Does this platen look level to you?

Hello everyone,

The following images are scans of my first run on a letterpress. Craftsmen Monarch 9X12, standard packing, lead type. Sheet size is 8.5X11.

I’ve done a lot of reading and research, but this is the first field test. I’m getting consistent results (i think), the following 12 images represent them.

Does this platen/impression look level to you?

Any feedback, criticism is appreciated.
Thanks in advance.

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I looked at each sheet in turn from 1-12. The upper left A and the M’s look the most consistent throughout the run. The lower H’s seem to print the lightest on a consistent basis and the upper right A comes and goes. None of them are horrible.

If it was me I’d move the lower part of the platen very, very slightly towards the bed and the upper right corner even less. As you may know by now, it doesn’t take much of a turn on the bolts to move the platen, and moving one part of the platen can affect the other parts. But it doesn’t look like you need to move anything very much. Go slowly. It would be better to creep up on it than to have to back off and start again if you go to far. Move things a hair and then pull a proof. If necessary, repeat. Tedious? Yes. Worth it? Yes. I’m glad I did it on mine.

I’m still learning the craft so others will probably see things I don’t or have other suggestions so you may want to wait for more responses before doing anything.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Check that there are no loose bearings where the platen pivots in the frame. There is a lock bar that secures the platen in its upright position. Make sure it goes in and locks the platen tightly. When the platen is in the full upright position and before striking the type, grasp the platen with both hands and shake forward and backward to see if there is any looseness.

The way we check for impression is to do a blind impression (without ink).

We slowly build up the packing until the letters ‘barely’ print. That way you can discern very subtle differences in the pressure. Typically we’ll walk the proof over to the front door of the studio where we can do the check by sunlight which shows the impression nicely. You need a more direct light source than fluorescent lights.

I would also suggest using type which wasn’t so plain. The last time we did this we used four capital Garamond Qs. You need to make sure that you are using very new type so there is no chance the sorts are worn and personally I would use the same letter for all points of contact.

Once you have finished the blind impression you can ink the rollers. Then you can easily separate the issue of impression from inking.

Be ready to spend a little time in balancing the impression. It seems one change can shift the impression in a way you might not expect. It does take some patience to get it right.

Also, I believe your press may have a center bolt as well as the adjusting bolts. These center bolts pull the platen back against the adjusting bolts, and need to be loosened before, and tightened after each adjustment. If you don’t tighten them, you can get some shifting of the platen when you take a proof of the adjustment. They will also help to keep the adjusted platen from getting out of whack later. (If the middle bolts are not there, ignore my ignorance of the particular model you have.)

I use hard, thin paper for testing platen adjsutments. It is generally easier to see where the pressure is insufficient. A thicker substrate can fool you because of its compressibility as the impression can look even, but still have a great deal of variation. I also use a fairly hard packing for the same reason.

You might want to do this test without ink. Get the blind impression perfect then you can start working out if the rollers are level and set correctly.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Thanks to everyone for responding.

I have found it very difficult to adjust the platen. Theoretically I understand the process from reading and comments on this site. However, as a newbie, having never been physically been shown the process, I certainly hesitate to say I know what I’m doing.

It’s my understanding the lock nut is on the platen side, the impression nut on the outside. I have only loosened the top left and right nuts findding very little to no movement at all. However I assume both have to be loosened for any movement to take place. I have not loosened all four at the same time.

What I’ve encountered is when the lock nut (the nut closest to the platen), is loose the impression screw will only back off, when turned into the platen it only tightens, nothing moves. Same with the lock nut on the other side.

What have I got wrong?
Much appreciation…


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I am not familiar with your press however after looking at the photo of the adjusting bolts I think the Thomson diecutter levelling method may work. Pack press with your usual packing plus a sheet of what you would normally print on. Put in a chase with as solid as you can .918 type or other material in each corner. Loosen the lock nuts back off your impression screws put press on impression. Tighten impression screws slowly( it looks like you need to use an allen or hex key) maybe 1 turn each in sequence until snug then tighten lock nuts.

I should have said this first you have 4 impression screws and 8 locknuts loosen them and adjust the impression screw with an allen key as required.


Thank you very much for your comment and clarification.
Much appreciation.