Nestled next to the hearty Mississippi River, Iowa’s own Slow Print hangs back in the thriving old Warehouse District in Dubuque and houses extraordinary letterpress work, a neatly arranged showcase of letterpresses spanning from a 1900s Chandler & Price to a 1960s 10×15 Heidelberg Windmill, and as many letterpress stories as there are ink cans. Peter Fraterdeus of Slow Print let’s us take a look at what’s inside.
THE PRESSES: 1960s Original Heidelberg “Windmill” 10×15 – Red Ball, main workhorse production press; 1950s Original Heidelberg “Windmill” 10×15 – Black Ball, mostly die-cutting and fail-over; 1940s Vandercook 219 Proofer 19×26; 1930sMiehle Vertical V36 Cylinder 13×19.5, and a 1900s Chandler & Price Gordon Old-Style 10×15.
THE LOCATION: My shop is in Dubuque’s Historic Millwork district, a few blocks from the Mississippi River, and in fact, I’ve been one of the “flagship” tenants. In the past two years, a public-private partnership has upgraded the District, including all the streets & sidewalks and a full-block quadrangle building to the tune of well over $20 million. I just hope I don’t get gentrified out – but the arts are a primary core function of the newly active district.
I’m a block from the Voices Warehouse Gallery and a block from the new Dubuque Community Food Co-op, so it’s an exciting time to be in the area. The building is an early 20th century brick warehouse. The space I’m in was converted to offices many years ago, but it’s surrounded on the 1st floor by raw warehouse, currently inhabited by an ‘architectural salvage’ and antiques dealer.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP: My large blue oriental rug in the coffee/lounge area (about 100 years old, it’s nearly worn out) with the futon couch and 1960s LaPavoni espresso maker.
NUMBER OF PRINTERS IN THE SPACE: One, just me and my new apprentice for the summer, Rachel.
MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL: Other than the Heidelberg Red Ball, and my MacBook Pro (without which there would be no business!), the most valuable tool is my loupe.
PLATE AND BASE OF CHOICE: I use KF95 on a locally machined aluminum base. I bought a 24×48 slab of .875 aluminum and had it machined down and cut into numerous smaller sections from 18″x24″ (used on the Vandercook) down to 2″x3″. It’s been in use since about 2007.
FAVORITE INK: Oil-based – either VanSon or others as needed.
SOLVENT OF CHOICE: WM Wash from LithCo. I use Putz Pomade on the rollers after wash-up, which keeps any remaining medium from drying into the surface. The slightly pumice gritty stuff also helps keep the rollers from glazing. I’ve been using rollers from Advance in Los Angeles with very, very good results.
OIL OF CHOICE: 30W non-detergent
FLOORING MATERIAL: Hardwood floors.
PIED TYPE: Plenty. Much of it is wood type, as I purchased a barrel full on ebay some years ago. Couldn’t stand to see it auctioned off a handful at a time. I have one galley full of 24 point Legend, the beautiful Ernst Schneidler calligraphic type, purchased from an eminent printer who was closing up his shop a few years ago.
He shipped the type in the cases, with nothing but a sheet of single-corrugated cardboard on top. When the shipment arrived, the UPS driver set it on its side (although it was marked “keep flat”) and all the type was pied in a mound under the wrapping. I was not at all happy. Took hours just to get it into the galley, and I still haven’t figured out how to read Legend backwards. Major headache.
ORGANIZATION ADVICE: High tables and work surfaces with plenty of storage underneath.
PRINTING ADVICE: These are hardly secrets, but for the auto-didacts who haven’t yet figured it out, these will help a lot.
- Don’t add white to color. Add color to white.
- There’s nothing worse than slimy long ink for sharp printing. But don’t add too much mag, or the ink won’t want to come off the roller!
- There’s no point to adjusting the rollers if there’s too much ink on them.
- How much is “Too Much” ink or “Too Long” ink is entirely dependent on the form being printed.
Deep impression only makes sense with deep paper, otherwise it’s just gauche. (Note to clients: you can’t have deep impression on both sides of the same sheet – unless there’s no overlap from back to front)