Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Drawers for the Pearl (and other stuff)

So, what do you do when it's your day off, it's the last day before payday, your pretty well out of funds, your cat of 13 years dies and you need something to distract you for a while? Make drawers, of course!

Now, I'm like any other guy, I like war movies, Indian Jones, rugby, flat-water canoeing over miles of open water, shooting old Smith & Wesson revolvers, and restoring WW2 era transmitters and receivers, putting them on the air and talking around the world on the most challenging of modes: hand sent code. I like an occasional ale, smoke cigars, play blue-grass guitar and rewire the electronics in my old Volvo. So, I'm your fairly ordinary guy. But man, I hate it when my pets go the way of all flesh. They are part of your daily routine for 10, 13, 15, in one case 19 years, and then they bid farewell. And it takes me a solid day to get over it. So when it comes to my dogs and the one cat in my life, yeah, I'm a sap.

So, I grab some extra lumber I had laying around. Aww, it's pretty beat up yellow pine. Well, let's do some ripping and cross cutting, and at least make some temporary drawers for the Pearl, anyway. Later, when I can afford it, I'll go ahead and do a proper job with hardwood, but till then at least I'll have extra storage, and the Pearl will have something new to wear for the time being.

The dimensions of the drawers are pretty simple, really. The front opening is 13" wide. The front and sides need 6.5" for clearance. The sides are 12.5" long. Once the front and sides are assembled (I used glue, clamps and an air nailer to attach the "butt" joints. No fancy joinery here.) I cut a 4" by 11.5" plank for the rear, which fits between the two sides, and inset the bottom with a few boards cut 11.5" long and widths varying in such a way as to provide a solid bottom with no gaps. The bottoms also fit between the two sides, and are glued and nailed along the sides. I used 1.5" brads and a brad nailer. Very simple but it works. Later I'll use these dimensions and use lap joints with poplar sides and an oak front. There is also a person casting the actual drawer pulls for the Pearl OS No. 3. So a more authentic drawer project still looms in the future.

Upon completion, they slid right into place, pretty as you please. I had some iron spade-head pulls laying around, so I used these. Remember: the idea was to not spend money, at least not now. So, yeah, it's not the most authentic.

Hey! What's the deal with the Feed and Delivery tables? Didn't I make a new table a few installments ago? Yes. But guess what? The originals turned up. And they are much more proportionate to the press, so I will be making new ones patterned after the originals, using the original hardware. The original wood is not really pretty, and the splits from about 50 years of expanding and contracting is quite evident. New wood is certainly needed.

Here's a closer look. Not too shabby, if I may say so. Gives the Pearl a bit more of a finished look, such as it is. In those drawers will go a brayer, hand held slug cutter, stencil brush (I use stencil brushes for everything from cleaning presses to cleaning type) and probably some tympan paper, pins and large rubber bands.

While I was in wood-working mode, I decided to hang a cabinet and "clip board". Paper, my cutting and engraving tools, carbon paper (thanks, Phil Ambrosi!) birch and Lino-blocks will be kept here. I make my own Linoleum blocks, birch ply backed. You can see them stacked up top. The clips are just old style spring clothes pins glued to the board, to which proofs, copy, or job orders can be posted.

*Sigh* but I still have some challenges before I have what I consider a truly functioning shop / studio. For one thing, see those type trays stacked up behind the Pearl? Those are really all the California cases I have. I'll have to double lay all 6 drawers. I need to make a cabinet for them soon. Do you see the cabinet under those 6 drawers? It's a crudely made open rack for half-cases, of which there is really only 2. Those others are poorly nailed-together trays that will be discarded. I'll salvage the angle aluminium for drawer running tracks when I make the cabinet for those California Job Cases. That blue table, believe it or not, is an original Kelsey "quarter case" cabinet. I used this cabinet with my small Kelseys back when I owned and operated "Heirloom Press" in Palm Harbor back in the early 1990s. But the years of storage up at the Pioneer Settlement has, for some reason, had a deliterious effect on it. The seams are coming apart. Right now, to keep it from collapsing, I have a pipe clamp bracing the bottom. Some utility person up at the Settlement removed it's wheels, too! Why, I have no early reason, so I have to scout around the campus for those, too! A 5x8 Kelsey mounts atop this quarter cabinet. I still have the original booklet and some unwrapped Kelsey type to wade through, and I need to get rollers for the Kelsey. I also need a genuine imposing table and stone, and a guillotine cutter as well. A roller rack and cleaning station needs to be made, too.

Rollers and truck for the Pearl are the next item on the agenda. Both NA Graphics and Tarheel Rollers have offered to work with me on procuring what I need, both rollers, cores and trucks, which will probably be delrin. They are pretty costy, moreso than the C&P. I think rather than go rubber as I did with the C&P, I'll use traditional composition rollers. That way I can use Kerosine for clean up with a clear conscience. Right now I use it on rubber, and have had no ill effects, but you're really supposed to use a water miscible (sp?) cleaner for that.

Here's what I am using for imposition right now: the type bed of my old 9x13 Kelsey. The rails make handy carrying handles, and the iron is perfectly graded. The chases for the 8x12 C&P fit nicely. The Pearl 7x11 chase fits, of course, as well.

The last shot of this installment is a view of the whole imposing table, which is actually an Eastlake Victorian marble-top dresser. But rather than mar the marble, I opted to cover it with a quilted blanket and an oak table top. You can also see the table-top mounted slug cutter next to the "imposing stone".

Well, guys, that's it for this round. I might add that recently I got an eMail asking if I could help a group in the process of restoring a Pearl. I am glad to help all I can, and am also happy to know that my blog has been helpful for others endeavouring to do what I have been attempting. The Pearl is a fun project, and it does come fairly well apart. There's lots of room for personal creativity, too, such as doing the woodwork, for instance. Feel free to contact me directly as needed. Whatever I don't know I can post to the LetPress list. Stephen O. Saxe is a member, who has helped me in the past with historical info on the Pearl. By the way, you can date your Pearl by it's serical number located on the type bed directly under the ink disk.

Good Providence in all your Letterpress endeavours!


G. Johanson, Settlement Printer
Florida Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts
Barberville/ Deltona Florida.


  1. I like your new drawers. I'm a proclaimed scrounger, and if I can make do for free or less, then I will. Looks like you have some of the same spirit. Looking forward to seeing the finished feed tables with the press

  2. I like your new drawers. I'm a proclaimed scrounger, and if I can make do for free or less, then I will

  3. Hey Gary, if "some" is good, "free" is better :) Beautiful job. I'm taking a cabinet making class now, so maybe I can learn some of those skills I need. Great cabinet and wonderful creativity in your choice of imposing stone.

  4. I'd try and salvage the original feed and delivery boards. I did on both the presses I've had and they cleaned up fine, though not perfect enough to remove their old-time character.

    The finish is almost certainly orange shellac and if you take some fine steel wool and denatured alcohol you can scrub the dirt and a layer or so (don't remove it all) of grimy shellac off without losing the patina. Then you can glue or fill anything that may be needed and then add one or two coats of fresh orange shellac.

    I've done this with other old wood like type cases and cabinets and it almost always produces a good result. I hate to dispose of original parts unless absolutely necessary and like the character of the old patina and wear.

    A great job restoring the press, by the way.

  5. Marjorie: I used the simplest of simple joinery: butt joints. I just clamped the end of a side to the front, applied a little wood glue, first, held it tight with a pipe clamp, and reached for my trusty Bostich brad nailer, using 1.5" brads every inch and a half or so. It's ok so long as the drawer does not see heavy use. Butt joints are inherently weak. I envy you taking an actual cabinet making class! You'll be doing dovetails before you know it!

  6. Justin: thanks for the kind comments. Yeah, I'm a dumpster diver from the git-go. My very proper German mother said it was because I was born in the U.S. Funny coming from a gal who at one time helped Wartime Germany rebuild it's armourment using bomb fragments! But I just tell her "Blut ist dicker als Wasser."

    I'll be re-evaluating salvaging the original tables this weekend.

  7. Rich: that's a good word, indeed. I'll see how bad the checks and splits in the delivery board is. I think it's very nearly broken in half, but not a clean break. I may be able to take it on the table saw, run a kerf down the split (if the split is straight enough) and then clamp & glue. I've rescued table tops in this manner, it may work here.

    I'll have to see if the local Lowe's has orange shellac.

    Thanks for the kind response, btw.