wood printing

So I have to print on wood for the washboards that I am making .The colts armory is getting close to being cleaned enough to see it is going to print again. I have many of the original logos, and type that has been used from back to 1910.
Any suggestions on printing on the wood, and ink to use?

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Of what material is/are the type and logos? In ‘the days before the before’, steel, and sometimes, brass, type was used to print upon wood substrate. Should you have any original washboards, examine them for a slight emboss. If none be detected, I suspect rubber plates were employed to print the boards; they are so much less expensive, ink easily, have long life, and store reasonably well.
Having said that, if you have access to either Ludlow or linecaster, printing with ordinary metal will produce satisfactory work; but for limited run as the metal wears very quickly. Which is of little concern simply because of the ‘endless’ slugs available to you. And it will graphically demonstrate the destructive nature of ‘crash’ printing that appears so in vogue amongst the cruder practitioners of the Black Art these days.
Failing all that, there is always good ol’ silk screen (gasp!) printing. :o)

OK kids, fasten your seatbelts! One of the good ways to print on wood is to use your paper cutter!!!!!!!!

A soft wood like pine is probably ideal because you can get a deeper impression into it. Ideally you will only set a few lines of larger type because your impression area will be wide but not too deep. Ink your type (ideally a fairly heavy face without delicate serifs) and place it under the clamp area of your cutter. Carefully place your piece of wood over the inked form and then simply apply the needed pressure by screwing down the clamp.

The person that I know that uses this technique also casts his own type, so wearing out the type is not a problem for him.

The finished effect is VERY cool.


A sure way to win friends and influence people…
“amongst the cruder practitioners of the Black Art these days.”
Thank you, I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Its pretty cool , as there are many of the brass printer blocks.(I would like to reproduce some of them due to worn condition) I also found many old printed boards that were never used. They are printed in black , and have the embross in the wood. The wood is basswood and would be slightly harder than pine. The colts armory press was likely chosen because of the heavy stamping on the wood. The boards are about 3/16” thick.
There are many examples of the washboards under a search for The Canadian Woodenware Co.
Any more thoughts on printing ink, or printing on the wood?
Thanks for your thoughts!

Were I in your shoes- I’d pick a good oil based ink, tackier than a normal formulation I might use for paper, with a bit of Three-way drier added to it.

The Colts was a great press. Not only a powerful press, it’s solid construction allowed a wide range of use. However, in my view, its outstanding feature was the ‘parallel’ design approach of the platen to the bed. That feature probably played a large factor as choice for that board printing process which you now have taken up.
I once produced jigsaw puzzles with mine; I still recall the smart ‘snap’ as the die cut through bookboard as if onionskin paper. Slow, admittedly, but the real Percheron of platen presses. :o)
As to printing on wood, well, all woods will tend to produce splinter ‘breaks’ if impressed too deeply. Steam dampened surface will reduce that somewhat, but might well repel some of the vegetable-based inks in use today. Might want to talk to an ink Rep about using, say, a Van Son Tough Tex as example. However, the tried and true ‘kiss’ approach to any type of printing - wood, paper, board, cloth, etc. - is your best bet for extending the life of all the fast-disappearing letterpress equipment. Particularly the type and cuts. I wish you well in your undertaking.


Don’t know your project, but look at Cards of Wood on
Goolge. They have printable veneer which I have used
with much success.

What is the thickness of the wood you are trying to print on????? I would not think that the Colt’s Armory would allow something that thick to be fed into it and still maintain a parallel platen and bed! The wood printed on the paper cutter was 3/4” thick.


Rick- in an earlier post, washboard states:

“The boards are about 3/16” thick.”

I’d think that too thick for most platen presses, but I don’t know the Colts. Apparently this came from a shop that was already doing this though, so it must have worked… Somehow. At some point.

The colts was in this washboard factory , and used only for the printing the logos, business name on the washboard. Some of the names on them ,Pearl ,Economy, All Wood Rub ,The Waverly, The Canuck ,The Jubilee, Empire Glass etc etc.
The platen is adjusted to allow for the 3/16” thick wood.
There is also a old style [email protected] press that was used to do the cards, business things for the company.
I am a cabinetmaker by trade ,but am learning a lot about letterpress and loving it!

A press like the Colt’s Armory will maintain parallel surfaces between bed and platen by design. The gap is controlled without any change in parallel by eccentric bearings on the platen, which are adjustable. 3/16” is certainly within the range of adjustment, considering that little packing is necessary when printing on wood, just a single tympan to hold the gages, plus whatever is needed to get exact pressure between the coarse steps of the adjustment, or just glue gages directly onto the platen.
In addition to printing from hard plates and soft rubber plates, I’ve seen wood printed by scorching on a hot stamping press.