Monday, November 24, 2008


It was a busy weekend and somewhat bittersweet. My old C&P 8x12 OS (1893) press was removed from the shop and hauled away to make room for my new C&P 10x15 OS (1892) that was brought into the shop the same day. I'm very happy to have gotten this press and it will be much more useful but the 8x12 was my first press, I spent a lot of time restoring it, and I liked it quite a bit. Sigh.

The weekend began Saturday morning (of course) when I drove with my friend Alan to northern New Jersey to pick up some presses and other print shop items. Alan does what he calls Letterpress Rescue as part of the Excelsior Press Museum. People cleaning out their parent's house or closing down their print shop often find Alan through his website and ask him if he can come and get their presses and equipment. Sometimes selling the items isn't an option for people and presses are often in the basement or even the attic where scrap metal dealers seldom venture. Instead of them going to the smelter, Alan adds the items to the museum shop or sells them so they will continue their useful lives and help fund the museum.

Thus we found ourselves hauling one C&P 8x12 NS out of a basement and a second out of the garage. In a shed there was some type in cases and about eight 5 gallon buckets of Linotype slugs, leads, and misc. heavy metal. Here's a bit of news: lead is heavy. Both presses had Kimble variable speed motors and were complete and in good shape, though in need of cleaning. Our adventure took the better part of the day and we got home (Alan to Baptistown and me to Milford, NJ) about 5:30.

Sunday morning we were off to the house of Alan's former print shop teacher in east-central New Jersey, a very nice man now 80 years old. Over the course of several weeks we had removed from his basement a C&P 10x15 OS, the press I am trading up to, two 1940/50's vintage Mutilith offset presses, a NuArc platemaker, Challenge paper cutter, type in cases and all the other detritus of a print shop. There was another Challenge electric cutter already in the garage along with a brand-new in the box Spinnet paper drill. Because we had prepped all this previously and had a rental truck with a hydraulic lift gate it didn't take us long to load up.
The next stop was my house where my 8x12 press was waiting on my back porch. On the truck it went and off came the 10x15 and right into the living room. Then back to Alan's shop where we unloaded everything and put it with the haul from Saturday. All in all it was a busy weekend. I plan to begin cleaning my new press this weekend and will hopefully have it running and printing by Christmas. I'm very anxious to move from setting up the shop to printing. The press is very nice and came with 6 chases, a Kimble variable speed motor, and a long and interesting history of job work.

The first photo below shows the two NS presses in front of my OS press in the barn where Alan has his shop, all lined up like soldiers on parade. The second shows a closeup of my old press. The third shows the main frame of my new press after we got it into the living room, otherwise know as my shop. As you can see, it needs some cleaning.

Let me mention that the three 8x12 presses are for sale. I can give you particulars or you can write to Alan directly about specifics and prices through the Excelsior Press website, a link to which is at the right of this blog page. In addition, the two Multilith presses are for sale, one is for parts but the other is complete and running and there are many, many (did I say many?) accessories, blankets, an extra brand-new motor, etc. that go with it. Alan's teacher used it regularly and had large stocks of all needed supplies. Also, both Challenge paper cutters are for sale, they're complete and nice. The paper drill and platemaker with several boxes of new carbon rods and vacuum pump are also for sale. As for me, I'm getting some type, cuts, and ornaments.

So it's not so de-pressing after all, eh?

Soldiers On Parade

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot

New Kid On The Block

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rack 'Em Up

I was fortunate in getting several chases with my new 10x15 press. I kept my chases for the 8x12 in the old imposing table I have but the 10x15 chases are too big. So I decided to make a chase rack patterned after a few I've seen in 19th century photos and the ATF catalog from 1908. I didn't have much time this week for other projects but I was able to stay after work for an hour or so on Wednesday and knock out the rack you see in the photo.

It's made out of poplar and though intended for my 10x15 chases will also hold smaller or larger chases up to 12x18. The chase in the photo is for the 10x15. I chose poplar because it's light in weight but harder and stronger than pine and mills very well. It was a quick, easy project but very satisfying and I can't wait until the press is set up, the chases are in the rack, and I can start printing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Composed And Standing Ready

Here is the finished, in every sense, composing stand after the third and final coat of shellac. You can see that I've cleaned the three front faces of the base cabinet and these match the top rather closely. I'm not going for an exact match but just don't want a glaring disparity. I'm still going to clean the inside areas to the left and right of the cases and the end panel. Once I do that they will look like the front faces and everything will be reasonably the same.

Besides the two ends of the bank there is a similar support in the center. Original base cabinets with these tops usually did not have flat tops and the banks were attached directly. I didn't want to remove the flat top so made the bank to fit over it. It rests on two cleats on the inside of the two end pieces. The top was no longer exactly flat after all these years so for the center support, where it rests on the top, I relieved the bottom so it only touches the back and front of the flat top. This prevents any rocking and the bank sits nice and flat on the top of the base.

Since this photo was taken, with my borrowed camera, I've put a lead and slug case at the upper left and started cutting more leads and slugs. I have another case in the main press room (otherwise known as the living room) but didn't want to rob Peter to pay Paul if I didn't have to.

Monday, November 3, 2008

E Pluribus Unum

The many separate parts you see in the photos, once joined back together in a perfect harmony of one, will be my newly acquired Chandler and Price 10 x 15 OS press, built in 1892. This is in fact a trade-in on my current C&P 8 x 12 of the same vintage. The 10 x 15 belonged to my friend Alan's former print shop teacher and since Alan's shop has a 10 x 15 but not a restored 8 x 12 we've swapped.

I had thought some day I would want a larger press so I could print larger forms and feel more comfortable doing some die cutting. But I had not intended to go out actively looking for some time as I'm still getting started on the 8 x 12. But this was a perfect opportunity and I'm very glad it came along. I'm very excited about getting it up and running. The only thing I'll need is new rollers as the original composition rollers are no longer any good.

You don't see the main body of the press because it's still sitting in the garage near the basement we hauled the press out of. Alan took some photos of this effort that he's going to post on his Excelsior Press website. But I'm getting started cleaning these parts so that in a few weeks when we get the rest of the contents of the shop with a big truck I'll have gotten a head start. Last night I managed to get the flywheel off the drive shaft. It was stuck pretty good but by drilling out the key I was able to do it. I also cleaned the feed and delivery boards and gave them a coat of shellac.

Shellac is a great finish. The original boards were finished with it and I used a rag and denatured alcohol to rub them down thereby removing the dirt from the finish while leaving the aged patina. A couple of coats of new shellac will make them as good as new as far as use goes but they will still have all the character of age. Shellac is made from the secretions of the Lac beetle in Southeast Asia (no, I'm not kidding) and has been a common furniture finish for a few hundred years. Usually amber in color (thus "orange" shellac) it is dissolved in denatured alcohol which acts as a vehicle to carry the pigment to the surface. Because the alcohol evaporates quickly you can often sand and re-coat with a half hour. It's an easy finish to use and repair. You can still get it at paint stores and even Home Depot.