Test Printing ideas?

Hi guys, I have posted a few times in regards to my new letterpress. As my name suggests I am a novice in every sense of the word :-p however I do want to ATTEMPT printing on my lp to test the condition of the rollers and just to practice/get the hang of it all.

I don’t have any wooden block types just TINY little fonts that in all honesty I have no idea how to set up, I have watched a few YouTube clips and read letterpress now but I still feel its over my head as a newbie :(

Just looking for suggestions on an easy first printing experience? I considered buying a polymer plate but I have nothing designed that I would like printed (yet) so it seems like a waste of money to get a plate made as they can be quite expensive.. any suggestions? or if you live in Aus and have any scrap plates that you dont use anymore I would love to practice with them and would be willing to pay postage :)

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Shall I tell pressnovice or will somebody else?

You don’t have a letterpress, you have a printing press, a printing machine or use the the makers name.

Letterpress is a method of printing images and text.

If you have nothing use a small block of smooth surface wood, a standard height of about 23mm, carve an image or letters into it and print. Remember when printing the image it is flipped 180 degrees.

OP: You can’t figure this out by yourself, no matter what the holy roller DIYers claim. Take a course, a workshop, intern, apprentice, etc., whatever it takes. In real life. Do the research. Do the work. Just like anything else, if you want to succeed.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive.” No other way.


I’ve been printing for 52 years, when you find that easy printing experience let me know, i haven’t found it yet, every job is a challenge. Like Gerald says take a course, there is a lot to learn, if nothing else you need to be safe, the press you have can and will cause serious injury if you screw up, parts to the press are hard to find but fingers don’t grow back very well. I think there is a man down there who teaches letterpress, William Amber (i think) i have seen posts about him here and it would be worth it to look him up. Good Luck Dick G.

You could always compose text on a word processsor and send that off to the plate maker - most accept digital files these days.

If you go to the expense of having a plate made then try to ensure that it is a job that you will re-use many times in the future - this will make the expense worthwhile. How about a book plate or a letter head? If one of these is a little small for your press then you could combine two or more in such an arrangement that they could be cut apart after printing: two book plates across the width of a letter head suggest themselves as having useful relative proportions, for example.

Many word processing packages will contain borders and symbols that can be used to ornament a bookplate.

Hope these ideas might be useful!

“OP: You can’t figure this out by yourself, no matter what the holy roller DIYers claim.”-

Gerald…. Your curmudgeonery is really shining bright today, isn’t it? Are you feeling well, my friend?

While I do agree that finding a mentor can be helpful in any endeavor, if one is not available then self instruction is always a viable option. We both know many people who are self taught. A number of them post here regularly.

pressnov….. While it may seem overwhelming, printing is not that complicated…. it just takes a lot of work and attention to details. A workshop would indeed be a good place to start, but if you can’t locate one that works for you, then I’d recommend one of the classic books on printing…. like Polk’s “Practice of Printing” . They come up regularly on eBay. If you can’t find a good book, just e-mail me. I’ll be glad to recommend some good study materials.

Good Luck, and may the Lord be with you.

wait… Gerald… didn’t you say: “Older generation printers were either trained or learned through self-directed study.” in an earlier post?

So…. I’m confused here. If older generation printers were able to learn with self-directed study, why can’t pressnov? Are you saying that he’s less intelligent or something? That’s not very friendly. I’d bet that he’s just as smart as anyone else here, and perfectly capable of learning how to print.

Maybe I should add you to my prayer list.

Hello pressnovice,

To add to what The Free Presse said, you might consider sending a digital file to a photoengraver and having them make a copper plate mounted on wood — perhaps a monogram? It will be a bit expensive, but it will last for decades and will make a nice desktop or bookshelf ornament when not in use for printing. You also can look on eBay for a vintage copper cut. There are some beauties on Australian eBay, though most of them seem to come from the UK.


It is possible to learn to print on your own (it’s only taken 35 years for me to get reasonably capable as a hobby printer) but it is a lot easier with instruction. If you mention where you are, someone can suggest resources.

As to something easy to try out as a first printing project, there are lots of possibilities. Rubber stamps come to mind. The are a bit over type high if mounted, so may need to be trimmed down. Unmounted ones can be mounted on 3/4 plywood or MDF and shimmed with chipboard and/or paper to type high.

I’ve also printed with plastic and metal suncatchers, clay coaster, cork, cookie cutters, cheap jewelry, window screening, cardboard box cutouts, laser cut wood, etc. All you need is something level and thinner than type high, able to take some pressure and not fall apart. Thrift stores and hardware stores are full of cheap stuff with which to experiment. Plastic double sided carpet tape is great for sticking all this all down onto a base.