Saturday, December 31, 2016

Letterpress Studio Move, Day 2

This was another big day for my new letterpress studio. The first thing I did was take one step to prepare for the grand finale of the moving process, renting a trailer and hauling BIG stuff. Before I can rent a trailer, I needed a trailer hitch.

[Just got hitched!]

After that was installed, I went off to Ann's studio to move the last few big things. The biggest and most daunting is this guillotine cutter.

[Big cutter on a rickety old table]

I don't know how much it weighs, probably 300-500 pounds because I am completely incapable of lifting it myself. I can lift some heavy things, but this is just too much. I had arrived with lots of supplies to try a variety of complex strategies to move it onto the rolling wooden work table I had brought. It turns out that two guys can't lift it really, but we can slide it. So we slid it onto my table and it was ready to go into the corner and wait until the van was packed before its turn to go.

[Cutter on wheels]

I had brought plywood and 2x4s for moving the cutter, but we used them to build a ramp for the dolly and help us get other heavy stuff into the van.

[Homemade ramp]

Since this was the last trip, we were able to spot everything in the space that belonged to the letterpress studio and not some other interest. This big granite (and gneiss) slab is heavy and perfectly flat to ensure that all of the letters are standing up straight and level before they are locked up and taken to the press.

[Imposing surface]

This adorable little card press was in its original box. I don't know if I'll get to working order, but it will look great in a display of historic printing ephemera.

[Big bonanza printing press]

At last we got everything into the van. Ann said goodbye to her old studio for the last time and I headed home to get it all unloaded before bed.

[Ann and the van]

Thank goodness my friend, Wonder, was available to help. Some of this stuff was just unwieldy, especially the guillotine. But we did it and even took a minute for a photo before going to bed.

 [Me and the little guillotine]

It will be very nice to finish moving so I can set up this new studio. Tomorrow is the BIG stuff. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lead Type - Studio Move, Day 1

The last couple of days have been a whirlwind! Before I start to tell the story, I want to give a little context. If you just want the story of moving half a ton of lead, skip to the picture of the type cases...

When I posted these pictures on Facebook, a good friend reminded me that just a month ago I had said I would not become one of those crazy lead-collecting letterpress printers. Well, things change. I was already crazy. And now I collect lead type.

Since the middle of November I've been practicing letterpress printing and test marketing lines of merchandise at the Holiday Market in Eugene. It has given me the important experience that I needed in order to see the next steps toward developing a letterpress business. One of the things that happened during this time was that the only company that supplier the polymer plates that I use for my images had a glitch in their supply chain. I had to drop two whole product lines from my production plans because I just could not get the materials to keep printing. This, coupled with the expense of these plates, makes my business fairly fragile. What if this had happened right before a run of lucrative, time-sensitive jobs? You can trust that I will be storing up that polymer product when it becomes available, but I want more resilience than that.

I used my time in Eugene to test all kinds of things related to printing. In an attempt to buffer against polymer shortages without "resorting" to lead, I tried having a friend carve linoleum with a laser. The results were shockingly good, at first. After a few dozen impressions, the linoleum started getting mushy. After a few hundred, the type just broke apart. This is not acceptable. Even at its best, the linoleum type could only render larger type sizes. Clearly, something harder than linoleum would be a much better answer.

There is another fantastic technology which adds weeks of lead time and many dollars to the job - custom metal dies. They solve many of the problems of polymer and lino, but add weeks of time and potentially hundreds of dollars to the cost of a job. There are time when I will use them, but not for quick, less expensive jobs.

[Laser-carved Linoleum vs. Lead]

Then, I started thinking about the big picture. Lead type is very versatile. I could typeset and print a set of business cards in half a day. This brings the cost down to what normal people can afford, and increases the number of customers that I can please. With the decision made, I contacted a woman who had approached me at the Holiday Market about buying her entire letterpress studio. I had initially said no because I wasn't interested in all of that type. When I changed my mind about the type, I called her up and she made me one unbelievable deal with one caveat. I could have the stuff for an incredible price if I would take it ALL.

[Two of the three cases]

[Closeup of the third case]

I quickly agreed. When I arrived and started moving things around, it quickly became clear that I had taken on a HUGE project. Some of these cases only contain 5-10 pounds of lead, but some of them are back-breakingly heavy.

[A "light" type case]

[Ornaments are heavy!]

There are so many amazing things to discover that I think I'll be exploring these cases for years before I really understand what I've inherited.

[Calendar font]

She had previously moved these cases several times in the past, most notably from Texas to Oregon. She highly recommended wrapping each case separately so that bumps in the road don't cause letters to jump from one slot to another. (NIGHTMARE!) Her husband and I did exactly as she said and it took several hours.

[Wrapping one of 72 cases.]

(My sinewy forearms in that photo give a little idea of how much work it was to lift and manipulate these cases, one at a time, all afternoon.)

[Most of the cases are ready to go.]

In the end, though, we had stacks and stacks of cases, ready to go.

[Into the van!]

We plotted and strategized how to get everything into the van and very stable while keeping it at the lowest possible center of gravity.

[All packed!]

And, that was the first trip. There is still another trip scheduled for Friday to get the cabinet top, two more cases of lead spacing material, a table-mounted lead saw, and, by means yet to be determined, a massive paper cutter.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Letterpress Fundraiser

Help me buy an antique letterpress and bring hand printmaking to Wolf Creek!

After years of production weaving, I'm ready to move on to another hand craft. For the last year, I've studied many different types of printmaking, traveling as far as Nebraska in search of the best teachers. The skills I've learned are immense, but two techniques have stood out from the rest - woodblock carving and letterpress printing. After a deep search, I actually found a spectacular letterpress from the turn of the 20th century, recently restored to museum quality. I've paid a deposit and just need to come up with the rest of the money to buy it and move it to a rented studio space in my home town of Wolf Creek, Oregon.

On Solstice night, the longest night of the year, I spent the night in a rented printmaking studio in Eugene using a letterpress from 1870 to produce a special line of cards to help me get this amazing press.

Here are a couple of photos of the press that I'm trying to pay for...

[Operator's view]

[Spectator's view]

And here are the two items that I have listed on Etsy to try to raise the funds...


Please feel free to spread the word far and wide. I would love to have this press paid off and moved to Wolf Creek in the next couple of weeks.

And finally, for those wondering, "What the heck is letterpress?" Here's a video of my first day on the rented letterpress. My new press is about twice the size of this one, but still totally powered by the treadle.