Metal Type Class is Back!

We're pleased to offer two Master Metal Type Classes this Fall! This is a great opportunity to learn a bit about the history of metal type as well as get your hands dirty with it, as we'll be making a project as part of the class. Choose one of these Saturdays and contact us asap as space is limited! workshopflyer1014 [contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]


14 Years and Printing

Setting up Starshaped Press back in 1999, I threw together a small open house for family and friends to come see my limited collection of printing paraphernalia. Fourteen years later, the open house has become a large annual event, where printers and printing aficionados come to eat, print and enjoy good conversation. I'm proud of the community that has built up around the studio and that continues to bolster our efforts to preserve the craft of letterpress printing. It's that time of year again when we ink up the presses, clean the floors and stock the studio with sweet treats for everyone to enjoy. And of course there's a poster to both announce and celebrate the evening:

openhouse1Inspiration for the open house posters comes from a different place every year and gives me a chance to push our type collection into a certain aesthetic. This year I revisited some of the design work done by Vaughn Oliver and v23, the longtime in-house design force behind most of the early 4AD record releases. It's an understatement to say that this design work changed the course of my creative life and showed me incredible, contemporary typographic work. I wanted to play with some of the type we have that doesn't see the light of day too often yet evokes the conscious typographic decisions made in v23's work.

I haven't had much experience printing brass circles and this was a great opportunity. It's a bit tricky getting the type inside to stay straight, and buffer around the edges to hold it in the form. Letterspacing 'th' around the 14 was also a challenge, as the 4 needed to be mortised so that the 'h' could fit closer. Love that band saw.

form5This is one of our more attractive forms of late, hanging out on our imposing stone. The quotation marks come from larger wood type that I trimmed to size to fit comfortably and allow for maximum flexibility of placement.

forminwindowI really didn't want to carve any specific image for this print, but instead wanted a moody feel with a hint of stars.

openhouse4The best way to achieve this is with a pressure print, which means adding shapes to the makeready of the press and running the paper over them through the press. I used linoleum as the inking medium and trimmed two pieces to the outline I wanted for the poster. The dark copper brown was run first, followed by a strip of yellow printed with the back sides of wood type. It was done as a work-in-turn so that I could get two prints out of each sheet of paper.

linocutsetup2The chipboard stars were then added to the cylinder of the press, under the poster paper. When the paper hits the inked linoleum, the areas where the stars are will hit heavier and will therefore make a stronger impression.

starsetup1Here are the linoleum blocks inked; both light orange and pink were on the press in what's known as a split fountain. The stars here are not carved in the linoleum; this shows where the paper is hitting the block hardest and picking up the ink for the print.

linocutsetup3All together, this achieved the exact effect I was looking for, coupled with the beautiful type.

openhouse2Real and true letterpress indeed! I'm awed by the successes, epic failures and enthusiasm I've met with over the last 14 years and love throwing the doors open for a cozy night of printing with the community. We'd sure love to see you!

Saturday, November 16th

7-10 pm

4636 N. Ravenswood #103


Open House!

julysaleimage2013Ten years ago this week, Starshaped Press moved into our current location in the charming Bulldog Lock Co. Building in Chicago's Ravenswood neighborhood. Since then we've had the privilege to work with many great folks both in the city and around the world. It's time for a little change, and Starshaped is getting a studio makeover! This Saturday we'll be having an Open House and Sale to clear out the old and make room for the new. All of our prints and cards will be out for sale, and most will be heavily discounted; many are set to retire so now is your chance to grab them at crazy low prices. We also have lots of old typecases for sale and blank paper that's free to a good home.

Come and Visit!
Saturday, July 13th, 2013
10am - 2pm
4636 N. Ravenswood #103
Chicago, Illinois

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.