How to create a slight impression with a magnesium plate on the adana 8 x 5

I have an Adana 8 x 5 and have a magnesium plate made up, I do like a slight impression (Sorry to those who don’t, but I find it pleasing to the eye as well as well as wonderful to feel) but am struggling to achieve this. I am very new to this and am trying my best to understand letterpress and the Adana. And after reading the big debate (, I would like to know how to achieve this by causing as little harm to the machine. What is best? Soft packing? Hard packing? Not enough packing? Is this even achievable with an Adana? I have tried things like raising height of the plate slightly. increasing the pressure (Do I need new springs as they keep unwinding, or am I being too brutal?) I have found that Somerset 100% cotton paper is working the best for overall ink coverage, as I have also been struggling with an even print too. Would love to hear from you. Many thanks.

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If you are struggling then so is your press. If you continue to stress it you may snap a casting.

On a more substantial machine a heavier impression can be achieved with hard packing and a thicker stock. The cotton rag papers such as Lettra are a good choice. You want to keep the impression within the thickness of the stock you are printing on. If it isn’t as deep as you like and it is starting to show on the back then you need to change to a thicker stock.

If you are willing to work with a printing area much smaller than your chase area then you could apply the same to your press, but on your Adana I wouldn’t suggest doing this with anything larger than a business card form.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

The Adana is a real workhorse but it will not forgive excessive impression. I have lost count of the machines I have seen where handles and body casting have been fractured because of excessive pressure. It is not necessary, it is bad printing and it damages the Press.
Printing with the 8 x 5 will produce good prints that are obviously letterpress but it will also repay you with excelent results if your don’t ask it to do the impoosible.
If you really must have that heavy impression get a heavier press, maybe an Arab or Heidleberg.


I haven’t tried this, so take it with a grain of salt: Pack the press with very soft packing — like paper towels — under your tympan sheet, which will be sacrificed. Set a teakettle on a hotplate next to the press, and when it’s boiling, hold each sheet in the steam for a few seconds to soften it a little and then print it with a fairly heavy impression, which you should adjust with packing — if you add thickness to the back of your plate (assuming it’s already type-high) you’ll have inking problems. Shingle the printed sheets or lay them out on a drying rack singly until they’re dry. You should be able to get away with this with the Adana, but be careful not to make the impression too hard — too much resistance when you close the press — or you could break parts, as was mentioned by Mike.

Ad Lib,
The method you suggest doesn’t control the impression within the thickness of the printed stock. I have no problem with printing with a heavy impression (some clients demand it), but when the impression is allowed (encouraged?) to go right through your sheet and into the packing you are going to be rounding the face of your type and also producing a rather unattractive result.


Ad Lib’s comments are on the right track, but not the soft packing. Use a hard packing and dampen the paper — using conventional techniques with dipping every 4th sheet, sponging, or misting with water (Google it). I think you’ll find you will get a very good impression in a paper if it is not too hard a surface to start with.

Paper is the issue- not the packing- as many have already brought up.

A tiny paper lecture:

It’s made up of tiny fibers which are linked together physically and then reinforced with ‘sizing’, which is usually some kind of glue.
Generally, the fibers are softer than the sizing- which denotes the purpose of the sizing. It’s meant to strengthen and stiffen the paper fibers to make them more durable.
The softest eastern papers, which are made from tree barks broken down and beaten in an acid bath, actually contain no sizing at all and are therefore more susceptable to abrasion, impression, etc.
The harder western papers, intended for things like letterpress and offset applications, will generally contain a larger amount of sizing. This is because the paper is meant to stiffly push against the printing form in a uniform fashion- not like a sponge. The uniformity is achieved through the sizing/hot rolling of the paper during the manufacturing process. A screen or chain may be applied to the face as well- the point is that the sizing allows the paper fibers to maintain the surface which is imposed upon them.

By soaking the paper briefly, you are temporarily softening the sizing and allowing the paper to both sponge up and become more pliable at the same time. If you soak the paper in a tub for a period of time, some of the sizing will actually be removed from the paper. For most purposes this might be counter productive when one considers the traditionalist sensibility associated with fairly flat letterpress printing- paper surface uniformity being prized- but for your purposes it might solve your technical query.

The most effective way to soften the paper is to soak it for a period of 20-30 minutes in a small tub of water and then to stack the sheets in a small bag prior to printing, with ‘blotters’ interleaved between your soaked sheets; you can get the blotters at any good art paper supply store. Make sure to totally ‘dunk’ each sheet b’neath the water when trying this method, as it’s crucial that the paper be absorbing water all over.
You’ll want to ‘blot’ the papers for generally the same amount of time that you ‘soaked’ the papers to begin with. The blotter sheets not only absorb the ‘sizing’, but also some of the water, and provide you with perfectly damp sheets with which to print.

Consider that these ‘damp packed’ sheets will accept impression at a much lower pressure, and that they will conform to the face of the type more easily- think about the repercussions this may have on your equipment usage. Your type/form and press bearings/bearers will last longer.

-M. H.

“The most effective way to soften paper is to soak it for a period of 20-30 minutes in a small tub of water”!!!!!!!! Yikes!!! I think you would end up with a mass of pulp if you did that. It only requires and instant of so under water to get the paper wet enough to then interleave with several dry sheets to have the moisture migrate and evenly distribute to all sheets. See older discussions here about the actual process.

No no, we’re talking about PRINTMAKING papers, not your typical 80 LB bond paper or sheets of Coverstock or a random ‘french’ brand commercial paper.

Paper like Arches, Rives BFK, Somerset Velvet, etc. etc. is what I intended to refer to.