Burning Bright At Small Fires Press

New Orleans is the home of soulful jazz, the po’ boy sandwich, and a famous pirate or two.  And sure, it is frequently steamy-hot, but that is the chosen locale of the letterpress print shop Small Fires Press. Husband and wife team Friedrich Kerksieck and Gabrielle Trimm took to New Orleans like true natives and have set off some major sparks in the growing letterpress community of The Big Easy. Step into their workspace and you may smell something unexpected blending with the usual print shop aromas…is that pie? To celebrate their one year anniversary of printing and bookbinding, Friedrich and Gabrielle gave us a peek inside their studio – take a look.

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Bienvenue En Louisiane Our studio is in the front parlor of our New Orleans shotgun style home. The windows and natural light are a necessity and favorite feature. We have overhead lighting, but mostly use a 3-bulb floor lamp by the press and let the sun do the rest. We keep it simple to maximize space, but keep a California job case drawer on the wall to house little figurines and some framed art for inspiration. The red handles on the paper cutter and guillotine serve as ‘pops of color.’

Streetside Studio Our building is a pink double shotgun in the Saint Roch neighborhood in New Orleans. The studio is set up in the first room and we live in the other three rooms of the house. The studio is 14×13’.

Better Than Gumbo Our most valuable tool has gotta be our Vandercook #4, of course.

Dressing the Press We’ve been using a 13” X 19” standard Boxcar base I got when I purchased the press five years ago. I generally stick to the KF95 plate.

Fluorescent Favorites I bought a set of blue, magenta & yellow neons not too long ago. I don’t usually get much call for them in the job work I do for clients, but whenever I’m doing a creative project I usually go right to those cans.

Green For Clean I put a little bit of vegetable shortening to loosen the ink up & use some shop rags to wipe everything down with. Then I go over everything again with some simple green or mineral spirits depending on what color is going on the press next.

Loose Bits I don’t have any pied type any more – the small bit that was left got abandoned when we moved from Memphis last year, but I’ve still got a few drawers of type that need to get reorganized.

Less Is Better I’ve found that I work better with a little less tabletop space. I tend to fill up what ever is available and am bad about putting projects away unless I have to. In Memphis I had a folding table set up in the middle of the space to work off of and the top of my flat files collected odds and ends. Now I’ve ditched the table 95% of the time & just work off the flat file. Now there’s a lot less to knock over or walk around.

Studio Cats Working from home is convenient and comfortable. It’s nice to be able to do some slow cooking or pie baking in the kitchen while there’s ink on the press. We can trade off on household tasks and printing tasks when needed and everything is all in one place. Our two cats keep good company. Bip has a bed right at the end of the press & he sleeps there while I’m printing away.

Collaborate For Inspiration I think that the very best practice is to print every day. Nothing will keep you fresher. That, and always be curious – especially with visiting other presses and print spaces. I love that in New Orleans there are so many new and established printers. My favorite thing to do is to go print a project with someone else and see how they work – what they do for makeready & the rest of the process. Everyone does things a little differently and you can always pick up a good tip or two.

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Our thanks to Gabrielle and Friedrich at Small Fires Press for the southern hospitality; continue to let the good times roll!

Detroit Ink: A Look At Signal Return Press

Settled near the churning Detroit River and a stone’s throw away from Joe Louis Arena and the DIA, Michigan’s own community print shop, Signal Return, thrives in the Eastern Market area. The warm, inviting shop holds an exemplary showcase of helpful staff, the milling buzz of presses running, and boasts a hypnotic clink of rollers working. Lynne Avadenka shows us around this letterpress abode to reveal a gem in the Motor City.

Detroit, Michigan's own letterpress community printshop, Signal Returns.

THE PRESSES We currently have 8 working presses: a Kelsey Treadle press; a Vandercook 325G; a Triumf Proof Press; a Poco Proof Press; a Nolan Proof Press; and three C&P Tabletop presses.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP  3,000 square feet.

TYPE OF SHOP We are a community shop that offers open studio hours to anyone who has taken 2 classes with us. Currently, we have over 40 people qualified to participate in our open studio. We also have a retail area where we sell prints, cards and ephemera, much of it by artists who’ve learned to print in our shop.

THE LOCATION Our building is located in Detroit’s Eastern Market so on market days we have access to really fresh fruits, vegetables and local products. We are also lucky to be situated within walking distance to some great local eateries; Supinos serves up one of the best pizzas around, Russell Street Deli is a shop favorite for lunch and Germack coffee keeps us awake during those long days in the shop. Our shop is an important part of the expansion of vitality in this historic area.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP Our prized possession is our collection of type. Although we had a pretty good base to start with, earlier this year we got a very large, generous donation of type in excellent condition. This included 2 full cabinets of wood type and 8 cabinets of metal type.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL
 We couldn’t think of anything for this one…I think it’s different for everyone who uses the shop.

FAVORITE INK We hand mix Von Son oil-based ink and provide use of it to all of our open studio members. If I had to say a favorite color, I would say what we see most coming out of the shop is red. People love to make red letterpress prints!

SOLVENT OF CHOICE We use odorless mineral spirits—the wetter the rag, the faster the clean up!

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We’ve been open for two years, focusing on hand set wood and metal type. A Boxcar base is at the top of our wish list!

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH We normally work with inexpensive rags from the local hardware store but ask that people donate old clothes to help out with rag costs for the shop. You wouldn’t think it, but we have to be careful to specify “no underwear!”

FLOORING MATERIAL We have original concrete floors

FLOOR PLAN TIPS Rubber mats on the floor, in front of presses, help legs and backs during long days of printing.

PIED TYPE No, none yet.



ORGANIZATION ADVICE Volunteers! It’s hard to keep on top of everyone who comes in for group workshops so when things start to get crazy around the shop, we pick up a few pizzas and have some lovely people come in and help us sort type and spacing material.



PRINTING ADVICE Everything always takes longer than you think.

Industrial workspace of Signal Returns, a Michigan-based community printshop.

Two Printshops, Only One James Jareb

Situated in the roaming, wild hills of Wyoming, lie not one, but two meticulously kept letterpress print shops of the cheerful and ever-ready James Jareb. From his personal Laramie, Wyoming studio to his printing abode at the Truman State Univerity, master craftsmanship and creative know-how flow effortlessly through both. Taking a short break from his print runs, James sat down with us to give us a tour of his gorgeous collection of presses and printed goodies.

James Jareb in front of his beautiful R. Hoe hand press.
Lettepressed fine detailed pieces from James Jareb. Table-top and floor platen presses.

THE PRESSES  Ettan etching press (bed size 18 x 36), Fuchs and Lang litho press (bed size 28 x 40), Three copy presses, Daughaday Card press, Improved 3 x 5, Kelsey Model X (6 x 10), C&P old style (8 x 12), and a R. Hoe hand press, bed size (22 x 30).

TYPE OF SHOP The Laramie shop is shared with three artist friends; that space houses the Ettan, the Fuchs and Lang, and the R. Hoe. The other is a small section of the printmaking facility at Truman State University, where I teach courses in all kinds of techniques.

THE LOCATION The shop at Truman State is a converted classroom, on the second floor. Sure hope the presses don’t fall through! My real home is in a shop located in Laramie, Wyoming, and is housed in what used to be the town’s high school, c. 1930. Both areas have good natural lighting, and adequate artificial lights.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP 16 x 20 feet (for the letterpress action each at both the Truman State University and Laramie locations).

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP Probably the C&P. I have had it the longest; she’s my girlfriend.  Well, either that press is my favorite piece of equipment, or it is the little paperback dictionary that I keep close by.

FAVORITE INK Because I was first trained in traditional printmaking techniques (and continue to make lithos, woodcuts, etc.) my ink knowledge is somewhat narrow in focus, using oil-based relief inks from Daniel Smith and Graphic Chemical Ink Co.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE  For clean up of metal and wood type, I use regular mineral spirits and a red rag (we have a contract with the local linen service — they pick up our dirty rags for recycling).  For the press and ink slab and photopolymer plates I use vegetable oil […] followed by 409 to degrease. Stubborn ink or grease? Out comes the Everclear! Wow! That stuff will strip anything.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE When I print with photopolymer plates, I use the Boxcar Deep Relief plate system, first trying them about three years ago. I am still amazed at the great range of elements that can be brought out of the process: Print print print !!!

OIL OF CHOICE  I lube the presses with 20w-50 oil, or multipurpose red grease where needed.

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH Red rag for metal and wood type. Scott brand Blue Shop towels for the press and ink slab.

FLOORING MATERIAL Concrete

FLOOR PLAN TIPS  I have planned and implemented and assisted in the layout of many shops across the U.S.  In general, keep spaces tight where you need to do repetitious movement, but also have easy access to some open, clean, “breathing room”.  That’s where I hang the motorized mirror ball from the ceiling: you never know when a person might need a spontaneous disco party.

PIED TYPE  Oh, I did have, a couple years back, a large amount of pied type in the shop, as I was able to get a good deal on the remnants of type from the Columbia Journal in Missouri. Unfortunately, it had been dumped into black plastic trash bags. It took almost a year and a half to sort the usable from the rest. I finally got that accomplished, and still have some really nice, though a bit worn, selections. The rest — all 672 pounds — went to the foundry of Sky Shipley, before he moved to Arizona.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE A clean shop is a happy shop. Many years ago I read about Henry Ford and the notion of time and motion studies, which I apply to any shop I am asked to have a hand in designing.

PRINTING ADVICE Everything has its place and needs to be put back in its place. Machines, just like the human body, will perform only as well as they are taken care of. Go Print!

Fine letterpress pieces including posters and CTF Iron Hand press pieces.

Of & Type and Men

Trekking northwestward from the the sprawling Milan palazzos rests the quiet & serene city of Varese, Italy, surrounded by rolling fields of the awe-inspiring Italian countryside. Taking a closer look into the city, you’ll find the vibrant camaraderie that flows from the & Type print shop. Claudio, Gabriele, and Simone, the founders of & Type, opened their doors for us, letting in the passionate and experimental energy that engulfs their letterpress and printing abode. & Type is a letterpress print shop based in Varese, Italy

THE PRESSES We have four machines: 2 presses made by Saroglia (from Torino, Italy) 70×100 cm and 40×60 cm, 1 small manual press 23×32 cm, and 1 Nebiolo Ideale “a battuta” (as we say in Italian for “beat”), but this last one doesn’t work.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP 70 square meters… almost 750 square feet.

TYPE OF SHOP We are just a laboratory, but often it is enjoyed with friends, interested people, or guests that join us for different purposes like projects, workshops, or just for type love sharing.

THE LOCATION Near the Liberty train station (in Varese, Italy).

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP Our machines, wood type, typography, lettering books, and our friendship. We are surrounded by several posters, books, and music that are good sources of ideas. Last month, a beautiful puppy arrived, which is such great company!

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE We have three printers. We don’t share the place with other people, but anyone is admitted to print with us or just to come enjoy with us. We prefer to be considered as only one mind because & Type is the mixing of the knowledge about letterforms of all of us.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL Pencil & hands.

FAVORITE INK Well, we always take time to figure out what color is most suitable for our purposes. We like to use typographic ink penetration, or rapid drying, that helps us to see details in our linocut matrix. Currently we enjoy finding and trying particular colors like metallic, fluorescent and glowing ones.  In our country, it is not easy to find all the colors we want; some of them are prohibited because of their chemical compositions.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE White spirit (turpentine), self-cleaning mechanisms, old towels and of course elbow grease. If you have some good cotton sheets, it’s not hard work.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We mostly use furniture linoleum used by gauges, but we also like to work with wood, MDF and different kinds of rubber. If it comes up that we find some interesting texture materials, we love to try it.

OIL OF CHOICE For gearboxes: synthetic oil; for the lubrication of open parts: UV-40 or oil for sewing machines.

WHAT TYPE OF RAG DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH Towels, sheets, pants, T-shirts, shirts – everything that otherwise should be in rubbish.

FLOORING MATERIAL Industrial concrete flooring.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS Work in an illuminated space.

PIED TYPE None.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE Clean up after printing and have a relaxation area with some comfortable chairs.

PRINTING ADVICE To center the matrix, we used to draw the matrixes’ shapes on the print area with transparent paper, so we would know where to put every different color for posters. Custom engraving, friendly puppy mascot, and hand-crafted printed pieces of & Type of Italy.

Discovering Pergam Press

We followed Fabiano Santos of Pergam Press into his inking abode settled in the breathtaking city of Carapicuiba, Brazil. Opening the doors to his shop for us, Fabiano let us tour his cozy shop as well as exemplifying the care and technique one acquires when a Heidelberg is present.

Fabiano Santos of Pergam Press highlights the important things: Family and Heidelberg presses.

THE PRESSES We have two presses, a Heidelberg Windmill and a Minerva Catu, which is completely manufactured in Brazil. Our first acquisition was Catu, here in Brazil it is called Catuzinha. It belonged to a printer man for many years and when he was retired he kept it in his garage. He was very careful man and the press was kept in a very good way. One day, my wife Cris saw an internet ad about the Heidelberg. It was at a company and was used just to put numbers, even so it had a beautiful story because the press belonged to the owner of the company who left it to his son.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP Our workplace size is 30 square meters. It is my parents garage and the place was a wallpaper warehouse. We made a big effort to take away all those wallpapers and nowadays we use some to cover the presses or as a carpet.

TYPE OF SHOP Commercial.

LOCATION We are at grande SP outskirts, a city called Carapicuiba, where I have always lived with my parents. It is an ordinary neighborhood, with nice people, good neighbors, like country-side where everybody knows each other. People who live here always ask me about what my business is and they get amazed at how the presses work. Around us there are not so many skyscrapers or many cars. It is a very calm way of life. There is no traffic, just small industries and we can feel the fresh air which is something rare in a big city like SP. Further, we want to contribute to help people who live here, it is a special place to us.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP I like to arrive early in the morning, open the doors and feel the typical Pergam Press smell. It is a mix of paper and ink that makes the place unique and allows me to say “Wow! I’m at Pergam Press”. We have a bookshelf full of books and antique toys and also many vinyl Long Plays. But our favorite thing is the antique clichés from the 70’s and 80’s that we found out in the garbage of an old company and today they are here at Pergam Press and we love them!

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE We have two printers.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL I believe the most valuable tool is the Boxcar Base. It is really important to us because it improved the quality of our prints.

INK OF CHOICE We use ink from an antique factory called Tradição Bremensis made in Brazil. Nowadays, we are in love with yellow.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE The clean-up used to be the slow step of the process since we are very careful about the presses. Usually we use Kerosene but we are searching for eco-friendly products to do the clean up.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE We always use the Boxcar Base and Photopolymer KF95 plates.

OIL OF CHOICE We use Petrobras motor oil.

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH The good and old cotton shirt is irreplaceable. Some friends always donate to us.

FLOORING MATERIAL Our floor is made of concrete covered with ceramic.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS We appreciate the natural way of concrete.

PIED TYPE No.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE Always keep the inks very well identified & we also make more than we need in case of reprints.

PRINTING ADVICE It took a long time to find out how important it is to have the correct height of the rollers and the ink volume. At the beginning, we put a huge amount of ink and today we deal it as a chef deals with the ingredients to prepare a dish: with just the right amount.

We are young and have so much to learn about letterpress but everyday is a new experience, a new discovery.

Fine invitations, heritage printing presses,and lucky charms: Courtesy of Pergam Press.

Many thanks to Fabiano for giving us a tour inside of Pergam Press!

Pursuit of Happiness with Papypress

In the hustle and bustle of the rapidly changing Singaporean landscape, Corby of Papypress is methodically calibrating her Windmills and Adanas. Outside of her shop, one might see technology blurring faster than oil-based ink dries on rollers, but inside, Corby muses over reviving letterpress in a sea of mass printing and fast-paced technological pursuit while discussing the future of letterpress.

Papypress is a letterpress print shop based in Singapore

(photo: Corby’s printing partner, Ian, and fun letterpress goodies)

THE PRESSES We have six presses for letterpress; two 8×5 Adana’s, two 10×15 Heidelberg Windmills, one 8×5 Kelsey Excelsior, and one 10×7 Floor Model Platen. We also have one 2-color GTO and one 1-color RYOBI for offset.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP It’s 1600 square feet, which is awfully small as it needs to house all the above machines, our stacks of papers, as well as 10 people!

TYPE OF SHOP  It’s an industrial building that we own a unit in on the 5th level. We have been in this location for 13 years and it’s still serving us well.

THE LOCATION It’s in an old flatted factory located 10 mins from town. The area that we are in has some of the best local food, so we never really have to go hungry even when working till the wee hours of the morning. It’s many Singaporeans’ favorite supper haunt.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP I love the smell of inks and paper! The production room has always been my favorite, and the whole space is what we call an organized mess. Our prized possessions are obviously all of our letterpress machines and lead type, as they are almost impossible to find locally. All of our overseas trips are spent sourcing for more type and machines ever since we started reviving letterpress in Singapore.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE 10

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL It’s undoubtedly the Heidelberg Windmill. It can do practically anything! Even after so many decades, the windmill can still create beautiful prints that elicit feelings of intrigue and awe in people. It never fails to amaze me each time I discover something new I can do with it.

FAVORITE INK We use oil based inks. We usually hand mix colors ourselves hence the collection of little boxes of pre-mixed pantone colors. Papypress loves bright colors. Pantone 806 in particular.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE If it’s the Adana a little squirt of kerosene and 2 sheets from my phone directory will do the trick! It’s the fastest and cleanest way I have been taught.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE Handed down from an old print shop, it’s a solid piece of aluminum block with self-made grid lines. I know it’s a far cry from the Boxcar base, but it’s what we have been using since we got the press.  I have wood blocks lying around too, but use them only if I want more “Retro” prints. Most times we just stick to polymer plates.

We live halfway across the globe in Asia, where the rapid pursuit of technology and mass printing has meant that there is now a death of letterpress related equipment and accessories here. I probably only know of one other active letterpress printer in Singapore. Supplies are a pain to get here and I usually get them shipped in from the US or UK.

OIL OF CHOICE We’ve been using SDM-801, seems to work well for us. Takes some time before it starts dripping.

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH Definitely old tees. Once in a while a Spiderman or Superman shirt comes along, Pokemons are really common!

FLOORING MATERIAL Concrete. It’s the best in my opinion. It’s easy to clean and mop. Some ink blotches here and there, but inevitable in any print shop I guess.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS I like to have everything around me. Within reach. Always make sure there is enough space to push a little trolley on which you can place your papers around.

PIED TYPE Plenty, especially since we buy bags of types from overseas since the circulation of type in Singapore is almost zero.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE Whenever you take something, just make sure you put it back in the same place! Somehow the human brain is able to build a map of where everything is after a while…

PRINTING ADVICE Post-It notes/pads! I have lots of them around. Whenever you need to increase the packing in a certain area, just slap one of these on the draw sheet for a quick fix! It’s removable and can be easily moved around. Tape and paper tend to damage the drawsheet.

Papypress is a letterpress print shop based in Singapore.

Many thanks to Corby at Papypress for giving us a behind the scenes look at their Singapore letterpress shop!

Shop Tour With La Trasteria

In the sunny warmth of Barcelona, Spain holds a letterpress shop with a cheerful flavor and festive personality. Mònica and Germán, of La Trasteria (“Trastero” is Spanish for “lumber rooms” as the original space was intended for cut timber) are the power duo of printer & designer for the company, and you can find their work gracing worldwide art galleries and shows. The playful pair took a break from printing their dazzlingly detailed letterpress pieces to tour us around their shop. Olé!

La Trasteria was featured on the Boxcar Press Workspace series

THE PRESSES Just one, a beautiful Heidelberg Windmill lovingly named “La Pecosa” because it came to us fully splattered of ink after 54 years of service. We are looking for a proof press to make the family bigger.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP We have a 322 sq ft workshop and 129 sq ft studio.

TYPE OF SHOP Our workspace is located in a town near to Barcelona. We have restored two old storage rooms surrounding our house’s garden to set up “La Trastería”.

THE LOCATION One of our favorite thing about the shop is that you can find a lot of things full of history in every corner. We found a lot of useful stuff while we arranged the workshop.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP Choosing one could be difficult, but maybe the most atypical thing could be an old book called “Hints for the pressman”. The fact that we live far from the city keeps us creative and comfortable, we feel more comfy with a quiet life style.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE As we are working in our own house, it is a private space. I am the printer (Mònica) but Germán helps me whenever I need him!

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL A flathead screwdriver, a depth ruler and an apron.

FAVORITE INK We print with Martinez Ayala inks, they are made here in Spain. We have no favorite color, we love all of them, but it seems that a big range of turquoise is in its wave.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE With just one press we have a tiny workshop, so clean up is not a big problem if you keep your workspace arranged after using it. Besides cleaning our Windmill is not hard to do. We use Varn’s Primula Wash.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE During the first year of La Trastería we have been using a 9×12 inch boxcar base with Jet  plates.

 OIL OF CHOICE 30 weight non-detergent oil. Works awesome!

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH We use recycled cotton rags. They work well and keep away dust and particles from our rollers.

FLOORING MATERIAL A dark grey poreless tilling floor, it’s very easy to clean!

FLOOR PLAN TIPS The main thing for us is to have all machines in a small perimeter, it helps us to clean faster. When the day is over, we just have to sweep and mop the floor. 10 minutes and ready!

PIED TYPE We don’t have any type because we don’t use it. We would like have some big old wood type but it’s hard to find!

ORGANIZATION ADVICE Keep it clean and clear. Clean and put back to their place every tool once it has been used.

PRINTING ADVICE It’s not a secret, in the beginning, when we were learning, we wished to have an experienced person telling us:  “Don’t be discouraged, come on, it’s just that the press you have must be perfectly adjusted”.  If something doesn’t work, take a deep breath and look for the solution in the simplest things. Once everything is in place, the press will run perfectly.

La Trasteria is a letterpress print shop in Barcelona  La Trasteria is a letterpress print shop based in BarcelonaLa Trasteria is a letterpress print shop based in Barcelona

The Crisp Impressions of Freshly Squeezed

Gracie Fenech of Freshly Squeezed opened the door to her Grand Rapids, Michigan-based letterpress haven and toured us through her cozy shop, which overflows with laughter, the clacking of her beloved C&P, and of course, fond memories of ink meeting paper.

Gracie Fenech of Freshly Squeezed gave Boxcar Press a tour inside her Grand Rapids, Michigan letterpress shop

Photography courtesy of James and Katie Photography.

THE PRESSES Currently, my only press is a century old Chandler and Price 10×15 new style platen press.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP My section of the shop is about a tenth of the total work space with about 250 square feet.

TYPE OF SHOP I share a work space with a screen printer, which has been a great relationship.

THE LOCATION My shop is located in an old factory building that has been repurposed and now holds a variety of different businesses, both large and small.  There are several antique stores just around the corner which I love to visit before I go to work.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP One of my favorite things about the shop is my old wooden work bench. It was given to me by a friend’s father who got it from his father. It had been in his woodworking shop for ages and is covered with years of paint, scratches and spills. There is a metal plaque on the side that says “The United States of America Flying Boat Division”.  I can only imagine what sort of history is there!

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE I share work space with a screenprinting shop (Hillhouse Screenprinters) which has been a really great relationship so far. Screenprinting and letterpress printing have a lot in common so we are able to learn from each other.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL My most valuable tool in my print shop is oddly enough my little rubber thimble. I use it all the time for various tasks and it keeps my finger clean from ink which saves me a lot of time washing my hands!

INK OF CHOICE I generally use VanSon’s rubber based ink, but for specialty ink colors (metallic and fluorescent) I use Ink in Tubes oil based ink. Both are great, but they have their differences. My current favorite color of choice is a soft mint like Pantone 621. I think this color looks great on the Crane Lettra in Pearl. It creates a beautiful vintage feeling.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE My method for cleaning has been to keep the rollers on the press and use a shop rag dipped in California Wash. I just roll the press slowly back and forth until the rollers are clean. Then I clean the ink plate and go over everything once more with a clean rag.

PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE I have been using a 9×12″ Boxcar Deep Relief base since last year.

OIL OF CHOICE I use a white motor oil for my press and it works like a charm!

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH I use blue shop towels for clean up.  I like them because they are durable enough to use multiple times.

FLOORING MATERIAL I don’t even know what our floor is made out of to be honest!  I’m sure it’s some sort of industrial linoleum.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS The best floor plan is one that creates a work triangle. I have my paper cutter, work bench and press all within reach of each other. This way, I’m not wasting as much time running across the room.

PIED TYPE Honestly, I don’t recognize this term.  I feel like I still have a lot of letterpress lingo to learn.  I have a large type cabinet with various fonts…century gothic is my favorite.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE I don’t think this would be considered a secret, but I have found that keeping a clean shop is by far the biggest way I boost my productivity. I’m distracted by too much unnecessary clutter.

PRINTING ADVICE When I first started printing, I couldn’t figure out why my printing wasn’t crisp. Everything seemed to have a blur around the edges and bleed into the paper.  After countless hours of trial and error, I realized that I was using way too much ink.  I backed way off and my next print was nearly perfect.  What a relief!  I realized that learning to listen to your press to find the right tuning is such a huge part of what makes a great printer.

Freshly Squeezed is a letterpress print shop based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Freshly Squeezed is a letterpress print shop based in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Following the Trail To Deep Wood Press

Huddled in between the breathtaking white pines of the Northern Michigan forest perches the letterpress and fine bookbindery of Deep Wood Press. Chad Pastotnik, opens the door to his peaceful printing retreat to let us take a tour of this Antrim County gem.

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THE PRESSES Hmm, 9 presses. A 10×15 Windmill, 8×12 C&P OS, C&P Pilot OS, 3×5 & 5×8 Kelsey for platens. A Little Giant & Vandercook 219 OS for cylinder presses. A BAG 25.5×47″ intaglio press along with a 18×36″ Blick for my copper engravings. Also a standing press, book presses, lying press, foil press’s, 26″ guillotine and 150+ cases of type.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP The bindery is 340 sq ft, pressroom is 360 sq ft and in another building I have a 220 sq ft partition that houses the intaglio presses along with my Linotype model 31 and a couple hundred matrice fonts in galleys. It’s all pretty tight.

THE LOCATION The buildings are on the same property as my home in the middle of nowhere, nice to be accessible to the family. There’s a beautiful trout stream about 30 feet from the shop and plenty of others near by. I’m surrounded by about 450 acres of woodland and swamp protected by state land and Michigan Nature Association holdings. About 9 miles away there’s Short’s brewery, a meadery, a smokehouse and fine dining fun + Lake Michigan is a short drive away. Oh, and Detroit is 5 hours away, that’s a bonus. (N. MI humor).

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP Everything. Prized possessions – too many to list but probably my books about books and printing collection.… or perhaps the sound system.  It’s very homey, lots of light. Nature is right outside and that’s the root of my creativity.

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE One, though it is a private space. I do take one apprentice a year for an 8 month stretch from fall-spring.

MOST VALUABLE TOOL A plate gauge is a must for good press work if you want to get experimental with repeatable results.

FAVORITE INK Oil base for most everything, current favorites are Graphic Chemical and Ink Albion Matte Black or Litho Roll Up Black. Raw Umber is a very versatile accent color in various opacities. I make my intaglio inks myself or use Graphic Chemical’s.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE Kerosene is pretty much the standard here, too many different presses to streamline a universal system. I have an oily waste can for used rags and a pair of rubber faced work gloves for the clean up process.

PLATE AND BASE SYSTEM OF CHOICE I’ve had a 9×12″ Boxcar base for about 5 years along with another 9×12 I had made at a local machine shop. I order KF95 plates but rarely use polymer for much. If it’s a repeat job it’s done in copper by Owosso and I have various base systems for 11 pt., 16 gauge and ¼” dies.

OIL OF CHOICE 30 weight non-detergent motor oil does most all of it for the presses, scotch for me.

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP WITH Anything that’s mostly cotton works just fine. There are usually 3 grades of rags in the shop: mostly filthy, moderate and mostly clean.

FLOORING MATERIAL Maple hardwood in the bindery but concrete floors in the pressroom and Lino annex with work mats around the machines.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS Have a large central island for a work surface (imposing stone for pressroom, table in bindery & and the intaglio bed does it in the Lino room) and the equipment and other counter space around the perimeter – less walking more working. Oh, and don’t do what I’ve done – decide early on you’re going to need a ton of space and keep it all in one building.

PIED TYPE Some, but that’s what apprentices are for.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE Keep it clean! You can’t work on surfaces covered with crap. Put things away when you’re done with them and put them in the right place.

PRINTING ADVICE Tough one as I’m self taught with letterpress so all I knew is what I brought with me from my experience in printmaking and bookbinding – not much! Order every paper sample book you can, try all kinds of ink and from different manufacturers, visit special collections libraries and view printing as it has been done these past 500 years and read about the history of your craft.

Oh, and if you’re still in school take some business or marketing classes!

Chad_IMG3

Let the Show Begin: A Look at Sideshow Press

The warmth of the South Carolina sun follows us in as we enter Virginia Gregg’s brightly lit printing space, Sideshow Press, located just a stone’s throw away from historic Charleston. Virginia greets us with a smile that lasts from the moment we start the fabulous tour on through the curious conversation threading from her Great Dane, Lulu, organization advice, and of course her gorgeous letterpress work!

THE PRESSES We have 3 presses total:  a 12 x 18” C&P, Vandercook No. 4, and a 10 x 15” Heidelberg Windmill

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP 700 square feet

THE LOCATION Located in historic downtown Charleston, our small shop is just around the corner from King Street. You can find us nestled in a small alley off Cannon Street. You can’t miss our bright yellow doors. Our space is crisp and clean, with great natural light…and paper everywhere!

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP The sound of presses running [is out favorite thing]. Besides the presses, we have lots of found objects we’ve gathered from our grandmother’s attics, antique stores and travels abroad.  They serve as inspiration for designs, techniques or texture. Our ceilings are about 14 ft. high so we never feel cramped or crowded. It’s nice to have that extra air around us filled with natural light. It’s pretty calming and inspiring!

NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN SPACE Just the three of us! And sometimes Lulu, a 130lb Great Dane that comes to hang out every now and then.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL The line board we use to measure straightness. Can’t live without it!

FAVORITE INK We use VanSon rubber-based inks mostly. Currently we are using a lot of grays since they go with everything. That way the little pops of color really stand out!

SOLVENT OF CHOICE We use odorless mineral spirits for wash ups. On the Vandercook, we’ll run make ready sheets between the roller system to extract as much ink as possible before wash up.  And we let the press do some of the work for us by adding wash while its still rolling.  When the rollers stop rolling, you can start to clean.

BASE AND PLATE OF CHOICE We switched to the Boxcar base format and photopolymer plating about 3 years ago and haven’t looked back. We found it to be much more accurate, provides better impression quality and the polymer plates are so easy to store, reuse and cut and rearrange as needed.  One time we had a funny typo, with the phrase “to the mooon and back”, we’ll that’s an easy fix with a little poly-type surgery and we were back in business.

OIL OF CHOICE  Durofilm R&O 150

WHAT TYPE OF RAGS DO YOU CLEAN UP YOUR PRESSES WITH We use the boxed Scott Shop Rags for press wash ups.

FLOORING MATERIAL Our floors are concrete, painted gray. Of course!

FLOOR PLAN TIPS Keep it organized!

PIED TYPE We don’t really have/use much in the way of pied type.  We have a little hanging around.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE We use lots of storage boxes and shelves to maximize our small space. Since our ceilings are so tall, we just keep going up instead of out.

PRINTING ADVICE When setting up, make one adjustment at a time.  When having a problem, mechanical or while printing, start by looking at the simplest thing first and move up from there.

Big round of thanks to Sideshow Press for giving us a tour of their space today!