to capture it. Fold a piece of paper in the middle and then open it out flat on the work surface. Turn the dusted print upside down over the paper and tap it on the back to remove the excess powder; the powder should fall onto your creased paper. Examine the print closely. The inked areas should appear dull from the adhering powder. You may see powder in other places on the print. Use a small dry brush to dust off areas of the print where the powder should not be. Set your print to one side. Carefully pick up your creased paper with the excess powder. Gently refold the paper, and let the powder slide down the crease and back into your container. Be sure to put the lid back on your powder container at this point. Now you are ready to fuse the embossing powder. You will need a good heat gun to fuse the powder. A hair drier will not do the job. You can buy heat guns for stripping paint or welding plastic, and many craft stores sell appropriate heat guns. You may want to hold your print down with a couple of stones or something similar at the edges, as the heat gun blows very hot air. Direct the flow from the heat gun onto the powdered print. As it gets hot, the powder will fuse, turning from opaque to shiny. Carefully go over the entire print to be sure all the powder has fused. Be careful not to set the paper on fire.

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Figure 50: Print with fused embossing powder Once it is fused, the ink should feel dry to the touch, and the plastic should be slightly beaded up on the surface of the paper. At this point, you make a foilograph plate from the embossed paper in the usual way. Place the paper, embossing up, on a stiff backing, such as plexiglass. Cover with aluminum foil, wrapped around two sides. Apply pressure from a press. These plates are very low relief and require a lot of pressure. Finish the plate in the usual way.

Figure 51:Detail of embossing powder plate

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Foilography Printmaking

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Because the plate is so low relief, perhaps the most successful way to print it is to ink and wipe it as intaglio.

Figure 52: Embossing powder plate print CONCLUSION This is a VERY simple technique, which seems more complicated in the telling than in the doing. Give it a try, and by all means, experiment with it. Let me know how it works for you. SEND ME COPIES OF YOUR PRINTS !!

Charles Morgan

More Comments on Intaglio Inking

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More Comments on Intaglio Inking


A number of students seem to have trouble with intaglio inking of a foilograph plate, so I thought I would make a few additional comments. The first thing I want to emphasize is that intaglio inking is quite time consuming. If you try to rush the process, you will be unlikely to have much success. You need to be prepared to spend 15 minutes inking a small plate, and of course much longer when inking a larger plate. Take your time ... do not be in a hurry. You need to be careful in your selection of inks. I have had good success with oil based inks, but less success with water based inks. You may try true water based block printing inks, like Speedball. But you will most certainly need to use a retarder to keep water based inks from drying too quickly on the plate. In general, I have not had good success with acrylics. These days many manufacturers are producing inks advertised as soap and water clean up. Such inks are really oil based inks, but the oil has been modified to be mixable with water. I find that water mixable oil colors dry much too quickly to be used for intaglio inking of a foilograph plate. The next thing I want to emphasize is that you should use very loose inks for intaglio inking a foilograph plate. When inking a foilograph as intaglio, it is quite different from doing collagraph, etchings, or engravings. You need to use LOOSE ink. Remember, that foil is thin and stretches easily; the characteristics that allow the foil to reveal such fine detail make it difficult to ink with stiff inks. Standard etching inks are much too sticky; even most block printing inks are too stiff. You may want to use Miracle Gel or Easy Wipe to loosen your oily inks. I have good results with plain artists grade linseed oil. You want to loosen your inks with a product that will dry and harden over time, like linseed oil. Other ink additives may lead to creeping, oily stains on your print over time. The linseed oil will dry. When inking standard etchings, engravings, and collagraphs, one frequently uses a very stiff, hard applicator, like matboard, to apply and spread the ink. Never do this with a foilograph; you will stretch or tear the foil. When applying the ink to a foilograph, I have had the best results using a soft dabber to smear the ink around on the plate. Use a gentle, circular motion. If the ink is sticking and the dabber is

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More Comments on Intaglio Inking

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dragging, loosen the ink. Do not press the dabber down and then lift it straight up, or you will lift the foil ... gently slide the dabber around in the same plane as the foil. Remove the dabber by sliding it off an edge of the plate. Remember, if you lift the dabber straight up, you will lift the foil. Wiping etchings, engravings, and collagraphs is usually done with a fair amount of pressure and vigor. With a foilograph plate, you must be much more gentle. Pay careful attention to your wiping materials and technique. NEVER use tarlatan, or any similar stiff, rough material. I use old phone book pages. I wear disposable gloves to keep ink off my hands. For small plates, I begin with a sheet of paper on my upturned left palm and place the plate flat in my left hand, ink side up. For larger plates, you will have to place the plate on a flat working surface. To keep the large plate from slipping, you may want to place it on some rubbery, nonskid material. Then I cover the inky plate with another sheet of paper flat in my right hand ... use a gentle, twisting motion to blot the plate and take the ink off the high spots. Again, do not lift the paper straight up. Try to wipe the plate, moving the paper toward an edge, like wiping your palms together. As more of the ink is removed, put your finger near the edge of a piece of paper and use it to wipe the ink from the specimen toward the edge of the plate. BE GENTLE. You are not going to be able to remove all the ink from the aluminum ... you will not get it shiny clean. You are looking for good contrast between what is left on the specimen and what is left on the plate. The inking is more like a dry point than an etching ... you will be wiping the high surfaces clean and leaving ink in the low spots next to the relief. I would not use paper towels or kleenex to wipe the image, because that will take too much ink out of the image. You could use paper towels or kleenex to wipe the plate from the specimen toward the edge of the plate, but not for general wiping of the specimen. If you are getting white lines when your are wiping, it means you are dragging an edge or a fold in your wiping paper. Try to wipe only with flat material. I do not clean between inkings unless there is way too much ink ... even then, I usually just print the plate several times on paper towel to remove excess ink. If you feel you must clean the plate during a run, BE GENTLE. For water based inks, use a lightly moistened kleenex. For oily inks, put a few drops of linseed oil on a piece

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More Comments on Intaglio Inking

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of kleenex and carefully wipe the plate ... then use clean kleenex to take off the residue. Or you can use baby wipes to clean the plate.

Charles Morgan

Inking Very Thin Subjects

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Inking Very Thin Subjects Using an Inking Sheet and Mask


Charles Morgan Mossworks Studio 77 Moss Street Victoria, B.C. V8V 4M2 CANADA (250) 920-0281 cmorgan@uvic.ca www.mossworks.com October 22, 2006 Foilograph plates made from very thin subjects offer special challenges when it comes to inking. It is very difficult to apply ink to the foil covering exceedingly thin material without getting ink on the background as well. For some thin material, intaglio inking seems to work well. However, for some subjects it is difficult using intaglio inking to get good contrast between the subject and the background. And the look obtained by intaglio inking and wiping may not be what is desired by the artist. If the thin material consists of just one area, like a flower petal, then good results may be had by cutting a close fitting mask of acetate or other thin material and inking the plate with a roller. However, if the thin material is complex in shape, with many voids, then using a roller and a simple mask often leads to deposits of ink in the many voids, resulting in an unsuitable print. If one uses a very hard roller in an effort to avoid getting ink in the shallow voids, then it is often the case that significant areas of the specimen will remain un-inked. The problems is that there is enough variation in the thickness of various parts of the specimen that a hard roller will miss the thinnest parts. To help solve some of these problems, I have developed a technique which I call

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Inking Very Thin Subjects

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sheet inking. As an example of a subject that is challenging to ink, I made a foilograph plate from a wispy piece of down.

Figure 53: Fine down plate The first step is to cut a mask from a piece of acetate or similar material. Start with the plate face up on a piece of newsprint on your work surface. Then place the mask on the plate. You may find it useful to use tape hinges at one end of the mask to make it easier to flip the mask out of the way, but to return it when needed.

Figure 54: Mask in place

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Inking Very Thin Subjects

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Rather than using an inked brayer to apply ink to the plate, we will use a sheet of acetate or flexible plastic table cloth material. My personal preference is to use the thickest version of plastic table cloth material. It is flexible enough to reach appropriate areas of the specimen, but still stiff enough to bridge over the really low areas. Let your own experience and working habits be your guide. To begin, we use a brayer to roll an even coat of ink on the inking sheet. You will want enough ink on the sheet to transfer readily to the foil covering the specimen. But, you do not want the ink to be so sloppy thick that it oozes into the low spots on the plate. Moderation is the key. When the sheet is evenly inked, carefully place the sheet, inked side down, on top of the mask, which is in place on the plate. Be careful not to move the mask.

Figure 55: Inking sheet in place

Now, use an un-inked brayer and a light touch to roll over the back of the inking sheet, pressing it lightly down on the plate. You will probably need to make several passes with the brayer in several different directions. As you progress, you should begin to see the specimen through the inking sheet. You can use the developing image of the specimen as a guide to tell where you need to do a bit more with the un-inked brayer. When the image of the specimen is reasonably clear, you are finished.

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Inking Very Thin Subjects

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Figure 56: Inking sheet after rolling Now you may carefully peel the inking sheet away from the mask and the specimen to reveal the inked plate.

Figure 57: Inked plate If the inking is too light, you may re-ink the inking sheet and reapply it. But great

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Inking Very Thin Subjects

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care is needed to re-apply the inking sheet; the tendency is to get too much ink where it is not wanted. If the inking is too heavy, you must clean the plate and begin again. If there is only a bit of excess ink in a few places, you may carefully remove it with a cotton swab. When the inking is satisfactory, you may proceed to remove the mask and print the plate. The scan of the print reproduced below has been rotated and flipped to correspond to the orientation of the image of the plate printed above, so that you may compare the two.

Figure 58: Finished print Getting good detail is especially important with very thin specimens. I find that I get the best detail with such plates by printing them dry on very smooth, hard paper, like card stock. Again, experimentation is the key. Try various papers, damp and dry, to get the effect you want.

Charles Morgan

Printing Foilographs with a Palm Press

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Printing Foilographs with a Palm Press


Charles Morgan Mossworks Studio 77 Moss Street Victoria, B.C. V8V 4M2 Canada October 21, 2006 (250) 920-0281 cmorgan@uvic.ca

In order to print a foilograph with your palm press, you will need to keep the paper from shifting on the plate while you make multiple, overlapping strokes with the palm press. For small plates, you can use a clipboard and some of that non-slip rubbery sheet that is sold for shelf liners. The rubbery stuff can be found in marine and RV supply outlets, but it is cheaper if you buy it where shelf liner is sold in large cut-rate department stores. First, put a sheet of non-slip material on a firm, flat surface a bit below waist height.

Figure 59: Non-slip material Next, place the clipboard down on the non-slip material. This will keep the

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clipboard from moving around during the printing process.

Figure 60: Clipboard in place Now place another piece of non-slip material on the clipboard, held in place by the spring clamp. This will keep the plate from moving around while you are printing.

Figure 61: Non-slip on clipboard Place your inked plate on the non-slip material, inked side up. Position the plate so that it will print where you want it when the paper is under the spring clamp.

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Printing Foilographs with a Palm Press

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Figure 62: Plate in place

Carefully slip your dampened paper under the spring clamp.

Figure 63: Paper in place

Cover the paper with two sheets of thin, fabric store felt.

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Printing Foilographs with a Palm Press

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Figure 64: Place felt under camp

****It is important to start at the end nearest the spring clip.**** That will help keep the paper from moving while you print. Place your palm press at the bottom edge, with one roller on the plate and one off the plate.

Figure 65: Begin first passes Begin with the palm press toward one side edge of the plate. Put both hands on top of the press. Keep your arms stiff and lean your body weight onto the press.

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Printing Foilographs with a Palm Press

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Figure 66: Palm press position

In this position, you now roll the palm press forward and off the far edge of the plate. Pick up the press and bring it back to the lower edge of the plate again, and continue making overlapping strokes from the bottom to the top until you have gone over the entire surface of the plate. The paper will now have the plate mark well embossed, and this will help to hold the paper in position. Now you want to repeat the process, but beginning at the end of the clipboard away from the spring clip.

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Printing Foilographs with a Palm Press

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Figure 67: Begin second passes

As before, put both hands on the palm press, lean your upper body weight onto the press, and then roll the palm press forward and off the far edge of the plate. Pick up the press and bring it back to the lower edge of the plate again, and continue making overlapping strokes from the bottom to the top until you have gone over the entire surface of the plate. Hopefully your foilograph will now be printed. You can check on your progress by going to the edge furthest from the spring clip and carefully lifting the top felts and the edge of the paper.

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Printing Foilographs with a Palm Press

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Figure 68: Check progress If the image is not satisfactory, let the paper and the top felts relax back into position, and repeat strokes with your palm press in any places that seem too faint. Be careful not to shift the paper as you make additional strokes. I have not had good success running the palm press from side to side. For me, doing so almost always results in shifting the paper slightly, with a resulting double image. Such shifting could probably be eliminated by putting another clip on the clipboard along one edge, at right angles to the original spring clip. But with two clips so arranged, it becomes more difficult to lift the paper and check on the progress of the print.

Figure 69: Finished print

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Printing Foilographs with a Palm Press

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For larger plates, the process is much the same, but of course you will probably need something larger than a clipboard. Art supply stores sell sketching boards that work very well for our purposes. These boards are 18 inches to several feet on a side, and come equipped with two large spring clips like those found on clipboards. Alternatively, you can easily make your own printing board from a piece of plywood or MDF. Simply cut it to size and screw on a couple of spring clips purchased from an office supply store.

Charles Morgan

Bottle Jack Press

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Bottle Jack Press


Charles Morgan Mossworks Studio 77 Moss Street Victoria, B.C. V8V 4M2 (250) 920-0281 www.mossworks.com cmorgan@uvic.ca October, 2006 This little bottle jack press is very handy for relief printing, and it can even handle most collagraphs and mono-prints. I have shown it with a 6-ton jack; but if you are doing only relief work, a 2-ton jack would probably be sufficient. There are many designs for such presses available. In some the jack sits stationary on the bottom and raises the bed, with the unmoving platen fixed to the top bar. I personally prefer a press with a fixed bed and a moveable platen, and that is the design I used for this press. This press has the same action as a bookbinding (or nipping) press, and could be used for that. The top and bottom bars are made by screwing and glueing two pieces of 2x4 lumber together. This construction provides ample strength. One could use 4x4 material, but it will be more prone to cracking and not be as strong as the laminated design. I used slotted steel angle for the uprights ... 1/8 inch thick, 1 3/8 inches per side. This material is readily available, cheap, light, and amply strong. Also, it need not be drilled. The wooden top and bottom bars must be drilled through to take the bolts which attach them to the uprights. I used threaded ready rod for the through bolts, cut to appropriate length. I used wing nuts to make disassembly easy. I use bungee chord to retract the platen and the jack. One could use springs, but they are expensive to buy in an appropriate size. Bungee chords are cheap and easy

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Bottle Jack Press

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to find, and they work well. If the bungee chord available to you is too wimpy to raise the jack, simply double it. Some designs dispense with the bungee chords and springs altogether, relying on retracting the jack by hand. I find this to be exceedingly tedious, especially during an edition. I used old 5/8 inch thick melamine counter top material for the bed and the platen, but one could use plywood. The bed is well supported from the bottom, and one layer is sufficient. The platen on my press is just two layers to improve stiffness. In my design, the two layers need not be attached to each other, as the pressure of the bungee chords and jack will hold them in place. The bottom plate is centered on the bottom bar. Supports of 2x4 material are attached to the underside of the bottom plate at each end, parallel to the bottom bar. I used angle brackets to attach the bed to the bottom bar and the end supports. Be sure the screws for the brackets are shorter than the thickness of the bottom plate so they do not come through the surface. The platen needs to have some play in order to be self-levelling. But too much flop is to be avoided. I put two guide screws in the edge of each side of the platen to prevent too much back and forth sway. You may find it desirable to use blocks of wood or dowels attached (glued and screwed) to the edge of the platen for the same purpose. The side to side motion of the platen is restricted by the uprights. The jack should be centered on the top of the platen. If you find the jack shifting around in use, just glue some corner guides to the top of the platen to match the base of the jack. It is undesirable for the ram of the jack to be digging into the wood of the top bar. And it is desirable to have some means of keeping the ram centered on the top bar. Because I had a piece of scrap, I used a piece of box sectioned steel tube, with a hole cut out for the ram, screwed to the underside of the top bar. A piece of thin sheet metal and a couple of angle brackets would serve the same purpose. In use, the printing plate needs to be well centered on the bed. I use a ruled sheet of plexiglass. Place the plate with the paper on top in the center of the plexiglass sheet. Cover the paper with whatever felt blankets or backing material you choose to use. Then just slide the plexiglass in place on the bed.

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Bottle Jack Press

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To apply pressure, be sure the valve on the jack is closed ... most turn clockwise to close. Then place the jack handle in the appropriate recess and pump up and down. This action will extend the ram, lowering the platen. When contact is made, continue pumping until the desired pressure is obtained ... experience and the quality of the print will guide you. To release the pressure, you must open the valve on the jack. Most jacks are designed so you can use the jack handle for this purpose. One end of the handle should be a close fit over the head of the valve. Turn in a counter clockwise direction to release the pressure, and the jack and platen should start to rise. Close the valve when you have enough clearance to slide out the plexiglass sheet with your print and plate. None of the dimensions nor the material is crucial. Use whatever material is to hand and adjust the dimensions appropriately. The only proviso is that if the bed is much larger, then a stronger jack must be used for large plates. If you have any questions, problems, or suggestions, please feel free to contact me. And of course I would be delighted to hear from other press makers and to get photos of your creations. Cheers ..... Charles

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Bottle Jack Press

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Charles Morgan

Bottle Jack Press

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