Hard vs soft packing

Hi everyone! Hoping I could get some insight on the mtype of packing one should use when chasing better printing. I’m currently using soft board ( dal white) on my platen press because it’s smooth, gets me close to my desired impression pretty quickly, and I have a ton of it. I was having trouble and w friend of mine suggested my type of tympan may be 5he issue - it does compress a lot doing deep impression work. I’m thinking of switching to a hard packing style to see if it works - I was thinking some coated paper or mylar with a piece of washed out photopolymer plate might work well. Does anyone have much guidance on the virtues of different types of packing/tympan?

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I was just thinking about this, then pulled up BP :).

My though was potentially using thin sheet steel (.010-.015”) against the platen to build some thickness then pressboard or hard paper between that and the tympan. I generally like harder packing than softer, but it depends on the stock you’re printing on and whether you want to emboss at all.

On the flip side, for kraft paper shopping bags, we use harder poly plates and 1/8” gasket rubber packing to help accommodate the thickness variations, both in the paper itself and where the image spans 2- and 4-layer sections of the bag. (Have to raise the platen for all this.)

Are your bags used to contain the marine snail animal called winkles, by any chance??

I read the posts about hard packing verses soft packing and wonder myself the best way to go. I keep in mind that back in the day the letterpress was a printing press, a deep impression got you fired. If Iwas doing a true kiss impression with no impression hit a hard pack or stiffer packing seems to be the way to go. A regular printing press uses a chrome cylinder and the paper is pressed between a rubber surface and a soilid one, not a lot of give, creating printing. But with letterpress the way we do it now a hybred seems more in line. The question should be what to use with what soft paper and stiff card stocks and why.

If you use a soft “cushy” paper as is popular for social stationery these days, a hard packing will give you a great depth of impression with little embossing on the reverse side. If, however, you are trying to get a deep impression on a hard-finish or standard cover paper, you will have to provide a softer packing in order to indent the paper to any depth.

I use a hard packing on my presses whenever possible, particularly when running from standard typefaces (not polymer) as a soft packing tends to round over the edges of the characters, and wearing the type characters unduly. I always use photopolymer when seeking a deep impression.

If I’m hoping for deep impression on hard-surface stock, I often will dampen the paper to soften the fibers.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

Mr John Henry of Cedar Creek Press has it exactly right In my view. See also the work in this area at The Printing Industry Research Association Laboratories at Leatherhead UK over many, many years.

harrildplaten- no crustaceans of any kind, usually teapots.

(It seems like most of us agree, here.)

jhenry- what material do you use for soft packing and what do you use for hard packing. I but offset press packing sheets from GWJ in multiple thickness for all my packing but wonder if might what to mix in some other form of sheet to better taylor it to what type of paper I am printing on. It works fine but I am always looking for ways to make if better