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Monday, June 29, 2009

How to make a DIY jig for registering prints (woodcuts) in a bottlejack press

Back when I thought Uncle Shlomo's Pushcart was actually going to get pushed around Carrboro and I was all excited about making blockprints to be sold on it, Bob made me this printing press, improved from some pictures we found on line. He used a bottlejack I bought from Walmart and it works just wonderfully well.

The only problem was, I never could figure out how to register my prints - that is, how to make sure they lined up reliably the same way, so they'd be centered on the paper or card I was printing. Also, eventually I was going to want to do two colors and that makes alignment even more important.

Yesterday I thought up this jig and built it using my favorite materials - scraps (in this case, masonite and cereal boxes) and my wonderful glue gun.
First, I cut a piece of masonite big enough for the largest card I thought I'd want to make plus 2" in each dimension. Then I hot-glued four pieces of scrap wood along the outer edges.

I cut a piece of scrap cardboard the size of the internal dimension, measured my woodblock, and centered it on the cardboard using little scraps of corrugated cardboard hot-glued to the cereal box.

Next I cut a piece of masonite the same size as the cardboard above - that is, cut to the internal dimension of the first box. I glued wooden stops along its outside edges and then cut a piece of cereal box the size of ITS inside dimension.

I centered a piece of the card stock I was going to use, and then made corners out of little pieces of business cards. I hot-glued the corners to the piece of cereal box.

Hint: I used a credit card to fold the corners around, and I left the credit card inside each corner as I glued it down. Otherwise, the glue will ooze through and glue the top bit of card, you don't want that. Then pull the credit card out and repeat.

So here is the upper part of the jig, with a piece of my printing stock slipped into the corners. (Next time I'll make the corners smaller so it's easier to slide the paper in.)

Here you see (1) the lower part, right, with the woodblock inserted into its corrugated cardboard guides; (2) the upper part, left, with the cardstock slipped into its corners. The top assembly slips inside the bottom assembly, that's why it lines up the same every time.

And here the two parts have been slipped together and are ready to stick under the platen. Notice that the block must be taller than the guides on either piece of masonite, or the press will press on the guides instead of the block.

Notice also that the guides on top and bottom assemblies should overlap slightly in order to get the guidance you need for registry! As it turned out, I had to glue a few more strips of corrugated cardboard onto the bottom guides so I could fit the top and bottom together without smudges on the cardstock.

Two unexpected benefits of this jig:
  1. My woodblock was a bit warped but it was easy to tape some extra padding above the cardstock in the area that printed too light;
  2. My hands didn't get inky any more and I could keep the whole area very clean.

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At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice frame Jane. JA


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