A Printing Press by Another Name

Mangle or Press?

Mangle or Press?

I do enjoy printing with a metal spoon or baren (a small, handheld bamboo disk used for burnishing the back of the printing paper), but there are times I’d like to play with a press.  I also love old things.  So, what better solution than using an old mangle to soothe both desires?

A friend had the mangle in a garage sale, late last year, and I took the plunge.  Delivered by her kind husband, it has sat in the little display area of the studio for weeks.  Now, with the help of same said husband and his mate, Matilda the mangle – the mighty battle maid, and Mattie for short – is in place.

I readily admit I’m not always a patient person when it comes to artwork.  I want to get stuck in.  Mattie is definitely in need of some loving attention.  Nevertheless, she wears her mantle of rust with dignity.  I couldn’t help wondering how long ago it was that she came by ship from England, and how many homes she has had.  How many women have cranked her handle?  Looking at her worn and warped wooden rollers, it’s obvious she has worked hard in her previous incarnation, squishing water from untold amounts of laundry.  Evicting the resident spider, but leaving the cobwebs for the moment, I gave Mattie a run.

Test prints with Mattie the Mangle

Test prints with Mattie the Mangle

As with any new piece of ‘equipment’ the first try-out left a lot to be desired.  Using a mat board-lino-paper sandwich, did not accommodate Mattie’s off-centre and worn rollers.  I then tried re-positioning the sandwich to feed off-centre.  Better, but not great.  I tried running the re-inked sandwich through twice, reversing the feed, which meant a slight shifting of the paper – too dark and smudgy.  Add a top cushion of sturdy felt, and…wow…look at Mattie go. There’s life in the old girl yet!

Second test block - linocut - Mangle print - Jenn White

Second test block – linocut – Mangle print

Turning the wheel to turn the cogs, and listening to the clank, bumps and grinds was something special.  Like this old girl, Mattie is yearning for some oil in her joints, but happy to be moving.  I think I’ve also discovered a new exercise partner… Come on Mattie, let’s rock ‘n’ roll!

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