Michael Atkin      Printmaker

etcher - block printer - wood engraver

Lino printing and how to do it

'An afternoon nap'

Cut lino block before printing

Linocut is a technique, a variant of woodcut in which a sheet of linolium (sometimes mounted on a wooden block) is used for the relief surface.

A design is cut into the linoleum surface with a sharp knife, V-shaped chisel or gouge, with the raised (uncarved) areas representing a reversal (mirror image) of the parts to show printed. The linoleum sheet is inked with a roller, and then impressed onto paper or fabric. The actual printing can be done by hand or with a press. *(see below)

Although linoleum as a floor covering dates to the 1860s, the linocut printing technique was used first by the artists of Die Bruke in Germany between 1905–13 where it had been similarly used for wallpaper printing. They initially described these prints as woodcuts, which sounded more respectable.

Since the material being carved has no directional grain and does not tend to split, it is easier to obtain certain artistic effects with lino than with most woods, although the resultant prints can lack the often angular grainy character of woodcuts and engravings.

Lino is generally much easier to cut than wood, especially when heated, but the pressure of the printing process degrades the plate faster and it is difficult to create larger works due to the material's fragility.

I'm very fortunate to possess three printing presses which I use for printing either my wood engravings or lino prints. All date from the 19th century and are made of cast iron. Approximate weight of the 3 presses being 4 tons.

These presses replaced the old wooden 'screw' presses that would have been used by Caxton ( the father of British Printing).


Printing with a press; the inked lino is laid upon the 'bed' of the press, paper is then registered to the lino block, next lower the tympan ( a protective covering with packing) and by turning the rounce the bed is moved under the platen. By pulling the handle the platen is brought into contact with the back of tympan and great pressure can be exerted.


In the case of the Columbian Press (designed by George Clymer in 1813 in America) a 1Lb pressure on the handle can exert( by means of multiplication) a pressure of 5180 Lbs on the lino block or type. Clymer sold his patents under license to founderies who produced thousands of presses.

Presses common; 124 patents were granted to manufacturers in the 19th century. They were the backbone of the printing industry until the Rotary  presses were designed and built in 1855.

The education act of 1857 demanded faster printing to meet  the demand of the new schools.  The rotary press and the invention of rolls of paper increased the production and the iron hand - press was redundant.

In 2014 a London manufacturer Harry Rochat, designed and is now making Albion platen press, the 1st in over 100 years.


Cutters and rollers used for lino printing

'The rookery' block being cut.

2 blocks printed together in ply wood                        3rd colour applied (printed)                  Inked blocks on the press bed.                                    Finished print 'Cattle by Whinney Nab'

A Harrild & Sons 'table top' Albion dated 1869

A Columbian Platen press dated 1845

An Albion platen press dated 1889 Leeds foundry

I have been fabricating a pair of  'friskets' for the Columbian and table top Albion presses that I own. It's quiet usual for this particular to be a missing.  After a fair bit of research and requests on several websites I was contacted by a printer in California who could supply me some photographs.  

A local engineering company who had made one or two parts for me in the past could do the job, but the quote was really expensive. A London firm also quoted, but their price was even higher.  

So with an angle grider, an electric welder, right angle, clamps and tape measure I set to.

The flat bar cost next to nothing (£4.00), after careful measurement I cut four lengths of flat bar (2 widths & 2 lengths). Next was to weld them together and make sure they were perfectly square to each other ( thats where the right angle came in).

Once welded they were ground down to make the bar flat again. Using more flat bar, I designed and welded two hinges to the top of the frame, which would correspond  to the projections already on the press which would accept round bar or pinions.

The idea of a frisket is to protect the paper whilst printing; in past times a printer would have several friskets which in turn would correspond to the various printing jobs in hand. It also holds the paper clear of the inked surface, only when the press is ready to print will the platen force the paper onto the inked surface and create an impression.