Guerrilla letterpressing - using etching press as letterpress - questions

Hi to all!

I was wondering if anyone had any idea of IF or HOW an etching press could potentially be used as a letterpress?

I had a printmaking professor who insisted that it could be done, but never did explain how… especially how to deal with registration.


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Hi Nina,
It seems to me you could throw a chase on it and set the dials to approx .002 less than .918 (type high) plus the thickness of your paper.

I am told that Yee Haw do their largest wood type posters on an etching press. I think theirs has the chase bolted right to the bed. You might want to ask them for pointers, and whether they use any felt or rubber blankets when doing this.

Be cautious not to go overboard on the pressure. You can easily wreck type with the power of one of those things without even realizing it.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

You really just need to think creatively, and look at what your obstacles are. An etching press is such a simple form of a press, that it could be applied to many forms of printmaking, and letterpress is really just releif printing, when you break it down.
I suppose you could look at it two ways.
with type, or with photopolymer.
With type, you need to clear .918 inches, right? Most etching presses should be able to be raised that high. You then need a chase, to lock in you form/type and to hold it in place on press. Ink the form with a brayer, place the sheet , and print.
Basically this is how alot of people run woodblocks on an etching press. you will just need to trial and error for your press on what level of pressure you want, and how to keep everything in place as you print. There are numerous ways to acheive registration, using pin and tab systems or just a simple template or straight edge as a rudimentary guide system.
with Photopolymer, I would guess you could just stick it down to your press bed, ink up, and run. It might be a little more work setting your pressure, but the same approach should apply.
Perhaps super tight registation would be challenging, but I think you could set something up to give yourself good results
It seems totally do-able, it will just take some patience and testing on the specific press.
good luck

Yeah, Daniel is correct. So the story goes is that Yee Haw has a Takach Press, you should call them. I heard it was the big one. Roller support bearers outside the chase so the roller impression cylinder will roll at type high. See this link that show the roller bearers in a flat bed press.,

The form is hand inked, the paper placed over the form, roller support (bearer) to keep cylinder on type high form, and your good to go.

It sounds easy enough right?

Good luck with this, it’ll be fun. Let us know what you do.

Takach Press

Inky Lips Press
McKinney, Texas

I print relief work on an etching press. The key is to use roller bearers to keep the rollers from having to climb your block in the middle of the press bed. I would use melamine strips on either side of the press bed with either chip board or mat board to bring them to close to type high.
Some people print with a felt blanket, some print relief without a blanket, but I prefer to use a self healing cutting mat as a blanket. It helps to protect your cut and your press.
Dick Blick and Richeson model II presses, as a well as many others, have micro-calibration. This will help. Start high, and increase pressure slowly until you have the desired filling in of the form.
To register multiple colors, people have created several systems using pins or nicks in the paper. One person even used a small three hole punch. This wouldn’t be a problem for your top roller will be so high off of the press bed.
You can find lots of answers here.

You’ll have to show us your results.

WOW! you guys rock! Thank you for all the wonderful feedback, links, comments, and suggestions!

This place is the bomb!

Nina- to answer your direct question…. yes an etching press can be used for letterpresssing quite easily. If you use unmounted photopolymer, then it is simple to adjust the rollers and hand ink the plate. If you want to use type or mounted plates, then you must be able to adjust your press rollers to type-high. It’s not rocket science.

For registration, you can rig a tympan to your press bed with posterboard, or use any of the standard registration systems that printmakers use… ie, pin registration, reference marks, or so forth.

Hey yall,
I’ve seen several Kelton style “D” engravers presses for sale. I’ve often wondered if a “D” press can be converted to a conventional etching press?
Sean E. Richards

Hi all,

Really glad I’ve come across this thread, as I’ve often wondered whether letterpress on an etching press would be practical (I have just started printing using linocut as well as letterpress).

Many proofing presses have grippers to hold the paper in place, I assume the lack of grippers on an etching press is not an issue ? Does use of blankets help to secure the paper in position ?

Ninafolch, i’d be really interested to hear how you get on.


I think Ruth Leaf has a section on doing this in her printmaking book.