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Rolling printing plates


#1

I have several old-style printing plates, rescued for me (back in
the mid-60s, but the plates seem older than that) by a friend when
the university press was throwing them out. One of my questions is:
can I use them in my rolling mill more than once?

They are mounted on wooden blocks which, alone, are 20mm thick. This
is too thick to go through my rolling mill, as is – perhaps I could
pry the plates off the blocks? One plate has no wooden backing – it
is a maximum of 4 mm thick. Its back side is shiny and
silvery-looking --perhaps it is made of zinc? The pattern layer on
top of it looks a little like brass. This piece is 10.5 X 2.25 inches
in size and has 8 tiny holes through it, apparently from nails.

Does anyone have experience with old printing blocks to advise me on
how best to use these, preferably many times, in my rolling mill? The
patterns are mostly transcriptions of cuneiform tablets, plus one
obscure script, and a couple of old ads (one of the ads is
Sealright’s offer of a free trip to Disneyland via TWA, for some
lucky users of home-delivered milk! This should be datable…)

Thanks for any suggestions!
Judy Bjorkman


#2

One possible alternate use of your plates would be to spray them
with silicon mold release and then press pink sheet wax into them
with a screw press. The embossed wax sheets could then be used for
casting. This would be very gentle on the plates.

M’lou


#3

I trained as a printmaker way back when, and plates in the 20th
century for etching were mostly zinc. They would be mounted on the
wood blocks for stability. Copper would be used sometimes for
engraving plates. The copper is obviously going to be softer than
the zinc. I don’t remember, if I ever knew, what they used to adhere
them to the blocks.

I have been meaning to try running some of my etched plates through
a printing press with silver sheet instead of paper, but haven’t done
that yet.

I have not tried them with a rolling mill.

Zinc is a pretty durable metal, so I would guess it would hold up
fairly well.

Someone with more metals knowledge would have to tell you how they
will affect the rollers of the rolling mill - not sure which is
harder.

Good luck and please report back on how it works for you!

Beth in SC


#4
One possible alternate use of your plates would be to spray them
with silicon mold release and then press pink sheet wax into them
with a screw press. The embossed wax sheets could then be used for
casting. This would be very gentle on the plates. 

Saran wrap or similar plastic wrap also makes a very good release
for this use, and totally prevents the wax from getting caught up in
the plates. When I studied for a time at Cranbrook in the mid 70s, we
were using this method with good success for a number of graphic
applications with metal. A decent machinist vise with a couple
heavier steel plates also works to press the plate into the wax
sheet.

cheers
Peter


#5

Judy:

You might consider applying a very thin coating of silicone oil to
the surface of a plate and then applying molten wax to the surface
of the plate to make a positive replica of the plate. You could then
make a lost wax casting of the wax replica in brass. The brass
replica could be placed on the surface of annealed fine silver
sheet, sandwiched between copper sheets and rolled through your
rolling mill to reproduce the initial surface of the printing plate
onto the fine silver. If you wish to have a positive image result on
the fine silver, you’ll have to make a wax replica from the brass
casting and make a second casting from brass to use as the rolling
plate.

You could also get a positive image from the pringting plate by just
making the wax replica of the plate surface and casting this in fine
silver, sterling silver or gold.

My recollection is that these engraved pringting plates were made
from a zinc alloy or aluminum and are very soft. I do not believe
that the printing plate itself is suitable for running through your
rolling mill in order to transfer the image to another metal.

Good luck;
Howard Siegel.