Small Satisfactions: Press Day 4

Halfway complete!

With Hurricane Eta on the way, I decided to get some more work done on the ink disk before the rain and wind started. This time I worked section by section instead of scattering my attention across the whole disk, and it worked beautifully. My first round of scrubbing took the top layer of bright orange rust off, but there was plenty left on the disk for round two. I scrubbed each section down with steel wool until the coating of WD-40 stopped turning new shades of rust-colored, then wiped the residue off with rags until they came away mostly clean. Not a lot of work done, just the back of the disk, but I feel it’s good work.

Completed ink disk cleaning. Look at all that beautiful rust free cast iron!

It might even be good enough my perfectionist self will be satisfied and I won’t have to do a third scrubbing on this small section of press. Yay for progress!

Once Eta is passed, I’ll scrub down the top of the disk to take the remaining rust off it as well. Then it’s off to the welder to hopefully get disk and shaft reunited!

For Want of a Welder: Press Day 3

I hadn’t planned to work on my press today, seeing as NaNoWriMo has started and I have a novel to finish editing, but it turns out I’m more enamored with scrubbing rust off a press than editing my words. I’ve been going out once a day to soak the grippers in WD-40 in the hopes they will loosen enough for me to remove them, but sadly no progress has occurred there. However, I did take the steel wool to the exposed top and side edges of the platen, which had their share of rust to remove.

Cleaned tympan clamps and screws bracketing the chase and gripper screws. My press seems to be making its way into the house screw by screw…

After scrubbing them down, I decided to try unscrewing the tympan clamps so I could give them a more thorough cleaning. Two of the screws have odd tops, so it was a challenge to get them started, but once I got them loosened up with some stubborn twisting and liberal WD-40 application, they came out beautifully. When I took the clamps off I discovered not only insidious rust that had worked its way between clamps and platen, but also strips of old tympan paper stuck under the clamps! They’re far too grimy and stiff to resemble anything useful now, but they were amusing to find. I removed the paper and gave the clamps and the newly exposed edges of the platen their first scrubbing. It’s a small amount done, but still progress!

A larger accomplishment I pulled off today was finding a welder who will work with cast iron! Finally! I was beginning to worry I’d have to ship off my ink disk and shaft to have them mended by a professional letterpress restorer, which considering the weight and fragility of old cast iron, was not a prospect I was looking forward to. The shaft isn’t fixed yet, but I’m a huge step closer to getting that done. Once the ink disk is operational again, I’ll be sending off the rollers to get recovered; the second big project in need of doing.

The Wonders of (Steel) Wool: Press Day 2

IMG_0458 crop
Press cleaning, part one! Variety of screwdrivers from my hunt for one to get the gripper screws out.

Today marks my first time working on my new press! After much researching, article reading, and press restoration video watching, I finally got started on restoring mine. I found and contacted NA Graphics to get my rollers recovered and/or replaced (they’ll decided which once they see the rollers in person). The rollers are now boxed up with as much bubble wrap as I could cram in, ready to be sent off to get cleaned up and fixed up. I also began looking for local welders to fix the broken ink disk shaft, but have met with far less success thus far. Cast iron, it seems, is not a popular metal anymore. Maybe it has something to do with its immense weight and predilection to rust…

Ink shaft collage
Before and after. Ink disk shaft is freed! Yay!

Speaking of rust, most of today was dedicated to that subject. I started with  soaking the broken end of the ink disk shaft, which was rusted into the arm of the press, with WD-40. Despite the bright orange patina of rust all over it, after only a few minutes the shaft easily popped out. Success! I scrubbed down the shaft, although only the broken end had much rust on it. The rest of it had been kept clean, stuck inside its socket as it was.

Continue reading “The Wonders of (Steel) Wool: Press Day 2”

Letterpress Adventures: Press Day 1

Press group prints crop
elementia editors and the broadsides we printed at Hammerpress.

Two years ago, while working as a teen editor for elementia magazine, I was introduced to letterpress printing when we went to Hammerpress to print broadsides for the magazine’s Best Of special edition. For years my mother, lover of vintage and antiques, had been trying to get me interested in old style writing—i.e. a typewriter. While I like the idea of a typewriter, I was never as enamored with it as I was when I met a printing press. A Vandercook proof press, to be exact, that had me in love with letterpress from the first moment.

Block print carving
Lino stamp carving! The carving is of my two young roosters (half carved in this photo).

A year later, I went back to Hammerpress with my friend for my 21st birthday. Being the kind of person who spends their 21st birthday at a stamp carving workshop at a letterpress studio pretty much tells you all you need to know about me. (I am the young adult stereotype’s worst nightmare.)

After that, we moved across country to Florida, effectively stranding me away from everything I’d known. Shortly after moving I found Print St. Pete, a nearby letterpress studio. I attended an open house they held, then a letterpress basics workshop, which was designed to teach students enough about the occupation that they could rent studio space and use the equipment on their own. I didn’t get a chance to rent their studio before we had to move again (that’s a novel in itself), and being 3 hours away I don’t see myself getting the chance to do so now.

Continue reading “Letterpress Adventures: Press Day 1”