Steamroller Printing with Magnetic North

This past weekend was the 2017 Portland Letterpress Printers Fair! Artists from all over Portland gathered at the Redd building in southeast Portland to share their craft, support the arts, and have a good time!

One of the main draws to the event is the steamroller printing. Studios entered to create these massive linocut stencils, which are then printed on 4×4 pieces of paper using a real steamroller! These prints are then raffled off with proceed benefitting the Portland Printmakers Alliance. (I bought 12 tickets.)

Massive linocut by the artists at Magnetic North! (Photo courtesy of Walker Cahall)

All week I’d been stopping by Magnetic North, sometimes with planned meetings to see Walker, sometimes completely unannounced. Great people. So when I saw Walker’s picture of the final massive linocut, I knew this was going to be something special. This was sparking my creativity, how should I say, “bigly?”

This is Portland. We make art, rain or shine. For a little while at the beginning of Magnetic North’s printing session, the rain came down, so the canopies went up. It might have even hailed. But it was short lived, and in a matter of no time, we were back up and printing.

A little rain wasn’t going to stop the steamrolling!

The first color the team decided to use for their print was green. (Great choice in my opinion.) Everybody chipped in with a roller, making sure the ink is nice and even.

Green was the first color used.

Chances are, the paint may have been a little thick on the first one, but look at how pretty it was!

Make sure you don’t miss a spot!

Once the linocut was properly inked, you move it over and place it on the plywood guide. The blue tape is for the linocut, the yellow tape is for the paper. You put a cloth over the top so the paper doesn’t get dirty or damaged.

Laid down on the plywood guide to ensure the steamroller delivers an even press!

Look at all the detail, too! I love the succulents theme. It works great with the green, too!

Looks centered to me!

Once everything was lined up, it was time to bring in the steamroller. Sadly, I was not allowed to drive the steamroller, or even get remotely close to the driver’s seat. It was an absolute blast to watch, and I have to admit, it’s a pretty sweet way to make large prints.

The steamroller!

Once the paper is peeled up, you’ve got a beautiful finished product! Thanks boys!

Successful round of printing!

The prints get put off to the side to dry, to be raffled off later!

Setting the print to dry!

After we did a couple rounds of printing with the green, it was time to switch to black.

After a few rounds of green ink, the team switched to black.

If there’s any extra paint on the guide or on the tape around the linocut, it could get on the paper and smudge. We had to take a quick break to scrub off some excess ink with acetone.

Touch ups!

All clear!

In order to keep the paper from slipping, we applied tape to the paper. Smart move!

How about a time-lapse?


Look at that pressure!

The best part about the whole steamrolling process is peeling up the print at the end. You never know what could go wrong (or right) under the press, so the final reveal is always a blast to watch.

Peeling up the print is so cool!

Here’s that beautiful finished product!

Beautiful final print!

As of the publishing of this post, I did not win the raffle and have yet to acquire my own print from the awesome linocut! Nevertheless, I was incredibly inspired by the creativity I saw from all the vendors at the fair and from all the prints being made and sold.

So much fun! Can’t wait to go back next year!


P.S. I want a steamroller! #bucketlist


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