A little while ago, Krissy and I headed to our favorite spot to score other people’s old stuff—Savers. I’ve long had a fascination with printing, especially screen printing, and I’d heard about Gocco a year or so ago from Krissy’s now-defunct laptop being left open to the Gocco wikipedia page.
So when I saw a Gocco machine on the shelf with the puzzles and board games, my heart skipped a beat. The best part? It was only $5. I proceeded to tell Krissy about it and she didn’t really seem to know what I was talking about. I told her that people go nuts for Gocco.
I doubted myself because she seemed to have absolutely no idea what I was talking about. So I opened the box to see if it looked like everything was intact. I didn’t know what I was looking for exactly, but the machine clearly hadn’t been used.
It seemed to have an extra 4 screens in it and only had 4 bulbs, but everything else was sealed and unused. We figured for five bucks, we didn’t have much to lose, right? (Checking online when we got home, it turns out they sell for ~$150 or so.)
So I decided to print!
The trouble was that we only have four bulbs, which means two prints: One for me and one for Krissy. So whatever I decided to draw and print had to be pretty spectacular. I settled on Krissy’s favorite animal the fennec fox!
I wanted the drawing to be made up of lots of little lines (dashes?). I don’t know what the style is, but I liken it to engravings. I didn’t know the resolution of Gocco screens, and I hoped that my lines were an okay size and spaced decently.
I cut some Fabriano watercolor paper to the appropriate size. I ended up cutting more in the middle of printing because I used way, way too much ink.
The handy dandy pen that comes with the Gocco machine. It has carbon in the ink which gets transferred to the screen when you burn the master. You can also use a laser printer, pencils, and some other pens as long as they contain carbon.
Take note of the previous owners loss. Then, feel sad that they didn’t use their birthday present. =(
Next, I trimmed the fox out and placed it on a piece of scrap paper. This made it easier to position the fox where I wanted him.
Next, the master is inserted into the machine. It only fits this way so you can’t mess it up. This machine was apparently designed for children to play with in Japan, so easy is the name of the game.
Here is the box of specially formulated highly toxic killer bulbs. Unfortunately they’re no longer made, and finding bulbs may prove to be the hardest part to more Gocco printing. They run about $25 for a set of ten (plus shipping).
The bulbs are coated in something yellowish which would probably kill you if you licked it. I wouldn’t recommend licking it. The bublb is also filled with soemthing resembling steel wool. The idea is that between the metal in the bulb and the coating, a lot of heat is generated which burns the carbon from the drawing into the master.
After flashing the bulbs you cannot reuse them. The metal (I’m guessing) causes them to crack. This could also be why they’re coated. Maybe it keeps the glass from shattering everywhere. I still wouldn’t recommend licking the bulbs, though.
Here’s the housing for the bulbs. You have to push them in and turn them 90 degrees. Sometimes bulbs have oxidized. You’ll want to rub the oxidized parts with aluminum foil or steel wool to make the base shiny if that happens. You don’t want to waste a screen because one of your bulbs didn’t go kablooey, right?
Place the housing onto the Gocco machine. Line the arrows up. Again, it was made to be a child’s toy so it’s pretty fool-proof.
After pushing down on the handle, the bulbs flash (avert your eyes). Hold it down for an extra couple seconds, and carefully remove the bulb housing. At this point, the bulbs are really, really hot, so don’t touch them. Lay the housing on its back and try to ignore the smell of burning metal and toxic chemicals. No licking!
I’m not sure if you can see in the photo, but the bulbs are cracked over most of their face. Also, there are black spots on the bulb from the metal inside the bulbs. I’m not sure what the best way to dispose of the bulbs is. I’m going to try to re-purpose them somehow.
Next, pull up the handle and your original drawing will be stuck to the master. This is a good sign. You’ll have to remove the master from the machine so you can ink it. There’s a plastic flap that keeps the ink contained within the screen. Don’t use too much ink. I used way too much ink. Just loosely cover the area of the drawing (that’s why you want it stuck to the underside, so you know where to ink).
Here are the (unopened) inks. They’re special ink for the “high mesh” count. They smell, so if smells bother you, take heed. Krissy didn’t mind them much. They smell like I imagine rubber-based letterpress ink smells.
I settled on blue ink.
Here you can see the original stuck to the underside of the master. The top is covered with plastic that you lift up to ink the screen. You don’t have to go crazy covering the entire area because the ink will spread under the pressure from the machine. Properly inked, I think you can get fifty to seventy prints fairly easily.
After inking the top, you can remove the original from the underside. It will have ink on it. Press the handle down and your scrap paper you used earlier will now have your design printed onto it. Now’s the time to make sure coverage is okay. If there are any issues with the printing, you don’t want to discover it later on.
Here is how my test print came out. It’s kind of sloppy and very heavy on the ink. I suspect this is from the massive dousing of ink I gave the screen. The amount of pressure put on the handle probably played a role too.
Regardless, I’m quite happy with the print, mostly because it worked.
I found that I didn’t really like how the machine printed the cards, though. Even later on when there was less ink on the screen, the prints weren’t as clean as I’d have liked.
Determined, I decided to get rid of the plastic ink covery thing and treat this more like screen printing. I made a makeshift squeegee out of folded card stock and scraped down the screen and found that I was much, much happier doing it this way. The ink is well distributed and the lines were much cleaner. You could use an old credit card, the debit card from the bank you left recently, or anything that is flat, really. You’ll just want to be careful about tearing the screen. They’re probably pretty fragile.
A view of the cards drying. You can see the ink on the leftmost cards is much heavier. The painting on the left was done by Krissy before I met her. The small painting on the dresser is one I painted awhile back based on Where The Wild Things Are. You can see the front of our Christmas cards poking out from behind the painting.
Say hi to Puffs the squirrel!
A close up of a few cards. You can see these came out much better hand-pulling the ink.
This is probably half of the prints.
Also, Krissy would like it to be known that we did not pick out the wall colors. You might think, “Hey, the walls aren’t that bad!” Well, that’s because I tricked you! You cannot see the lower half of the wall which is, believe it or not, bright lime green. True story.
So that’s my adventure in Goccoing for the first time. I enjoyed it, and the money was well spent. Really, this more than anything, solidified my desire to screen print. Hand printing is very fun and therapeutic. But carving linoleum blocks takes time and when you’re hand pulling the results can be pretty hit or miss.
Until next time!