As part of our new merchandise range, we will print our own postcards using the Albion print press in the museum.
The print press dates from the mid-1800s and was used to print books. The operation of the press involves securely loading an appropriately sized printing plate, covering this with ink, carefully placing paper over the inked typeface, covering and sliding into the press and pressing between the two plates.
To make our postcards, we had four of the most popular line drawings, as chosen in our merchandise survey, made into plates. We enlisted the help of fellow volunteer Andy to make wooden blocks of the appropriate size and height to hold our new plates.
Loading the plates into the press and fixing them in position was straightforward. However, we soon learnt (by trial and error) that to obtain the best quality prints that we needed to be aware of the following:
- Ink loading – too much ink gives an image with very thick lines whereas too little results in a patchy image.
- Plate position is important – if the plate is not level the pressure is not even across the plate and the final image has irregular lines.
- One plate at a time is best – attempts to print using multiple plates at once resulted in non-uniform images.
We printed the majority of our initial run of postcards while we were open. This allowed us to show visitors how a traditional printing press works. We also had some visitors help ink the plates and reveal the finished printed postcard.
Although we printed each postcard much more slowly than a traditional print shop, we thoroughly enjoyed using the press and sharing the experience with our visitors.
As we build our range, we will trial printing onto other media such as tea towels and cotton bags.
We are very grateful to the Smallprint Company [link opens in new tab/ window] for supplying our new plates and for their help and advice with the use of our Albion press and other print presses.