Monday, June 29, 2009

Moving the 12 x 18 New Series C&P from the Settlement.

So, this was our challenge Saturday Morning. To move a 12x18 NS C&P out of it's barn, across the barn and up a ramp and into a truck with three ambitious types: Myself, of G. Johanson, Printer, Nick of Mama's Sauce Printery, and of course sweet Polly, the intern who took most of the photos you will see here from an I-phone.

We used a large rental with a hydrauling lift gate. We thought the hydraulic lift would be larger than it turned out to be, but it worked anyway. But we had to take it from the opposite side of the barn from where we expected to load it. Fortunately, the Barn is a braced frame structure with floor summers. After a bit of a tenuous start, we managed to lift her with a pallet jack and begin to wheel her out.

We rolled it to a point where it had to pivot. The leading edge of the tail gate was nearly a forty-five degree edge. This posed a slight dilemna since the pallet jack wheels are about the diametre of a Silver Dollar at best. She would not simply roll right on to the lift gate.

Here I am laying pipes down in an effort to turn the press slightly, and into position.

After the pipe idea was aborted, we decided to simply bring the press AND the pallet jack up on the tailgate together. We used four "come-alongs" to winch the press over that steep incline you see the front wheel of the jack about to navigate. It was a slow process.

Finally we got the Press and Pallet Jack on board. Polly flipped the switch, and it's up, up and away.

Here's Nick and me just standing there amazed that we managed to hustle 2800 lbs of iron and steel from way out there to way up here! Of course you noticed that the ink disk has been removed, as was the flywheel.

And, of course, we must include trusty intern Polly. Hey . . . uh . . . who's taking the picture?

The press was secured by 4 one-thousand pound strapping from the come-alongs. It was hauled in this manner down to Mama's Sauce in Winter Park some forty miles away - where it will be restored and resurrected.

Ok, Polly, where do we go from here? Lunch in DeLand?

Thanks, Nick and Polly for the fun afternoon! And the Dos Equus, Quesadillas, kaffee con leche, and some neat memories. I should be down in Winter Park this coming Thursday with an orbital sander. Hopefully we can get this press rolling inside of a month. The only real sticking point is the impression throw-out lever, which is binding at the bearing. This shouldn't prove to be too difficult to un-stick. Overall, the press has a lot of surface rust, but the years of ink and apparently liberal oiling has, in fact, resisted the elements well. A few bucket loads of Diesel Fuel and Transmission Fluid and she'll be good as new!

So, what did y'all do last Saturday?


G. Johanson, Printer.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Proofing and Production of Handset Business Cards (part 2)

Ok, I have my type all set, or composed on the composition stick. It took a little while to get all the quads, spaces, 3-ems, brasses and coppers into place to centre justify my lines. One of the advantages I find in hand composition is justification, especially centre justifying. I cut a 4 point lead, say in this instance 21 pica, set the stick to 21 pic's and lay the lead in. Then I compose the line of type, setting it in the centre with an Em quad on either side. Then I fill the spaces on each side of the line equally one side to the other, 3M's, Quads, 2-to En's, spaces, brass, coppers, whatever I do on one side I do to the other. Then I lay in a lead for the next line. The Dingbat required a few rows of quads as you may have noticed, plus a set of 6pt flats. One side mirrors the other. It takes time, but if you are an artist, a sculptsit, a scriptsit, or whatever medium you ply which maintains a discipline that many would consider tedium, you might understand it when I say it's actually a catharsis. Composing for me is like chiseling or cutting a quill nib or grinding ink or any other involved preparation for any process which is labour and skill intensive.

Now that I've done all this work, do I just lock it up, slap the chase on the press and run it? Only to find out that I've mixed my sorts, 'p's are 'q's, a 'b' was pegged with a 'd', and I spelled "Traditional" Tradiditional? And then do my editing and correcting? No way. Enter: the Proofing Press.

Most proofing presses in my area of travel were of the cylinder variety, and most were very, very simple. Truth be told, you can even skip the actual proof press altogether and do your editing and proofing the way the colonials did: Beat (or roll with your brayer - you do have a brayer, right? Or leather balls?) the ink onto your tied up form, lay a sheet on top of the face, lay some padding, and tap it with your plane and mallet. This method was suggested in the Kelsey manuals, too. You even proof your new sorts in this manner.

Ahh, but a proofing press is so much easier and less messy. Plus, you can use some of the nicer cylinder proofers for large poster work where woodblocks, linoleum cuts, large wooden type, etc. is required. Some proofers are more expensive than Heidelberg Windmills! Southern Engravers in St. Pete used an electric Vandercook as their mag cut proofer for years.

I use a small Showcard Press for proofing. It will accommodate anything that I can lock up in an 8x12 C&Ps chase or my Pearl's 7x11 chase. It's old, it needs restoration, but the basic machine works smoothly. All it is is a heavy iron bed with an impression roller that rolls over that bed. You have to manually ink the type. The type itself is locked into a chase that snugs into the Showcard's bed. The chase is 6x10, and comes from a Kelsey. You have to lay it in upside down. All you need to do for proofing at this point is a "loose" lock up. That is, you set the type on the bed, lay the chase around it, fill in the gaps with furniture, and lock it tight enough so the type doesn wobble or stand on their "heels" (type leaning at a slight angle, exposing only part of their faces to the impression surface.)

Here is a view of the forme locked up for proofing. It actually looks no different than the lock up for the 8x12 except I use more furniture.

While I'm on the subject of locking up a forme, here's what I do to test the form to make sure I don't have any surprizes on the production bed: I slide the key under the chase to lift it a bit, then press on the form with my thumbs. If anything is loose, I'm gonna know in a hurry. If I can push any element of that form with my thumbs, I'll either tighten or shim with copper or brass spaces as propriety demands. Yes, I know, the chase is upside down. That's the only way it will fit into the Showcard. Heck, it works!

Here's the proofing set up. To the left is the Showcard. To the right, a plate with process black ink rolled out, and my ancient brayer. I think I got that brayer in Munich back in '67 when I was learning how to do my first Linocut in 7th grade. Man. It's an old Speedball, back before everything went plastic.

The type is inked, and paper laid atop the face. Here you see a piece of hardboard covering the paper, but only the paper is held by the grippers. What are thos 'C' clamps there for? Well, long story. But to make it short, in order for that chase to fit, I had to dismount and slide up the gripper assembly. Those small clamps hold it in place. I do not want to re-tap cast iron for the set screws. The clamps do the job. And I'm obviously not in a beauty contest as far as shops and studios go. If it works, use it!

Now, all we do is drag that roller over, maybe back again, remove the hardboard, loose the paper and see what disaster awaits us.

Well, looky there. It's not all that awful after all. At least I spelled my name correctly. Hey, look! That Engravers Medium actually looks pretty good after all! The cut is centred. No major faux pas, ( pardon my lousy French.)

The card stock is Neenah Classic Laid, which I got from the fantastic folks at the downtown Orlando Xpedx ( Thanks, Mark. Your cards are in process, btw.) I like to proof, if practicable, on the stock that will be used for the production run.

The cards you saw on the last installment were also proofs, but were proofed on Neenah's Pearl Linen Crest, an opaline finished paper which I will also use for production. Here's that photo again:

I would like to take time out here to comment about papers. Principle rule: the harder the paper surface, the more the polish, the better the imprint detail. If you are running tight lines on par with engraving crosshatching, you need to use a hard finish. The softer the paper, the more the deboss, but the less detail you will hold. You can't have both. There's a time for fine line detail, and there's a time to deboss, or throw a heavy depression with your type, which is the current "pink of the mode", or fad in Letterpress. I will not say one is good and one is bad or one is better than the other. Good typography is tied to it's overall presentation, design, and economy. Deboss, Detail, etc., are all part of that dynamic. Balance it wisely. Make your clients happy, too.
Above all, to thine own self be true. In the 19th century, especially the latter half which I consider the Golden Age of Letterpress Typography, very hard, even gloss polished surface papers were hugely popular. Especially for reproducting chromozylographs ( the fifty-cent word for colour wood engraving.) The Victorian mood for intricacy was best produced on harder wove and granite papers. Tight line filligree work could be executed with almost intaglio precision. Postage stamps of most countries from 1850 - 1900 were produced in this manner. These designs vied with their engraved counterparts. It was these postal issues that brought me to Typography and the Letterpress to begin with!

Well, the proof was successful. All that's left is to relock the forme into the production chase for the 8x12 and hand feeding these cards, one by one, for about one thousand impressions. Cost for a card like this? Probably about one hundred dollars for five hundred hand set, hand printed cards. That's about twenty cents per card. Cost of the experience of going through the process? Priceless!

Here's a shot from the delivery board. Nice new tympan paper courtesy Mama's Sauce. Blue tape courtesy Lowes. No, that's not rust on the gripper bars. The camera's flash does that sometimes. My presses are rust free, well oiled, and except for the electric motor which has nose bearing issues, extremely silent.

Here's a shot of the 8x12, and next to her the 7x11 Pearl. The C&P runs right now at about one impression cycle every three seconds, just slightly faster than treadle spead on it's Old Series counterpart. The Pearl, of course, is treadled.

And, of course, the finished product. These cards are stack drying on what is currently serving as my imposing stone: the type bed of a 9x13 Kelsey Excelsior model M. Perfect for the 8x12 chase!

Well, that about does it. Another video is in planning, which will go through another process. All this in the shameless course of showing my clients just what the heck they are paying for! And maybe inspire some newbies to the Art and Mystery of Letterpress Typography!

Good Providence in all your printing endeavours!


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

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Designing of a Typeset Business Card. (It's more than pegging type!)

This installment is little more than a simple endorsement for a time honoured tradition which . . . I happen to observe at G. Johanson, Printer. Rather than just talk about it, I thought it might be fun to shoot a series of photos while I went through the process of doing something I have had to put off for over a year now because of other printing commitments:

Print my own danged cards!!

So, let's get to it.

Actually, I lied. There is a good deal of discussion in this installment, because half of the sweat was in the decision process. Hard to photograph that.

To begin:

The first thing I do is determine what sort of card I want. Who am I? Am I traditional printer? Do I have a conservative bent? Artsy? (I want to say "creative", but really, all inclinations can be creative!) Am I an avante garde type? Do I like whips and chains? A lot of what your card transmits, indeed, your whole studio or shop along with the products thereof is a reflextion of you, personally.

My own profile as a printer trends conservative, but I love new things. I also love busting the mould, bashing the code, whatever. I'm an ex-hippie radical that loves and finds direction in history. I also believe and trust the Living God of the Bible, and hold every word as Truth and Life, which colours all I do. So, how do I make my business cards speak this? How do I tell a potential client or student that if they want creativity from a tradesman with one foot in the deep traditions of the 15th - 18th Centuries, yet loves to listen to Beirut, Tilly and the Wall, old Beatles, Dylan, Tommy Dorsey and Bach, and who's design and work will probably manifest all of the above, I'm your guy?

Tall order, I'd say.

I opted not to call my self "This or That" press or "Whatever" press. The "press" thing in the name seems to be what everybody is doing. In the Colonial days, a printers were identified their names. "Printed by W. Young, Chestnut Street" or "Printed by David Charlisle, Wapole Vermont."

G. Johanson, Printer seems to fit my personality and sense of history. And it is well understated.

The "dingbat" foundry cut of an iron handpress dingbat drives home that idea.

But wait a minute! I also do digital design and work with one of the finest platers on this hemisphere! I do Art Deco, Eastlake Victorian, Irish Celtic, German Blackletter, contour art, Manga, alternative music. I am not defined by history, I'd rather MAKE it. As an artist and musician, creativity is a passion. Where does Tradition, Creativity and Art Discipline meet on my business card?

Traditionally and Creatively --- in the very letters themselves!

So, I look over my metal (well, lead antimony) fonts and find what best suits, which is in my posession. I find three fonts: 14pt. Caslon "Open Face" title, 10pt. Caslon 337 OS and 8pt Engravers Medium. The Open Face (I don't think it's really Caslon, the characters don't even resemble any Caslon stylings I know of!) just plain looks cool. Goudy Hand Tooled is very close.

The next line could have been printed in 1730, it's the exact font from the exact foundry would would find in Colonial Williamsburg. Only, I kept out the tall "s" for modern eyes' sake. Caslon is my "house font". I have a passion for pre-19th century books and publications, so this face is a natch. Caslon was also Ben Franklin's favourite "Fount".

The engraver's bold is a little more modern. It's almost out of place, yet not entirely. It's a fun font: it can look very Establishment or very Circus, depending how you use it. It's actally kinda quirky. It dates to the mid 1850s.

At first I opted to use Neenah Classic Laid Ivory 80lb stock, and indeed I purchased and cut up the ream, but then my attention fell to Neenah's Linen Finished Pearl card stock. Wow, is it spectacular! Irridescent. It's a somewhat hard, brilliant stock, which goes against the current grain of Letterpress thought(soft, spongy papers and deep, deep deboss.)

So, there's the design: "G. Johanson, Printer" on top, "Creative & Traditional Handset Tyypography" on the next line. I fought with myself over whether to use "Letterpress", which has a broader base of understanding, or the more proper "Typography". Maybe I'm wrong, but since I print more than just type, in fact, a majority of what I have done comes from my digital developmental tools, the broader term Typography is more appropriate. And if anybody asks, I'll just say "Letterpress".

Ok, next, centred, the Dingbat. I love this dingbat. It was my mascot from back in my Heirloom Press days. My colophons all had this image from this very dingbat. This is one awesome dingbat! Everybody should have an awesome Dingbat.

Last two lines: Blogspot, which currently serves as my website, and phone number, in case anyone actually wants to call. My e-mail can be gotten from my Blogspot site.

So here it is. The type is shown in a composition stick exactly the way you would hold it when composing. Upside down, left to right, from the top down. Nicks up (the tiny divit on the bottom of the type body) which will tell you if your type is upside down or not. Sometimes even which font you are using. Or which foundry cast the type. I use two: M&H, and Quaker City. Quaker and I go back a number of years. Both carry much of the old ATF castings.

Here is a sneak peak at the "proof". We'll stop here for this installment, and continue on with the proofing of this assemblage of lead called a "Forme" or "Form".

Good Providence in all your typographic endeavours.