Or at least no hands constantly moving the throw-off between every impression, and no inadvertent double inking of the form while said hands fumble with feeding the paper while treadling. Yes, thank you very much, it looks as though I've finally gotten the hang of...printing on the Pearl?
I think I wrote before about the trouble I've been having feeding the paper in time to print the next impression while also treadling and removing the just-printed paper and examining it. Too much multi-tasking or a lack of coordination or something. I just couldn't do it all in the three rotations it takes for the Pearl to print. What I've been doing is pulling the throw-off after every impression so that I would have extra time to feed the paper and examine the previous print. Of course six rotations was way too much time and I'd end up standing around for a few seconds. I think 4 or 4.5 rotations would have been perfect. Since the Pearl was going through the rotations twice, the form was also being inked twice, which really could have been disastrous to the quality of my printing. Fortunately(?) I still consistently under-ink the press pretty much all the time, so I just kept it under-inked instead of adding more ink like I normally do. It worked, but it was stupid.
Anyway, I've finally gotten the hang of it. Part of it is certainly just practice and an increased familiarity with my lovely little press. I'm now more comfortable judging the right amount of pressure and speed to exert on the treadle, so the press moves just fast enough for me to properly feed and print. I think my earlier problem was partly caused by inexperience: I'd either treadle the press too fast for my feeding speed or I'd treadle so slowly that the press wouldn't maintain momentum. Rich also left some helpful tips in the comments of an earlier post where I was complaining about my feeding difficulty. Now I do sort of lean my body against the feed board while treadling and feeding, and it does help, although I'm not sure why. The feed board and the iron arms connecting it to the press don't look all that strong, but they seem to be plenty hardy enough to support part of my weight. I think that my upper body is leaning against the feedboard and my lower body is standing on the one leg I have planted firmly on the floor, and this leaves the other leg to treadle without interference or interruption. I've really got to get some of those tension mats though because that foot on the floor can get really sore after a day of printing.
I think one important factor to successfully printing on the Pearl that wasn't so vital with my tabletops is proper setting of gauge pins. Obviously on a press without momentum, you can set the gauge pins however you want, take all the time you need to place the stock into the pins, and it doesn't really matter how secure the gauge pins are since you control how quickly the press closes. On a treadled press (or a motorized one), you really have to set those guides up so that you can feed the paper into them in a fluid motion because if the guides move or the paper gets caught somewhere, you don't really have time to correct it before the platen starts to close. I'll admit that I was often lazy with gauge pins on the Kelseys, and I would only cut the front slit and not the back to doubly secure the quad guides to the tympan. Now that I've started doing that on the Pearl, registration works much better, and cutting that second slit is very simple. I'm not really sure why I made it out to be difficult. It's also important (duh!) to have the side guide set up, not just as a printing guide for registration (like on a tabletop), but also to hold the stock in place. I know, this seems kinda obvious to those of you who mostly use larger presses, but really, I now have a new appreciation for using gauge pins by the book.
Finally, I think it also helps that I'm currently printing on a harder stock than normal. The last big project I printed was on Lettra and that 100% cotton paper totally sticks together and dries out your hands. I suppose we'll see if this rock star feeding continues the next time I try to print on cotton paper.