Developing the Inky Dog Press logo

The first thing I thought I’d do was develop the Inky Dog Press logo with the view to getting a magnesium plate made of it. I have been inspired by hand lettering in several design books and wanted the logo to feature some hand lettering and a simple line drawing of my dog, Figo, a Portuguese Water Dog. I really like the old wild west fonts so I started by setting the words ‘inky dog press’ in a variety of fonts to see how it would look. I liked the fairly condensed light slab font so I got to work trying out how I could set out the words.

Trying out some fonts

Playing with hand lettering

Using a variety of pens and some tracing paper I began hand lettering in the style of my chosen font until I found a size and layout I liked. I also used a photo of Figo as the basis for a dog line drawing and looked at how I could combine it with the words. I liked the idea of an ink drawing so I dug out my old Rotring technical drawing pens, some Pilot calligraphy pens and also roped in a wonderful Venetian glass ink pen that you dip in ink. It has a fluted glass nib that directs just the right amount of ink onto the paper and looks beautiful. I showed my efforts to my judge and jury (my family) who all gave their two pennies worth of advice, my mum was particularly useful in pointing out that I had omitted Figo’s eye in my line drawing! Once this was rectified and I was happy with the design I scanned it into my computer at 1200dpi and opened it in Photoshop where I used the eraser tool to clean it up a bit and thin out a few lines where the ink had ‘blobbed’ (technical term here)… et voila!

Adding in the picture

My ink pens

Finished logo


Packing for the Adana 8×5 platen

When you are new to letterpress something as simple as packing the platen can be tricky, even with the manuals. So combining the instructions from the Caslon and Adana manuals with some advice from Briar Press discussion board, plus some photos of the process, here are my instructions for packing the platen on the Adana 8×5. As always, if there are any glaring errors or alternative advice please feel free to post a comment.

For the packing itself the Caslon Adana manual suggests  layer of card next to the platen, followed by six sheets of newsprint (not actual newspaper  but thin off-white paper known as newsprint) and a final thick white top sheet. The original Adana manual suggests six newsprint sheets, a padding card and a white paper top sheet. It all depends on what paper you are printing on and what effect you want to achieve. I have started with 10 sheets of newsprint, 2 layers of thick blotting paper and a top sheet of sketchbook paper.

1. Top Tympan Bail

The Adana 8×5 has a metal bar at the top edge of the platen (top tympan bail) and a bar at the bottom of the platen with 2 screws (bottom tympan bar) ~ see photos 1&2. Both of these hold the packing (tympan) in place.

1. Loosen the screws on the bottom tympan bar and push the top tympan bail forwards (as in picture 1). Loosen the lay gauge screws and clamp it about halfway up the platen so it doesn’t get in the way of the bottom bar.

2. The paper/card you are using for packing needs to be cut to size. It should be possible to change the packing sheets without altering the position of the lay gauge so the paper/card needs to be slightly less than the width of the platen to clear the lay gauge clamps – about 245mm wide by about 190mm (the approximate depth of the platen). However the top layer of your packing/tympan needs to be slightly longer – about 210mm instead of 190mm as it will bend round underneath the top tympan bail

2. Bottom Tympan Bar and Lay Gauge (centre)

3. You will need to remove a small square along the bottom edge of the packing paper/card (about 10mm x 10mm) to allow for the screws in the bottom tympan bar. Insert the paper/card under the lay gauge and mark on it the position of the screws of the bottom tympan bar, then cut out the amount required. Your paper will then look like the one in photo 3. Repeat this process for all the layers of packing you intend to use.

4. Place all the lower layers of packing paper/card onto the platen, under the lay gauge and under the bottom tympan bar. Then add your top layer. Now tighten the screws on the bottom tympan bar so it grips all the layers of packing.

5. Finally bend the top layer around the platen and push the top tympan bail back into place over it to hold everything in place.

4. Packed platen with top bail released


3. Packing layer with cut-outs for screws

5. Packed platen with top bail in place

Relief Printing Inks Explained ~ Oil, Soy, Rubber or Water Based Ink?

So now that I’ve got my Adana 8×5 I thought I’d order all the other things I need to get printing and ink was the first thing on my list. Traditionally letterpress inks are linseed oil based however I noticed when looking at other letterpress portfolios that soy based and rubber based inks seem pretty popular, plus I knew there are water-based inks available too, so I set out to find out the differences between them all. There are also different inks for relief work, intaglio and lithography but I’ll concentrate on inks suitable for relief work for now. I can’t say which will work best for you… it depends on so many variables and personal preferences and after researching it online, I found both supporters and critics for any given type of ink.

In printmaking as in many other industries there has been a move to using greener, safer products and this has led to the development of new inks that do not need solvents to clean up and solvent (VOC free) cleaning products for traditional inks.

WATER BASED INK: E.g. Akua. Akua produces two kinds of water based ink – Akua Kolor (water soluble) and Akua Intaglio (soy baser – see later- also suitable for relief work). Both inks dry by absorption only (not evaporation) and drying time will depend on how thick/absorbent the paper is that you are printing on. Not suitable for glossy or coated papers.

WATER WASHABLE LINSEED OIL-BASED INKS: The Caligo range of Safe Wash Inks have a flax linseed oil base and can be cleaned up with soap and water instead of solvents, therefore making them more environmentally friendly. They contain a small amount (1%) of added ‘drier’ and the inks dry in the same way as traditional ink – a mixture of absorption and air-drying. Many people using wood blocks for printing are not comfortable cleaning them with water.

TRADITIONAL LINSEED OIL~BASED INKS: E.g. Lawrence (who make a special letterpress range of six different blacks). These formulas have been in use for hundreds of years. They (and indeed any oil based ink) will form a skin over the surface  in the tin when exposed to air. Protect the ink with a polythene disc and lift any skin aside to use the ink underneath. Skin formation can be avoided by buying ink in tubes. They dry through absorption into the paper and by exposure to air. Will need solvents (white spirit) for clean-up. Removal of surplus ink prior to solvent cleaning (apparently vegetable oil is good for this?) is key, so as to use as little solvent as possible

SOY BASED INKS:  Akua Intaglio ink (see above) is the only readily available soy based ink that I can find in the U.K. People are choosing this for it’s reputed greener credentials however it seems to be a debatable issue. Further discussion can be found in the Spark Stationery blog and in the Briar Press discussion pages. Clean up with soap and water.

RUBBER BASED INK: E.g. Van Son Ink Rubber Base Plus. This kind of ink stays ‘open’ much longer, in fact long enough to leave it on your press overnight and resume printing the next day without cleaning up! It doesn’t form a skin in the can and prints very matte. It dries slowly, mainly through absorption so it’s best on absorbent papers. Clean up is with solvents. Rubber based Inks don’t seem to be so readily available in the U.K.

So which one will I choose? Being a traditionalist at heart I’ve ordered some traditional oil based ink from Lawrence’s to experiment on the Adana. I would have liked to try the rubber based Van Son Inks but couldn’t find anyone in the UK with a good range of small tins in stock. In fact a couple of the suppliers I spoke to were phasing it out. I think I will try Akua Intaglio or Caligo when it comes to larger linocuts for ease of cleaning up. I’ll let you know how I get on… but in the meantime I would love to hear from anyone else who has an opinion on this to share!