Friday, March 28, 2008

The Rollers Arrive!!

Yay!! Guess what just came in from NA Graphics? These are the rubber rollers and Delrin trucks, which, for the uninitiated, are those white things on the ends of each roller which roll along guides, or "rails".

These trucks are of specific diametre in relation to the rollers, which in turn are a specific diametre to adequately deposite ink over the plate, or "form", without the following roller wiping the ink back off again. Originally steel trucks were used (or the rubber tyred Expansion Trucks by Morgan) Delrin is less damaging to the press than steel in the long run. I think rubber roller material will do well in the Central Florida climate.

I still have to carve out time to rewire the motor plug and switch, do another major getting-rid-of in the room which this press occupies so i can have something like space and work room. I need to get some furniture (wood pieces to lock forms into chases), a decent imposing stone and table, a decent type cabinet for California style job cases, and storage cabinets for cleaning solutions, ink, paper, roller storage, etc. Slowly but surely it's all coming together.

A Look at my Projects and Products of the Past

This, ladies and gentlemen, is my 8x12 C&P "New Series" Gordon style Letterpress, powered by a GE 1hp drive motor, capable of 1800 impressions per hour [one impression every two seconds.]For those not familiar, this is a view from the delivery board, and if you look down to the lower left you'll see the drive motor. There is a locked form on the delivery board, but it's actually locked up for a 5x7 Kelsey Handpress, which i used to own. I had a small collection of Kelsey Handpresses, which now reside in the Florida Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts, Barberville FL. The top introductory photo is a shot from the Settlement Print Shop, where those Kelseys are on display. I had a 3x5 Mercury (1899), a 5x7 Excelsior (sp?) from around 1945, and the big 9x13 Kelsey from 1903. All were excellent machines, considering.

The second photo shows my other project: a table-top Showcard Press. My intention is to use this as both linocut and woodcut press and proof press. It will handle sheets up to 8 x 12, just right for the Letterpress. The Showcard Press isn't pretty: it's been in storage for who knows how long. I greased the guide gears, and found the impression roller to be in good shape. I need to polish up the plate that sets on the bottom, and also install an ink plate on the far right. The gripper springs are good, and all that i really have left to do is clean her up. I might paint her if the stains in the iron are too severe.

Most of the Showcards i've seen are much larger, intended for poster printing. This little guy is essentially a glorified charge-card roll-off. But be not deceived: it does an excellent job for it's size, and is no light-weight! Close to forty pounds!

Speaking of Linocuts, here is a duotone Linocut i made back when i 0perated "Heirloom Press" in Palm Harbor, FL. 1991-1992. It measures about 7x5", and was printed on a Kelsey 9x13. I sold these as Christmas Cards at "Christmas Under the Oaks" in Clearwater, 1992. I used a separate colour block for the blue, although in this particular print, the blue is applied by Berol Prismacolor.

I ran Heirloom Press back when Letterpress was just starting to make a commercial come-back. There were a few members of the AAPA residing in the Tampa Bay area at this time, which made it easy to get parts, materials, resources, and of course, Florida Graphics was still around then to make my Zinc and Mag cuts.

Heirloom Press bit the dust when i had to move to Orlando for a job that had steady income. By profession, i am an Optician. Heirloom was successful, but the growth was slower than my creditors were willing to wait. Much of my product was sold via "American Craft Endeavors" craft shows, which were very lucrative.

This is the frontpiece of one of my Christmas cards which was designed in stipple using #OOO fine rapidograph pen. Yup, "Old School" pen and ink artwork. The inside design was based on a Christmas Seal from the 1920s. The "shell", the green frame surrounding the central picture was also designed in stipple, as an overlay. It's design was inspired by a collection of 19th Century US. postage stamps, 1851 - 1889. The mag plates were produced by Florida Graphics.

The other photo is the tailpiece that i used on all of my cards. It used an ATF "ding-bat" which just happens to be an Albion handpress, i think. At the time, we lived in a pole home on Crystal Beach. The lower part of the house was enclosed, which became garage, radio shack and print shop. I executed all my artwork, both copy design for plates and carving of linoleum, end-grain maple and engraved plexiglass [i called them "plexicuts", which resembled wood-engraving, after a fashion.] Normally, i coloured in the central image with Berol Prismacolour beeswax pencil. These were truly hand made cards. I sold every card i ever printed save for a very few which i saved for myself. Letterpress cards like these were very, very popular in the Bay Area back in the early 1990's. Wonder what the climate is like now?

The tailpiece reads: "This card has been designed and individually printed using 19th Century Methods on Iron Hand-Presses by "HEIRLOOM PRESS" Palm Harbor, Florida. (c) 1992, G. Johanson.

I no longer operate Heirloom press, which i shut down in 1993. The name is now, from what i notice, being used by another printer, who is a member of the LETPRESS list. Now i am simply "G. Johanson, Printer"

The folks at the Settlement inform that my early prints are actually in some demand. Dang! Wish i would have saved more for myself! Oh, well. At least i can say i knew myself back when . . . . .

I'll share a couple more items from my Letterpress Past in future posts . . . and hopefully some NEW stuff in the near future.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Making Slow Headway

I managed to scrape together enough money to order the final parts for my press to at very least make it operational. These would be the rollers and trucks. These are coming from NA Graphics, who supplied the Florida Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts' rollers and Delrin trucks [roller bearings thru which the roller cores fit, allowing the rollers to slide along the two rails on either side of the type bed.]

I also managed to find some relatively new power wiring for the 1-hp GE electric motor which drives this press via a belt around the fly-wheel. I think i figured out why my press seems to cycle a bit faster than what i recall with the Older style C&Ps of similar size: the New Style flywheel is a bit smaller than the Old Style. Using a stop-watch, my press cycles at one impression every two seconds or so, around 30 impressions per minute, or 1800 impressions per hour, well under the specified maximum of 2800 per hour [whew!!] . . . but still just a touch faster than was my experience with the last motor-driven Gordon i operated commercially as a teen in a small printing operation in south Orlando back in 1974. But then, that press was larger, i think it was a 14 x 22. My motor speed, btw, is 1720 rpm, and pulls the flywheel correctly - top away.

I need to clean out and re-wire the starter/capacitor box of the motor, and run power mains to a proper grounded outlet plug, and run a foot switch up near the delivery table. I would like to repaint the motor if possible, it sat in a bindary for several years and has tons of dust on it, plus the grey paint looks pretty dingy. It works fine, but part of the whole dynamic of letterpress printing for me are the aesthetics. And simple cleanliness.

I have initiated a thread about the Morgan Expandible Roller Trucks (MERTS) on the Letpress list, and am reading the pro's and cons. I might order a set just to try them, but for now, i am following Fritz's advise from NA Graphics and going firstly with Delrin trucks.

Hoping everyone had a fine Easter!

Friday, March 21, 2008

To capitalise or Not to capitalise

There is a rather large gathering of Letterpress folks on a listgroup lately that has taken some of us to task over our lack of using capitals. I cannot speak for others, i only know myself. My suspicion is that this phenomena is an internet habit to a large degree, or just a way of expression. Some see the capitol "I" as rather arrogant. Most languages do not capitalise the first person personal pronoun. Spanish say "yo". Germans say "ich". French use "je". I'm not sure of other languages, but i suspect a commonality. Someone may submit otherwise.

One point was made about capitals being necessary for communication. Here is where i can bring some information to the table.

In a word, hogwash.

It may have escaped notice that our news services had, for about three decades, made no differentiation between lower or upper cases. The model 15 and 33 "greenkey" printers and reperfs read only 5-baudot code. From the 1920s and up thru the 1950s these machines kept us abreast on events locally and around the world. All in capitals. Flagging the carriage to shift was a relatively recent thing, really, and requires a specific Baudot code character.

Ahh, yes. Code. Morse. Bane of every graduate from the U.S. Army's "A" school. Demon of every amateur radio wannabee . . . until recently when the FCC dropped the International Code requirements. Until the new millenia we hams had to prove proficiency in code at differing speeds for differing license classes. I, personally, love code. I grew up with it. Not very fast at it, mind you, i topped at 33 words per minute (wpm), but was fast enough to handle traffic and operate a "mill" which is the term of endearment for any of several copying machines. Typing machines that are used to transcribe code by the receiving operator (op). It could be an actual professional code "mill" or a regular typewriter. The op learned to automatically type what the ear heard without engaging the thought process. Just like touch typing, only using the ears, not the eyes. And wonder of wonders:

No shift key.

Professional transcribing machines are all caps. If we used typwriters, it was all lower case. The reason was because at code speeds above 30 wpm (we call it "press speed") taking the time to carriage shift can knock off your copy entirely. Especially when you must copy character per character for letter accuracy if you are transcribing a Radiogramme. For just chit-chat, word and sentence copy will do. Here is where code becomes a language. But for letter, or character copy, no differentiation is ever utilised. There is no such thing as a capital letter in International code.

So, what has this to do with the capital "i"? Well, in my case, 32 years of code behind a keyboard pretty well has me not using the shift key all that much. Has it hindered intelligibility? Has it hindered countless millions of messages sent by code since the 1840s? Had hundreds of thousands of ships at sea considered themselves in jeopardy since the first ship to shore stations went into operation in the 1890s? Have military campaigns ever been misdirected by telegraph during the War between the States? Spanish American War? Crimean War? Franco-Prussion War? World War 1 or 2?


I have no qualms with the proper use of capitals in the Englishe Tongue. And i do value proper grammar, and can be as formal as the rest of my fellow printers. But to say that capitals are integral to communication would be a hard sell to 160 years of landline and wireless code ops, commercial marine, military and the International Telecommunications Union!

One thing about us Brasspounders: we are a fraternal lot! We love our traditions, we love our legacy, most of us have hung on to our keys, our "bugs", our "mills", even our favourite sounders or receivers. In my case, a 1946 HRO-5A1t, my novice BC-453 "Q5er" and my Vibroplex Champion Bug and WW2 RAF 8-amper. When we get behind a keyboard, be it mill or computer, the tendency is to let a little of our "cw" manner show, and one telltale is not to capitalise "I". It's not a sign of laziness, neither is it a sign of lacking education. It's part of a legacy that is older than most of our iron presses!

Ok. I'm off my soap box.

And as we sign off in cw:

"fb om es 73 - cul es gby - de wd4nka sk"

dit dit.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just getting Started

Welcome to my WebLog.

There are two things i love in life. One is Music. The other is Art. Both passions have one thing in common: they are tactile. That is, to make either one possible - music or "art" - one must involve the sense of touch. To create a song, one must create and ultimately play a melody, in my case on my trusty Yairi or Martin D-15. To create lyrics, one must ultimately write, in my case with my trusty 1926 Corona typewriter or my thoroughly outdated PC.

Visual "art" in my case is typography, specifically Letterpress, which also involves the sense of touch - not only in the productions thereof, but in the products themselves. The debossing of an image or text into paper via the raised surface of a typographic plate, be it a woodcut, linocut, metal type, copper plate, etc., creates a visual and tactile experience which was once commonplace in the graphics world, but much after World War 2 has all but vanished from commercial work, retreating into small studios, high-school shop classes, and basements of die-hard craftsmen and women determined to keep the art alive . . . as long as possible.

I was first exposed to the former - music and guitar - at the ripe age of eleven - in Munich, Germany, 1966. The latter in High School Shop, Conestoga High School, Berwyn PA , 1970. I fell in love with both immediately upon contact. Love at first sight, i guess. Both have been a slow growth process. Very slow, but very sure.

More than likely, my log entries will involve one of the two above mentioned arts. Music and Letterpress. Right now i am in the midst of bringing to life two presses which will form the nucleus of my Studio (or Shop), a smaller Showcard Press, which will be my Proof Press, and my latest aquisition, a Chandler and Price "New Series" Gordon style letterpress, c. 1913. The challenge now is to harness the wiring from the 1 hp drive motor and footswitch wiring in a safe manner.

Along with this dwells a challenge i took on some years ago, to cut a demo CD of my music, mostly acoustic guitar. Very simple stuff, but hard to focus on when you work a 12-hour a day job to put food on the table.

Slow but sure.