Platen Press Feeding
By Fred Williams
Editor-Publisher, Type & Press
Published Winter 1980
A pro platen feeder in action is a joy to behold! While his press appears to be "running away," he calmly with one hand retrieves the printed sheet while his other hand quickly, feeds in a fresh sheet, right up to the guides every time! The only time he uses the throw-off is when he puts on a lift of fresh stock.
Many printers consider hand feeding the most frustrating and boring part of creating a piece of printing. Perhaps these tips will help to decrease the time required to hand feed a "dancing snapper press.
First off—any foreign matter on the top sheet (glue, makeready spotting, gauge pin holes, wrinkles, etc.) may catch on the sheets and interrupt the feeding cycle. To prevent the gauge pins from wrinkling the packing, they should in stabbed into the top sheet only. After positioning is correct the guides should be very lightly tapped to drive the points into tympan to prevent sheets from hanging up on them.
The two bottom guides should be placed one-sixth of the distance in from the end of the sheet to be fed. Side guide should be a similar distance up from lower left hand corner. For easy feeding the lower guides should be wide apart, the side one low.
The press feeder should stand with erect posture at the delivery board with the weight of his body evenly distributed on both feet. Treadle press operators must assume a flamingo stance as they pump and feed.
The press operator must keep his hands clean. Unless wanted circulars are being printed for the FBI, fingerprints are a sign of a sloppy workman.
Usually the side of the paper to be printed on should be face up on the feed board although some pressmen prefer to "flop" large sheets, that is, laid on the feed board "wrong" sideup and turned as fed into the press.
With a lift (not over 2") an the feed bond, fan the top sheets by putting the thumb nail across the sheets a couple of times. This will separate the sheets, making them easy to lift from the pile. If sheets still stick together a very small amount of glycerine on the fingers will help.
Care should be taken in removing sheets from the press so as not to smear printed areas. If open space is small or sheets are slippery, a sandpaper finger stall, may help. To use—fasten a one-inch strip of sandpaper over the end of the second or forefinger, held in place with a rubber band. Some press feeders prefer a soft rubber thimble.
The speed of the press should be adjusted so that the press feeder can place a sheet right up to the guides with each opening of the press. The throw-off lever should not be overworked. Try to cultivate a good, even, unfailing motion, as the hand comp. Have right hand ready to put a sheet in the press the instant it opens. Each time impression is thrown off, rollers ink form twice the normal amount, resulting in color variations and offset.
As the platen begins to open, grasp the sheet with the right hand, fingers,on top thumbs underneath bowing the sheet a little to stiffen it while forwarding it down and placing it against lower guides. Slide sheet to the right along guides over to the side one. Release sheet and follow through the forward motion by gently pushing sheet against side guide with third and fourth finger. Withdraw hand gently to avoid any "bounce back."
One, old-time pressman, who was able to feed at incredible speeds used this "trick." After job was madeready he placed a thin sheet of brightly colored paper (same size as job to be run) against the guides. Over this he fastened a sheet of thin, clear plastic which extended from the guides to the top and right side of the platen. Enough hanger sheets were removed from the packing to compensate for this added thickness. The brightly colored paper allowed him to at all times out of the corner of his eye to see the exact spot the sheet must ultimately go. The plastic top sheet offered no resistance to the sheets as they were rapidly slid into position.
In addition to fast and accurate feeding, the pro pressman must be constantly on the watch for: work-ups, pull-out, loss of register, offsetting, walking guide pins, slurring, shifting of overlay sheet, variations in color, etc.