First press: Tabletop platen vs. flat bed

Hello all

Am trying to decide which way to go for my first press.

I want to print A5 poetry from metal type.

My dilemma can be summarized thus…

Tabletop platens (= Adana as I’m in the UK):

These can just about print A5 with margins (i.e. about 4.5 x 7.5). However, lots of folks say that you shouldn’t be trying to print more than about 2/3 of the chase area - not sure if this is a problem with inking and/or pressure at the edges. So this seems to knock them out.

Then again, I’ve seen what looks like some lovely work at the edges of an Adana - see photo (admittedly from photopolymer - not sure if this is significant).

Roller proof presses (Farley, Line-o-Scribe etc):

The size problem goes away. And there’s more pressure available. But these were never designed for final quality prints (the clue’s in the name!) - so are they capable of them for high-resolution work? - most people use them for posters/wood type. My (limited) experience printing back-to-back vs. an Adana was much poorer - particularly uneven. However, I was hand-inking without roller guides. So this may explain it. My question here is: Is it possible to get good results with one of these with a roller-based inking system or hand-inking with guides, or is the rather crude cylinder mechanism a limiting factor on getting an even impression.

Hoping I haven’t opened too big a can of worms here. Any insights appreciated - particularly success stories on either side!

Thanks! Chris.

image: Adana sonnet typelark press.png

Adana sonnet typelark press.png

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Chris, as we say *horses for courses* but in any case, as quoted many times in the past, the total forme/chase area is usually regarded as the governing fact, and usually stated as around maximum usable image area, at around 60-65% of the total, especially with Table Top Clamshell action, probably why fairly recently we see all the Cracked/Broken table tops from too heavy, formes and/or Deep Impression. !!!

Flat Bed(s) are a slightly different proposition, in that on impression, the amount of contact, at any one time during the cycle, is very very small and a little more forgiving, but even so the same basic (unwritten?) rules seem to hold good, i.e. around 60-65% (ish) total image area, less with several Full Out (parallel to the cylinder) cross rules within the Text/Image area, even on the Big cylinders, many cross rules, bring out the best, with the BEST of Minders, Operators, involving delicate make ready on the majority of the image, but less under the cross rules.
Perhaps post Off Line, via B.P. a U.K. location, Address, Landline Number etc., may be able to suggest/offer More.?

Hello Chris, you can print good quality work on an Adana press, someone I trained in Edinburgh prints beautiful A5 booklets with poetry on an 8 x 5 machine. Excellent quality! He prints a poem at a time, it takes some organizing and preparing, but it works well. In my workshop, I’ve done away with all the platen presses that I had and now only work on a Vandercook and 2 Korrex form test presses. And on those I achieve a extremely good result. These machines were built to proof 4-colour work on, and give of course a superior print to a small proof press as that was used to quickly pull a proof in the typesetting departments. And again, can’t be compared to the Line-o-Scribe and Showcard presses. I also find it much less hassle working with the test presses, the printing is more even and you can build up a forme holding 4 pages at a time. Maybe it’s an idea to do a course or a workshop before investing in machinery that you might later regret?

Small roller proof type presses are still made in the UK for school/college art departments.

Why not have a go at making your own as instructed in the Adana magazine of 1948. For the cylinder your local dive shop will sell an old tank or if the gas board is digging up a road near you a bit of yellow pipe.

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Maybe the Platen Handbook will help in your decision:

Thank you all for your many helpful suggestions and links.

I’m trying to pursue all lines in parallel. I’ve bought a cheap Adana to get me started, following Thomas’s positive reports, and have an eye out for a larger flatbed press at the same time. I *have* considered making my own, platenprinter, and still might. I’ve been considering a line-o-scribe copy (see separate thread) rather than a free roller.

All the best, Chris.

There is an Ayers Jardine (Adana) showcard press just appeared on eBay that will do what you want and more. It has the original wood base and type for £185.

Thank you platenprinter - good spot. Unfortunately it’s the other end of the country and the seller won’t ship :-(

The other things to consider are print run and print style. If you are wanting more than a dozen or so copies a proof press will be hard work unless it is a high-end self-inking and motorised model - but an Adana or similar will do several hundred before you really start wondering where the coffee is. A top-end proof press will be needed to handle colours in register, which isn’t too difficult on a small platen. A small platen won’t do ‘deep impression’ if that is what you are after - whereas it is quite easy to hit things hard on a proof press without breaking it. And a proof press is likely to be able to do pages 2- or 4-up on larger paper which could save a lot of paper handling.

From long, long experience, on an 8 x 5 Adana, don’t expect to print really well, much more than four x six line verses
in about 12 or 14 point, on a single A5 page. To to produce a foldable, sewable, four page section, you will have to print the sheet four times, turning and turning.
You can cram on more type on the page, maybe quite a lot, , but you’ll be surprised how soon the available printing pressure of that press is used up. And boy does you arm get tired. I’ve been at this poetry printing lark for 40 odd years now.