Please Help - Packing

Hi, I have just purchased an Adana 8x5. I am wondering exactly what the best packing paper to use is and how it should be used? I am just starting out and could really do with some advise how to apply it to my press, I have tried but I cant seem to get it flat and tight enough. What size it should be and how much I should use for a good impression? I would appreciate any help as I am located in Ireland where there are no letterpress resources. Thanks.

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There are many available materials which can be used for packing on a press. The traditional packing would be a pressboard (similar to those used on wire-bound notebook covers) several (2 or 3) sheets of hard-finish bond or book paper, and two sheets of a hard manilla paper which have been oil-treated to resist variation in moisture in the air. The top sheet is held in both of the bails of the press, and usually is trimmed at a 45 dgree angle just at the corners so that it will lie down without puckering at the corners.

When other materials have not been readily at hand, I have made do with butcher paper, either plain white kraft paper or that which has been plastic coated. This makes a good strong topsheet and spot-up sheet. The top sheet is held in both upper and lower bails, but the spot-up sheet is held only in the lower bail.

Of course, it is difficult to say what packing was last used on the press, so if you follow the above instructions, you may find that the impression screws may have to be adjusted to match.

What I would do to get started might be to attach a topsheet under the bails, then add packing until you get a fairly decent impression. Measure or keep in mind what sheets were used, and maintain an inventory of those sheets for future use. That might be easier than messing with the impression screws, unless the press is really out-of-whack and requires more adjustment.

Thank you so much for your response, it has been of great help. I wasn’t sure which sheets should be held down at the top and which should be held down at the bottom. I am just heading out to get the paper I need and will hopefully have it packed later this evening. I have heard of some people using graph paper as a top sheet, making it easier to line up card? Is this a good idea? And finally the sheets under the spot up sheet are they held down by either of the bails or are they just held down by the sheets above them? Thanks again for all your help.

I generally leave the other sheets loose so that they can be moved around. I often use a sheet or two of packing to place between the makeready and the top sheet so that the adjustments don’t “telegraph through” as hard lines in the printed image, particularly in a halftone or solid area.


That’s good information you’ve received above. As for your follow-up question, I might also add don’t be afraid to do a little experimentation…

I don’t know if its technically correct, but personally I’ve run the packing sheets (underneath your top-sheet/tympan & spot sheet) both free & secured on my press. When you leave them free, your top-sheet should be tight enough that things wont move. But I have run a couple of papers that caused me to play with softer packing materials to get the wanted “impression” - when this is the case I’ll secure those softer packing sheets (just with tape) to keep them from shifting while I might be adding or removing packing (this is because they’ll pick up an impression of their own which I don’t want to accidentally shift).

Another and maybe better way to ensure your sheets don’t move is to “stab” through the top-sheet/tympan into the lower sheets giving yourself a reference mark to line all the sheets back up with should you need do some make ready - or add/remove packing. Be careful though, if there isn’t much packing or you aren’t using pressboard on bottom of your stack - you do not want to cut all the way through to your platen.

Be aware soft packing will wear your type/plates faster & most likely will increase the amount your text/images punch-through the back of your paper (and may not give you crisp printing). If you search through the forum for threads on “impression” you’ll find lots of information & many points of view on this subject. I’ve been printing with photopolymer, so longevity of my plates isn’t my first concern (as most are made specific per job). Although I do like to keep my amount of impression tasteful & never want to abuse my press by over-packing it.

Hi Pammy,

I too have just acquired an Adana 8x5, and would love to hear the results your packing problem – is the combination working out for you? The advice given here sounds a lot better than what I was told (use 3 or 4 sheets of newspaper with a top sheet of writing paper!)

Did you have any problems securing the top sheet at the handle end of the platen? Did the hinged bar (I’m sure there’s a more correct term) keep everything tight enough, or did you have to resort to taping the packing down?

Hi Lir, Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. In the end after a little experimenting I have used graph paper for my top sheet which is held down by both bails. Under this I have used a sheet of manila card which is held down by only the bottom bail. I marked where the holes were for the screws on the bottom bail on a spare sheet and then punched corresponding holes in both the top sheet and manila sheet for the screws to go through. I have then placed six sheets of standard 80g paper under the manilla sheet, as I didn’t have any newsprint. These sheets are loose and are held in place by the two other sheets.

This seems to be working well for me so far but I haven’t done a whole lot of printing yet but the impression seems to be nice and crisp and even.

I still haven’t gotten my head around make ready and the make ready sheet.

I hope this helps, let me know how you get on.

Thanks Pammy, that’s really helpful – and punching holes through the card for the bail screws sounds like a good tip. I’ll give it a go and let you know how I get on.

Hi Pammy and Lir,
It looks as if you both need the instruction leaflet for the Adana 8x5 together with a booklet ‘Type and Typesetting’ which is an extract from the Adana book.
I have most of the Adana literature and am happy to share with whoever needs it.
The note below says to click on my user name and you will be able to contact me. Give it a try.
I’ll be back here in about a week otherwise.