Monday, April 14, 2008

Micro Studio

I thought I might post an mp3 to this site just to see how it's done. It's a rough mix containing six tracks, Percussion, trusty John Page Fender Bullet (no, it's NOT a Squire!) which does basic rhythm and slide in Open D, "Black Beauty", my Yamaha bass, Kurzweil '88 (the same one used in the Fox movie "Once"), and one vocal track by your's truly. I wrote the song at the beginning of the year, sorta frustrated over my new job and things that I thought might turn out differently. Hopefully this link will work.

click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Motorising the Chandler and Price Letterpress

What i am doing here is simply coyping a post I made to the LETPRESS list concerning motor driven C&P Presses. There was a query for advice about pulley sizes and drive belt widths. Some printers drive their presses by belting the flywheel. On the right side of the press (if you're standing facing the delivery board) is a place to put a regular drive pulley, directly attached to the same shaft the Fly is mounted and keyed to, only the pulleys used are considerably smaller than the Fly. In the case of my 8x12 NS, the Flywheel is 32" in diametre, which, when belted to a standard 3-phase motor rotating in a counter-clockwise direction, works out very nearly perfect as far as how fast this press makes impressions.

Different C&Ps have different rates of impressions, expressed in terms of Impressions Per Hour, or IPH. I have added yet another measure: Impressions Per Second, or IPS, sort of a no-brainer, and finally Press RPM, which is the speed per minute which the press' drive shaft turns.

With Chandler & Price Gordon Style Letterpresses, and, I suppose, all similar presses, the larger the machine- the more turns of the drive shaft it takes to close the "clamshell", closing the Platten against the type bed to make the impression. It's a lot of iron to move. The larger, the heavier. Correspondingly, the power to maintain rotation of the press' drive shaft needs to be higher. Thus, there is also a minimum Horsepower rating for each press as well, expressed in HP. Here is a list of C&P Letterpress IPH / HP ratings per style and size, as found in the rear chapters of the 1916 edition "American Specimen Book of Type Styles", produced the the American Type Founders (ATF) :

New Series C&P 8x12...................................2600 IPH / 0.25 HP
New Series C&P 10x15..................................2300 IPH / 0.25 HP
New Series C&P 12x18..................................1800 IPH / 0.5 HP
New Series C&P 14-1/2 x 22.........................1500 IPH / 0.5 HP
C&P Regular Models (O.S.) 7x11..................2800 IPH / 0.25 HP
C&P Regular Models (O.S.) 8x12.................2600 IPH / 0.25 HP
C&P Regular Models (O.S.) 10x15...............2300 IPH / 0.25 HP
C&P Regular Models (O.S.) 12x18................1800 IPH / 0.5 HP
C&P Regular Models (O.S.) 14x20................1500 IPH / 0.5 HP
C&P Regular Models (O.S.) 14-1/2x22.........1500 IPH / 0.5 HP

I might add, at this point, some discussion on Horsepower. It's easier to maintain an object in motion once it's in motion. But to get something started from a dead start requires a much higher degree of energy to overcome the sheer weight of the object. As regards presses, it is my own opinion that the HP ratings are actually a maintaining horsepower rather than a start-up horsepower. When you start up one of these presses, it is necessary to give the flywheel a push, lest the motor stress with inrush current as it is momentarily frozen until gravity and weight, inertia, is overcome. This inrush of current is caused by the motor's internal load increasing, and demanding more current from the power source. This creates a lot of heat, which can break down the insulation of the internal stator wiring, causing the motor to burn. There are also shaft bearings which are stressed, and can be damaged. Better to help that nice, expensive motor in the start up process. The proper rotation of the Flywheel is considered to be "top-away", or Counter Clockwise facing the wheel. Of course this means that facing the drive pulley on the other side of the press, you will have clockwise rotation. In my experience, most motors today tend to be CCW ( counter clockwise ) unless reversable.

The following describes how I have computed pulley sizes necessary for any desired rate of impression, based on 4 variables: Motor RPM, Press RPM, Press IPH and desired IPS. All of these dynamics play a part in your calculations for pulley sizes, etc. Remember, I am not an engineer or particularly good at math, and these calculations are purely for "ballpark" use. I find that in most cases, "Ballpark" is good enough, considering materials available.

The original question regarded variable speed motors, which I feel are not necessary. Here was my response:


You may not have to worry about variable speed motors, which can get pretty costy. And variac auto-transformer driven speed controls can be a real can of worms. Standard motor rpms will probably give you the speed you need without controls. If it's any help, here's what I might try:

Start with your press drive shaft turns per impression. I think it takes six revolutions for one impression on a 10x15. Let's say you want to do one impression every three seconds. Since that fly[wheel] must spin six times per impression, figure 6 revolutions x (60 / 3 seconds), or 6 x 20, which gives you 120 rpm on the flywheel, or I guess it's called the drive shaft. I'm afraid I've never mastered the terminology. One impression every two seconds would be faster, 6 x (60 / 2), or 6 x 30, 180 rpm. Now you have a speed to figure your drive pulley ratio, based on your motor's rpm.

If it takes ten turns of your motor's shaft to spin your press's drive shaft once, you have a 10:1 drive relationship. At this ratio, to drive your press at 3 impressions per second, you would need a motor turning 120 press rpm x 10 motor shaft rpm, or 1200 rpm. Either changing the ratio between press and motor shaft, or changing the rpm of the motor will, obviously, affect your speed.

A 10:1 set up at 1700 rpm would give 170 rpm at the press, which you can see will bring you to between 2 - 3 sec. per impression at the rate of 6 turns per impression. Comfortably below max IPH, which I think for your press is around 2300.

To come up with an approximate press to motor drive ratio based upon motor rpm, divide Press(rpm) into Motor(rpm). In my case, the 8x12 spins at 4 revs per impression. At one impression every 2 secs, the press needs to spin at 4x30, or 120 rpm. 120 divided into my motor's 1750 gives me about a 14 or 15 :1 motor pulley to press pulley ratio. This was best achieved with a 2" motor pully driving the 32" flywheel. Everything is an approximation, the math I use is strictly general reference to help me make do with what is available. I use a 5/8" rubber belt, too. It's been with the press for many years, still has years to go on it.

One more suggestion: the motor minimum hp rating claims to be 1/4 hp. But I wonder if these specs take into consideration starting torque and the current inrush to the motor which could shorten the life of the motor? In fact, in 1912, was C&P even thinking in terms of a single electric drive motor? At the last shop I worked at professionally (1974) we were told by the company we purchased our 14-1/2x22" C&P from to make sure that wheel was spinning before we hit the motor switch. The 1/2 hp motor that came with it could not overcome the starting torque. Personally, I think the rated 1/4 hp is necessary to maintain the speed once you've arrived there. All this to say, it wouldn't hurt to go with 1/2 hp or 1 hp if available. I'm sure there are lots of folks who think it's overkill, but I have replaced enough nose bearings to make me a bit skiddish. :>)

I hope this makes anything like sense, and might be helpful.

Good Providence in your endeavours!


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Video of John Kristensen, Firefly Press. Narrated by Chuck Kraemer.

Thought i might share a video i found on Letterpress.
Narrative by Chuck Kraemer for the programme "At Large".
The subject is John Kristensen, of Firefly Press, Somerville MA.
You can find his site at:

This video more than any one video i have yet seen captures
for me the awe, art and mystery of Typography. See if you
do not agree.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I am writing this more or less for the benefit of some inquiries from the Letpress List. This is concerning typographic prints from lucite or plexiglass surfaces. I experimented with this venue about fifteen years ago with varying degrees of success, enough to make it worthwhile.

Plexiglass, or it's cheaper cousin Lucite, comes in varying thicknesses. I was restricted to what i could find, which was medium mill thickness. Not very thick, but enough to maintain rigidity when mounting an approximately 4 x 6" piece on birch ply at relative type height. I had to be careful about how i spread the adhesive, it was easy to create high or low spots where adhesive was particularly thick. These days i would use a spray adhesive, but in 1991 all i had was a can of 3-m brush adhesive which we used for edger chucks at my Optical shop in Clearwater, Florida.

For cutting, i used some standard engraving tools, and some home-made tools made from bar-stock (large diamond cutters and flat gouges) plus an iron pin-file for scoring. Also used was a standard diamond point graver and an elyptical "spitsticker". For the sake of this installment, i rounded up my tools which i still keep together with my linoleum cutters and cutting board. Refer to the above photo, left to right: Ozark oilstone, bar-stock diamond point, bar-stock flat gouge, which is in essence a cold chisel, an iron pin-file (fine optical rat-tail) and an elypse. Behind is a wooden handle of the type i used for the bar-stock cutters. I obtained steel bar-stock from a military surplus store in Orlando. The corners are not sharp, so i had to sharpen the corners on a fine grit grinder. I also established the 45-degree cutting angle on this same grinder, and bringing a fine edge with the ozark oilstone. I show a close-up of the bar-stock graver in the next photo. Note the size! About the size of a Linoleum "V" cutter.

The pin-file was used, actually, for dry-point etching. This can be done on Plexiglass as well as engraving, but dry-point is an intaglio process, which requires a substantial amount of pressure. Therefore i submit plexiglass be used for typography, not intaglio type graphics. I used polished aluminium with good results, but more on that later. I included that pin-file, though, because i did use it for scribing as well as stipple work.

And how did those plexi-cuts turn out? Actually, quite nicely. I show two below, the first being a version of the Linocut i showed in a prior post - the winter village scene with the little foot-bridge. This is actually a piece inspired by a combination of two influences in my life as a kid growing up in South Germany: Bruegel and 16th century woodcuts. You may notice the influence. Maybe not . . . .

If you compare to the linoleum version, the lines are actually finer, with a harder edge. The problem i ran into was the pressure needed to engrave a line. You really need to secure the plate so both hands can be free. And you have to work slowly, resisiting the urge to cut deep. You need not cut very deep, really. As it turned out, i tried three different methods of printing this card: Linoleum, plexiglass and woodcut. I settled with Linoleum. I just liked the "personality" of linoleum in this particular case rather than the Plexi-cut. The woodcut might have worked well, if i would have gone ahead and printed with the maple plate i spent a day and a half cutting. What happened was that after i locked it into the press, inked with process black rubber base, and rolled the form rollers over it, i noticed the amazing contrast of the black ink with blonde recesses, and i stopped the press. Pulling the plate, i let the ink dry. Cindy liked it so much we wound up keeping it on display in our living room, where it has been ever since!

So . . . there it is, frozen in mid-inking. Maybe i'm just a little wierd. I dunno . . . but i do this sort of thing now and then. I've been tempted to make more, and set them side by side and create a whole Blackforest Village set ( Schwarzwalder Dorf Series.) Ahh, but i digress.

The most success i have had with plexi-cuts are with smaller images of the type you might use on a business or greeting card. The following was executed entirely with the diamond point graver and some finer lines with the elypse. The overall size is about 2 x 3". This particular impression was executed on a Kelsey 5x7. I have since used this plate for demonstrations with the Antiques Road Show when they came to Central Florida before the Hurricanes of 2004. The plate is backed with endgrain maple, and resides on display at the Florida Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts' 19th century print shop (along with my other hand-cut plates and my Kelsey collection.) The subject is a square rigged ship on choppy sea. The purpose of it was for advertiseing the rather nautical motives i often incorporated at Heirloom, considering we lived directly on the St. Joseph Sound between Honeymoon Island and Anclote Key, Crystal Beach.

Finally, i thought i might share a stipple piece. This wasn't actually stipple engraved, but the original artwork was stipple pen and ink on clear mylar overlay, the way we did artwork for multicolour work back in the analog age. This is actually a three colour registration piece. It was a stationery headpiece, and i sold every one i made. I saved these proofs, which only have two colours printed. The third would have been the red plate, which filled in the rose and the rosettes on the lady's pillow. For the original copywork, i used the finest Rapidograph pen made, which was one of my standard illustration tools both for letterpess plates and for commercial technical illustration which i also did on the side.

Well, there you go. Plexi-cuts and then some. If i can get the Pioneer Settlement to let me borrow the plexi-plates, i'll photo those, although they are not really revealing. You can get an idea directly from the prints. One challenge i'll also mention: I used clear plexi. I had to paint it with black india, which scratched easy. I might try white lucite next go 'round, perhaps using melted red beeswax to coat so i can see the image as i cut. No doubt more experimenting is called for.

I am looking around for my aluminium dry-point plate, which i used with a bench-vise for intaglio printing. It actually worked amazingly well! But it's been a number of years, i may have lost it. If so, i'll cut another piece of aluminium and make a "how to do it" installment at a future date.

That's all for now.