I have been experimenting printing with some Vintage Advertising Printing blocks that I have, experimenting with the different materials they used, but also the level of detail, and this has been a very interesting exercise. Whilst printing vintage blocks will never be my main thing, I sometimes make the results of these experiments for sale (see below).
A good example is my Liberty of London Vintage Printing Block - which has connections to the town I live in - Chesham - and I have 1900s family connections. The 2 images below show the print and the block locked into my press.
I have experimented with different inks and paper with these blocks - they are metal and finely detailed (and in some cases a little damaged), so it was worth seeing what I could do with them.
I usually print on slightly damp paper, but as these usually take 1-2 weeks to dry, decided to try dry paper and more pressure from the printing press this time. I chose some of my recycled card and Fabriano Unica, both of which worked in a similar way.
On the above Liberty of London block, I tried Lawrence's Letterpress and Relief inks, and personally preferred the Relief inks simply because there were larger areas of black than in letterpress. Others may disagree, but we all have our own ways of working.
I had to do about 6 test prints to get the block properly inked up, before it produced reasonably solid blacks, and use thicker ink than I would normally do, and a lot of pressure from the printing press, but it worked.
The surface of the printing block is slightly convex so I didn't need a make ready (to make the centre of the print print correctly).
This is a really old printing block, set on a hardwood base (with some woodworm holes in, all long dead). The metal plate (which is flat, and so needs a make ready to print), is slightly damaged, and very finely detailed, so it was quite difficult to print from, but I managed to get some prints from it.
For ink, I used just my Lawrence's Letterpress Ink and a make ready (as the plate is flat). The words Table Salt contain a lot of fine detail, as does the top area, and I think the Relief ink might just have clogged the plate up too much as it isn't as stiff. I had to use a lot of pressure from the press too.
This isn't so old, but was the hardest to print from, mainly in inking up, due to the varied nature of the surface - text and images in different non linear places, and each area requiring a different inking up. For example, the camera needed a lot, but the text little, so a number of test prints were required to make it work.
For ink, I used just my Lawrence's Relief Ink but that may not have been the best choice - Letterpress ink, which is stiffer, might have been better. A more sophisticated make ready would have been useful to cover the camera area too.
All in all I enjoyed trying these vintage printing blocks out, and had some success in getting prints. I also gained more knowledge in printing from other people's blocks, in particular getting the fine detail printed well, without clogging it all up. There are some prints available to purchase, if you wish to.
All articles made are based on my own personal experience, and may not be suitable for everyone. They are not to be taken as formal advice; always seek personal professional advice before doing anything, especially if it is health related, or might affect your health.
Where links are provided to external sites, I am not responsible for the content of these sites.
All content is believed to be correct at time of writing, but policies and prices change over time, and this article is not updated to reflect this. Double check all facts before making any decisions.