Help with C&P Pilot.

I’m hoping there are some C&P Pilot users out there willing to provide some experienced feedback. I’ve been printing with my new style for about a year and a half with good success, but have discovered a limitation that I absolutely cannot find a solution for.

Whenever I attempt to print a large color block, or a larger patterned area (let’s say, 4.5 x 5.5 or 5 x 7), I can’t lay down an even film of ink. Random areas get little to no ink coverage. They vary in size depending on the troubleshooting I work through, and the location is never consistent from job to job.

My troubleshooting has been nonstop. I’ve adjusted my rollers, calibrated my platen, worked with a myriad of packing paper schemes, used varying amounts of ink. I’ve even created combinations of “incorrect” relationships of these variables to experiment, e.g. set my rollers to proper roller height, but moved my platen really close to the bed, or dropped my rollers too low, but calibrated my platen appropriately, etc. To the point, where I can barely close the clamshell because the contact is so tight (and I’m a decent sized guy, 6’ 3”, 190 lbs) And, of course, I’ve tuned everything to their proper location (roller height, calibrated platen with Ms in four corners, etc.) and still, nothing gives me a nice even coverage on larger areas.

I’m using all the standard stuff, vinylith rollers, new trucks, VanSon rubber based ink, Owosso plates, Boxcar plates, etc…

Unless there’s something I’m missing, my question is simple. And that is, am I asking too much from my Pilot? Is the Pilot capable of handling this type of printing?

As always, any insight is greatly appreciated.

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Unfortunately you are indeed asking too much of your Pilot. You may even be asking too much of a small/medium sized floor model press. Platens have major difficulty laying down larger areas of solid color due to the impressional strength of the press.

You don’t want it to be difficult to close your Pilot. Doing this is causing stress on the cast iron and will likely cause it to snap.

If you need to print large areas of solid colors you will want to consider a cylinder press. Whether a cheaper Poco or expensive Vandercook, those presses have a narrow contact strip and can exert much more consistent pressure over large areas of color. You still won’t get a perfectly flat flood over color—there will be some ‘texture’ to it.

Hope this helps.

Thanks, dicharry, for the response. That’s really not a bad answer. I’m simply looking for assistance in determining the capabilities of the press so I can manage my own expectations. This does exactly that. Insight from other members is welcome.

Dicharry is correct in his assessment… BUT there are a few work-arounds for the problem that will allow you to print large areas of color on your Pilot:

1. You can dampen the paper. If you’ve never tried it, you will be amazed at how effective it can be in increasing the strength of large image area. In my shop, we routinely print large color blocks and images on a platen press by this method. The dampening and drying does take time, but the result is well worth the effort. If you do a search here at Briar Press, you will find a number of discussions about the technique.

2. You can also run your paper through through the press twice. This requires very careful attention to registration, but it does allow you to print much more solid areas without having to dampen the paper. If your set-up and press technique is good, you can achieve quite solid color areas this way. We use this technique when printing 12 x 18 posters with large wood -type. In my opinion, it’s not as good as dampening, but it does work.

3. You can also look into softer paper. I’m not a big fan of Crane’s Lettra and similar stock, but it softer papers do have their purposes.

Finally….. try a different ink. Van Son rubber based ink is formulated for offset lithography, not for letterpress and thus is not the best choice. Don’t get me wrong, it works OK…. it’s just not the best for large solids. Try a good oil-based ink like Charbonnell. You be pleasantly surprised by how much better it prints solid colors.

I’m all about the work arounds. I’ll look into the paper dampening, and I’ve been mulling different ink so I’ll certainly try that.

However, I have an even harder time printing these larger areas on the softer stock, both Crane’s Lettra and Paper Source’s Luxe. I’m pretty sure it’s the press’ inability to apply the needed pressure to reach the deeper pockets in the textured, softer paper. Things get really spotty.

Thanks for the comments. Anyone else?

I used to print 8.5 x 5.5 plates on my pilot not ideal but do-able - and once printed about a 4.5 x 4.5 inch area of solid color - no negative space at all. If you’re trying to do that - you have to wet the paper. Similar to an etching process, I soaked the paper for a second in a shallow tray of h20 - then dried it between paper towels and a rolling pin. I know now that you don’t need to wet it that much. i use oil based inks - cranes 110# paper and it worked like a charm. wetting the paper that much did cause it to curl a little. Here’s a link to the photo set of the prints (those cards are each 7 x 7 to give you an idea) - i’m referring to the yellow in the prints - though i ended up wetting the paper for all the colors.

also - a link to another letterpress printer who dampens paper - a little “how to”

i’m not sure about the result of dampening paper and rubber ink - i use oil only.

i have moved up to a 8x10 c&p for reasons such as this…but it can be done - more time involved - and now you know sorta thing…
good luck!

Erika, thanks. Very helpful. I’ve just finished a quick test of dampening the paper and it seems to work. I’m still having to put quite a bit of packing in, but I’m going to wet some paper properly tonight and print tomorrow.

When printing the larger areas on your Pilot, did you have to rely on more packing? And now that you’ve moved up to the 8 x 10, are you still having to wet your paper?

Thanks in advance for the insight.
(And your cards are fantastic!)

The paper dampening worked! I followed the advice of others elsewhere on the site and dunked every fourth sheet of paper in a tub, shook off the excess water, stacked the wet and dry paper (three dry sheets in between wet ones), placed in a plastic bag under heavy weight, and let sit overnight. I was able to print with success the entire next day on evenly damp paper.

I still had issues with larger flat color areas, but the pattern I was currently working on printed beautifully, with very little packing as well. I may try the flat color area later. And to dicharry’s comment, I’m looking into a larger, floor model C&P.

Thanks so much for the comments. This site is such a valuable resource.