At-Home L Letterpress Adventure Printing Tips

The infamously wise Sun Tzu once said “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” Old Mr. Sun is spot on and one our wonderful Boxcar Press customers, Pat Farley of Farley Designs, thinks so too as he rolled up his sleeves and put the advice to use. While tackling an invitation suite on the DIY style L Letterpress, Pat had such a excellent time working with the machine that he shared with us some of his at-home printing advice.

L Letterpress at-home printing tips and advice via Pat Farley of

This was my first project using my NEW L Letterpress and I suggest that everyone reads the following tricks from my friends at Boxcar Press before ever attempting anything. It saved me a lot of headaches and money. Check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

L Letterpress Printing Techniques from Boxcar Press
The L Letterpress Revisited
What You Need to Print Well On Your L Letterpress Machine 

Helpful Items To Have On Hand Before You Start

  • 6″ soft brayer( A MUST )
  • A second plate to roll the ink on (I used a cheap glass plate off a picture frame from a  dollar store)
  • Custom KF152 plates from Boxcar Press (ask for extra strips, you will need them)
  • Vanson ink – I used oil based, it dries faster. Use rubber based ink if you are planning on leaving it overnight.
  • Ink knife/spackling knife (dollar store)
  • Paper… I used a thick, 100% Cotton, 220lbs stock (gives amazing depth and great texture)
  • Henry Gage Pins (2 packs of 12)
  • An old t-shirt or soft rage to wipe off the plates, press, and everything in between

And the Printing Adventure Begins

When I created the files for the plates I made sure to leave a 1/8 bleed on all sides. This is a must if you are using thick paper. It will prevent any indents from the plate when you pass it through the machine.

I also used the strips to make sure I rolled the ink on evenly. However, I was told to remove the strips before passing it throughout the machine, but with this project I did not. The reason for this is because I was making 30 invites and it would have taken me ages to remove and replace the strips after every pass. What I did instead was leaving a side free from any Henry Gage pins.

L Letterpress at-home printing tips using Henry Gage Pins.

After a pass I wiped the extra ink that was by the strip on the surface of the bed, I then slid the invite off and replaced it with a new blank invite… easy.

L Letterpress at-home printing tips using inking roller bearer strips from Boxcar Press.

I loved the whole process. Make sure you give yourself enough time so that you don’t feel rushed. It was very relaxing for me, even though I repeated the process 30 times. Every time I popped open the Letterpress to reveal the new invite I felt like it was my first time. There is a learning curve but that’s also the fun part. If you are planning on doing this just once I would stay away, but I’m planning on doing business cards and any other projects I can get my hands on, which makes the money spent well worth it.

L Letterpress at-home printing tips using a blind deboss as a "second" ink color.

Also, laying down a plastic sheet on your workspace is a great idea as the process can be messy and the sheet will help protect your work surface. Even a semi-durable plastic tablecloth will do the trick.

And always remember, less is more when it comes to ink.  It only took 1-2 teaspoons for 30 invites.

Boxcar Press Bonus Round Tips

We suggest, if you are using both inking roller bearer strips, to extend the plate strips about 1″ past each end of your plate so your brayer won’t stop on your design and possibly leave an ink blob.

If you’re looking to save a little bit on ink and time, try printing part of the design in a blind deboss (as Pat has used) and it can add a lot to your design without investing in a second ink.

Using 110 lb and thinner paper?  We have something around our shop that can add a little more packing behind your paper and get you a little bit deeper bite into your paper.  It is the plastic protective overlays that cover our plates before processing.  They are sturdy and resist impression.  While using the L Letterpress in our office, we have cut one sheet of this plastic the same size as our paper and placed it behind our paper in the Henry Gage pins.  It gave us that little extra thickness (.004″ to .005″)  to get the impression we all love.  It held up for a long time, too.  We got the idea because some of the printers in our print shop use it for packing.  Ask for a sheet or two on your next platemaking order if you are printing on the L Letterpress and experimenting.

L Letterpress at-home printing tips using acetate as packing and makes plates last longer.

And lastly, to extend your plates’ shelf life, make sure to keep your plates stored in a sealed ziploc bag after printing in a flat drawer.

Have a tip or two that you want to share? Leave your best advice below in our comments section. We’d love to hear from you about what works and what doesn’t!

2 thoughts on “At-Home L Letterpress Adventure Printing Tips

  1. Hey Cathy, I have two questions that I can’t really find on any of the blogs or forums. First off, can you only print one color with the L letterpress tools, and second, what is the largest print size I can successfully print with it? An answer to these two questions would really help me out!

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