Epic Letterpress machine reviewed

The folks at Lifestyle Crafts recently sent over a complimentary Epic Letterpress and Die Cut machine to try out and review. I received the Epic Combo Kit, plus a few different sets of plates, extra ink, paper, and cleaning cloths. I was eager to see what kind of results the letterpress would yield, since I go rather bonkers for deliciously textured designs pressed into thick paper.

I opened up the packages, including the plastic printing plates that came with the combo set. "That looks like trouble," I thought when I saw how warped they were. It's been over ten years since I've applied ink to anything with a brayer—I did a bit of block printing in college—but it seemed like rolling ink onto a bent piece of plastic would be challenging.

I selected a couple plates and secured them to the hinged lid with the provided adhesive stickers. Then I positioned a small card on the bottom board and added the foam placement guides so I could print multiples.

A test without ink seemed like a good idea, so I closed the lid and ran the thing through the machine. (I forgot to take a picture of that part, so pretend there's a business card and some plates under the clear lid in the photo above.)

Here's the result. Pretty nifty! Kind of wish I couldn't see the bottom edge of the plate under that "y," but I can deal. Let's get out the silver ink.

Rolled it out a bit in one direction, then the other, until it was nice and even on the brayer. Carefully applied the ink to the plates, and...

Ew, yucky. As I suspected, rolling ink onto plates that aren't quite flat is very tricky. I wiped the ink off and tried again. Rats. All the cards looked like they were made by a blind monkey. (Click any of the photos of prints in this post to view larger.)

Next I tried an all-over pattern on a bigger piece of paper stock that came with the machine. The print is much better because this plate was flat, but holy smokes. That paper must be much thicker than the smaller cards, because it used every bit of arm strength I had to crank it through. Granted, my arm muscles are virtually nonexistent, but I didn't expect it to be that hard. I had to crank in quarter turn increments while struggling to hold down the machine with the other hand, and I was constantly afraid I'd break off the handle. But all was well! The print looks good.

Let's try another one. This "thank you" plate was warped too, but I managed to get a seemingly even layer of ink on it. Lovely! But as I lowered the clear hinged cover, the plate fell off because the adhesive wasn't making contact in enough areas to keep it stuck to the lid. I reattached it and held it on with my fingernails while I closed the lid.

The result was a pretty good print.

After looking at the print more closely and cleaning off the plate, I see the "o" and "u" have little divots in the plastic, causing tiny flaws in the print.

If you're not a crazy perfectionist like me, this probably won't bother you. The photo at the top of this post shows the card I put together with a couple of the prints and some orange masking tape. It's respectable. But as for me, I think I'd rather leave the letterpressing to the pros since the struggle outweighed the fun. For another review and some excellent tips on getting the most out of the L Letterpress (including using better printing plates), see this post by Boxcar Press, a commercial letterpress shop.

P.S. A note about silver ink: 24 hours after making these prints, the ink wasn't completely dry and came off on my fingers. 48 hours later later it's improved, but I can still rub off silver ink from the patterned card. I suspect this is related to the particular pigments used in silver inks and paints. See this post about another non-drying silver paint experiment. I'm reasonably sure other non-metallic inks won't have this problem, however.

P.P.S. I gave it another go! See the results of my next letterpressing attempt here.
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