Hand-printed books of poetry,
Plus tips and supplies for fellow letterpress printers.

Swiss Style Packing

This guide relates to the Swiss Style Packing available in our shop.

The Latest Thing

Back in the 1960s the latest thing in Letterpress commercial shops was called ‘Swiss’ packing. The essence being an ultra-hard skin to resist indentation and consequent wear of the type, this skin to have a much softer under layer, to allow some compression, and assist with the actual general ‘weight’ of impression.

The commonly used top sheet then was ‘American cloth’, that cloth made with a plastic coating, normally found on kitchen tables and the like. Below this were sheets of bond or wove according to the job, and right low down usually something like four sheet pulp board, to provide some resilience.

A Modern Take on Swiss Packing

At the Happy Dragons Press’ we have for some years been using a modified version (a trifle improved, we like to think), as follows:

  • Top Sheet: Mylar Plastic
    It's quite remarkably tough, though you can cut it with scissors. It has a very, very thin film of gelatine on one side only, which we normally have this facing the type. The coated side can be found by cautious scraping in a corner with a blade. By and large this Mylar sheet will show very little indentation indeed, and with care can be used for several jobs.
  • Middle Layers: Packing to Reflect the Job in Hand
    Hard for metal blocks, so something like tracing paper, or a decent bond writing paper, likely two or three sheets. Maybe something a little softer for say, lino cuts, nylon blocks or woodletter (which will always need lots of patching-up anyway).
  • Bottom Layer: Litho Blanket
    Against the metal of the platen, we have a sheet of second-hand litho blanket, which provides the resilience, and does not take any indentation set as the old pulp board bottom sheets did. This blanket we usually place canvas toward the type forme.


The thickness of the offset blanket will often call for reducing somewhat the overall pressure setting of many platen presses, when changing to ‘Swiss packing’.

The Last Adanas

Do you have a very modern Adana Eight Five, with the complex spring clamps for the bottom lay bar? The capacity of these clamps is insufficient for our Bottom Blanket but it shouldn't be a problem; just trim the blanket about a quarter of an inch short of the platen on either side.

Calling Walter Hart

We are still trying to make contact with Mr Walter Hart, the last machine room overseer for The Curwen Press for his further comments on all this, but so far without success. Can anyone help?

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