What Makes the BookBeetle So Special?

For years printmakers and bookartists have been using antique letterpress printing equipment for their projects in relief printing. As the supply of these machines is finite, and their condition gradually deteriorates as years go by; it seems time to offer a new relief printing press. A desktop press is lightweight, convenient, and will meet the project needs of most.

The DIY movement introduced the concept of a relief press using a hydraulic jack. While fun to build and play with, this type of press is the ultimate in overkill. The incredible power of this sort of press can easily smash lead type or destroy your relief plate.

The simple screw press, the original form of the printing press, provides a gentle pressure which is easily manipulated for creating different effects during the printing process.

What Advantages Does the BookBeetle Offer?

The BookBeetle reintroduces the plank and the coffin assembly to relief printing. These were essential parts of the original hand press used in the four centuries lasting from Johannes Gutenberg through Benjamin Franklin. The coffin assembly consists of the form, a tympan, and a frisket. The form is the relief printing matrix: a wood or lino cut, a photopolymer plate, or a lockup of movable type. The tympan is a special layer of material which serves to hold the sheet to be printed in position over the form allowing tight registration between colors or sides of the sheet. The tympan also serves as the location for adjusting packing, the material used to vary the pressure that the platen puts on various areas of the form. The frisket is another special layer which keeps the printing sheet clean during inking and printing. The plank is the tray upon which the coffin assembly slides (printer's had a sense of humor, too!). I have yet to add the traditional “gallows” which appeared on the end of the plank.

Could I Just Build My Own Press?

Yes! If you would prefer to build your own BookBeetle, I am in the process of creating a set of working drawings and a schedule of materials. I will offer these along with the cabinetmaker's vise and the 36pp BookBeetle manual. Watch this website!