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)

The Right Type With Cotton and Pine

Letterpress is one part technique, one part soul, and it takes brilliant creative know-how to bind both together. At Cotton and Pine in Montgomery, Alabama, this is no exception. Recruiting from some of the finest talent that Alabama offers, Cotton and Pine has been a dynamo on the letterpress printing scene (from distinct die-cuts to eye-popping prints) and hasn’t stopped since its inception two wonderful years ago. We were able to catch a glimpse of this incredible printing abode in the Deep South to see just how brilliantly letterpress can shine.

        Printing on the Miehle, Heidelber Windmill, and Chandler & Price at Cotton and Pine.

MODERN MEETS VINTAGE Cotton & Pine is a combination print shop and design studio. The company was founded in Montgomery by Daniel Mims and Steven Lambert, and was designed to be a place where modern design and vintage printing could come together in collaboration.

LETTERPRESS BEGINNINGS The idea that eventually became Cotton & Pine Creative came to Daniel and Steven of Mims Management Group after years of searching out and collaborating with talented and dedicated craftsmen and creative minds from across the Southeast. They had spent some time finding and working with letterpress printers and that ultimately led to the idea of housing printers and designers under one roof.

Cool letterpress printed Father's Day cards from Cotton and Pine press are a visual treat!

RECLAIMING LETTERPRESS Our shop is split down the middle: half for designers and half for the print shop. The shop is outfitted with hart pine beams reclaimed from a hundred-year-old cotton mill located in Lanett, Alabama. We’ve surrounded our letterpress machines with a wall of windows so that anyone who comes in the shop can see the presses at work.

The gorgeous and spacious atrium of Cotton and Pine presshop is inviting and hearty.

DESIGNING FOR PRINT We have a staff of printers and designers who we’ve recruited from across the state of Alabama and we are very proud to be powered by home-grown Southern creativity and craftsmanship.

Southern craftsmanship and perfectly inked prints from Cotton and Pine press.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS We design a very wide range of materials, from personal stationery, to business collateral, to wedding invitations. And we approach each of these projects in a unique way, based on the client’s wants and needs. But designing for letterpress is always unique and exciting. We love playing in a wide spectrum of different aesthetics, whether it’s an elegant wedding invitation, a sophisticated business card, or a playful postcard.

The wonderful Miehle press of Cotton and Pine plus colorful printed piece by Cotton and Pine.

FULL TIME FUN We’ve been in business since 2013, but our printers have had decades of experience as full-time printers.

PRINTING FEATS We are always really proud of the projects that pose an interesting challenge. For example, we printed, letterpressed, and bound a special edition book for a poet from London. We are also always really excited for any project that allows us to combine letterpress with other printing processes, like foil stamping, embossing, or die-cutting. 

And it’s always a fun project when we get to fire up our 1908 Miehle, which can letterpress up to 26″ x 40”. We’ve had several jobs where we got to hand carve plates and print them on the Miehle—those are the ones that are always really striking and eye-catching and have so much character and individuality in each print.

Die cut letterpress building piece expertly printed from the fine folks at Cotton and Pine press.Grand Opening printed sign is bold and beautiful for Cotton and Pine.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar has been an absolutely incredible help to us! As we receive new projects and continue to take on new challenges in letterpress, we are so grateful for Boxcar helping us to improve on our work every day.

Bright and cheery "Heart of Dixie" printed piece from Cotton and Pine.  Printing on the Miehle press at Cotton and Pine.

PRESS HISTORY We were very lucky to inherit five letterpress machines from a hundred-year-old family-owned print shop in Birmingham, Alabama. Our real work horse is our Original Heidelberg Windmill, but we also have an Original Heidelberg cylinder press, a Chandler & Price, a Kluge 14×22, and a 1908 Miehle.

SHOP TIPS FROM US “Roller trucks and bearings need to be in tip-top shape to achieve good printing quality, especially on a Heidelberg Windmill. You can achieve fine print without having to mix such thick ink.” – Larry (be sure to check out Larry on press here!)Cotton and Pine's very own Larry Champion in near a beautiful Heidelberg Windmill.

“Don’t give away your secrets. And if you have trouble, make sure the problem isn’t between the floor and the switch.” – Johnny.Johnny Oates of Cotton and Pine is all smiles in from of his shop.

“Don’t use 20 year old Pantone books, and don’t eat chips in bed.” – Steven.Printing on the Miehle press at Cotton and Pine.

WHAT’S NEXT This summer we are attending several music and arts festivals across the South, where we’ll be selling letterpress goods from our retail shop, C&P Mercantile. We love getting a chance to meet other Southern artists and craftsmen and sharing the beauty of letterpress in something as simple as a note card or coaster that anyone can take home and enjoy.Gorgeous "Y'all Come Back" Alabama lettepress print from Cotton and Pine.

Huge heaps of thanks and a round of applause out to the wonderful folks at Cotton and Pine for giving us a peek inside their shop!

Describe your craziest press moving experience in 50 words or less. Win a press (and a t-shirt)

Flurry (a new online journal about letterpress printers) needs you. In particular, Flurry needs your press moving stories. And not just that time when you hired riggers and everything went really smoothly. Post a comment telling us (in 50 words or less) what crazy things your love for letterpress has caused you to do with really heavy machinery (or, if you’re shy, email us (liftgate@boxcarpress.com). How far were you willing to go for your cast iron beauty? Madness, adrenaline, photos, reenactments, and adventure are all encouraged. The best story will win the right of first refusal for Harold Kyle’s *free* 2-ton Miehle Vertical press. This press has brand new rollers, as well as typical rust and dirt issues as you’d expect with any mid-century press. It’s guaranteed to provide you with an exciting press moving story all over again! You’ll also receive fame and a Boxcar letterpress t-shirt featuring your choice of press (Vandercook; Windmill; C&P; or Sigwalt). And we’ll feature the best stories in an upcoming article on Flurry. Post or email your best in 50 words or less by August 20.