I spent part of the day today preparing paper for printing a new lithograph. This is a multi-stone image so registration concerns play a large part in the process.
I am going to be printing on 280 gsm Rives BFK, so after counting out the correct number of sheets, I began to tear them to size. This paper in the 22×30 size has three deckle edges and one torn edge. I was tearing to 15×22, so I was able to measure off of the torn edge, which helps with consistency. I had the paper face down (the watermark reads correctly from the face), made 2 tiny pencil marks at the edges and then lined up a stainless steel straightedge with the marks. Holding the straightedge down firmly I start by pulling up on the far edge of the paper and tear about 1/3 of the way across. I then switch to the near edge and pull up starting a tear that moves away from me for 1/4 to 1/3 the distance. I then go back to the far edge and resume the first tear until the two meet.
Since I was tearing this paper dry, this elaborate approach wasn’t strictly necessary, but I frequently tear the paper while it is damp (you get a nicer deckle look that way). I find that using this approach allows me to avoid having a ‘paper failure’ at the near edge where you end up with that little triangle where it does not follow the straightedge.
I tear the sheets one at a time, marking each one individually. After the tear I stack the two pieces, making sure that they have the same orientation that they did in the original sheet (eg face down).
After all of the sheets were torn, I took them in groups of 10 or so jogged them together and fanned them slightly. I then marked them for my t-bar registration. A small pencil line on the back in the center of the leading edge (as it will go into the press) with a small crossing line to keep track of which edge is which. A second small pencil line in the center of the opposite edge. These marks will align with registration marks scribed into the stones.
Since this image will require fairly tight registration, I decided to calender the paper before printing to help control stretch. The first time the paper goes through the press, it has a tendency to stretch to some degree. This happens more on damp paper than dry. It actually stretches some each time through the press, but the majority of the movement happens the first time. If you are printing on it on this first trip, then the image is also stretched. Subsequent stones will not be stretched and you will have misregistrations. You can spot this if you find that things are in register at the leading edge but gradually go off as you move across the image.
Calendering is basically running the paper through the press like you were printing it, but without actually printing it. I put the aluminum backer plate on the press, draw registration marks on it with a hard pencil, and then proceed as if there were a plate there. I align a sheet of paper with the marks, cover it with a newsprint slip sheet, cover that with a tympan and then roll the bed into the press, lower the scraper bar (medium pressure) and crank it through.
I also cut and mark about 6 sheets of newsprint to use as trial proofs to get the image rolled up properly and verify registration.
After all this is done, I stack the paper and weight it down with an intaglio plate. With that bit of mise en place finished, I am ready to start printing tomorrow.