printable area question (platen or inside chase?)

I have been interested in letter press printing for several years, and finally took the plunge and acquired a small tabletop platen press (the Sigwalt Chicago No. 11). For this model, the platen measures 5x3.25”, and the inside chase measures 2.5x 4”.

I knew that by purchasing a press this size, my printing area would be somewhat limited in terms of size, but is my printable area determined by the size of the platen or the size of the inside chase?

In other words, if the inside chase measurement is indeed the determining factor, will I be able to print a 2.5x4” image or block of text on a larger piece of card stock?

thanks in advance,

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Unlikely, depending on how dense the image or text is. I usually found 1/3 to 1/2 of the chase size to be an upper limit on any platen press I have used. Beyond that your risking damaging your press and almost certainly not getting a reasonable impression. I’ve used in my own shop 3x5 and 5x8 Kelseys, a 4x6 Golding #2, and various sizes of C&P. The same rule seemed to hold true for all of them. The Kelsey’s are long gone, the Golding only gets trotted out for demonstrations. A treadled 8x12 C&P OS is the main press used these days. I seldom try to print anything larger than 4x6”.

The maximum printing area is the measure of the inside of the chase….. so 2.5 x 4 would be the biggest image you can print.

However, for the most part, Arie is right. The largest area that a platen press can print well is usually 1/2 of the total chase area…… so your press is most effective for small areas like letterheads and so forth.

BUT there are a number of work-arounds that will enable you to print larger areas well. Things like double inking, overprinting and dampening your paper will enable you to do a lot more than just small stuff……

thank you so much to you both. I was so afraid that I had made a terrible mistake, but I feel better now.

While your press is small, it is still a capable little machine and great for learning. I’ve owned several Sigwalts, and loved them. I’ve got a similar Kelsey 3 x 5 that I use for a lot of tasks including 3 x 5 linoleum blocks. What it really does well is printing two and three color post cards.

Also keep in mind that the inside of your chase should also for whatever you are using to lock your form inside of it.