Cerveza With Ben Sargent

Installment 4 ]

Next up in our Letterpress Friend chat is Ben Sargent. A Texas native and avid Chandler & Price printer, Ben is an inspiration for the pursuit of printing knowledge, and offers some good chuckles, and stories. As the conductor of Sargent Brothers Printers & Typographers, he adds a bit of charismatic style that comes only with letterpress.

Boxcar Press: So wonderful to catch up with you and delightful to have you. Speaking of delights… is there one defining moment or point that you just fell hard for printing?

Ben: It was last Christmas. I realized that was the date 60 years prior that my brother and I received our first press and type–a 5×8 Kelsey Excelsior, seven fonts of type, and the whole outfit. While we knew our Dad had been a printer in boyhood and we had grown up around the hot-type composing room of the Amarillo Globe-News, it was the first experience as “real printers” ourselves, and I never looked back. 

Boxcar Press: Tell us about a press you remember fondly (or not so fondly) or one you have now that you prefer to use?

Ben: Three years after I began on the Excelsior mentioned above, Dad brought home the C&P 10×15 Old Series he and his brother had bought as teenagers in 1928. That is the press I use to this day. She is a graceful and hardy specimen from the long-ago era of well-built iron-and-steel machinery. “I love her well and she must love me….”

Boxcar Press: What is something people might not know about you that would surprise them?

Ben: Maybe they don’t know that when I’m not printing, I can often be found swinging on and off moving equipment as a fully licensed but volunteer brakeman and conductor on our local excursion railroad. Can’t keep me away from ancient technology.

Boxcar Press: What is your printing superpower? You definitely have one!

Ben: I usually think there are always people who can do better than I in just about every facet of this trade, but if I had to choose a superpower, maybe it would be the delight I have in continuing to learn things about every aspect of the work, even 60 years into it. Sometimes new techniques, skills, and understandings come from my dear colleagues both young and old. Sometimes there are things I just figure out on my own, but it is always a pleasure to learn one more of the apparently infinite things there are to learn about this craft. 

Boxcar Press: Anything you want to reveal about a current project you are working on – even a hint or clue?

Ben: Recently, I had one of the most curious and interesting wedding invitations in the course of printing many, many such projects. The invitation itself is a thin 5 x 4 box. It was a challenge finding people who could do the tasks beyond my capacity such as the necessary die-cutting, duplexing, scoring, and laser-cutting of some tiny holes. Really the only part I had left was doing some letterpress on the inside of the box. But the finished box contains a computer chip the recipient plugs in and then touches the laser-cut openings to play various sound recordings from the happy couple. (The wedding involved a graphic designer and a computer engineer, so there you go.) 

Boxcar Press: Given these current “strange” times, what is that one project that you are always going to get to but it just never seems to get done?

Ben: If I had to pick one, might be the 3rd edition of our handset-type specimen book, last published in 2010, and in need of an update. But the deck seems to stay crowded with job work even in strange times, so it does keep getting put off.

Boxcar Press: One last question before you finish your drink, an IPA from Texas-local Pinthouse Brewing called “Electric Jellyfish”, – Do you listen to podcasts or music in your shop while you create?

Ben: I always have my Pandora channels on, which beggar the word “eclectic.” I’ve seen a young typesetter friend’s eyebrows rise when hearing Brubeck–Mercedes Sosa–Gregorian chant–Booker T and the MGs–Tommy Dorsey–Handel–Brazilian bossa nova etc. all in a row.

That was an immensely fun time, Ben. Heartfelt thanks out to you for the cheery chat!  Want to know more? Visit his website: http://sargentbrothersprinters.com/

West Coast Printing: Thom Caraway of Spokane Print & Publishing Center

Printing on press is as much a personal creative time as it is an experience you just can’t wait to share with others. This is an observation from Thom Caraway of the Spokane Print & Publishing Center. The full-time teacher and Center organizer has enjoyed creating a space where all interested in the craft could roll-up their sleeves and get inky. We spent time with Thom to talk shop, and to see how the printing world in Spokane is being discovered by others at their printing paradise.

GEARING UP FOR PRINTING ADVENTURES I’m a university English professor in Spokane, Washington via Whitworth University. I write poetry and teach classes in editing, book design, and print culture.

In 2015, I inherited a C&P from a printmaking professor who didn’t want it in the school art studio anymore. I was excited about it but had no idea what to do with it (or even how it worked). Shortly after, I met Bethany Taylor, who was getting her shop off the ground, and we decided to make a place where neophytes could come learn. She’d been to the Independent Publishers Resource Center (IPRC) in Portland, and we modeled ourselves off of their space and got going.

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PRINTING CENTER COMMUNITY We closed Iteration one in 2018 when our lease ran out, and moved into the new space as Spokane Print & Publishing Center in 2019. With the bigger space, we were able to add more presses and expand from letterpress and screenprint into relief and etching as well. Later, we added book arts and digital design and printing. My favorite thing is when there are members spread out across the shop all working on different awesome things, especially if several presses are going at once.

ALL IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD We’re a 5-minute drive from the Kendall Yards neighborhood and the Spokane River. Downtown is just across the river, so we are close to food and shopping.

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PRINTING MENTORS Letterpress Instagram kind of kept me sane during lockdowns, and with no formal art or print shop training, I’m a big fan of the School of Bad Printing. Amos Kennedy, Mizdruk, Fresh Lemon Press, Bright Press, Marcos Mello. Also Rick Griffith, Amy Redmond, Ben Blount, Chris Fritton, Base Press, Stephanie Carpenter…so many great printers out there!

PART-TIME PRINTER, FULL-TIME FUN This is a side hustle from my day job teaching. I would love to get to a point where I could print full time though.

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THE CREATIVE PROCESS I’m becoming more of a planner, but mostly I’m a seat-of-my-pants designer. I like seeing what happens with different applications of color, and big messy press beds full of wood type. From there, I might layer in a quote or phrase, or play around with the letterforms of larger wood type to see what happens.

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PRINTING FEATS Making a more formal turn from writing to printing in the last four years has been a lot of fun, if a little nerve-wracking at times. But mostly I’m proud of our little shop. We’ve weathered COVID well, and offer classes pretty much every week now. I feel like we’re really developing Spokane’s appetite for the print and book arts, and training up a bunch of new printers!

PRESS HISTORY I have that first press – a C&P Old Style with a broken flywheel axle. Have still never gotten that thing fully functional.

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BOXCAR’S ROLE We’ve gotten a bunch of ink from Boxcar, and had some plates made. And we’ve been meaning to order some logo plates, too!

PRINTING TIPS & TECHNIQUES I print mostly now on a Vandercook 14, which is really basic, so no ink rollers. Everything is applied by hand. My advice for letterpress printers is don’t be afraid to mess it up a bit. I love a nice clean print as much as anyone, but I’m also really interested in the accidents and goofs. Those are usually my favorites.

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WHAT’S COMING NEXT I’ve got a full slate of letterpress classes spread through the year. I am hoping to grow our membership base once things open back up, and continue developing our Print Town USA events, which get the public into the shop for sales and demos, and are just a lot of (socially-distanced) fun.

A double round of applause & thanks out to Thom of Spokane Print & Publishing Center for letting us take a sneak peak at the wonderful community-driven printing center!

Bourbon With Paul Moxon

[ Installment 3 ]

Our Letterpress Friend chat today is with Paul Moxon. He is synonymous with Vandercook presses.  He is the resource behind the website vandercookpress.info, author of Vandercook Presses: Maintenance, History and Resources, and a printer of letterpress books and broadsides under his press name Fameorshame Press.

There is always much to learn from a conversation with Paul, who lives in Mobile, Alabama. 

Boxcar Press: Why Vandercooks and proofing presses?  What is the appeal and draw for you?

Paul: A forlorn SP15 in the corner of a printmaking studio was the first press to which I had access. The ratio of its footprint to the printing area was appealing. Experiment and production were satisfying and different than paste-up. In time, I found joy in teaching maintenance and making repairs. Sharing this knowledge with other printers has surprisingly become my life’s work.

Boxcar Press: Is there one defining moment that you can recall or point to that was the start of your printing career or business

Paul:  Learning phototypesetting and paste-up as work-study in college.

Boxcar Press: Tell us about mentors or printers that you admire or set you on a particular path? 

Paul:  There have been so many. During college, Jocelyn Dohm (founder of the Sherwood Press) always welcomed me at her charming little job shop and endured my novice enthusiasm. Librarians Jim Holly and Elspeth Pope introduced me to fine press books. At Alabama, Glenn House, then retired, piqued an interest in maintenance. Fritz Klinke let me explore the Vandercook archives. Ian Leonard Robertson (Slow Loris Press) and I shared similar work experiences. His old school presswork and design was crisp and effortless. Most of his equipment is now in my shop, and I feel his jovial presence every day.

Boxcar Press:  If you weren’t a printer or in the printing industry, what else might have been your career path?

Paul : A machinist

Boxcar Press:  That is not surprising. You have referred to yourself as an independent educator.  

What would you tell a brand new letterpress printer today?

Paul:  Visit many shops, libraries, and museums. Attend wayzgooses, talk with everyone. Print on every kind of press you can big and small. Print every kind of form; lead, wood, copper, magnesium, and polymer. Strive for best practice. Read everything, especially old technical manuals and catalogs. Don’t be discouraged by the high prices of presses. Save-up, be patient, you become discerning over time. or grumpy old naysayers. Mistakes will make you an expert.

Boxcar Press:  Tell us about a press you remember fondly (or not so fondly) or one you have now that you prefer to use?

Paul:  I’ve printed on other makes of proof presses, jobbers, tabletops, hand presses, and even a windmill. Each had something to teach me. (Someday I want to print on a Heidelberg cylinder and a Little Giant.) I love my Vandercook No. 4. It’s great for production and teaching maintenance. I’ve printed on, tuned up, or inspected thirty Vandercook models, including some rare ones—nearly a thousand in all. But there are still a few I haven’t worked with, such as the 30-26 four-color press. Hopefully, post-COVID.

Boxcar Press:  You have mentioned that you are fascinated by the vintage equipment and tools.  Tell us about one of the best or most used or most admired printing tools you can think of?

Paul:  Hard to choose: my loupe, paper thickness measure, and Align-mate are essential. But I love the elk-bone folder/plate lifter I made at Penland twenty years ago when I met Jim Croft.

Boxcar Press:  What is something people might not know about you that would surprise them?

Paul:  I can’t type, just hunt-and-peck. But I can handset type like a motherfucker.

Boxcar Press: What is your printing superpower?

Paul:  Being able to diagnose presswork and mechanical issues.

Boxcar Press:  Anything you want to reveal about a current project you are working on – even a hint or clue?

Paul:   Right now I’m into printing postcards. My last one is about the USPS and Trump enabler Louis DeJoy.

Boxcar Press:  What is that one project that you are always going to get to but it just never seems to get done?

Paul:  A book of three poems by a deceased, local author. I commissioned lino-cuts from Lauren Faulkenberry (Firebrand Press) a few years ago, but I fear that they may be drying out.

Boxcar Press:  Last question – Do you listen to podcasts or music in your shop while you create? 

Paul:  Music is essential. Big Joanie, Dinner Party, the Hu, and Idles and are in heavy rotation. The rest of the time I’m streaming KEXP.

That was an enjoyable time, Paul.  Thank you for the friendly chat and we’ll plan another.  Paul is also involved with the American Printing History Association, that encourages the study of the history of printing and related arts and crafts.  Visit his links to vandercookpress and fameorshamepress.

Coffee with Don Black of Don Black Linecasting

[ Installment 2 ]

We are “pulling up a chair” with Don Black, a Northern neighbor from Scarborough, Ontario.

Don is winding down his business after 50 years and the dismay and sadness of that is still a jolt to our letterpress community.  

A warehouse of heavy metal and wood is not an exaggeration describing Don’s business.  He and his family, particularly his son, Craig, have helped and talked with thousands of printers and artisans over those decades.  Sadly, Craig passed away last year and Don is eyeing a quieter life.

Boxcar Press:  It’s a delight to hear your stories.  Let me first say, thank you for your kindness to me and all the others who were at one time new to letterpress printing.  It must be a screwy time right now with the business..

Don: We are super busy with the closing of our business.  Our General Manager Albert Kwon is invaluable in this endeavour. 

Boxcar Press:  Let’s go back to the beginning.  Is there one defining moment that you can recall or point to that was the start of your printing career?  

Don:  The defining moment that I knew I wanted to make Printing a career occurred when I went for a tour of the Globe & Mail (newspaper based in Toronto, Canada) with my uncle who worked there.  When I saw all the equipment in the Composing Room I decided this was for me.

I started to work at the Globe & Mail before I was 17 doing all the delivery jobs etc.  Then I served a 6 year apprenticeship as a Linotype Machinist.

Boxcar Press:  Tell us about mentors or printers that set you on a particular path?

Don: While working there was a machinist, Ed Hull, who helped me immensely by guiding me and tried to keep me on the right track.  I think about him often and am super thankful for all he did to help me.

While working as an apprentice at the Globe & Mail, the Credit Union ran a contest for the best designed Printing job.  This was open to seven Printer apprentices, but no mention about Machinist apprentices.  I questioned them and received permission to submit an entry.  Believe it or not, I won the prize of $25.00  I still tease my friend today,  who was a printer’s apprentice, that a machinist apprentice beat a Printer apprentice at the Printer’s trade.

Boxcar Press:  Where was the next stage in your career?

Don: I left the Globe & Mail in 1964 when the three Toronto newspapers went on strike.  I started to do freelance service on letterpress equipment.

Then I received the  Canadian dealership for Letterpress Equipment for Canada from Canadian Linotype Company.  This was a big help as it opened doors coast to coast and helped me to meet many great people.

After I started my business in the 1980’s I became acquainted with an equipment dealer in Cleveland, Jack Boggs.  He bought and sold all kinds of printing equipment.  Over the next 30-40 years, we did a super amount of business.  He liquidated printing shops that were closing or upgrading equipment.  I purchased many truckloads of equipment from him.  It was great as it gave me access to things I could not find in Canada.  We still do business today and without a doubt, he is a big reason we have been successful.

In the early 1970s, something strange happened when the Globe & Mail decided to update a lot of equipment.  I purchased most of the Composing Room which had some great equipment but also included were eleven machines which were now outdated.  They had originally cost approximately $25,000.00 each, less than 10 years before.  The value in scrap was less than $500.00.  We made a large copy of the cheque and mounted it with the eleven nameplates from the machines.  It has become quite a conversation piece that we still have at the office today.

Boxcar Press:  What does the legacy of Don Black Linecasting mean to you as you slowly wind it down.

Don:  I would say it’s the fact that we have been in business more than 50 years, conducted and did business with wonderful people all over the world and helped to keep Letterpress alive.

Boxcar Press:  You handled so many of pieces of equipment, they can’t even be counted.  Can you tell us about a press you remember fondly?

Don:  We have a Baby Reliance Iron Press which we purchased from a customer in Winnipeg.  It is a beautiful press and I could have sold it many times, but Craig, my son, always said don’t sell this press.  Now that he is gone and we are closing down, I am going to let it go to a collector that had talked to Craig.  I know Craig would be happy that it is going to someone who will treasure it.

Boxcar Press:  Thank you Don for those great memories.  We’ll talk more soon.  Can you leave us with your favorite printing saying?

Don:  Go with the Best!  Go Intertype.

Time is ticking down on getting equipment from Don, give him a call or email to ask what he has and chances are, you’ll get a nice deal. www.donblack.ca

Spot the Differences: Printing Press Edition

Get out your loupes and magnifying glasses for our cool printing press edition of Spot the Differences! There are 20 differences in all. Can you spot them?

And don’t forget, we’re keeping the fun going all week long for Letterpress Appreciation Week.

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Answers and results will be revealed on Friday, September 20th, 2019 so stay tuned!