L Letterpress Help!

I am printing with an L Letterpress machine (Not awesome, I know…but I’m a complete newb.)

I’m using an ink by Lifestyle craft, Crane Lettra 220lb duplex, and a 6” soft rubber Speedball brayer. These are some test pulls I just did and the inking is…not great. Really blotchy, uneven, and heavy.

Suggestions? What am I doing wrong?

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Too much ink and inconsistent inking from brayer.

I was thinking along those lines. Suggestions to improve it? I requested excess trim from my plates to use as guides, but they weren’t sent. I’ve requested them. Would that help?

Yes, ditto to what cmcgarr stated. The excess trim you asked for would help your control of the process a great deal. These strips, placed near both the left and right sides (or top and bottom) keep the brayer cylinder at the same height as the intended inking surface. Many refer to them as roller bearers. They make quite a difference, allowing you to focus on the amount of ink placed upon the printing surface, rather than all the other distractions you are facing. Some prefer to attach these bearers to their flat inking slab with double stick tape or the like, to keep them from moving around each time you ink. I have no idea what a L Letterpress machine looks like, so your set up for these bearers might be very different. But for any hand inking of any form, roller bearers are a good thing. p.s. Too much ink on your brayer!


Your best bet is probably to remove most of the ink on the ink slab with an ink knife, and set it aside, roll out what’s left with the brayer, lifting the brayer at the end of each stroke to let the roller spin a little. Maybe a dozen strokes with the brayer, half at right angles to the others. Clean the plate carefully. Once you have the brayer nicely charged, roll some ink on the plate with very light pressure, basically just the weight of the brayer or less, lifting it carefully as you roll off the edge of the image to avoid inking the base and low parts of the plate. Roll from a couple of directions, and repeat, recharging the brayer and rolling lightly. Then take a print. I think you’ll find an improvement. Hand inking is an acquired art.


Check out Boxcar’s Blog post, it might be of some help:http://www.boxcarpress.com/blog/l-letterpress-revisited/

it does have to do with trimming your plates + consistent inking, the 220# paper adds another hurdle for the L letterpress… email me if you need more help! Best of luck.
CabinPress Studio

Amanda, I’ve never seen the L Letterpress before so I looked it up on the internet….. it looks like a cool little machine.

As far as your first impressions go, they aren’t so bad. It looks like you are using a little too much ink, and not inkinging carefully. Try using just a pea-sized dab of ink and rolling it out smoothly on your slab, then ink your plate by rolling over it several times. With a little practice, you’ll have it down pat in no time.

Thank you so much for all of the tips. I have requested some roller bearer strips from Boxcar and will retry once those come in. I had a feeling I was overinking, but wasn’t sure how to fix it. Subtlety and a light touch are not my forte!

Adlibpress - I’m going to do your process to the tee. I really appreciate the detail.

Thanks Amanda for this post!

Quick question to pros:

Would one be able to gauge by the “sound” of the ink rolling, whether there is too much ink or too little?

I know when I try inking from my slab, I get a “sizzling” type sound when i first start rolling out the ink with my brayer.

After maybe 10-15 rolls in different directions, the sizzling stops and its just a “sticky” sound.

However, if there is TOO much ink, the sizzling sound doesn’t go away, even if i keep rolling.

Would sound be a good gauge as to whether there is too much / little ink?

You may consider http://bielerpressvii.blogspot.com/2007/07/ink-roller-supports-bearers.h... that are type high to help with ink consistency.

The L was my gateway drug into letterpress printing, so feel free to email me if you have any questions! I’ve probably had all of them.

Happy to hear you have a Speedball brayer instead of that crappy thing L sends. The L ink is always going to get tacky. It’s just not the same as quality letterpress ink (oil or rubber based). I seemed to always get a “basketball skin” like texture after just 20-30 minutes of using L ink, so I started purchasing oil-based ink in tubes instead.

Definitely send Boxcar Press an email or give them a phone call. I bet they’d send you some strips (ask for K152 plate strips) in a FRB if you offered to pay shipping. I may have some around in a box somewhere since I don’t use them anymore (my two Pilots and Showcard sign press get more love than my L these days for obvious reasons, but I still love it for blind impressions!).

The L can create a lot of pressure, since it works somewhat like a plastic-encased etching press. It’s hard to gauge the right amount of ink when using a brayer (even when using a proof press, at least for me), so I suggest using the strips of excess plate material as ink bearers. It’s really the best way to control inking and coverage.

I’d suggest trying to print twice without inking, but I tried that on the L and usually there is no ink left on the plate after that first run. You’ll only get a faint mark since the cotton paper is so thirsty, it will all come off onto the paper in the first run, producing the squished ink effect you have in your photo.

Anyway, the ink bearers that cmcgaar suggested won’t work with the L unfortunately, but using the K152 edge strips will have the same effect. I’ll check in my workshop tonight and see if I have some spare strips. If I have some, I can send you a message and mail some to you. Definitely get in touch with Boxcar, too!