The Whelan press is different from any press I've ever seen. First, it has a stationary bed. The rollers and wheel move down the bed during printing.This has two benefits that come to mind immediately - the press bed won't warp from being unevenly supported while it's extended, and the press takes up less space. The studio floor plan doesn't need to accommodate a press bed sticking off the press into the walkway. "Moving bed" presses almost require twice as much space when the bed is extended.
Folks refer to this as an "etching press", and that really is the best name for it. With plates 1/8" thick or less, it works perfectly with no special effort. Set the pressure, place the plate and paper directly onto the bed, and go! Wood blocks are a little trickier, though. The rollers cannot easily roll all the way up and onto 1/2" wood blocks. My wood blocks require some special preparation to make them behave like etching plates as far as the roller is concerned.
If you've been following along for a while, you know that I'm perfectly set up to design and carve complex shapes from wood. I have even designed the digital carving file for a registration jig that accommodates the wooden plates I've been using. All that I needed to was calculate the carving depth to make my plate stick up by the recommended 3/32" and design a simpler jig than I've been using.
Sometimes the best way to understand how something works is to see it in motion. Here's a video of pulling a print with the new press and the first block jig ever. I know that, over time, I'll streamline the process even more. The thing to notice is how little effort I'm expending to pull the rollers over the block. You can't tell, but this press is under quite a lot of pressure to push the ink into the paper so nicely. The weight and diameter of the wheel means that the press is doing all of the work for me, which I'm sure my shoulder will greatly appreciate. That's why I'll be eventually switching away from weaving, remember?
At last, I can see that the primary work in the print studio will be the design and creation of new blocks. The printing part should be very efficient, keeping my prices down in a range that more people can afford.