So, the disappearing act happened again. This time the reasons are Christmas, house buying/packing/moving and the start of our home renovations. I've only been to the studio once since the year started, but now that we're starting to get settled in I'll have more time to devote to printing.
Anyway, a couple of months ago I mentioned that I was having inking problems that I thought might be caused by a missing part. I first realized that I was missing a part while reading through a Briar Press post which had a bunch of pictures of an Arab that the poster wanted to purchase. The last picture in that post showed a bar screwed onto the two roller saddles, presumably to keep them the correct distance apart.
My press didn't come with that piece (not surprising) and I was interested in learning more about it because the presses I am most familiar with from the States, the Chandler & Price platens, don't have one. I started out by looking at the manual that was helpfully posted on the British Letterpress site, where page seven had the following:
EEP! NEVER run the machine without the roller bar?!? Oh no! I was worried (and still am) that I had done some damage to the press by using it without the roller bar, but there wasn't anything I could do about that, I just knew I had to fix the problem before I printed again. I had no idea where I could get a piece like that and figured that I would have to get something machined for me. I took a bunch of measurements and did a bit of shopping around to see if I could find something already made that would do the trick, but that was a fruitless search. On a trip around B&Q one day, though, I came across some aluminum (aluminium?) rods that I thought I might be able to drill and use. After a bit of trial and error, I made this -
It's not the sturdiest thing in the world and I'm not sure how long it will last before it breaks, but it has already solved one problem I had with the rollers shifting to the right and falling off the rails while I was treadling. The jury is still out on whether it has completely solved my inking issues because I've only tried printing with it a couple of times and I'll need to do a bit more testing. One thing I do know is how proud I am that I was able to solve this problem on my own (with a little consultation help from the hubs, of course).
December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?
Phew, an easy one! I'm a maker and always have been, always have a million projects going at one time. My one problem is that it can take me ages to finish craft projects because I get distracted and want to try something else. My latest non-letterpress project was a silly Christmas decoration courtesy of The Martha, using a free Tesco magazine. I'm still not finished with it (of course) because I didn't have any gold spray paint or glitter, but I've done all the folding. As for future projects, I recently found out that my lovely press is missing a part so I've been on the lookout for DIY solutions. I spent a couple of hours browsing the local hardware store and think I've found something that might work, so that is what's next on my making agenda. If all goes well I'll write a separate post about it soon... I have high hopes that it will cure my inking problems, so fingers crossed.
The Reverb10 prompt for today was:
December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).It took me a LONG time to think of a moment, but when it finally came to me I knew that it was right. A little background: When I was in college I became friends with three of the most amazing women in the world. Since we left college in 1999 we've spread out all over the U.S. (and now the world), so we obviously don't get to see each other as much as we would like, but we've managed to stay close and try to get together at least once a year. This year I took a trip to Florida in June for a baby shower for one of the girls, but while I was there we also got to spend some time relaxing and just enjoying each other's company. I felt most alive this year the few hours we decided to spend on the beach (which is one of my favorite places in general). It was a hot, HOT, summer day but with our beach umbrellas and a couple of cooling dips in the ocean we survived. I remember the blue sky, salty breeze, smell of the sea and the voices of some of my very favorite people in the whole world. I don't know what could possibly top that.
First, an apology: I had my camera with me in the studio, but when I was working and my hands were covered in gunk and ink I forgot to take pictures of the process. I definitely want to share those things here so I'm going to try to pay more attention in the future. Anyway...
Before moving to England I ordered a Boxcar base for my Kelsey 5x8 letterpress, along with some photopolymer plates with a few random designs. I tried printing a few of these designs on my Kelsey, but I could never really get good results because I was too ambitious with the designs and the little rollers couldn't put enough ink on the plates for a good print. I was really looking forward to trying out the plates on my new press, so the day I got my rollers I was off to the studio to test them out.
I was really happy with the way this first plate printed. The paper I was using was not particularly soft so there isn't much bite (impression) into the paper, but the ink coverage is even and it looks like the platen is adjusted correctly, so it was a pretty good start (aside from the fact that it took me awhile to get the gauge pins set up, so I wasted a few sheets of paper on crooked prints).
So, you might notice a theme developing on this here blog... things about the press I didn't notice when I went to look at it. The subject of this post is the result of one of those things - the ink disk had a thick layer of old, dried ink on it.
Looking at the positive side of things I think this layer of ink stopped the ink disk from rusting (which is a common problem when these old presses are not used for a long time) but I had to clean it off before I could even think about printing. Jeremy from the removal company gave me a couple of pieces of copper rule and suggested that the best way to clean off the ink was to scrape it off with the rule. I tried that for a few minutes without much success and so I turned to the Briar Press forums, the fount of all letterpress knowledge. Most of the suggestions said that lacquer thinner would be of great help in the process but it's not available in the UK, so I did a little googling and it seemed like cellulose thinner was the way to go (I still don't know whether it's the same thing with a different name, or just a good substitute).
Once I had all the supplies - cellulose thinner, rags, copper rule and heavy duty gloves - I spread some cardboard out in the backyard (don't want to be working in an enclosed area with the chemicals) and got to work. I put some of the thinner on a rag and held it on the plate for a few seconds and then scraped away the softened ink.
Even with the help of the thinner it was a slow process. After about an hour, frustrated by a particularly thick area of ink, I decided to try a different tactic. I laid the rag over the whole ink disk and poured a bit of the thinner over it, thoroughly wetting the rag. I let it sit for about 10 seconds and then I lifted half the rag and scraped under it while the other side continued to soak then re-covered the first side and scraped the second, repeating a few times until I wasn't able to scrape any more ink off. That little moment of genius saved me *so* much time (although I will apologize to mother earth because it probably wasn't the most environmentally friendly way to go).
In total, I probably spent two and a half hours cleaning off all the ink, and ended up with this beautiful, shiny ink disk.
The naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
I *love* musicals and many times while I was trying to come up with a name for my little business (that isn't actually selling anything... yet) this little verse from CATS would pop into my head, except I would substitute "press" for "cat"... The naming of presses is a difficult matter, it isn't just one of your holiday games. As I said in my first post, I have been planning/dreaming about starting a letterpress studio for a couple of years. I have a notebook that I've been jotting down letterpress ideas in, and awhile back I started a list of potential press names, including Little Hill Letterpress (in California I was living in a city called El Cerrito which translates to 'the little hill') and Atelier 225 (I'm currently working in studio 225). Most of the 25+ other names are too awful to share publicly, and none of them were really grabbing my heart. Then... then, I found my new press. When I went to look at it, the room was pretty dark and the press was covered in a thick layer of gunk, so I just assumed it was black. When it was delivered, I was surprised to find that it was actually painted a lovely teal blue, which you can see in this picture.I took to calling it the Old Blue Beast in my head. Shortly after, I started trying to think of a press name with the word blue in it. Blue Press, meh. Big Blue Beast Press... not loving it. I finally asked my husband for some ideas and one of the first things out of his mouth was cerulean. Bingo! It's the color of the press, but also makes me think of Mediterranean holidays, sitting in a boat on calm blue waters. Very romantic, and just the sort of place I want to be spending my days, even if in reality I'll be in my little studio with my old, dirty blue beast.
It was a long time coming, but my lovely Arab Letterpress is finally in the studio!
I started seriously looking for a press a couple of months after I landed in the UK, once my husband and I had settled into our flat and all of our belongings had arrived safely from the States. It took me a couple of months, but I finally found a press that looked promising and arranged with the owner to take a look. It was dirty (more on that later), but appeared to be in good working condition so I agreed to buy it. I wasn't in a position to take it that day because I needed to find a workspace (no place for it in my tiny London flat) and a removal company to deliver the press. Everything was arranged and delivery was set for 24 May. Yay! Unfortunately, a number of problems presented themselves. First, the press was much, MUCH, dirtier than I had realized, so the removal men couldn't break down the press into small enough pieces to fit through the hallway/doorways in the studio building I'm working in. They arranged to drop the press off in my back garden so that I could clean it up a bit; they would come back a couple of weeks later to move the press to my studio. It wasn't ideal, but it was the best option we had available. I got another call about an hour after that had been arranged... their truck had broken down and they were having it towed back to their offices up north. Oh no! The silver lining was that they would be able to power wash the press to get the thick layer of grime off and would be able to take it apart and deliver it directly to my studio! I took a little while to arrange delivery, but it was finally set for 16 July.
The movers were amazing! They loaded the main body of the press onto a palette jack and were able to move it most of the way using that, but the hallways in the studio building are quite narrow and there is a corner to get to my studio, so they had to take it off the jack and basically push it the final 15 feet. I didn't get many pictures of the moving process because I didn't want to get in the way.
Once the main piece was in place they brought up the back leg with the chase bed and roller arms attached, the treadle and all of the other bits and pieces.
Welcome to my new blog!
A brief introduction -- I "discovered" letterpress (like many people recently) while planning my wedding in 2008. I was doing a lot of DIY crafting for the wedding and when I saw all of the gorgeous letterpress invitations I was inspired, did a lot of research, and decided to try to learn how to do it myself. I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time and over the next year I took three classes at the wonderful San Francisco Center for the Book. It was love at first print.
I quickly bought a Kelsey 5x8 tabletop press and printed a couple of small pieces for my wedding (not the invitations, though; those were printed on a Print Gocco) but soon my attention was focused on something bigger... my husband got a new job and we had to start planning a trans-atlantic move to London! A year on, and that move is complete (with our dog and 2 big crates of belongings, including the Kelsey, safely making the journey). We're settled into our new flat and I've just made one of the biggest purchases of my life, an Arab Foolscap (9" x 13" chase) letterpress.
I'm planning to use this blog to document the process of cleaning and readying the press for printing, finding printing supplies/resources in the UK, and as a journal of my progress in learning how to use this big beast of a machine. Enjoy!