Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Typeset Flyer for the Good Doctor, Part 2

I had to replace a few pieces of type, one of the disadvantages of using old fonts that may have been in the possession of several shops. Broken swashes, damaged border pieces, one or two "low" faces. After proofing and replacement of damaged or questionable pieces, it was ready to run on the 8x12 New Series C&P, sporting it's "new" 45 year old Rheem blower motor. Very quiet, and with brass oil ports for rear and nose bearings.

It locked up nice and tight the first time with no surprises. Here are some close-up detail. Note that I did not print these on an open fibre stock, but rather Neenah's Classic Laid 75 lb cover, printing on the "smooth" side. Just a tad bit of deboss. I also printed about 250 impressions on Neenah's Classic Linen Pearl finish.

Close-ups as follows:

The Maltese Cross and tapered "dash" border. Each element individually set.

Another view of the same. The text you see on the right was set in 10 pt. Caslon OS 337, courtesy M&H, San Fransisco.

Another view of how the corner comes together. The card measures around 4.5 x 6.5". You see a bit of the Titling, set in 12 pt. Copperplate.

And again. Flash picked up a bit of reflection: the ink was still a bit damp. Used Kelsey's Oil Based dense Black, from a tube that was originally purchased in 1982!! Just like the tube was recently purchased.

There. That should complete the corners. Not that it's any different from the other corners.

Here is the Forme itself, completed and ready to go.

That's about it. Finished and on schedule. Job set, proof, makeready, run-time and clean-up: A full day's work. But it was a good, full day!!

Well, that's it for now. Still sorting through my "sorts". Probably going to add to my Caslon collection, Caslon is the "shop font". Next item on the adgenda: American Optometric Association business cards for Dr. Patino: two colours using the trade-famous "venetian blind" logo which I had to totally construct from ground zero on FreeHand, and transfer to Illustrator on the Mac because the AOA requires the use of Optima and Helvetica Neue faces by terms of use. Whenever you use a Registered Trademark, you have to make sure you understand the "terms of use". Those terms can literally dictate your total design, as, in this case, was true.

Good Providence in all your Letterpress Endeavours!


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


Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Typeset Flyer for the Good Doctor

I have been using an office calendar and fee schedule which is a computer print from an adobe file. It's ok . . . such as it is. It gets the information across, and doesn't look like a low budget photocopy. But I wanted something that was a notch above a computer printout. In fact, several notches above. What the heck, I have a fully equipped Letterpress shop! Let's ratchet that hand-out up to the mini-broadside level. Heh, see if anybody notices.

First I wanted a conservative but decorative border. The "dash-and-cross" 6 pt. ornaments should do fine. These are 6 pt. Maltese crosses separated by 14 pt. tapered ended open face dash ornaments set on their sides (equal to 6 pt.)

The top header is 14 pt Spencerian swash. The Title is 12 pt. Copperplate light, the body text and figures are 10 pt. Caslon OS 337, the very same as used at Colonial Williamsburg. The fee prices, however, is set in 10 pt Century Schoolbook.

This piece was stick set 5 rows at a time. The separation lines are foundry line rule cut to fit the 19 pica inside width (width between the ornamental border) but notched out to 16 pic, to avoid having to piece in leads. I used a tin nibbler for this. A very clean cutter.

The below photo shows the forme just a few lines short of completed, with the finishing piece on the composition stick, to show how the body and border is set together and built up line upon line. Not a simple composition.

To orient you, the forme is upside down. This is the way type is set in the stick, and also the orientation in which the forme ( the forme is the composed type, assembled to create a printed image) is set in the press. This way the printer sees the printed image upright.

Here is where I am at today. Only three more lines to couple to the rest of the forme which is tied up in my "work" galley, which is a heavy bronze tray, quite unlike the magnetic steel trays which are very thin by comparison. I use the bronze tray for purposes such as this, to hold large formes during assembly. The trick here is the Maltese cross corners. The count of lines must work out so that there is a Maltese cross at each corner, yet spacing of leads, quads and lines do not create an unbalanced appearance. Truth be told, I'll be glad if the whole thing locks up and I don't have to spend another hour troubleshooting each line with coppers! I hate having to shim the daylights out of a forme to make it work!

I can only work on this project for a couple hours per day due to having a full time other job - namely at the place for which I am spending all this time and effort, my Optical Dispensary tucked away in a neat little corner of the Sam's Club in Sanford, Florida. It has taken me several nights of burning midnight oil to get this far, a couple hours in my crowded little cubby hole print shop each night. Building up a border simultaneously with rows of leads and body type can be a little tricky, and just plain difficult to slide from the stick, slide in one piece with a million pieces wanting to break loose, and join to the main body without something falling over. If you like 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzles, you'll love pegging type! All told, I have about five hours of setting time in this forme as I write, and about another hour to go. But then, this is hand-wrought production printing in the most traditional of manner!

This is a close-up of the header and title with a corner of border so you can see some of the minute detailing. Note the Maltese cross at the corner. It's really an elegant border, I can't wait to pull a proof! My plans are to have this job completed, cut and printed by Tuesday.

I have been asked how much I would charge for something like this. That's a tough one, probably about the same as the per-hour rate I charge designing on FreeHand or Illustrator. Composing type embodies three dynamics simultaneously: Design, "plating", and Proof reading. Or at least, it can. It is very labour intensive and there is a right and wrong way to go about it.

That's it for this installment. Hopefully - if I don't figure out a way to pie the forme - the next installment will feature the finished product. Till then . . .

. . . good Providence in all your Letterpress Endeavours!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What, Oh What Can a Kelsey Do?

It all began on the Letpress List when the subject of roller height control for the C&P Pilot press came up. The person posting was having problems with the well known C&P Pilot Press which this person had not experienced with their Kelsey, "a supposedly inferior press". The subject of Kelseys comes up now and then, and the "cheap" or "inferior" monicker pops up again and again.

My experience with the Kelsey presses has been wholly different. At the risk of sounding cliched, I made somewhat of a living between jobs using Kelsey Presses. I think I know something about them short of being some sort of expert. And the ensuing years have provided me something of a standard for comparison.

No, I am not an expert. I am on the curve. Guess what? So is everyone else, whether they admit it or not. But there are those who have been to the mountain top. Theirs is the world of Heidelberg Windmills, Little Giants, Vandercooks, Kluges, many spending over fifty years or more behind the feeders, delivery boards imposing stones and paper cutters. Some - not all, but a vocal few - tend to be rather opinionated, bordering on snobbery, about what a "quality" press is. Their Standards can be somewhat vague. And their comments can have negative results if not balanced by - let's call it a minority opinion.

I use as my 'personal standard' the output product. Does the press print well? Are the results acceptable? Consistent? Can you produce good products for a long duration? I also use some external dynamics. Is the machine dependable? Can you get parts as needed? Do you have to replace parts frequently?

Notice I did not include speed. That's a no brainer. But then, this only puts me in the camp with Ben Franklin, Kristoff Sauer, Albrecht Duerer, Bewick, and Gutenberg himself! Not a bad lot, I'd say.

I find the average Kelsey Front Lever Press stands up well in each category.

So, what do Kelsey Presses NOT do well?

Kelsey's literature was obviously trying to sell presses, so you won't get anything but glowing reports from them. However, they also published photos of samples of work each press was able to do for short run. These are "short run" presses. They were not meant to do 10,000 impressions at a time, day in, day out. But you know? Neither were Pilots and the early Pearl OS Models 1 and 3! their castings show it. None of these "Parlour Presses" were designed for heavy runs. By the way, neither were Vandercooks, yet they are "pressed" into high production service every day!!

Kelsey printed some parts of their catalogues and manuals on a 5x8! Many folks missed that. I have catalogue inserts printed specifically to compare with the rest of the catalogue that was printed, reportedly, on a Heidelberg Windmill! It was an effective way to prove a point!

Kelsey presses could be found in Churches, Executive mail rooms, even larger printing firms. One large production firm used them to save about 500 bucks per run with short orders and printing their own billheads. Kelsey was pretty smart to print letters of professional testimonial. Many were written by industry veterans then engaged in their trade. The simplicity of operation may have been somewhat overstated - I chock that up to enthusiasm on the part of many who wrote Kelsey. And I disagree with Kelsey's claim that anyone can learn the basics of the trade sufficiently to produce an acceptable product within 24 hours. ( they were quick to point out that they did not mean you could learn everything in 24 hours - or 24 days!) - but that's marketing for you.

Cutting through the propaganda, one is left with the Kelsey Excelsior Press. The essence of bare essentials. The "Deux Chaveux" of Presses. Each press comes in three separate parts that separate one from the other for various reasons: the Ink Disk, naturally. The type bed- something not common and very, very handy. The Mainframe. Of course you can further break down the Excelsior by removing the platen from the back, and complete dis-assembly, but the above three sections were specifically designed for frequent removal.

Kelsey used roll stock, which actually amounts to very thick wire for some of their parts, as opposed to bar stock for some of the hardware. This draws fire from critics. But it must be observed that many popular classics that do NOT draw fire utilise the same cost cutting measures. For instance, roller hooks. Very primitive by C&P standards. Golding used the same exact system for their OS Pearls. Roll stock for the gripper bars - again a replication from the Pearl. The gripper bars themselves are simple steel straps, rolled at the base and threaded to receive a screw. The Pearl uses a slide cam guide and retention spring to guide gripper bar motion, the Kelsey used a sliding feed wire that protrudes beneath the handle casting. One is no better - or higher quality than the other. Kelsy rollers and their trucks were not keyed. Some think this to be a mark of inferiority. I know more than one Pilot user that wishes their rollers were NOT keyed too! The extra rotation provided by momentum - just a few millimetres - helps to fully charge the rollers with a smallish ink disk. Personally, I find precious little difference in the final product both in behaviour of the press OR the printed product. ( note: the Kelsey press need slower, more deliberate roller speeds to avoid skidding over the forme, one disadvantage of not having keyed trucks and cores - but then Kelsey operators are not in a race!)

The front lever Excelsior or side lever Victor both require the development of a "touch", a sense of feel of the pressure developed between platen and forme. This is easily developed. The platen is probably the easiest of all such presses to adjust and level. And the principles learned on the Kelsey is portable to all platen presses, really. The skills and touches I learned on my Kelseys help me tremendously on my motorised slick and fancy NS C&P and my classic Pearl. The things I learned such as registration techniques, dealing with high and low spots, backing a forme, etc., helped me on multicolour runs with the 12x18 Kluge. I was not fumbling in the dark adjusting for registry, for instance, or putting together tricky makeready for combination type and cut formes. These were learned in detail on my 5x8, 3x5 and 9x13 Excelsiors.

Another thing that draws fire from critics is the casting quality. This is purely subjective and based entirely upon a person's experience and perceptions. I find the castings extremely robust. I have sheared one casting on my 9x13 - by closing the platen on an iron rod that had fallen between the bed and platen and stupid me just wasn't looking! Was the bed or platen damaged? No. Was were any stress bearing castings compromised? No. The cast eyelet for the gripper bar rod feed-thru broke. It was glued back on with JB Weld 18 years ago, and is still holding!

We also busted a casting on the Kluge at Mama's Sauce. Bad enough to render the ink fountain inoperable, so now we hand ink the disk. The mere speed of the ink roller somehow exerted pressure on the right hand advance gear and it literally flew against the wall! So, how should I now rate Kluge castings? Catch my drift? Kluge is also a derned nice press.

Ok, enough pontificating and on with the show and tell.

What I wish to illustrate here is NOT my artistic abilities, but rather the ability of Kelsey Excelsior presses to create fine, articulate work with consistency and dependability. I want Kelsey owners to understand that they posses a fine instrument capable of excellent work, and worth every dime of investment you put into them. They stood between me and the food stamp line for a year. I have nothing to gain personally by promoting them - and really, I don't consider myself promoting them as much as defending them. Jeesh, it's getting mushy in here.

Here we go. Story Time!

A long time a go there lived an out of work Optician who really was glad not to be Opticianing anymore. He longed for his early days when he used his hands for a living.His eyes fell upon an ad. Printing presses for sale. Two Kelseys and a cabinet of type. One photo cutter. Cheap. So, this out-of-work Optician purchased the whole outfit for 250 dollars and began doing something he hadn't done since 1974: set type, cut linoleum, and print.

Our hero began to ask folks if they'd like business cards. He showed them his own. "Wow", they said. "How did you get the letters to stand out like that?"

The out of work Optician thought "Hmm . . . they don't stand out - they sorta press inward."

"Oh, gosh. These are hand printed on some old Iron Handpresses!" said the Optician. And folks suddenly began to pay him 80 dollars for cards they could have spent 10 dollars on at the local Kinkos.

Soon, the nice guys from the American Amateur Press Association caught wind of what the Out of Work Optician was doing and began to help him out by getting him a nice Rouse Composition Stick and a pica stick. And a larger photo cutter. Eventually Mr. Bill of Dunedin gave the Optician a big 9x13 Kelsey Excelsior, cast in 1903, because it hurt his back to pump it..

The AAPA folks introduced the Out of Work Optician to Southern Engravers, who started to take pictures of the Out of Work Optician's pen and ink work and make zinc and magnesium dies from them.

Soon the Out of Work Optician and his sweet Wife joined American Craft Endeavours and came up with the name "Heirloom Press". And the Optician began to make Holiday cards, custom shopping bags for the Antique Dealers of Main Street, Dunedin, and business cards for the Antique Emporiums of Palm Harbor Fl. and the Flea Marketeers at Boot Ranch. Heirloom Press became the only commercial letterpress operation on Alternate 19, Pinellas County Florida.

Soon, the Out of Work Optician began to show at different shows locally, and sold everything he printed, with orders for more. People didn't know about Lettra Paper and deep dish debossing then, they just liked his work and the pretty colours. Black. Red. And sometimes, Blue. And more black. The Out of work Optican was pleased, and finally happy at his work, something that he had not enjoyed in 18 years as an Optician, which was one reason why he was Out of Work.

I would like to say that Heirloom Press lived happily ever after. But it didn't. All good things must come to an end. Bad things too. Living expenses were mounting faster than the Press was generating income because of the show frequency and elevating prices. The Out of Work Optician began to realise that he needed to float a loan to see Heirloom Press through long enough to build up a cash reserve to negotiate for a longer billing cycle. The bank wanted to see a full time job, so the Out of Work Optician, sadly. became a Working Optician, donned his chain mail and armour, and charged off into the violent world of Retail Optics, possibly never to return again.

One day during a lull in the Battle, the Optican happened upon a little Settlement. He noticed that they had a broken press and no printer. He inquired if they would like to have Heirloom Press, still in Palm Harbour? "Yes", they said, "And can we have YOU too?"

The kindly Optician took off his helmet and smiled. "Yes."

And to this day, the Optician still works the Press at the Settlement. And now, we hear, he is starting up his own press again. Has he left the violent world of Retail Optics? Is he Out of Work and Happy once again?

The End.

Here is my old Logo. Happy times in Palm Harbor!. Nice presses. Good people. Great rotisserie chicken (Ya Ya's Chicken!).

This was one of my Christmas Cards from "Christmas Under the Oaks", a show that was regularly held on the campus of St. Petersburg Community College. These samples were actually part of the "rejects" that I held on to for other uses. I sold all my exemplary copies. The centre design was hand tinted with Berol Prismacolour. I'll see if I have one left somewhere. I came across a few of these recently.

Here are some detail shots. The original artwork was fine stipple rendered from an 001 Rapidograph. The Kelsey 5x8 and 9x13 did an incredible job with inking the forme and delivering the ink to the rather hard card stock. No plugs anywhere. These dots are extremely fine. I would be hard pressed to do an equal job with any other letterpress.

More detail. The outside shell is green, the design inspired from the US Regular Postal issues of 1920 - 30. The "Cabin in the Woods" design inspired from a 1920's era Christmas Seal.

More closeup detail. I ran several hundred of these cards and sold them for a dollar apiece, not too shabby for home-made cards in 1992. Letterpress had not begun to "revive" and I had to do a lot of explaining what Heirloom Press was all about! But the difference between my work and the commercial counterparts were quickly observed in almost every case. No talk of deep deboss then, it was the design and fully saturated colours that attracted folks to my Letterpress!

Here is another design in the same shell. Note the centred registry! Registry, once set, was rock solid on all my Kelseys!

Here's the inside verse of the card you just saw above. Yes, I wrote it. The poem is called "The Greatest Gift". It's the truest thing I ever wrote.

Close up of the Monotype cap. This came from Bill Reiss at Quaker City. I just want to show the detail: again, perfect articulation. Every dot, every line, perfect. Excellent coverage. Paper was, I believe, Hammermill grey stock with darker fibres scattered throughout. I have long forgotten the name of the stock.

This is the verse inside the first card with the Cabin. Border font again from Quaker City. Verse is a traditional toast raised at Chownings Tavern, Williamsburg, back in the 1760's, when I was apprenticing.

This is a three colour prop card that was intended to be a QSL. Inspired after a French postage stamp from around 1900. This was a proof used to set the registry of the red and blue dies. So when you see the close-ups, know that's the reason why registry was off. I sold each and every copy. All I have are the registry proofs and the original acetate layered artwork. The black was the key, blue is the border, red are the roses . . . of course.

Detail of the face. It's my wife. And she drew the lips and chin. Again, the original artwork is stipple, my illustration media of choice, all using 01 and 001 Rapidograph.

Detail. The red is off, but once it fell into registry, it stayed there!

Detail. Note the blue border encroaching on the black. I could have trapped it by running the blue first, but I wanted registry. This same image was part of the registry setup for the blue as well as the red.

Detail. Note good registry of the blue and black. We were almost there on that run when this card was printed. The red is getting close, too! The pins were tilted a bit.

This was a little 2 x 1.5" Plexicut run on the 3x5. Plexiglass is actually engraved by large gravers made from key stock. The product looks very similar to a woodcut. Like wood engraving, you work white on black. But the cuts are deeper and wider.

A close-up. A square rigged Barkentine. Plexiglass mounted on end grain Maple, cut about one-eighth under type high. Kelseys are perfect for this sort of printing.

This is another Plexicut run on my 5x8 Excelsior.

A close-up of the detail around the footbridge. I recut this in Linoleum because the adhesive used to mount the plexiglass to the larger backing made raised spots that were a pain. The Linocut and detail is shown below.

This cut actually carved a niche for me in the Bay Area Art community. It was probably the only thing that I ever did that really made money, not that money was the object. It was a large Christmas Card. I grew up in Bavaria, and was influenced by the woodcuts of the 16th century. You may see some influence here. Two versions exist: one with hand tinted sky like this one, and one tinted by a blue registry linoblock. I prefer the hand tints, personally.

Bridge detail.

The perspective is distorted by the camera. I had to angle the print to avoid a lot of reflection. The paper is hard with a polished surface, but not glossy. I also printed these on handmade paper designed for woodcuts and linocuts. Those are all sold. My mom has one framed in her study. Yeah. Mommy.

I actually lived near a town similar to this picture. I think Garmisch Partenkirche was in my mind when I laid this block out.

Well, that's it. Show and tell and a little bed-time story. Hope you enjoyed it, but more than that: that if you are the proud possessor of a Kelsey Press, you can know you have a quality device that can stand toe to toe with the best of them if you learn how to use them correctly, and within their design limits - which I find not too limiting!!

Good Providence in all your endeavours!