If Rosie Can Do It

I am often asked how we maintain our presses in the studio and folks always find it surprising when I answer that we do it ourselves. The truth is, armed with a manual or two and a few connections with experienced printers, keeping our presses in working order is pretty simple. They need oil, and plenty of it, along with a little cleaning and visually checking that screws and bolts aren't working themselves loose. Both of our platen presses are motorized, with the motors running directly off the flywheel. I'm not a big fan of belts (even after successfully replacing a disintegrating one on our Vandercook press), so this setup is ideal. Both of our motors are made-in-Chicago Kimball motors that are period to the presses, and have had a pretty good run of 10+ years in our shop with little complaint. That changed this past Fall when the 10x15 C+P press motor decided to act up. After a little cleaning and investigating, it was apparent that a few parts were worn to what is probably a not fixable degree. Because this press is our workhorse, we took the motor from the 8x12 C+P and put it on the 10x15 for a temporary fix while searching out a replacement. In the meantime, I purchased a treadle for this press as it seemed like a good idea to have a manual backup. Think vintage, foot-powered sewing machine.

Well, I suppose the treadle came in perfect time, as the 'new' motor on the 10x15 died last Saturday. This was most likely due to old wiring with poor connections. This was the throw-the-hands-up-in-the-air moment of realizing both motors are long overdue for an overhaul. I ripped the treadle out of its crate and got it on the press. First, the unused motor mount had to come off because it's attached to the same hinge that is needed for the treadle mount:


Here's the front of the treadle that sees all the action.




I lowered the pulley away from the flywheel so it doesn't needlessly drag on the flywheel now that it's operated by foot:


And here's the happy setup. I printed over 2400 calendar pages by foot (more on those later), which was not unlike spending about 4 hours on an elliptical, only with one foot at a time. This was followed by 200o 4-run gift certificates. Happily, next week is a Vandercook week so I've got a little break coming up. The interns will be getting the workout!


The beauty of working in Chicago, the city that works, is that there are motor shops in nearly every neighborhood. We'll be taking both of the motors in to see if they can get us up and running again at full speed soon.

Metal Typography in Context

I recently acquired a copy of the new textbook, Graphic Design in Context: Typography, as a photo of one of our type forms appears in the book. typographybookfront


This was a piece I put together 2 years ago to showcase many of the victorian typefaces in the studio for the purpose of photographing them. Forms are so lovely and architectural, and we've endeavored to include process shots on our site, the flickr letterpress forme group as well as this blog to share. Here's the full photo:


And after taking the care to build this, I decided to print a number of copies of it so the actual type could be seen as it was originally intended. It's available on our etsy site.


Just this week I assembled a similarly complex form with more of our 19th century type for a birthday card, which you can see here. The best bit is the little pin set in the corner that requires careful setting in order to line it up correctly.



There'll be more on this card coming soon... In the meantime, if you have any interest in the study of type, check out Typography. It's thoughtfully laid out, very concise and offers a unique perspective on how type functions in the real world. I can't put it down.

The Vandercook 100

What a pleasure to be featured in the new book, The Vandercook 100, celebrating 100 years of the Vandercook proof press with a look at 100 shops around the world that utilize this press. This is a must have for any letterpress enthusiast, as it focuses more on the fine folks at their presses and offers a wonderful sneak peek into these studios. Well-designed and self-published in badass fashion, make sure to check this one out.