Home -> Step by step guides -> Using a printing press in old times
- Printing Press: A Gutenberg-style machine with a wooden frame, a moveable type case, and a press screw.
- Hand-mould: For casting the metal type.
- Metal Alloy: Lead, antimony, and tin to make the type.
- Matrix: A hardened steel punch engraved with a reversed letter design, for casting the type.
- Ink Balls: Made of dog skin, stuffed with wool, and used to apply ink.
- Ink: An oil-based mixture created from soot, turpentine, and walnut oil.
- Paper or Parchment: The medium on which to print.
- Setting Stick: A metal stick used to set the type into the correct form.
- Galley: A metal tray to hold the type during composition.
- Furniture and Quoins: Pieces of wood and metal used to lock type into the chase.
- Composing Stick: Used for holding and arranging pieces of moveable type.
- Proper Attire: Clothes that can get dirty without worry, an apron would be helpful.
Now, let’s proceed with the step by step guide:
Step 1: Assemble the Type
Before beginning, ensure that your type is clean and free from any previous ink residue. Cast the letters of your type using the hand-mould and the metal alloy, then organize each type into a composter’s case for easy access.
Step 2: Compose the Page
Take your composing stick and begin to arrange your type, placing one letter at a time. Be sure to set the type from left to right and upside down so that it prints correctly on the page. This practice will require a significant deal of patience and precision.
Step 3: Ink the Type
Using the ink balls, apply the ink to your arranged type. The ink must be applied evenly over the entire surface of the type to ensure a clear imprint. This is a delicate process as too much ink can make the letters blot, while too little will make them faint and unreadable.
Step 4: Prepare the Paper
The paper or parchment should be dampened before printing. This helps the ink spread more evenly and soak into the paper, creating a sharp and clear image.
Step 5: The Printing
Place the prepared paper onto the press, carefully aligning it with your inked type. Once in place, lower the press plate and apply pressure using the press screw. Ensure to apply enough pressure to imprint the ink onto the paper, but not so much that the paper tears. When the print is ready, lift the press plate and carefully remove the paper, setting it aside to dry.
Step 6: Clean Up and Care
After printing, the type should be cleaned for future use. This usually involved wiping them free of ink and organizing them back into their respective compartments within the case. The press itself should also be cleaned and maintained to ensure its effective operation.