Hand-printed books of poetry,
Plus tips and supplies for fellow letterpress printers.

Position: Without a Lay Bar

This is modified from our Lay Quads Guide, and it's for presses without a Lay Bar (the flat metal bar at the bottom of the platen on an Adana Eight Five etc, which can be adjusted to various heights to support and position the bottom your paper).

Lay Quads

We sell Lay Quads but you can make you own:

  • Apply double sided tape to one of the larger sides of a 30pt Thick space (or a 10pt 3 Em quad; they're the same thing, just at different angles!).
  • Trim off the excess tape with a good craft or Stanley knife (try to be accurate because overhanging tape can stick to the job paper).
  • Repeat on the opposite side.
  • You'll need three of these for a job, or more if you're working with large sheets of paper.

Making a Mark Up Sheet

Start with no ink on the press (or at least take the rollers off).

Put the forme into the bed of the machine. Different presses have different patent systems for securing the form in the type bed – using slots, clamps, etc – so you'll have to work that bit out for yourself (or ask a BPS friend to demonstrate).

Hold a sheet of carbon paper over the ‘Top Sheet’ of the packing. Take a proof – mind your fingers – and you should be left with a faint image on the top sheet.

Using Swiss Style Packing?
You won't get very far trying to mark our Top Layer Packing (a hard plastic) with carbon paper. Stick a sheet of paper over the top so that as much of the plastic is covered as possible, and Sellotape round the edges. This sheet is also where you'd stick Make Ready Tissue if you were using it.

Take a sheet of the paper you want to use for the job. Working on a bench, use a ruler and pencil to draw four lines showing where the image is to fall (remember to allow room for trimming the paper, if you'll be doing that after printing). Extend the lines right to the edge of the sheet. We call this the ‘Position Mark-Up Sheet’

Now draw those same lines onto the ‘Top Sheet’, lined up with the faint carbon paper image, again extending them right and left as far as you can.

Nicks Out
When it comes to sticking your Lay Quads onto the ‘Top Sheet’, remember that the little nick (groove) on the edge of the space needs to be turned away from the paper, otherwise it can catch corners and be a nuisance when you're feeding the press.

Applying the Lay Quads

Using very short bits of masking tape, fix the ‘Mark Up Sheet’ over the ‘Top Sheet’. Line up the pencil lines at the edge of the top sheet with the matching lines on the ‘Mark Up Sheet’. This is the critical part of the job, and it must be in dead register.

Take two ‘Lay Quads’ to use along the lower edge of the ‘Mark Up Sheet’. Remove the release paper from one side only and press firmly against the ‘Top Sheet’, accurately lining up the top of the quad with the bottom of the ‘Mark Up Sheet’. Position them about a quarter of the way in, on either side of the sheet.

A third ‘Lay Quad’ should now be pressed onto the ‘Top Sheet’, this time against one side of the ‘Mark Up Sheet’. Which side depends on which direction you'll be feeding the paper from. You'll probably be feeding the paper with your right hand; place this last quad on the opposite side and it will stop the paper in just the right place.

Too Sticky?
You can make masking tape even less sticky by dabbing it against your clothes before you use it. This makes it easier to remove later.

Double check the position by taking another carbon paper proof, this time on to the actual job paper which you'll be printing on later. Line the paper up against the lay quads, and use a couple of small bits of masking tape to stop it slipping off. If you're not happy with the position, you can either:

  • Try and prise the quads off (carefully, to avoid damaging the ‘Top Sheet’).
  • Take the forme out of the press and adjust the position of the type within the chase. You'll only be able to make tiny adjustments if you've already tissued-up the ‘Top Sheet’.
  • Start again.

Lay quad diagram

Retaining Tabs (Forme Strippers)

You won't be using little bits of masking tape for every piece of paper; you'll need to make retainers (or ‘forme strippers’) to stick on the outer face of the ‘Lay Quads’. Not only will these stop the paper slipping into the machine when you're feeding, or going round the rollers, they'll also act as mini friskets, helping to pull the paper away from the forme.

Warning: Battering Type
Make really sure that the tabs are clear of where the type will fall, or you'll batter it. We've all done it!

In most cases a small tab of card is all you need. Make them large enough to control the paper without getting in the way of the type when you're printing. Just peel the remaining backing from your ‘Lay Quad’ and stick the card on so that one edge sticks out to hold the paper.

To make feeding the press as smooth as possible, give your card tabs a slight outwards curl at the top. The diagram, right, shows the gentle curl of the card away from the packing. You can curl card in the same way as curling ribbon; by running one side against the open blade of a pair of scissors, a thumb nail, or even a steel rule.

Remove the ‘Mark Up Sheet’, and all the bits of masking tape, and you can now start getting the ink level right.

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