In preparation for a talk I'm giving at the upcoming St. Louis Ladies of Letterpress Conference, I'm curious how you calculate the paper overage on your printing jobs:

How do you determine how much extra paper to cut in advance of a print run? 

Do you have any rules of thumb or formulas or percentages? 

What factors do you consider? 

How much do you rely on intuition?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Harold Kyle

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Hi Harold,

I took a letterpress class from Nathan Atkinson, lifelong printer, at San Francisco City College and his course material included the following:

  • calculate 3% spoilage for each run through the press, including for scoring or perforating (that's 3% of the total number of prints you want to have in the end)

also he advises:

  • all cuts must follow the same grain (don't be tempted to turn the paper just to get more out of a sheet)

In my own experience as a newbie with a rather worn down tabletop press, my spoilage is more like 5%. 

Best regards, -Dee 

I also use the 3% rule for each run.  I now run sample sheets for lining up different color runs that help cut down on 3%, but there are always the few that go in crooked. So I am happy to have the 3% overage. 

I generally print 25% extra, to both account for spoilage and to have samples for the designer and for myself. I know that's a lot, but it lowers the stress level!

I created a spreadsheet with at least 10 parent sizes so I can calculate how many out of a number of standard sizes all at once. If the 25% causes a new sheet to be used for only a few press sheets, I won't cut that one. I can also choose a different parent sheet size to minimize price and maximize how many out of a sheet.

Brian Allen :: retiring printer ::

Durham, North Carolina, USA



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