Grain direction and cylinder press (Re: deckled edge)

I have a newbie question about grain direction when printing book-pages (signatures) on a cylinder press (eg. Poco Press). Apologies if this has been asked before.

My understanding is that when printing, the grain direction of your sheets should be parallel to the cylinder of the press. However, when binding a book, the grain direction should be parallel to the book spine.

(1) My first question: how do you place/register you blank sheet on your cylinder press when you are printing 2-facing pages of text (with the future fold/spine in between the facing text)? i.e. printing 2-pages up.

If the grain direction of the sheet/leaf must be parallel to the cylinder, then it seems the only way to print 2-facing pages is from left-to-right or right-to-left of the blank sheet (but never top-to-bottom, nor bottom-to-top, of the sheet).

(2) My second question: if I can only print from left-to-right or right-to-left of the sheet, how do I do registration correctly if both the left and right sides of the sheet are deckled?

A previous discussion on Briar Press suggested against placing a deckled edge against the cylinder guide.


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The problem with printing a sheet against the grain such as you describe, is that the sheet is stiff as it goes through the press, causing the tail of the sheet to drag, first on press parts, then possibly catching the end of the form after printing. Most Vandercooks don’t have a good remedy to this problem, which is solved by cylinder bands and star wheels on sheet fed cylinder presses.

Make sure the parts of the press in which the sheets might come into contact are perfectly clean, so if the sheet should drag it won’t pick up bits of dirt, ink, oil, &c. Another trick is to turn a 5 pica piece of clean furniture onto its side at the end of the form and glue a strip of 220 grit sandpaper onto the surface of the piece of furniture. This will catch and slow down the end of the sheet and hopefully keep it from hitting the type.

Years ago you could buy cylinder points, which were basically needle points formed into strips of furniture high lead. These would be locked into the tail of the form, and being just under type high, the needle points would catch the end of the sheet and keep it from hitting the type. If you are handy you might be able to fashion something similar.

You might find that gently curling the tail of the sheet might keep it from marking as well. Also if you have extra paper in your cutting you can make the sheet longer to allow for drag and trim off after the job is printed. I have used all of these methods, sometimes in combination to solve the problem you describe.


You can add a tympan and frisket to a Poco; helps a lot.

Here’s an example using points to achieve good registration on a double-sided project. I copied the idea from Rummonds, explaining for he prints books.


Sorry, I missed the (eg. Poco). Building a tympan frame is about the only way to get really good registration on a Poco. But the frame should open away from you (from the operators side), rather than end to end or toward the cylinder as in the above attachment. Otherwise you have to constantly put a waste sheet on the press to roll the cylinder back into position.


Thanks Paul and Preston. Actually, I was just thinking about cylinder presses in general, not the Poco in particular. Sorry about the confusion.

Paul, from your description, I think I understand about the tail of the paper dragging on the bed or form (and the paper gets dirty). This has happened to me before, and I just taped a bit of clean paper to cover the end of the form.

Another question: in terms of print quality when printing metal type, is there a noticeable difference between printing against the grain versus printing along the grain? (Can an expert tell, say under a loupe or a microscope?)

Thank you again.

Unless you are printing on a very thick stock that would tend to make the paper hit before it should, I think you would be fine.



I don’t find any particular need for a waste sheet; I just print one direction, then the other. Works a treat.

Is there a finesse I’m missing?


Hi Preston,

It seemed that the tympan frame was unable to open all the way when the form was rolled to the right in the photos posted on your blog. If I had scrolled further I would have seen the additional photos of your lovely tympan and frisket.

It would seem to make sense to have it open the way I described as the long side of the paper would have two register points, especially helpful if one was printing deckled edges on two or three sides. One of the overall problems with setting up a proper tympan assembly is that it should actually suspend the sheet over the type, so that the paper only contacts the type while the press is on impression.

I am in the process of building a frame for my #0 Poco that is hinged to a chase. By using 1/8” x 1/2” steel flat stock, I will be able to have a chase and frame that will clear the inking plate on top of the press and will have an impression area that is 10” x 12 1/2”, which I could make larger if I wanted to remove the inking plate (which I don’t). Full sheet size would be about 11” x 14” which should be ample for my needs. Plus, I will be able to lift the chase for underlay make-ready without changing the registration of the sheets. I have a similar conventional inner and outer tympan and a frisket on my small Albion (altho it opens the conventional way). The Poco wouldn’t need the inner tympan, and I should have room to string elastic cords on the frisket as described by Lewis Allen.


Ah, I see. Yes, when my bed is cranked to the extreme right, the tympan opens vertically and I suspend the frisket from the ceiling to hold it all in place. Placing a sheet of paper on the vertical surface requires a little care, but certainly no more than inking, etc. Of course, your approach will work perfectly too.

I also think your idea of using steel will probably work out better than the oak. The oak isn’t as strong and I had to make the pieces a little wider and thicker than desired. I’ve been experimenting with using carbon fiber, in an effort to slim down, but haven’t really achieved a satisfactory result. Yet :-)

Here’s a description:

I worked to avoid using a chase, trying to conserve printable area, and apply makeready on the back of the tympan. The elastic cords should work out well, of course. I forget why I decided to go with a traditional frisket; probably under the influence of Rummonds. In either case, the frisket frame need not be as substantial as the tympan frame.

An advantage of the elastic strips, particularly for small runs, is that you can re-use them from run to run. With a traditional frisket, I need to cut a new one for each run. It’s not that difficult, but still…

I also use Rummonds’ idea of crushable foam weatherstripping around the windows in the frisket, to help support the paper above the type. Works great. I think Allan used sponge attached to his elastic strips, but I may be misremembering.


Newb….. I do a lot of close register work on a cylinder press, and do so without a tympan / frisket. A Tympan/Frisket as described above does work well, and I used a set-up like that for a long, long time…. but I don’t anymore. I found that it was a bit too clunky on a Poco for my tastes, due to the fact that a Poco prints in both directions.

A few years ago I switched over to a needle / pin-register system, and have been a much happier camper. Such a system works better for multi-color runs, especially when you have deckled edges. With it, I’ve run 8 colors on paper with 4 deckled edges, and maintained tight register for all eight runs.

Does such a system have drawbacks? Of course it does…. nothing in printing is perfect across the board. With a needle / pin-register system, you wind up with two needle holes along one edge…. the diameter of which is determined by the size of the needles. If they are objectionable, you can trim them off later. For my work, I just leave them.

There are a number of discussions about pin-register here on Briar Press.

Thanks Winking Cat. I’m going to try out the pin register method. Looking at Preston’s photos, it seems a very good way to get precise registration.