Tympan Substitutions

Is anyone out there using something other than real oiled tympan for topsheets?

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i use a coated sheet on my table tops and c&p’s, most of my presses i have a good supply of tympan for and will most likely never run out, but the coated stock works very well, i’m pretty cheap and use my top sheets for many many jobs, when they seem too beat up i’ll sometimes tape another sheet on top of them and get more out of them. On my windmills i’ve not used tympan sheets for 25 years, i tape down the fiberglass board they use for foil stamping then use a piece of 110 index over the fiberglass board, i change the 110 index with every job but the board lasts for years.

same as dickg

have used
heavy gloss paper
cut pages from
remainder / hurts / old
coffee table books
dirt cheap

have tried butcher shop paper
works fine


Manila folders.

i use wax paper sometimes

magnus1599, here we have a trade thats over 500 years old and you want to cut corners. Why on earth do you need a tympan substitute. How about a press substitute get a wooden spoon get down on your knees and print. After a while you’ll need a knee substitute. It never pays to be cheap. best james

Japanese print makers used hand barrens to ply their trade, a wooden spoon will work just as well,

Mylar is an acceptable substitute for tympan paper, and cleans up very nicely.

BillWhitley, Mylar crushes aged serifed type. It’s great
to slam plastic against plastic. But definetly not for type.
In this age of lettersmash, lets understand the efforts that went before we were ever born and used what was tried and proven. I’d like to see what people try to replace banana pudding with. It’s not about reinventing the wheel,
It’s about putting ink on paper,and not jacklegging the process. print on brother james

Thank you all for your comments! Brother James, I apologize for being born from a womb, rather than spat out of a brass solvent can.

A traditional Japanese Baren used for printing woodblocks is a rather elaborately made tool, and should not be put in the same category as a wooden spoon. It takes nearly a year to make one, there are only a handful of people who know how, and the cost is reflected in the careful construction of them. There are Baren substitutes, but nothing has been found that equals one made by a master craftsman. A wooden spoon is great for stirring soup, but it really isn’t an adequate substitute. Unfortunately having a superior tool in a Baren doesn’t stop people from using wooden spoons for printing.

Many printers have used Mylar top sheets on Vandercook presses for years with superior results, although it would be difficult to adapt the same to a hand-fed platen. I have used pliable plastics with memory capability as a substitue for press board for years with excellent results. But then I don’t try to make my types do things they weren’t designed to do.


image: HonBaren.jpeg


Yeah, many fine printers have used mylar and other topsheets without causing the End-Times. It is all about the exactness of the form. Handset type of any wear, and even some fresh slugmatter, will have slight variations in height, and the compressibilty of tympan and underpacking compensates for this. A perfectly level form, which would most likely be a plate form, can work well with hard artificial topsheets.
I recall reading something by Claire Van Vliet, who has been doing this longer than most, where she recommended three different grades of mylar (new, slightly-used, and more-used) for different grades of work. The material does not beat in as quickly as tympan, but it does have memory and will affect succeeding forms.
The problem using it in any platen is the deformation caused by gauge pins. Those platens with lays—Heidelberg, Kluge, Victoria, Gietz— can use a mylar topsheet and only have static to worry about.

Another issue is burnishing- I have found that with softer papers and a mylar top sheet you often will get a burnished effect on the back of the sheet in the printed area. When I switch the mylar for tympan the effect goes away.

I should point out that this was on a cylinder press. This might not occur when printing on a platen.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Yeah, burnishing can be a problem with some stocks and higher levels of pressure. When that happens, on the Vandercook I may feed with a backer sheet, or on it and the Heidelberg cylinder paste thin tissue patches over the topsheet where there is burnishing.