Workspace Spotlight: Bowerbox Press

Monkton, Maryland is nestled between beautiful New England forests and is home to the cozy, barn-turned-printing paradise of Val Lucas of Bowerbox Press. Bright, cheery sunshine lights up the warm wood floors, large type drawers, and gleams on the family of lovingly cared-for printing presses. Val gives us a tour of where her printing projects spring to life and the charms of good, simple living.

Bower Box - Val Lucas - Maryland letterpress print shop
(top photograph courtesy of Nicole Munchel)
Bower Box - Val Lucas - Maryland letterpress print shop

FULL OF FUN, BAR(N)-NON

My shop is crammed full of everything you could ever need. I’m working in a small renovated barn; we redid the electric, insulated and put up drywall, and installed a plywood floor and a heating/AC system. There are some fun details from the original build, like vertical wood paneling and a funky distressed door leading upstairs, plus different sized windows. I’m planning to add track lights to complement the huge amounts of natural light during the day. It’s tight, but each press is accessible, even if sometimes it serves as a table surface.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP

 It’s a cozy place to work. I feel surrounded and inspired by my tools and equipment. My restored presses are very special, and I have a lot of sentimental equipment that I’ve collected from friends and mentors, including a Golding Pearl that belonged to Mike Denker and a selection of wood type, metal type and ornaments, and paper from Roland Hoover.

SHOP SIZE

320-ish square feet.

PRINTING IN THE OLD LINE STATE

The shop takes up the first floor of a small barn behind my house in Monkton (and was a major selling feature of the property.) Neighborhood features include the chicken coop, garden, and cornfields out the window.

TYPE OF SHOP ENJOYED

This is my personal shop, I do my own artistic production plus some custom printing and bookbinding for clients. Occasionally friends come by to print, but it’s mostly just me.

PRINTING PRESS FAMILY

I mostly work on a Vandercook Universal 1, but have a restored Chandler and Price Old Series, a United States platen, and an in-progress Colts Armory and Pearl, plus an assortment of smaller tabletop presses and a foil stamping press.

MOST VALUABLE TOOL 

The Vandercook, as I produce most of my print and book work on this press. It’s reliable and easy to set up, and allows me to print large pieces.

GETTING INKY + COLORFUL

I usually use Hanco litho inks, modified with plate oil or transparent base. There’s been a lot of teal blue on press lately.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE

I’m lucky to be able to open my windows and doors for nice ventilation, and use an eco-friendly mineral spirits with the automatic wash-up on my Vandy.

BASE SYSTEM

I’ve been using a standard height Boxcar base since 2006 or so, on my first press (the big Colt’s Armory) and now use it on the Vandercook for custom work.

OIL OF CHOICE

3-in-1 SAE20

PREFERRED CLEAN-UP RAG

Old t-shirts! A lot come from screenprinting friends so they have fun designs and tests.

PIED TYPE

Too much to admit to- but some of it will be re-cast into new type!

ORGANIZATION SECRET

It’s so secret that even I don’t know what it is yet.

SHOP TIPS

There’s no one way to do a particular project, and each person has their own method- you just need to figure out what works for you.

Val Lucas - Bowerbox press
Bower Box - Val Lucas - Maryland letterpress print shop
Bower Box - Val Lucas - Maryland letterpress print shop

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.