Workspace Spotlight: The Arm

As studios go, The Arm in New York might be one of the best hidden secrets.  If you go before it opens, you might wander up and down this Brooklyn street wondering if you are in the correct location.  There is no sign, just some apartments, empty-looking warehouses with metal rolling doors, and a small corner store. The street number is right but still nothing to say “here it is”.  But minutes before the 11 am hour, a couple of people wander up.  They carry paper and what could be a plastic printing plate.

This looks promising. And on the hour, a skateboarder arrives, unlocks the door, rolls up the metal rolling cover to show a big picture window and its welcome to The Arm.  Here there are the presses, the notices on the window. The activity begins as many more printers arrive in succession.

Daniel Morris of The Arm describes what’s inside.

THE PRESSES: I am a bit of a freak for late model Vandercooks. I have two SP-15s, two Universal Is and two Universal IIIs. For smaller work there are a couple of C&P Pilots and a Kwikprint 86 foil stamping press. Because I also recondition presses there are often one or two others in some state of restoration at any given time. The equipment has been chosen very carefully to be safe and suitable for a shared work environment.

SIZE OF PRINTSHOP: 1500 square feet

THE LOCATION:  The Arm is on the ground floor of a renovated nineteenth century stables building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The studio takes up the bulk of the ground floor. I built the glass shopfront so that it opens 8 feet wide — getting equipment in and out is a breeze.

FAVORITE THING ABOUT THE SHOP: The way I have laid out the space, the press room is visible from the street, but the type room is tucked away. This was to make sure that passers-by could see what was going on from the street, but also to make sure that people weren’t too distracted when composing type forms.

TYPE OF SHOP: Community + educational. I set it up specifically to be able to share it, my presses and my knowledge of printing. I teach classes from the space almost every week and make the presses available for people to use for their own projects. We’ve got quite a community of printers here in NYC. It is far more fun in the space when there are a few people in working.

MOST VALUABLE SHOP TOOL: The trusty .918 roller setting gauge.

FAVORITE INK: We use the Van Son Rubber Base Plus system and maintain an inventory of all the base colors for the Pantone mixing system. With these inks, a Pantone book and a scale you can’t go wrong.

SOLVENT OF CHOICE: I use Gamsol for washup. It is an artist’s grade mineral spirits. We keep it in Justrite plunger cans and make sure all waste rags end up in our sealed Justrite waste cans. I’m a bit militant about shop safety protocol, MSDS sheets, etc.

PLATES AND BASE OF CHOICE: I am very fond of the standard base and the KF95 plates. I don’t like the deep relief plates, but do have a couple of small deep relief bases for people that bring them in. There must be nearly a dozen Boxcar bases here at The Arm.

FLOOR PLAN TIPS: Make sure your press is situated where you feel comfortable and have good light. Get yourself a good anti-fatigue mat (I love the 2×6 Uline Cadillac mats for Vandercooks) and your feet, legs and back will thank you.

PIED TYPE:  I am proud to say my shop has no pied type. As one of the owners of The Dale Guild Type Foundry, I love to work with metal type, but my policy is to sort the good stuff and melt the bad. May as well turn it back into something useful- we can smelt old foundry type to make new type and Linotype metal, Monotype, etc. we give to our machinist to melt down to make fishing sinkers. You’ve got to keep your machinist happy.

ORGANIZATION ADVICE: Down time is critical. Sometimes you just need to take everything apart, clean like crazy, and put it all back together.

PRINTING ADVICE: Coffee and good records are key [to making the space feel creative and comfortable]. But it is important that the music isn’t too loud that you can’t hear when the press is trying to tell you something.

Big round of thanks to Dan Morris for letting us get the grand tour of The Arm!

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