A printmaking friend told me that Aldi was selling a tiny printing press for under £20. I immediately investigated this interesting rumour, and discovered……. the ‘so crafty’ die cutting machine.
Like the Xcut Xpress,the “So crafty” is sold as a die cutting and embossing machine, but with a few adaptations it makes a perfect pocket-sized press.
This is one of those gadgets that you don’t know you need till you see it!
However, you will soon realise that you really do need a tiny printing press for those occasions when you are on the move, or away from home, or you just want to play around with tiny prints, and any children you know will also love it.
I ran a course recently and showed the students this press as a novelty item – they all went home via Aldi and got a bargain for less than the online price of £19.99! If you haven’t got a handy local branch you can always try on line.
What’s so great about it?
1. It is tiny
Only about 15 x 11 x 11cm excluding the handle.
The prints may be narrow (just over 7cm) but they can be as long as you like.
2. It is surprisingly robust
I resisted my first instinct to dismantle it and see how it works, but when one of the blankets got caught and disappeared inside the body of the press I had an excuse to take it apart.
Remove the handle (a small cross head screw) and then using a flat bladed screwdriver you can prise the end panels off. This reveals well-engineered cogs and bearings; I think the metal structure is very strong and excellent value for the cost.
The plastic casing is also good quality but the end panels are attached with little clips, several snapped off, however the panels are easily fixed back in place with tape and this does not affect the way it functions.
3. It is simple and safe to use
My two testers aged 8 and 10 quickly became expert and confident printmakers.
How to adapt it to make a tiny printing press
The space between the rollers is fixed at about 8mm. You will need to fit a press bed, your plate, printing paper and some padding through this gap.
It is also good to have some cardboard packing sheets to ensure a nice tight fit and get the right pressure.
1. Make a press bed
The machine comes with 3 Perspex sheets – use one of these as a template to make a press bed of your own. The bed needs to fit neatly between the uprights, (7.75 cm) and can be as long as you want it to be…….
Anything flat and even will do for a press bed, for example hardboard, mdf, Perspex or plywood. I made a longer bed by sticking two layers of greyboard together and cutting it down to size.
These are to pad the back of the paper and help it mould to the contours of your plate. Kids funky foam worked well, two pieces provided a good level of squishiness, and as with the x cut you could also use neoprene.
The rollers are fixed so it is handy to have a few packing sheets to adjust the pressure. Mount board or other cardboard is fine for this; you can always add more pieces as needed to make it tighter. Its a good idea to do a few test prints to get this right.
What can I print?
The pressure is enough to produce good blind embossing and intaglio prints as well as relief prints. There are lots of options; just make sure your printing plates are no more than 7.5 cm wide.
You could try all sorts of techniques:
The bed I made is long enough to take A4 paper when cut lengthwise into three 7cm strips, this fits well and means no off-cuts. This size makes lovely concertina cards if you fold it into quarters.
Damp paper generally produces better results.
The tiny printing press is a great way to use up any offcuts of printmaking paper left over from larger projects.
How to use it
Assemble your kit:
Press bed, blankets and a few strips of packing.
Ink up your plates and have a supply of damp paper handy.
If you work on a smooth surface and wet the suckers under the press, it will stick firmly to your table.
Make a stack as follows;
First the cardboard press bed
Then any packing sheets needed
Next your printing plate
Then a piece of damp paper
Last of all the foam blankets on top
Gently feed one end of the stack into the press while turning the handle. (Nb you may want to check the rollers haven’t caught the blankets as it emerges)
Keep on turning till the bed comes all the way through.
Carefully remove the blankets and reveal your little print made on the tiny printing press!
If you can’t resist getting one of these , please let me know what you do with it. I will feature examples of original prints from the tiny printing press in a future post……