Stopping In At Route 3 Press

Timothy Fay of Route 3 Press prints in the heart of the Midwest. He left for a brief time to pursue an education in Montana, but he is firmly settled back in the Hawkeye State, sheltered on his centuries old Iowan family farm. He’s passionate about printing and sharing it with others. We welcomed the chance to “visit” his creative space.

Tim Fay of Route 3 Press sits with his linotype.Tim Fay of Route 3 Press prints on his linotype in his Montana letterpress print shop.
(photography courtesy of Linzee McCray)

THE PRESSES: I have a Challenge proof press, a 10 X 15 Old Style Chandler and Price platen, a V-45 Miehle Vertical and a 21 X 28 Miller 2-color flatbed. I also use a photopolymer plate maker and a Model 8 linotype.

SIZE OF PRINT SHOP: 24 feet wide by 36 feet – 864 square feet.

THE LOCATION: My shop is attached to the back of the house I built on our family farm in 1984 — it’s been in our family 150 years now, since the Civil War. My town of Anamosa lies 45 miles west from the Mississippi River. The shop, like the house, is half underground, which makes it easier to heat. I enjoy the improved lighting and ventilation here, as opposed to the old store building I formerly inhabited.

My attached house features a cathedral ceiling, and the floor is made of local limestone. Much native and local oak is incorporated into the design. I like living where I work; commutes are for somebody else.

TYPE OF SHOP: I am a commercial shop, and I print some job and book work in addition to my annual Wapsipinicon Almanac. This annual publication is a 160-page collection of essays, fiction, reviews and various tidbits focusing on Iowa. The 2015 Almanac is the 21st issue.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP: It’s nice to work in a space I designed and built. I have a nice sound system in place, and since I’m the boss — no Muzak here…. I’ve been collecting letterpress odds and ends since the 1970’s, so I have a few fun items tucked away here.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL: I would say probably the big Miller. It’s a very rare press (the only other operating one in America of which I’m aware is at Arion Press).

FAVORITE INK: For most of my work, I use INX black super dense with no drier.

CLEAN-UP ROUTINE: I use gasoline for type and plates and press wash for rollers.

PROJECT WORKFLOW I set slugs on the linotype. My polymer plates are mounted on either blank linotype slugs or custom bases I had a local machinist make for me. I used to use magnesium plates mounted on wood. Those were expensive and took up too much space. Then I went to metal backed polymer mounted on homemade magnetic bases. Now I use plastic backed polymer and would never go back to metal. I try to avoid having any pied type around.  Lino slugs are re-melted into new bigs.

OIL OF CHOICE: For lubrication, I use Thirty weight non-detergent or heavier oil for certain spots on the C & P.  I like cotton rags.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE: I try to organize and “straighten up” before beginning each day. I harbor a good deal of big equipment in a relatively small area, so I need to keep on top of clutter.

PRINTING ADVICE: I would stress the importance (especially when running automatic presses) of regulating humidity levels. I don’t have air conditioning, but I constantly run humidifiers in winter and dehumidifiers in summer.

The printing presses of Route 3 Press in Montana are beautiful specimens that Tim Fay uses.(photography courtesy of Linzee McCray)

2 thoughts on “Stopping In At Route 3 Press

  1. Timothy,

    I came across your name and Route 3 Press in an article titled “Book Review” in the January-February 2023 issue of Big River. The article mentioned that you had designed and made a small book called “The Wapsipinicon: A Gentle Refuge”.

    I am a retired teacher of 33 years, mostly 5th grade, taught at SE Polk and Urbandale and grew up in Farmington, a small town on the Des Moines River in southeast Iowa. I also lived in Winthrop for two years in the ‘60’s when my mom taught in Quasqueton, and I fished the river there and at Backbone.

    Throughout my years of teaching I would tell stories to my classes about my adventures in the early ‘60’s in my little river town, mostly to get them to write their own creative stories, but it was also great fun reliving the story each time I told it.

    When I retired, my wife said I had better write these stories down for grandkids before I forget them, so I did. (I only have one granddaughter and another on the way), and I ended up with 30 short stories. They are pretty much error-free and saved on my computer and also printed. They were in the Van Buren County Newspaper a couple years ago, one each week for 30 weeks.

    I don’t know a thing about publishing a book or even where to start, but I would love to get them into a little book of some kind and maybe make one or a few or maybe more if anyone thought they were any good.
    I write like I tell stories, almost like a 5th grader might. Some stories are funny, some a little scary, most are adventures I had with my two or three closest friends from the age of about five until I was 9. They are all true, at least from how I remembered it all happening.

    Sorry to be so long-winded, but is this something you would be interested in working on and perhaps turning into sone kind of little book? I have pictures taken from that time to go with most of the stories. The title might be “River of Friends”, but I have no idea what a cover would look like, maybe fuzzy pictures of kids coming out of a river, kind of like Field of Dreams.
    I would appreciate hearing from you either way, and if you aren’t interested, then perhaps you know where I might turn.

    Thanks for your time and consideration,

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