Sunday, January 21, 2018

Testing and trialling

Sometimes the only art work I get to do is testing and trialling - and sometimes the results are exciting; at other times they are not so exciting.

On Friday I spent some time with good friends in one of their studios. They were exploring serious copper plate preparations and etching and proofing and printing. I was all set to test how well my friend's small tabletop press would emboss.

I need to work out a system fro embossing in an isolated location with a group of students for about a week.

We can emboss by hand; but the crispness of the mark you achieve by embossing with an etching press is so delightful and uplifting I'd love folk to have the opportunity to experience the difference.

So to looking around, asking lots of people and trying to work out what the actual specifications of a press might be that would allow for the extra pressure needed for a great emboss.

At times I amaze even myself with the ridiculous amount of preparation I can do to test something - it seems so unlike me!

Still, here's what I got up to:

I ripped up sheets of Arches Velin, BFK Rives, Fabriano Rosapina and Zerkall 140 and Zerkall 170 into 10cm x 10cm squares.  I cut up A4 sheets of Bristol Board 150 and 200 and Colorplan 170 into the same sized squares. Then I initialled each them so I knew what it was. Made a stash of about 60 pieces of paper.

I decided I would trial each paper wet and dry; and use 4 different matrices: thin desk mat; lino; milk carton open; and milk carton tight. That just meant I would emboss hearts that were open shapes and also dashes which are tiny and tight shapes.

I was testing if different thicknesses would go through the press better than others.

Lino is the thickest.

Milk carton slightly thinner.

Thin desk mat the thinnest.

Prepared myself a little grid to record results. Which I then re-did the maths on once I worked out I needed to add in the Bristol Board etc!

I spent about half an hour cleaning the roller - the press lives by the seaside which means that rust can appear magically overnight.

Put three blankets on and a sheet to protect the blankets from any random rust I hadn't cleaned.

Got my stashes and my matrices together to go.

You can see that the press is not much bigger than my notebook!

Long story short; the rollers were not big enough to generate the pressure needed.

Here are a bunch of the samples - I tried wetting the paper, reducing the number of blankets and working the press back and forth; all to no avail. Just could not get enough grunt out of it.

Compared to this - done with my etching press at home; you can see there is really no comparison.

Nevertheless, the item was in no way wasted.  It was really valuable to have made time to test this; not to have assumed and thought we'll be right. I now know I can't get away with a really lightweight press, and it is great to know that.

So, the hunt continues; the research is still being done and in more depth. I have a few options to pursue and will hopefully find a solution for the workshop coordinators.  If not, we won't do embossing this way; but it would be great if we could!


  1. (((Fiona))) have wondered if those small desk presses could do embossing thanks for taking the time to find out!

    1. Hi Mo - yes it was quite the lesson! I am not sure if lighter paper might have worked but doubt it. So many variations to test and try - but I always think you learn heaps when things don't work out as planned...

  2. I've seen people do small scale printing with pasta making machines, Not sure if they would work for embossing, it is a vertical feed.

    1. Thansk Beverley - I have heard of that too; along with another die cutting tool I think. I expect the printing would be possible, but the embossing really does call for that ooommmppphhh factor which they might not be able to produce. But I shall explore!

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Annick - it continues but I have found an interesting and possible option...


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