My relief and intaglio printmaking over the last couple of years has been completed on the Xcut Xpress – a device originally designed for craft die-cutting, but having gained a cult following with users adapting it to printmaking use. It was wonderful for this use and served me well, but there was one limitation to it; the maximum size of the paper on the short edge was limited to 8″. So, if you wanted to leave a border around the image (as is usually the case) then an image could really be 6″ x any length. I have made made larger prints but they were hand burnished, and that is a lot of work that has led to many people having repeated stress injuries. I discovered homemade bottle-jack presses quite a while ago but never intended to make one since I also wanted to produce intaglio prints (drypoint, photogravure, etc), and nowhere did I see anyone making such prints with them. The main reason being that there was not enough pressure to push the paper into the matrix to pick up the ink. Most people were making these presses using jacks that ranged from 2 to 6 tons. I decided that I could make one using a 12-ton jack with the belief that it surely would do the job… IF the framework could take the strain!
And so here is the finished result! Made out of 2×4’s, 1×6’s, and MDF boards, with steel angle iron. Most designs I saw online had the jack sitting on top of a single board. This, to me, was not an ideal way to distribute pressure across a large piece of paper. Hence you will see that sort of pyramid shape under the press which distributes pressure more evenly. Not really necessary, but because I had it handy, there is a really heavy fire-brick under the jack to sit on.
So, did it work for intaglio-type printing? After a few trial prints I can say absolutely yes. I’ve only printed an 8″x6″ so far, but it worked. On top of the printing paper I placed a 3mm thick piece of Eva foam (medium hardness – it has to give) and this gets compressed very tightly down onto the paper pushing it right into all those tiny grooves. The press frame creaks and groans but has held up so far. I will have to add a piece of metal to the top brace since I have bent two thin pieces of metal placed under the bolts!
See next post for print result.