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.

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