Tympan Covering on Washington Press

Hello, All,
I have just completed restoring a Cincinnati Type Foundry Washington press for our museum. I need to cover the tympan with an appropriate material. Rummonds recommended Linson paper, but I can’t find it in sheets or rolls. What have others used that has worked well? I know it has to remain taut.
Thanks for any guidance.
John Lovett, Falls Mill & Museum in TN

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John, I have had good luck with a heat shrinkable polyester white fabric used for covering model planes. I glued it to the tympan frame with contact cement, and a hair dryer pulled it up nice and taut, where it has stayed. I use the adhesive Henry Guides on it, and for a 250 page book in an edition of 50, printed one page at a time, the tympan and guides lasted throughout the run and are still there. The fabric is SIG Koverall by SIG Manufacturing in Montezuma, IA and is available in a package of 1 yard, 60”x36” for $6.84 plus shipping.


Thanks very much for this advice. I will follow up and try this out on our old Washington.
Best Regards,

Sounds too easy, Bob, but I am thinking of giving your method a go!

However, how easy is it to remove the contact glue when you need to replace the covering?

Have you tried alternative ways to attach the covering, such as, double-sided sellotape and white pva (padhesive) glue?

I found ordinary kraft stock about 140gsm lightly damped
plus glued down tabs worked for me. As the damping dries out the tympan becomes drum tight which is what you need.
I also lightly greased the pivot threads, to make the register adjustment right/left nicely fine. This was on an Albion.

I have used heavy kraft paper as well, gluing it down after dampening (PVA is fine), and it works very well. If printing on dampened paper, you must waterproof the tympan and frisket with something to keep the dampness from transferring to the tympan. I used paraffin wax dissolved in gasoline (do it ourdoors, please), but there might be some other materials which would also work to waterproof.

Covering the frisket with paper works great as you can print on it, then simply cut out the areas of image so the paper doesn’t sag down to the rest of the form and get soiled. If not printing damp, a simpler tape frisket works fine.

The fabric mentioned by Bob is probably closer to the original coverings, which I believe might have been a fine-woven fabric as well. Particularly in a museum setting, it is great to used something which, if not actually authentic, looks the pat and performs well.

By the way, the first Washington Press I used was a CTF Washington at the University of Iowa Typography Lab. It was a giant newspaper-sized press, and it had not been used for many years prior to my use. The wax dissolved in gasoline treatment was suggested by Harry Duncan, my instructor at the time.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

Roger, I have not tried alternatives. I used the contact cement because I could be sure the fabric would not move after it touched, so applying it carefully to the frame, once touching it was solid. And I had it —double cellotape might work but is not easily available where I live. PVA takes too long to dry. Cleaning up the contact cement will be an issue, but I assume scraping it from the frame will be adequate.

When making a tympan and frisket for an old hand press in Portugal, I had access to the heavy-duty, double-thick kraft paper, which was dampened and applied with PVA, and made an excellent tympan and frisket.