Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Who's That Patient?

These are actually game-piece cards used for training purposes.  I was asked to print some, and since I had the stock, a few border fonts, and an idle Press is the Devil's Play-tool, I thought "why not?" . . . and hence my latest piece of ephemera emanating from the Press of G. Johanson, Printer.  The obverse is the name of an optical product, digitally printed.  The reverse is a two colour rosette pattern and Text.  It reads "W.T.B., with a question mark centered beneath, set in 36p. Cooper Black from Quaker City Foundry, who now supplies Colonial Williamsburg.  They have been supplying me with foundry type since 1991.

Each deck contains the name of fifteen products, such as "Drill Mount", "No Glare", "Care Kit", & etc., with a title card that reads "Who's That Patient?" Total press run was forty-five.  Total with makeready impressions and registry set: 85.  Not a bad ratio!

The yellow pattern on the reverse was formed by nearly my whole font of 18pt Rosettes.  I custom blended the oil based process yellow with opaque white at around 15:1.  The pattern is very understated.  I just wanted to hint that it was there.  The white photo light really picks it up.

Here's a close-up.  The paper is a natural white linen finished 70 lb stock, which is quite hard.  Unlike Lettra and the open fibre papers, you really don't want to punch the impression much.  It shows on the backside, and you need that flat for the obverse print.

Another zoom-in shot.  I've had these Rosettes for years.  Actually, they are the Traditional English Rose borders that go back to the 17th Century.  Like me.

Nice thing about geometric patterns is that you can use them as a sort of grid with which to align your text, if you happen to be using it as a back-drop.

Here is a shot of my New Series Chandler & Price 8x12 motorised platen press.  Obviously, this is the black forme and print.

Just in case my client wants more . . . or I somehow mis-understood the order, which was taken down more or less in a rush - I decided to keep the pattern and text formes intact until I am certain I will not be needing it anytime soon.

A close-up of the Forme.  Those darker Rosettes are from my earliest sort from QC.  I've since added one more sort to build up the inventory.

This is the composing position in my Shop.  To the left are "tie-ups", formes on galley trays, and to the extreme right is my towering type cabinet.

Yup. Eighty-five total impressions.  The ol' brass counter don't lie.  Well . . . yes, it can. 

So, what's next on the docket?  Still thinking about doing a publication, gang!  But first I need to build up more inventory.  Like a 22" Challenge cutter!

So . . . that's it for now.  Top o' th' Season to Ye, and good Providence in all your Endeavours, Letterpress or Otherwise!


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting Ready for the Holidays!

Well, here we go, getting ready for the Holidays all over again. Today I thought I might start off by printing Christmas tags. These are larger tags, 4 x 1.5 inches, almost bookmark size. They can serve as a gift tag . . . or a micro-Christmas card. The perfect thing to slide under a windshield wiper or in a door jam or any place where you might wish to slip a discrete Christmas greeting. Or . . . use it for a large gift. I like to use this sort of thing to accompany a tip at a restaurant. These will be banded in quantities of ten.

The text is set in 30 point Chaucerian Black Letter. The Holly border font came from Quaker City. The Blackletter font is about fifty years old. Possibly older. Colour is process red, oil base, and process green, rubber base. Paper stock is 110 lb cotton rag (Crane Lettra.) You might be able to see from the photo how nicely this open fibre stock gives way under the pressure of the impression, leaving a nice debossed print. Ahh, classic Letterpress!

These are limited quantity. While these are being produced for friends and family, I will make the remainder available for purchase if anyone is interested. Just e-mail me at wd4nka@aim.com for pricing. I promise a hard to beat price for a two colour hand crafted Letterpress Item.

That's it for this installment. Short and sweet.

Good Providence in all your Letterpress Endeavours!


G. Johanson, Printer.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Finishing the Scratchboard

Here it is, finished up and "cleared out". The "clearing out" part meant scraping the white areas because ink dust from the stylii and the brush can actually tone the white areas in the same manner as graphite dust. What you see in the foreground are my makeshift tools: an Exacto knife (for clearing broader areas), a stick-pin in a brass optical reamer holder (use the needle for fine areas and for layout outlining - depending on the needle, the line produced can be so thin as to serve as a guide line which can be easily scribed over), and a Mabelene mascara brush to wipe away scribing dust, yet not so heavily so as to rub it into the white clay area. Yet another tool is a fine point Sharpie for corrections. I would have used my Rapidograph, but when cleaning it this morning I discovered the pin plunger in the venturi had broken somehow. It's now a casualty.

Here is a bit better view. Just to review, what I did today was finish out the flywheel, the ink disk and the drawers. This particular press is actually a Golding Pearl Old Series 5x8", using the three drawer storage table. My actual Pearl is larger, 7x11, and uses the two drawer table. The drawers are bigger. Those of you that follow my blog and know your Pearls might also note the roller hook journals were adapted from my 7x11. The 5x8 in the engraving that I photocopied had something different, and it wasn't clear just what I was seeing.

Yet a closer look at some detail. Here is where the "woodcut" nature of scratchboard or Clayboard really stands out. And to be truthful, my earliest background in graphics and pen and ink rendering as a kid of 7 or 8 years old was copying cuts from Duerer and engravings of Theodore De Bry. I loved how the hatching of lines could produce a building up of tonal values. Then later, I was introduced to a gentleman named Thomas Bewick, and a whole new world of white on black line scribing technique was introduced. All this to say, the natural wood-cut 'look' is most likely further enhanced by my personal technique, which is very wood-cut influenced.

Boy, I talk a lot, don't I?

Well, anyway, that's it. I may attempt to plate this, but I think I will hold off on that until the next experiment which I hope will be something that will eventually end up being printed on paper - via the iron Letterpress, of course!

BTW . . . I ain't no Bewick. :>)

Good Providence in all your Letterpress Endeavours!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Scratchboard Technique for Letterpress

I wanted to produce some very high contrast artwork for Letterpress use. I can't think of a higher contrast media than Scratchboard, or "Clayboard". This is a media that I used with my first Letterpress operation "Heirloom Press" in Palm Harbor, Florida. Back then, the images were shot using high contrast line film by Southern Engravers. These days, this sort of thing is scanned and processed as a vector image, then sent to a plater for a Letterpress die.

The above subject is a Golding Pearl Old Series No. 3. I used both the photocopy of a 19th century engraving and my own 1909 Pearl. Hence, some differences.

Clayboard, or Scratchboard, is traditionally a stiff paper or board [in my case, tempered masonite] layered with a white clay or chalk substance, then covered with an even coating of black India ink. The idea is to scratch through the ink to expose the white clay beneath. The result is essentially an engraving, which can very much take on the personality of a woodcut or wood engraving. The size of the above piece is 5x7 inches.

Here is a close-up. You can see that I am not yet finished, I have yet to do the ink disk and flywheel. Then, I'll "open" up the white background to create a black border. Now, this is my first crack at doing this in twenty-odd years, so the old hand-eye factor is a bit rusty. Critical evaluation tells me that this particular image may not be so well suited for plating, the lines on much of the shading are really too thin, and will not reproduce well as a vector. If I send a high pixel image (1200 dpi or higher) to be reproduced photographically it would be a trick to keep the very shallow lines from filling in. So my next attempt will be less "shaded" and more "woodcut" looking.

I will add that Clayboards can be touched up with pen and ink. Just as the ink is scratched away, corrections and additions can be made by re-applying ink, letting it dry, and doing a re-work of any given area. I will probably take a Rapidograph pen to some small parts of this piece.

I want to create a Kelmscott Press looking Book Plate. I think this technique can provide a good artboard resource.

That's it for this installment. And as always, Best of Providence in your Letterpress endeavours!

Monday, August 30, 2010

An Eleventh Hour Announcement/ RSVP Run.

One of the things I do is design work for a local ministry, the Central Florida Pregnancy Center, located in Deltona, Florida. Each year they sponsor a very nice, rather upscale fundraising banquet at the DeBary Golf and Country resort. It's been my pleasure to have been involved with this function, now going on three years.

This year, we decided that I not only design this year's banquet announcement, but print it as well, taking advantage of the virtues of Letterpress Typography. (Read: nice deboss into Crane Lettra . . . of course!)

The design we settled on this year called for something more dramatic than the relatively flowery, or sentimental designs of the past. This year they wanted an announcement that would announce like a trumpet. So we chose a two colour design featuring a central silhouette of a blazing torch, with rays extending from the centre of the card to the outer border.

The border and text are Van Sonn's process purple. The torch and rays background is an 8:1 mix of process yellow and opaque white. Since purple is compliment to yellow, the text fairly jumps.

These announcements resemble more a handbill than a typical announcement, owing to the dramatic design. It would actually make a great poster. One dynamic that feeds this is it's outsized dimensions: 5x8.5". It requires a 9x6 envelope.

Since it is, in fact, hand designed and hand printed, Q5 Studio and I consider each copy a limited edition collector piece. But I opted not to sign and number each of the 350 copies!

Accompanying these announcements are, of course, RSVP cards, as shown below.

Each impression was "double rolled" on our Chandler and Price New Series 8x12 platen press, which did a good job. I would not suggest a steady diet of large deep deboss work on a press of this size: a Kluge is better suited for this, if large areas are required for such high pressure work. However, the 8x12 is perfectly suitable for standard announcement sizes requiring debossed open fiber stock work.

Here is a close-up of the RSVP. Border registry was pretty tricky. But we managed to bring the rays almost exactly to the outer edge of the border. There were a couple drifts owing to minute finish cut size differences. I had less than 0.25mm tolerance to playwork with.

The 5x8 announcement required both double rolling and double striking in some cases. Whenever you have a die that carries lots of ink surface, especially broad, unbroken areas of colour, you have to look out for: even pressure and ink distribution. These types of designs can become very thirsty on a letterpress, and to keep an even layer of ink on each impression, the ink disk had to be reloaded every fifty impressions. Definitely could have used an ink fountain on this job. The RSVP cards were not nearly so thirsty, but the colour registry was twice as critical.

The paper used was Pearl White Crane Lettra, supplied to us by none other than Mama's Sauce Printery, Orlando. Thanks again Nick. And next time I do something bigger than standard greeting card or announcement card sizes that require some dig, brother, we'll use one of the Kluges down there, ok? :>)

All dies were 16g. magnesium, wood mounted by Owosso Graphics, who did an awful lot of work, put up with an awful lot of phone calls from yours truly, and got them to Q5 Studio & Pretty Good Letterpress awfully fast. You guys are the best.

Well, this is pretty much it for today's installment. I might add that the total run time for the project as a whole was about 16 hours, backing out the drying time and the time taken to do the layout and vector design work. Average impression speed factoring double rolling and double striking can run impression cycles up to over ten to fifteen seconds for each impression, as compared to the normal 3 seconds. This job definitely required hand feeding.

Good Providence in all your printing and Letterpress endeavours!


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coasters, Part 2: "The Run"

The finished product! Turned out better than we, the staff at Q5 dared hope! So, while we're all slapping each other on the back and lighting each others' celebratory Black & Milds (wood tipped for that extra dose of erudition), let's take a look at some of the distinctions that make Letterpress and Drink Coasters such as these unique. For one thing, most beer-mats and other pulpwood compressed fibre coasters are printed offset and die cut. Great for speed and maybe even keeping costs down to a dull roar, but the surface of the product remains boringly flat. And while the mass produced coasters may have four and five colour process, those colours tend to be less than striking. Oh, don't get me wrong, as a huge fan of Beer Coaster art, I've seen wonderful coaster designs, but very, very few that rise to the level of "striking".

With Letterpress Typography, there is a visceral contact of the metal plate against the printed surface, particularly with pulp coasters. This contact pressure leaves an emboss which is not only visible and touchable . . . but quite aesthetically pleasing to behold. Note the wood engraving which is the central image has recessed, or "sunk" into the coaster. The brown circle is debossed into the coaster as well, leaving the letters to "rise", or emboss. You don't get that with mass produced offset products. And for you other letterpress printers, note that the pressures needed to produce these effects with coaster stock is in no way unusual or dangerous to the press or dies. Coaster stock is fairly soft and gives. I never stress my presses!

Here's the other coaster. The coaster is correctly positioned straight up: the balloon is at an angle because it is in flight. The detail of the engraving is superb, all the way down to the weave of the basket of the gondola, the sandbags, and the pilot pointing down to the earth below. These dies are the excellent work of our partners in crime, Owosso Graphics, the exclusive plate and die makers for Q5.

Join us in viewing the final wrap-up video of "The Run". From makeready to stacking the finished product for overnight drying, this project took about eighteen consecutive hours to print. As you view the video, you will note that the impression is taken every second cycle of the press, that is, you will see the "clamshell" platen close twice for every one inked impression. This is called "Double Rolling", and is a technique used to provide superior spread of ink over large, unbroken areas of colour such as the colour ring of the coaster. This, effectively, doubles the printing time.

I might note at this time that the brown ink is of particular note. It was purchased in quarter pound tubes from the Kelsey Company in 1980. The ink is thirty years old! It was as fresh as if it were brand new. The colour was a deep, rich chocolate. I couldn't have asked for better. And rest assured, my future ink purchases will be in tubes!

A thirty year old tube of Kelsey Brown Oil Based Ink.

The music that you will hear in the background of the video is from Beirut (the band, not the Country!) - part of the music line-up in the Shop, including Ingrid Michelson, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Tallest Man on Earth, Band Marino, etc.

. . . we're an "Indie" shop, after all!

Well, that's about it for now. Hope you've enjoyed going over the Coaster Project half as much as we've enjoyed making them. And note that Q5 can make these for order as well. Interested parties should contact gary, chief cook & bottle-washer at: wd4nka@aim.com

Good Providence in all your Letterpress Endeavours!


--.- // .....

Coaster Makeready: the Video

I received a request to explain how I set up my Job Press to run pre-cut round coaster stock. I thought that probably the best way to explain it is by video, with soundtrack courtesy Iron & Wine.

The video is about seven and a half minutes long. What you will see is the preparation which consists of one sheet of hardboard, one sheet of bond paper for padding, another sheet serving as the Tympan sheet, and a wax paper overlay. The wax paper came from the kitchen. Any transparent sheet - or one that comes close to transparent - will do. We use this to help center the coaster stock to where the printed image falls on the Tympan, after an imprint is made on the wax paper. Once centered, the coaster is held in place, the wax paper removed, a circle is drawn around the coaster, gauge pins are set, and in our case the impression was spot on!

The video was shot on the second day of printing. The impression is taken from the black "key" die for the front side, or 'obverse' of the Balloon coaster. There will be more photos to come as I manage to squeeze time to post them. Stay tuned.

Good Providence in all your Letterpress endeavours!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coasting Around on Letterpress

An order for 900 coasters. Actually, I ordered one thousand. Figure about 10% for "waste", but that figure may be rather high. These are drink coasters for Deltona Alliance Church's College and Career Group. These drink coasters are 4 inches in diameter, 2.0 mm thick. As far as coasters go, they are the real deal, ordered from a national branding supplier.

Today was spent printing the reverse side, which is single colour, black. The font used is Bickham Script, with Celtic harps surrounding 358 degrees of circumference.

The image imprinted nicely, without registering any protestation from the press. If there is too much pressure, my 8 x 12 New Series C&P lets me know by the way it literally "feels". After you get to know a press, you can actually sense certain things. One telltale is rhythm. Another is subtle sound changes. Still another is might be a change in the dwell.

The pulp-board composition of these drink coasters make it ideal for debossing without heavy driving. I do not like to "drive" my forms, and I refuse to punch my metal type. But on this surface, deboss comes naturally. The photo above has the light held aslant the coaster's surface to enhance the overall effect photographically. By the way, just about all those images you see on Letterpress sites do the same thing. The depth of shadow can really play the deboss depth depending on the angle of the light to the surface. Just thought I'd toss that in there. When you actually hold the coaster and look at it critically, you see a nice image, conservative depth, and good, sharp detail. You do not get the "Grand Canyon".

Here is a full-face view of the coaster reverse. One of the genres of Letterpress Printing that Q5 Studio & Pretty Good Letterpress would like to investigate is "Branding" with various coasters. We can obtain three different thicknesses, 1.0mm (thin), 1.5mm (medium) and 2.0mm (thick), both round and square (with rounded corners), in two different diameters, four inches being the widest.

One use for these coasters that I have seen more and more lately is for Wedding Announcements! Just think . . . . bring your own coaster to the reception! How thoughtful. But a very creative idea.

I will be posting more as we proceed with the obverse (front side) printing, which will be a two colour affair.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Hand Sown, Home Grown"

Keeping with what appears to be the tradition of Q5 Studio and Pretty Good Letterpress, once again we find ourselves in need of furnishing . . . and short on cash. This go 'round, it's a composing table. Now, I'm pretty much like the next guy, willing to make do with what I have. But sharing a table with the imposing stone, computer terminal, and other errata pretty well came to a head when I once again bumped my composition stick and sent type a'flying. So we broke down and ran off to the local hardware "box" store, grabbed my jig saw and something to serve as a straight edge and built this tilt-top composition table on the fly. I thought I might share my results. Perhaps it may help to encourage my fellow cash-challenged Letterpress ops.

Since I use primarily 2/3 cases, it wasn't necessary to build a large table. A two-foot wide podium would do, really. Because the rear of the table is a foot higher than the front, I managed nearly a 45 degree inverse angle, creating a table length, front to back, of 18 inches. Since the slanted table surface itself is two feet, this left plenty of room to stack two trays or one tray and copy.

Except for the finishing work, staining, etc., this is the fully constructed item. The riser on the back is to steepen the angle of the top tray when two are stacked. The very front of the table comes to approx. 38 inches. Perfect to set a bar-stool in front of. The space below will have shelving added, perhaps to serve either for galley storage or paper storage. It is wide enough to actually make this into a type cabinet, but frankly I already have one that tops 6 feet. What I need is just plain old fashioned cabinet storage.

Here she is with trays on her. The top tray is very stable. Since the table will be against one of the shop walls, there will be zero chance of anything falling . . . unless I do something stupid which actually isn't all that beyond me.

Here it is, installed. I've got a plank in front of the lower storage area that will eventually serve as a set of doors. I installed it next to my behemoth type cabinet. Now, I did not build that type cabinet, it was built by a Lawyer up in Ormond Beach to house 18 2/3 cabinets, double spaced. It is capable of being modified to hold 36 trays in tight formation. But right now I am taking advantage of the open spaces between the trays for added storage (things that will not fall into the type and cause damage.) What are those drawings? Well . . . I used to work with some up and coming Manga artists some years back. Periodically one or another would grab a board and do a sketch for me. Some of these are very special gifts from some very sweet and talented young artists. One of them, Jennifer, I believe is now published.

Here is another view showing my over-abundant furniture cabinet setting atop more furniture that fills every single one of those drawers! I might add that every one of these cases are Thompson Cases, ordered from Kelsey. Most of the cases had Kelsey Catalogue type in them, double laid, but I added my M&H foundry Caslon collection and my Quaker City Caslon fonts. I still have specialty fonts waiting for a cabinet to put them in. These are in home-made trays, all surprisingly well constructed. One set includes several point sizes of Chaucerian Titling, a dead ringer for the reconstructed Gutenberg fonts such as what was used in the BBC special "The Machine that Made Us". I have a few pieces of that particular font courtesy the kind folks of the American Amateur Press Association, during their National Meeting at Tampa University a couple years back ( see archives on this blog.)

Ahh yes, more non-commercial homebrew cabinets. These I had from my days at Heirloom Press in Palm Harbor, Florida back in the very early 1990s. The brown cabinet setting atop the blue one is my slug cabinet. The blue cabinet holds my border fonts and smaller specialty fonts, leads and also serves to hold smaller galley trays. It dates back to the 1930s, and came with a small hobby shop that I bought out sometime 1991.

A little bit more home-brewing with what's available: Wine Crate wall cabinets. Heh, even Ikea doesn't have these! Great for holding . . . whatever! See how many oddball things you can identify that I've got stuffed in these "wall cabinets".

Here's a closer look at some of those Manga sketches. The center was a going away present from the artist.

Ok. I'm straying from the subject. Sorry.

Here's another Manga sample. It amazes me how the different artists render a wholly different "take", which makes their work wholly different. One artist is very oriental in approach. This gal here is wholly different, assuming an almost Euro-medieval personality. Of course, the German helps lend to that feel. I didn't think the spelling/grammar was all that important: it can be edited. Actually, I would love to do this card on Letterpress! Hmm . . . Manga Letterpress. I would need to secure the artist's permission, however. Wherever she is.

Zelda of Hyrule is totally different even still. This was sketched on a Post-it note. I was totally taken by it, so I asked if I could have a copy. She gave me the post-it note as a gift. I believe she is now also in print.

Well, I've wandered a bit from the original subject, as usual. From home-brew print shop furniture to my collection of my "closet" interest in Manga art and some of my association with some of the earlier artists of years ago. I now have room to display them! Golly, they've been stored for a long time, it's a shame. And, as far as Letterpress goes, Manga is a perfect high contrast art form for reproduction! Think I'll try to locate some Manga artists that might be interested in producing some Cards . . . or smaller books. You never know.

If anyone is interested in doing what I did, building a comp table, I can give you some measures and detail shots. It's really not all that hard. Sure, it's not a high quality piece of furniture - but it does the job.

Good Providence in all your endeavours!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Packaging

I thought I might share something that I started doing with my packaging for personal delivery. That means, packages that I don't mail, I hand deliver. You might have already picked up on my weakness for Philatelic things. Why not use old style wrapper and mailing cord? With the addition of my new adhesive labels which are patterned after the USPO Postcard Stamps of the latter 1870s and early 1880s, there's quite a bit of nostalgia here . . . although, admittedly, if you can remember these sort of things, you may also remember World War One . . . .

There's something about brown wrapper parcels. I dunno, maybe it's because back in my much younger days working for a printer in South Orlando, we actually wrapped our jobs like this. We did some pretty high quality work - so maybe in my small mind it speaks "quality". Here you can see the Peacock Blue label. Hmm . . . wish I had an old style hand canceler with the flag and wavy bars that was common in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century.

Here's a close-up of one of the Labels. Owosso Graphics did a great job holding the fine hatch lines. I have another label similar to this, only a filigree oval border. Thanks, Owosso! Next label die will be ordered in copper. Notice the caveat at the bottom, lest somebody think I was up to something. You FBI guys can rest easy. Real artists and craftsmen never have to resort to counterfeiting. Labels only!!

That's it for now. BTW, thanks for the interest in the Horn Books! There will be a new batch available soon.

Good Providence in all your endeavours!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hornbook FAQs

Why do you make Hornbooks? Largely because I'm a history student. Hornbooks represent America's first school text "books". Long before the Battledore, the Chap Book, the McGuffy Reader - there was the Hornbook. The tradition came over from Old World Europe, where these devices date to the middle ages. They represent Old World artisan-ship from a time when things were made by hand, one at a time.

Are your Hornbooks for sale? Yes. While usually a "batch", or production run is the result of an order or several orders, there are usually some left over which are available. If enough orders are requested, I'll double the batch. More than likely sixteen would be about the maximum number that I can produce at one "run". That would represent about two weeks production time.

All Hornbooks are priced at $35.00 plus $5.35 for shipping. (Price updated 11.3.2013 due to increase cost and Flat Rate shipping.)

Orders can be placed by posting an e-mail to me at: paperwrenpress@gmail.com

Pmt can be made by personal check or PayPal. Please note that PayPal incurs a $2.00 charge for use of their service, thus total for Hornbook and shipping via PayPal is $42.35

(update 9/27/2014: Coming Soon! look for Hornbooks to be offered from Paper Wren Press' Etsy Shop!  These will be linked from our website at www.paperwrenpress.com )

Are your Hornbooks a specific copy of any particular specimen? No. The local printers of the 1600's or 1700s - printers did not proliferate in the Americas until the very early 1700s - followed a familiar Old World pattern which was traditionally used. It was more of a format with variations unique to each printing house, and dependend upon what "founts" and cuts were available to them. Almost all followed the tradition of the "Criss Cross", the "Cross Row" of the lower case alphabet. Most started the lower case row with the cross and upper case A, followed by the lower case alphabet. Nearly all utilised the Exorcism ('in the Name of the Father . . .' ) and the Lord's Prayer. The fonts used, point size, the types of crosses or the number of crosses varied. Some used borders, some did not. If I were a printer in 1730, and I was asked to print a few Hornbook pages for the local artisans cutting the wood and heating the horn, these are what I would have produced, proudly displaying the brand new Caslon faces from England. I probably would not have had a superabundance of type available, so I would have distributed the type back into their cases when I was done. So the next time I was asked, the Hornbook would have looked a little different.

Photos of originals show a sort of frame around the printed sheet on most Hornbooks. Why is that? Yes, and you'll notice mine do not. Those old Hornbooks actually used animal horn as a protective covering for the printed page affixed to the board. This thin piece of heated, smoothed and cut horn was held in place by what was usually a lead frame. There are two issues here: the lead and the horn. You might note from the photos on line and in books that the horn is usually missing. Or very deteriorated. Horn is organic and is subject to rot. I chose not to use a frame simply because of the modern day fear of lead. Especially since these Hornbooks may - as their predecessors - find their way into the hands of kids. Museum or private gift shops may have a problem with the use of lead, too. I opted instead to use another form of protection which, though not as ancient as cut horn, still goes back about a century and a half: decoupage. There are several techniques used for this process, originally layers of varnish which were dried and sanded. I use a water based sealant, each thin layer polished with steel wool, the last coating cured for a few days, then sanded and polished by steel wool. The water based sealant does not adversely affect the paper, and is extremely durable. This last batch utilised copper tacks to hold the paper in place. There are examples of Hornbooks that do not use frames, thus the use of frames to hold the horn was not universal. Personally, I think the Hornbook looks better without a frame, which tended too be too large for the diminutive size of the book itself.

Who buys Hornbooks these days? So far, it's been a matter of letting folks know what a Hornbook even is! What used to be a ubiquitous part of childhood has now slipped from social memory. So far, Museums, folks who like Colonial and Early American accents for their homes, Home Schoolers and some private schools have been interested or have placed orders. Although, admittedly, I don't ask. But the niche market I am aiming at would be the above. The gift shop attached to the Oldest Schoolhouse in Old St. Augustine, Fl. has expressed interest in carrying these Hornbooks. Thus, as folks become aware of the Hornbook, I suspect more folks may wish to have one. The chalk-and-slate board of your great grandfather would have been the "Hornbook" of it's era. Both carry the same early schooltime aura and legacy. Heh, just thinking about it, I used a slate and chalk pencils made by Pelikan when I went to primary school in Germany in the middle 1960s! The slate was ruled on one side, quadrille on the other. That's where I got my history-streak!

Hope this page has been a little more point specific and helpful.

Good Providence in all your endeavours!


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hornbook Production Part 3: Finishing the Process

One popular wood used in the period of the American Revolution was cherry. Clear Pine actually bears a grain resemblance to cherry, so cherry stain seems appropriate. The eight blanks stained very nicely. Funny how that even though these blanks were cut from the same cut of Clear Pine, each one looks different from the other. There are no two Hornbooks alike.

Just like soldiers at attention. Took me the better part of Tuesday Afternoon to get through all these, and another few hours to sufficiently dry. One thing that I noticed that I thought was odd: usually, stain raises the grain fibre. This is why a lot of the New England cabinet makers used to wet down their wood, then sand. The carpenter that I learnt from called it the "hackle". Raised grain is a raised Hackle. These blanks had no raised Hackle after staining. Thus, re-sanding after the staining was minimal.

Very satin smooth. It pays to work with good woods. The stain is darker on the end-cuts, naturally, owing to stain absorption.

The next step is to apply the copper nails and printed text. Now, here is where I depart from the original Hornbooks by necessity: the original Colonial Hornbooks used a Leaden Frame and a small sheet of Horn for the covering. I could have done the leaden framing, BUT . . . I am offering these Hornbooks to Homeschoolers, Public Schools and Museum / Private gift shops. I do not wish to run afoul the FDA or the State of Florida, or expose any of my clients to any potential health risk related litigation. So, the Lead Framing is omitted in favour of a non toxic water based sealant that applies like Envirotex, but must be painstakingly applied in thin layers, sanded, re-coated, sanded, re-coated, at least six, and as much as ten layers. This process is called Decoupage, and is in itself a process that goes back about a century and a quarter.

This is the Decoupaging process line, taking up a part of my kitchen. The front, top, bottom, and sides of both paddle and handle are coated and dried for half an hour. After the half hour, the layer is steel wooled or sanded. After the coatings are built up to my satisfaction, they are wet sanded, and polished with steel wool. The whole process can take about three days, unless you dedicate an entire day, sun-up to sun-down, then it might take two days.

Here is a closeup shot of the "cross row", showing part of the Lower Case and Upper Case rows. The paper is behaving, and actually starting to appear like "skinside" Vellum! The Sealant is giving the paper an almost translucent effect and "floating" the printed images similarly to how pounced vellum gives an almost floating effect to gall-iron based inks.

Here is a close-up of the Scottish Thistle Border motif. This font came from Quaker City Type Foundry of Honeybrook Pennsylvania. Bill Reiss has awesome turnaround and a great selection of classical figures and ornaments. Another foundry that I use is the foundry that - according to the old Hall of Printing that used to be at the Smithsonian - supplied both them AND Colonial Williamsburg, M&H Foundry, San Fransisco, California. Much of my "house-founts" come from both M&H and Quaker City. The tall "s" that you see is an M&H casting.

There you go. Tall 's' figures. I secretly wish that I could use them in all my publications, but the 21st Century eye gets tripped up by them. In fact, so did the 20th and the 19th century eye, they dropped this convention right around 1800. This was also the time that Caslon began to fall out of favour with American Printers, being substituted with the less delicate, bolder Bodoni faces.

Well, I am now about one week into these Hornbooks, the last remaining step of the process is the wet sanding, and polishing.  More to come.

Stay tuned.