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!


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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.