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

Make Ready Tissue

This guide was originally written as an introduction to using the Make Ready Tissue available from our online shop, but it ended up being about the whole process of make ready. It's relevant whether you have our particular tissue to hand or not.

A Little Ink

When you've imposed and locked up the forme, and ‘planed’ it gently flat:

  • Put an absolute minimum amount of ink onto the inking system – far less than any job will call for – and work the press till it's very evenly distributed. This will take a little while.

Adjusting the Press

Make sure your press is adjusted more or less right for overall pressure.

Adanas and Model platens in particular are prone to ‘too much at the top or bottom’ type of problem.

This needs to be got just right using the adjusting bolts at the back, top or bottom pairs. Tiny adjustments of all four may be needed for thinner or thicker paper being used on the job.

Once you've got the overall pressure sorted out, you can start worrying about the little imperfections.

Temporary Top Sheet

  • Add a temporary top sheet to the packing – a thin sheet of strong wove paper (modern 80gsm copier paper will do nicely) – and use masking tape to stick the right and left edges down.

Place the forme fully home into the press, and lock it so. Then take one proof direct onto this temporary top sheet, using very light pressure. Mark its edges with ‘X’ marks positioned so that part of the ‘X’ falls on the temporary sheet, and part of the ‘X’ falls on the ‘permanent’ packing.

Remove that top sheet, and have a good look at this. Trifling imperfections will be apparent. Remove the forme from the press and clean the type with your usual solvent, likely turps sub (white spirit), and maybe an old toothbrush   ink can dry very quickly!

We're now looking for weak individual letters and lines (or corners etc of a block) on the sheet.

The Make Ready Tissue

  • Take a little bit of your tissue and tear a tiny piece out, the right size to cover one of the weak areas.
  • Using ‘Pritt-Stik’ or similar, wipe the tiniest amount you can manage onto the sheet, just over the weak area.
  • Affix your tiny piece of tissue to just cover that weak area.

Single letters may best be simply replaced with others if you have the spare sorts but, if not, you will need tiny pieces of tissue, and apply with tweezers.

Block areas will normally need larger pieces, and they really ought to have torn edges, not cut edges, as a straight line edge of extra pressure can show in the printed result. This is particularly true of photograph half-tones.

X Marks the Spot

  • Mount your tissued-up sheet very exactly where it was before, using the ‘X’ marks you drew on the edges previously.
  • Add another sheet of paper, take a very weak pull, and have a look.

One can go up to about three layers of tissue, with a proof taken after each stage of the work. More than a third layer being called for means the type forme really wants reassessment.

  • Have we got terribly worn type here? Might it be sense to re-set it in another face, or order some new?
  • Are we going to print on a nice, soggy, thick board and can simply pile on the pressure till it does print (after a fashion), or is it Copperplate Script on a hard Ivory business card board which will show the slightest imperfection?

This assessment will take in the job as a whole.

Desperate Measures

Commercial printers in the past commonly buried the made ready sheet (with its tissues) a few sheets down in the packing, which reduced the chances that the edges of the tissue would show up.

For the sort of presses we are involved with this is an unnecessary complication!

If you get really desperate you can try ‘tissuing-up’ with newsprint which is in the order of 4 thou thick, but more than two layers of that tells you that the ink rollers will likely not meet and apply ink to the type character (remember type should be pretty near 918 thou high) and the rollers will be set to meet that nicely, or should be.

More Ink

So you have sorted the imperfections out, more or less. You can now run up the right level of ink, a tiny bit at a time – less is better than more – and you can now enter the stages of getting the darn thing into the correct position on the job paper.

But that's another story!

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