Smooth Plate Printing…Halftone??

Hi everyone, if you’ve read my posts its obvious I know very little, so here’s another question that eyes may roll at, but everyone has been so nice and helpful I really appreciate it!!

I see a lot of plates at antique stores that are slick sided, no raised surface for impression, they are generally hard to make out to look at but I can tell they are mostly photographs, presumably from newspapers.

Are these called halftone plates? How does one print from them? Special ink or certain type of press needed or what? Just curious! Thanks so much.

I will post answers to people’s questions in the future, right now with my knowlege base, i’d be making it all up!!! :)

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They’re halftones for letterpress. If you examine them closely you’ll see that there are dots of different sizes with holes or low gaps between the dots. they’ll have a relatively coarse screen if they were newspaper photos and finer screens if used for books or other better quality work. These plates will print the same as type but require a better inking system and more care printing them. Most will require some amount of makeready to get them to print uniformly. They can usually be printed satisfactorily on a cylinder proof press like the Vandercook.


Bob is right there with all the answer you will really need. I will chime in with a bit more.
In school when we gained some skill with makeready with a type form, the teacher gave us the next challenge. That was to makeready and print with a form containing type and a halftone. We printed on C & P 10 x 15 platen presses.
It took a great amount of patience and care. With the platen press we never got truly great results, but it was a good lesson and pointed out the need for correct inking and some spot makeready.
You sound like you are going at it correctly and trying to educate yourself. Keep at it and get some ink on your shirt.

Thanks guys! All the ones I have ever seen were mounted to wood blocks. I just have a small kelsey 5x8, but maybe I will try it with one, just to see. Thanks!

Something my Dad used to do with the old halftone plates was to spray them with black spray paint and lightly rub the surface with steel wool. Made an interesting wall hanger.

I suggest you try printing the smallest haftone you have, first, so you don’t overstress the press and have the best chance of success. Also, use the smoothest paper you can find, preferably coated paper. This comes in various gloss and matte finishes. The coating on the paper (which is usually clay), puts a really smooth finish on the paper.

(A bit of trivia: ever notice how some books are quite heavy, especially textbooks and other books with high quality illustrations? That extra weight is the clay in the clay coated paper).

How fun is it to jog coated stock, kinda like running your hand down a razor blade. Dick G.

Index can also have the same razor blade qualities, especially on the web of skin between your thumb and palm. Both enamel and index can be jogged by cupping the hand and working more with the finger tips, doesn’t solve the problem up gives you a batting chance.