Michael Atkin      Printmaker

etcher - block printer - wood engraver

What do artists do all day?

A recent interesting project to fabricate a pair of friskets.


I have been making 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 very little (£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.

An Albion press with the tympan 'open'.

   Another platen press this time with the tympan and the top most part being the frisket.

The two are hinged together so that it is place in the same place every time.

During my research period I had come across an ingenious device for holding the paper in place against the tympan whilst printing

So I've made two of these,( one for each side of the press) using the same sort of flat bar 25mm by 2 mm and the angle grinder and a buffing disc.


Being a printmaker theres a lot of time preparing to print, waiting for ink to dry, or stop out varnish etc. A lino print is built up of several layers of ink one on top of the other, as such one prints the first colour and stck them on a drying rack, prepare the next block for printing then wait for the ink to dry.

As I work in three different mediums, etching, wood engraving and lino prints, I often will print some lino blocks in the morning, clean up, get the next block ready for printing, then move onto an etching or wood engraving.

In the case of etching, once the design is drawn I need to paint the reverse side with stopping out varnish which will resist the bite of the acid ( it can take an hour or so to dry). Whilst I'm waiting I can either work on another design, prepare another etching plate, cut lino or proof a wood engraving. There is always something to do, visitng places often will trigger an image, so time will be spent sketching out the design which when back in the studio will be altered, modified or changed slightly to fit the narrative I wish to print.


Maintenance of the presses is something that takes time and effort, it's not something one does every day but once a week I will oil and adjust one of the presses to make sure it operates smoothly the next time I want to use it. The etching press is oiled just before using it, especially when I'm running a course for printmakers, I've usually checked the pressure of the top roller to make sure it will perform properly.