30 October 2010

Letterpress at the Homestead

While I generally have done most of my printing at the Dawson Printshop in Halifax, I've also been slowly working towards setting myself up to print here at home. My studio space isn't huge, and I have to do downstairs to get water (the tap in the photo below is currently non-functional), and since it's on the second floor, I can't have anything too heavy. Eventually I hope to build an outbuilding of some sort with a concrete floor and then acquire a bigger press.

What I do have in here is a small proof press--the bed is cast aluminum, I think--that I was given by a friend. My first experiment of the day was to attempt to print a random assortment of mostly wood type (given to me by B's dad in Pennsylvania). It was a not-entirely-successful attempt, and though I ended up with some usable sheets of printed paper, they weren't quite what I was aiming for, and I can tell I'm going to be doing considerable trial and error with makeready to make this press work as well as I'd like.

The problems I was having are, I think, a combination of issues with the press itself (primarily the cylinder and the fact that I can only lock up type on one direction, which is not the direction of travel of the cylinder, so the pressure of printing works the type loose) and issues with the type (being old type, it's all different heights, and being a random assortment, it's extremely difficult to get it to lock up tightly). Still, it was a worthwhile experiment, and I am not giving up.

I also have a little 5x8" platen Kelsey parlour press. I've had it for a while and puttered about at getting it running (all it really needed was rust removal and lubrication). I finally got serious a month or two ago, and today got the packing in and some gauge pins on. I still need to adjust the platen some more, but I printed up a whole pile of little holiday candle images which will be cut and folded into gift tags. I might ink up in red tomorrow and do some more. I also have a Santa and some holly I'm going to combine with "to" and "from" in type and try printing those.

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