|January 8, 2019 -
Well, so it begins. Another year begins at The Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop.
UPDATE: APRIL, 2019 - You can skip the rest of this initial January 2019 post - things have returned to "normal" here at the old EP. Personal Family Matters are no longer taking all of my time and I am back to work full time. Feel free to skip to February 22 post and the many later posts since this year began... It's become a very busy and productive time, with old projects being completed and many new ones begun. - Alan
But this year won't be like last year - not so much is likely to happen in the print shop this year. Due to extenuating circumstances and family commitments and obligations, I have had to make a decision between my family's needs and those of the Letterpress Community.
As you might have guessed, the family won out. Accordingly, I am cutting back my "shop hours" to a great extent. And, although I will likely be "in" for a few hours each day - to complete current projects, keep existing promises and ship parts and supplies for which orders have already been placed, I will be avoiding - as much as possible - any new projects.
I may not be able to respond promptly to emails and messages, so please accept my apology in advance of your query.
I already have 6 presses in the process of restoration and a number of orders of type cases and cabinets to ship and many ink rollers to cast, but beyond that - and hopefully restocking some of the "Things we make here", please don't expect me to be able to respond - even to simple inquiries - as quickly as I would like.
This may change as time goes on, so be assured. I am "OK" - just overwhelmed with a variety of things which need my attention at this time. As my time frees up, I will be back in the shop, printing, making parts, restoring presses and filling orders for supplies. - and I will happily post announcements here.
February 12 -
So. The dust is beginning to settle on some of the larger issues that faced me last month, but there is still a lot of catch-up to do, so we're still unable to respond promptly to inquiries. But we are beginning to catch up.
Watch this space for continued updates as we begin to get back to work on a more productive schedule....
February 17 -
Well, I may not be doing much here in the shop, but one of our friends just had a nice spot on NJTV News - https://www.njtvonline.org/news/video/step-back-in-time-to-this-historic-villages-revolutionary-roots/
Our friend Bob Bozzay set up the print shop at New Jersey Olde Town Village in Piscataway, NJ last year using his father's unique old press - an actual and very rare Baltimore Jobber #4 from the 1800s - which he brought out of the basement and set up in one of the old buildings at New Jersey Old Towne Village.
We are honored to have cast the ink rollers used on his old Baltimore Jobber. These were custom-cast to fit his press using 20-durometer polyurethane rubber - with a shelf life of more than ten years and a softness and tack as only found on the old composition rollers that printers always preferred for hand-fed platen presses, but which are no longer available.
Since Bob is a printer AND a blacksmith (and a retired engineer, etc...), in this short news video, Bob is shown at the forge while his print shop apprentice, Rachel Lee, represents the printer at New Jersey Old Towne.
New Jersey Olde Towne is open all year, and close to Interstate Route 287 for easy access, so if you would like to see the only working Baltimore #4 Jobber that we are aware of, stop by for a visit. (You may want to check the print shop schedule first.)
February 22 -
Well, not only has the dust settled, and the snow stopped, but we are getting back to work - currently finishing up the long-delayed restoration of a small press for UPenn to use in their traveling exhibit about Walt Whitman. There is still a lot to do, but this press had been expected in December. Events overtook us and we had been unable to work in the shop since December. But now we are back - and loving it.
This restoration, btw, has some new features added to it. Two of them - the radiused chase corners and the oil slot for the ink disk were taken from our experience with Chandler & Price presses over the years. We also filed out the mounting slots on the base of the press. Now the press willl mount more firmly and reliable. In fact, this press boasts a number of new features in our restoration work. One of them is a new paint - a denser, strong, thin-coat paint that will prevent chipping of the paint as we experienced with the old primer-plus-paint procedure used in the past.
The others have to do with issues that simply were not important to Kelsey when the press was built - which was mostly as a means of encouraging sales of their supplies, which is where Kelsey Co. made their money... But restoration work is different. Out goal is to earn and keep a reputation for fine work...
But admittedly not fast work, as many have learned, but quality work lasts and we believe that in the long run, that's more important. When we restore a press, it's intended to be used for 100 years or more. That's one reason we use Stainless Steel drill rod for all of our shafts. The stainless will look better and delay rust better than common steel, and is not as tough as the cast iron that the shafts run in. This way, the shafts will wear before the casting is damaged. And, with the clips in place, they will never fall out - as has happened many times in the past. It's worth a little extra expense in materials.
Since Kelsey presses have no bushings or bearing, and all rods must rotate within a cast-iron hole, this is a factor worth addressing. Shafts are easy to replace; castings not so much... And, on the shafts, we are cutting fine grooves into the ends that will hold E-clips or Spring clips to hold the shafts in place. In the early days, Kelsey simply cut common steel rod and hammered it in, mushrooming the ends to hold it in place. Later models used a push-cap to sort of hold them in place. But they often came off. Our restorations use machined stainless steel shafts with grooves on the ends and spring clips that will never come off.
Oh, and we also did some additional grinding - sanding, actually, on our belt sander - to clean up some rough spots on the nearly 100-year-old casting. It makes it look better.
We have also set up a heat-able paint booth. Cold temps do not encourage good painting, but we installed an electric heat pad in the paint booth that lets us maintain a nice 60-70 degrees inside the cabinet to enable quality painting. We even got one of those spiffy new laser thermometers to let us check the temperature of not just the space, but the individual parts prior to painting.
We also intend to use it for casting ink rollers - which cure better at 60-70 degrees than 30-40 degrees - and the heat pad in the cabinet maintains that temperature overnight, which is better for the 18-hour cure time for the rubber. With the shop warmer now than it was last winter - the result of the newly-installed old wood stove plus two more larger propane heaters, the fuel bill is higher, but the shop is at least usable. Last winter's Arctic Blast was devastating. This winter, we can work in here. When we can get away from dealing with home and family matters and into the shop...
March 8 - Friday
Spring is almost here! Last night, the temperature dropped to 9 degrees.... for the last time this winter! The prediction is for no more temperatures in the teens - or even the 20's more than a few times between now and next winter. It got up to nearly 40 degrees today and 50 is promised for Sunday. From then on, it could hit 50 or more every day until next winter.
There's still snow on the ground - from a bit of a 6" kicker "spring storm" last week, but it will begin melting tomorrow and will soon be a memory. Less firewood to cut for the wood stove; fewer refills on the propane tanks for the space heaters
Now, that's not to say there couldn't be a surprise in store... it has happened before - like this 7" snowfall we had on March 2, 2009 - see: http://baptistown-nj.com/snowscene.2009.0302.jpg and more of the same in 2015 - and last year, we had 4 nor'easters in 3 weeks - set a record. In fact, we had two feet of snow fall during last March and another 5" snowfall on April 2, so this 6" snowfall is not so serious, but (with fingers crossed) it looks like it is the end for this year.
So, frosts, even snow falling on the early blooming flowers are still possible, but we're keeping our fingers crossed that soon combating the cold weather will not be taking as much time from my day as it has for the past few months.
Monday, 3/11 -
Well, spring does indeed seem to have arrived. Today's big news is that the ground has thawed well enough that I could turn on the water to the shop. The line from the house freezes up when we get a few days in the teens, but once the snow melts and the little green buds start to sprout, it's warm enough to turn on the water again...
another bit of news - on a personal note:
In 1968, I had enlisted in the USAF - with plans and promises to serve as a Language Technician in Europe... Well, as often occurs in war time, I was "needed elsewhere" and soon found myself on the Cambodian border with Vietnam, loading and unloading USAF C-130 cargo planes in some very interesting - and often dangerous - jungle air strips.
Ten years ago, I created a web site about our "MOB Team" - http://8tmbob.org. Well, over the years, many of the few of us who served together have found the web site and shared their photos and stories. This week, it was John Webb - the Tall Texan - who showed up - after nearly fifty years! His photos and stories are at http://8thmob.org/member.photos/JohnWebb/index.html So, if anyone has an interest in what I was doing away from the print shop from 1968-1972, here's my story of Vietnam...
Friday, 3/15 -
Nice and warm today. Can you believe it - 70 degrees! Now all the snow is gone and the land is waking up and stretching as the ground warms up (to 45 degrees today) and little green things are beginning to grow... Yes. Spring is coming!
And, we Got the rollers cast... for The UPenn Press Restoration well, almost. The rubber mixture is in the tubes and beginning to cure. By tomorrow night, they will have cured enough for removal from the tubes. Another day or two of curing and they'll be ready for ink... We're finally coming down to the wire with this long-overdue restoration. But it will be beautiful and will work better than it ever did before - and this press will be printing for another 80 years or more!
Well, if you find printing presses interesting, take a look at The Martin Howard Collection of typewriters! - Some are as old as our presses!
And, even more... a MOVIE! - http://californiatypewritermovie.com/
( I gotta my antique typewriters together and begin using them...)
Well, a lot has happened since our last post.
3/16 - Saturday - My friend Frank came over and we headed to Home Depot, where we disassembled and loaded up a mobile staircase which they no longer wanted, but which I think will be great for accessing the roof above the work shop. We'll repaint it black and it will become our outdoor "retro staircase"...
Saturday evening, we removed the cast rollers from their molds. Success. We have some nice, soft, tacky, 20-durometer rollers to use on the UPenn press.
3/17 - Sunday - The Prodigal Press has returned from its long visit to NMIH. It is now in the barn, but plans are afoot to move it down to the Washington's Crossing Historical Park in PA - where it will charm and educate the many thousands of visitors to the park for the next year or so...
3/19 - Tuesday - Spoke to Ryan at Washington's Crossing Historical Park. It's confirmed; they want it and they are making room even now. And now we are working together now on the plan to move the Wooden Common Press - aka "Old Ben" to its own long-term space for display - and use - in the park. We will print on it there - and do demonstrations. Very exciting...
3/20 - Wednesday - more progress has been made on the UPenn Press
3/21 - Thursday - Stained and Varnished UPenn's press' base today - and mounted the handles. Tomorrow, we reassemble the entire press and .... we will be able to print soon!
3/25 - Monday - The U-Penn Restoration is Completed! Tomorrow, we will deliver the press - in person.
3/26 - Tuesday
Well, the UPenn Press was delivered today. Lynne is happy. I am happy and now it's time to clean the shop, process a slew of previously-ignored emails and get onto...
the next projects: (aka Alan's current to-do list...)
And, then, I'll continue on and get back to my list -->
update: ..... 2:21 am....
Well, I can take two items off of the list...
I updated the web site - and posted that video. And I wrote about it on the UPenn page - under the subheading: Add a Shim to your Ink Disk Adding a shim beneath the ink disk is a solution to the common problem of rollers hanging up on the disk as they come off of the disk and reach the chase bed rails - which are relatively higher when the disk is too low. Raising the disk just a bit can smooth out the action of many Kelsey Excelsior presses that exhibit this trait. We make shims to solve this problem - and others. Shims can also help with a disk rotation problem no the large Craftsmen Monarch 9x12 press.
3/28 - Thursday
I've been getting a lot of inquiries for Kelsey parts lately, so I decided that I better organize the old press shed and make room to store parts where I can find them... This is the beginning - 30+ Kelsey presses in line for restoration - 3x5s, 5x8s, 6x10s and more...
You can click on this photo for a 1000 pixel-wide close-up, or click this link for the 4000 pixel wide image
However, I can't sell parts from these presses unless I can make new ones to replace the sold parts with. "Aye, there's the rub" * - to sell these parts makes the old press unusable. But to make customers wait the typical 3 months for a new part is impractical, so I will sell these parts and *I* will be the one to wait 3 months for the new part. I can wait; printers who can't print can't wait, so I am preparing to help them with these parts - as long as they understand the reason for the cost to them. But it's got to be this way. These presses will be restored - with the parts on them now or new ones that I make for them...
There are some thirty presses in all out in the shed. (Today's photo and the "with snow" photo from 2 weeks ago) And, finally, after all these years, (most of) the presses are organized in one place. I still need to build a shelf for the little Baltimore and Sigwalts - and a doggone barn for the Vandercooks & C&Ps, but those big presses are safe over in the old barn for now...
The Vandercook Galley Presses - the 01's and 099's - might come over here sooner, but those big Vandercook Model 4's; the Model 17 and the big Challenge proof press just have to stay in the old barn until I can build a new barn (or a bigger shed with a solid floor)...
Next step is to make room in the shed for the spare parts that I do have for - or from - these presses, and get them into the shed as well. And then... inventory and published prices...
I guess I'll have to add that little project to the to-do list...
4/5 - Friday -
Inthe old days, when type cases were shipped, the address was simply written on the back of one of the cases, they were all tied together with rope and then placedon a train or in a horse-drawn wagon and taken to the buyer - as seen in the photo to the right.
But these days, it's a bit different.... Here are 12 cases, packed in two 54# boxes, ready to leave the shop for their new home in Ohio...
4/6 - Saturday -
Had a busy day today with visits by our friend Claudia and her friend as well as two of her students - who helped me bring the old 9x12 Craftsmen Monarch from the press shed into the shop so that I could study it as I figured out what was wrong with her aluminum Monarch. The ink disks don't rotate as they should - on either press. I think it's a Craftsmen design flaw.
But now the work shop is crowded again and I need to bring in a 6x10 Excelsior which will soon be going to a Tea Room in Seattle...
4/7 - Sundaymorning
Got an email today from a professor at a college in Texas. Looks like I'll be fabricating some type cases like this one soon... It will be going into a colonial printing office in Texas.
Well, now that the wood shop is set up and functioning well, it should be an interesting project....
4/7 - Sunday afternoon -
Had a bit of concern while wandering my land Sunday afternoon. On one of the trees in the back, I found what appears to be bear scratches. The paw that made these scratches had claws as far apart as the width of my finger.
I have heard that the black bears were out, and the fellow who grew up on this land told me he saw one near the creek about 300 yards north of this spot when he lived here, but there is nothing to the south but fields and forest - and a stream only 75 yards away, so it is quite possible for a bear to come up here and scratch this pine for some fresh sap...
There is a black bear known to wander this part of Hunterdon County. Maybe it was our time for a visit....
Click the photo for a closer look.
4/8 - Monday
Got a call from my friend Paul at Bindery Tools today - my castings are back from Cattail Foundry, and they have drilled the holes in the new, freshly cast 8x12 C&P Old Style Treadle - and the rest of the castings are done as well...
Including this beautiful Golding & Co. Type Case Handle. I had five of them made....
Wow. I just stumbled upon John Falstrom's Amazing page at Perrenial Designs. This guy is THE Pearl Guy, for sure. He also lays out a very plausible argument regarding the advantages of the No.11 Improved Pearl over the most popular table top in use today - the venerable C&P Pilot. And, I agree wholeheartedly with his assertions and conclusions. Good reference on the Pearls of William Golding.
At the bottom of the page, there is an 11-image slideshow illustrating changes made to the Old Style Pearl between 1877 and 1895. For an old press enthusiast like my self, I found it fascinating - and similar in many ways to the subtle changes I have discovered myself in the various Kelsey Excelsior models over the years.
I guess that means a new web page for me to do - on the Kelseys. I have a lot of the info on line already, but there is more...
Tues 4/9 - Continuation of To-Do List
continued at - to do list #3:
"In search of the 30 point Brush" - A printer in Vancouver, B.C. uses 30 point Brush foundry type for foil stamping of padded folders. They need more type and inquired whether we had any for sale. Well, since our vast collection of type has not been fully cataloged yet, I couldn't be sure, but I did promise to scour the barn for fonts of 30 point Brush.
I found 14 point, 18 point, 24 point and 36 point - many fonts & duplicates - both in cases and in galleys.... But no 30 point - ("I'm sure I have it here - somewhere....") Finally, I found the one case of 30 point I was looking for - in the last possible type case I could get to. There it was, one of the lowest cases in a blocked-in 48-case cabinet. There are well over 500 cases of type and hundreds of galleys in the shop, and this is the one type cabinet that actually has (had) a cabinet blocking it. Needless to say, it has been moved...
So, after all of the searching, I found the one case of 30 point Brush among the collection and will be fonting it up and sending it off to B.C. Well, actually Port Washington, which is this interesting little US enclave on a peninsula jutting south from the Canadian mainland. It's much easier to mail items to P.W. than try to get it across the border...
Preparing an old ATF Hamilton Type Case Rack for shipping to Ohio.
I brought that type case rack - aka "City Stand" over from the barn today and managed, somehow to fit it into the already over-crowded work shop - with two rather large presses already taking up more space than could be spared.
The original plan was to simply wipe it down and clean it up a bit - and make any repairs needed. Well, it does appear to need some repairs - a few new case rails and a new set of risers on the bottom; perhaps some new cross pieces.
This is turning into a restoration project...
But this wood working is really neat, and the case rack will be very nice once it's cleaned up, a few new rails are added, the risers that were added to the bottom of the legs are replaced with new ones. That old wood was not as good as the wood used to make the body of the frame, and it's time to mill some nice wood down to the correct thickness and replace the four risers, cut some new "L" shaped rails (of Maple) and install them. Then we'll oil up the entire assembly before crating it up for shipping... and then, finally, it will hold the 12 type cases that I sent ahead of it, and there will still be room for 4 more cases in the rack, plus an upper and lower case on the sloping top. Photos to follow
I've added two new pages to the site today - references of the Hamilton Wood-runner type case racks - and the Hamilton City Stand we are currently restoring...
Well, it seems as though I've come upon yet another problem with the Craftsmen 9x12 Monarch press: It seems to be using a Pilot linkage piece that is too short for proper operation! No worries; I made a new one that fixed it...
Mon 4/22 - A Visit from the Real "Kelsey Builder" - Pete Wilson.
And, he brought me his own press - one that was given to his father by his uncle - Glover Snow, owner of Kelsey Co after Bill Kelsey's untimely death in a traffic accident in the mid 1920's. Glover Snow basically built the Kelsey Co as we know it until he passed it on to his son-in-law, Gene Mosher, in 1958. In 1937, he gave this press to his 10-year old nephew - Pete Wilson's father...
Anyway, this press is pretty unique. At first glance, it looked like the common "older" style 3x5 - with the squared handle. But this one has the old parts mounted on the newer chassis - the shorter one that is distinguished by the round handle.
In any case, this press will be getting a page of its own. It's unique; it's the missing link between the two styles of press - and, it was given by Glover Snow to his nephew, Pete's father, when Pete's dad was a boy himself - in 1937.
This press was never in any catalog. In fact, I never even knew it existed. But here it is - now in our collection.
We also found presses in the press shed that Pete had assembled himself when he was in charge of press production at Kelsey Co during the 1970's. And, as usual, he taught me a lot about how Kelsey built their presses. Every time I speak with Pete Wilson, I learn something more about Kelsey Co. and how these presses were made. Fascinating...
Wed 4/24 - First day assisting Tony at Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead Museum Print Shop - preparing the shop for opening day next week...
So, for you folks who've been wondering why my blog hasn't been updated in a week... I've been busy - mostly fiddling with these two 9x12 Craftsmen Monarch presses.
And, finally, I've got both Monarchs printing well. Hurray!
Our test form is this 48-point Cheltenham Bold Calendar. It requires a level platen and sufficient inking and impression to do pretty much any other job within reason.
I will add the details - the trials and tribulations (not entirely over yet) that I went through to reach this point. When these presses came to me, neither was working and, oddly enough, the symptoms were pretty much the same. More about that when I update the "Monarch Repairs" page...
But tonight, this post is simply to fill in a week's blank. I know that there are folks waiting for me to finish this project and get on to theirs. Well, for those folks, good news. I will be done with the Monarchs this weekend. All that's left is some tidying up, making a gripper assembly and new roller trucks - and maybe the painting of some of the new parts I made as well as just a few more tweaks before we send one of these off to Syracuse, NY.
So. Time for a break. In the morning, it will be back on the presses for a final push to have everything ready for Samantha when she arrives. We'll print the form she's bringing with her on both presses, then she'll choose the one she wants to take back north - the Orange, aluminum one or the dirty gray old cast iron model...
Continuation of To-Do List
I just heard my name on the radio.... In support of our local radio station - WDVR-FM and in particular the show - The Bleeker Street Cafe, hosted by my friend Chris Poh, I offered a fund-raising premium "Come to the print shop and print 100 coasters of your own design" - for a $50 pledge to the show. Well, it seems like the owner of Michell's Cafe in Lambertville made a donation in support of Chris' show and now will be coming to the shop to print some coasters. Won't this be fun - for both of us!
Sun4/28 - Samantha and friend arrive from Syracuse - She saw both presses, printed on each of them and then headed home with the cast iron Monarch...
These two presses had been giving me fits for a while. I had a 200# cast iron version, Claudia brought over her orange aluminum-cast model of the same size. They both had problems, most of which were eventually overcome, but we still can't recommend the Monarch for doing a full 9x12. It is just too large a size for the design of the impression mechanism. For lighter forms, it works well - now that we changed the roller carriage side shaft. When these presses came in, neither would bring the rollers clear to the center of the disk. After calculating the perfect length and making a new set of linkages for both presses, that problem is solved. Next problem is figuring out a way to make a stronger impression. C&P uses a massive flywheel and momentary impression dwell. We are considering a modification to the Monarch to do the same. We'll see....
Wed 5/1 - Picked up a load of newly cast press parts - including 3 5x8 Excelsior Chase Beds and 5 5x8 chases - and more - ready for machining (photos to come)
Fri 5/3 - Bob and Tony and Kent stopped by. - a Group of Distinguished Visitors to our humble little shop...
Bob is not only the printer at East Jersey Old Towne Musuem, but is a machinist (my mentor on lathe work) and a blacksmith. He brought along 4 brand-new early style 6x10 roller hooks that he made for us - we will soon be offering them for sale to restorers and users of the oldest style of "modern" Excelsiors - those made in the early 1900's that use the forged steel 5/16" roller hooks rather than the common 1/4" round rod style.
Tony is the curator of the Machine Shop and the Print Shop at Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead Museum in Lambertville, NJ. Tony made his own ink disk for their extremely uncommon 3x5 Cook's Enterprise. Although also made in Meriden, CT, Cook was a competitor of the Kelsey Company. Cook made some excellent presses and inspired the Kelsey "Victor" Side-Lever model based upon design features of the Cook's 6x9. Kelsey acquired the Cook company around 1900.
Another press in the HJ collection is a 6x9 Curtis & Mitchell Columbian No. 2 side-lever press. C&M were also acquired by Kelsey Co...
Kent is a Solar Energy Specialist who also has a Ludlow Slug Caster and enjoys casting slugs, but has no press on which to print with them. He brought some of his cast slogs along and we made some prints of them for him using the Nolan Proof Press and new Paper Gripper device.
Fri 5/4 - Spent early afternoon helping out on Opening Day of the season at Holcombe-Jimison Museum Print Shop
Fri 5/4 - Our friend Rick - "Rick the Printer" of Athens Georgia - stopped in for the weekend on his way back south from hauling some larger presses to New York State. We had our typically enjoyable time and discussed many obscure matters relating to printing presses.
Sun 5/5 - Worked on Potter press and entertained visitors to Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead Museum
Friday, 5/10 - After waiting patiently for quite a few months - until our schedule cleared up a bit, Nikki brought her very old 6x10 Excelsior to the shop for a new set of rollers and some troubleshooting - and to learn how to use her press.
We leveled the platen, installed the new rollers we had cast for her and got ready to show her how to print with it. But then we ran into some problems. Very subtle bends in 3 of the roller hooks made them unusable - we could not even get the rollers up onto the disk. To solve this problem, we had to either straighten or replace 3 of the bent old-style roller hooks.
Straightening these 5/16" steel roller hooks would require the heat of a forge, and our forge is not yet set up in the new shop. But fortunately, we had some of these impossible-to-find rollers hooks on hand right here in the work shop. (and, we are making more - NEW ones!) With the new roller hooks installed, the press was ready to go to work. We inked up with some 50-year-old Kelsey Peacock Blue and she enjoyed printing a bunch of coasters before having to pack up and head home. But not before she had a chance to learn how to use her new (very old circa 1900) Excelsior 6x10. We also loaned her the form and gave her a few packages of coasters so that should could continue printing in her home studio just about as soon as she got there....
next? - dunno. let's check the to-do list
Sat 5/11 -
Eureka! "I have found it!" - For weeks, I have been searching for a nice, clean piece of Poplar to use to complete the restoration of the Hamilton City Type Case Rack for Kurt out in Ohio.... I went to Lowes, Home Depot, Opdyke Lumber; I went on line looking for a local source. I called Heacock Lumber - the mill where I got my last lot of rough cut poplar - that I used when we built the new workshop. No luck. I did order more rough cut 2x6's, but they are being custom-cut and will be far too green to use for anything important..
And then.... I walked into our local Hardware store - Frenchtown Home & Hardware - which has served our local community for many years as "the source" to find pretty much anything we might need related to hardware or home devices.... Well, when Mike took over from Gene, he also took over the space next door; the pharmacy moved into town and the hardware store doubled in size... and, over in one corner, Mike began displaying locally milled lumber - nice stuff - maple, walnut, etc.... AND some really, really nice, clean, straight, seasoned POPLAR! It cost me $40, but it is worth it. THIS is THE piece of wood I have been looking for. I could not be happier... and Kurt will also be happy to get his restored circa 1900 Hamilton City Case Stand...
June 18, 2019
Well, it's been a very busy month... again.
June 18 -
Well, the recently rebuilt Vandercook 099 Galley Proof Press is leaving home... heading north to the Bread Loaf Printer's Cabin at Bread Loaf School of English in beautiful Bread Loaf, Vermont, where it will become a part of their own restoration project and will be used by student printers at Breadloaf. This press began as a rusty piece of cast iron with a worn out, cut and beat impression roller and dirt and rust everywhere. See video of the Old Printer's Cabin.
Now, with an impression roller recovered by RAMCO Roller in San Dimas, CA and a full tear-down, de-rusting, re-painting and total disassembly and clean up by the team here at the Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop and Restoration Facility, it looks like new and works like new - even better, since the package includes our new Galley Press Paper Register Device as well as our new Excelsior Two-roller Galley Press Inking Device and a set of our own very strong Excelsior Galley Magnets.
The Register Device gives this galley press the ability to print multi-color jobs in perfect register. The Galley Press Inking Device eliminates the frustration of brayer-inking a form in the press. No more tilted brayer leaving more ink in one spot than another, no more "rocking and rolling" as the printer tries to apply ink to a form - of any size. This device, which can be seen in the photo, is essentially a hand-operated roller system, using two Kelsey 6x10 ink rollers mounted in a 13" wide holder that allows the printer to use the press rails as roller bearers - perfect inking every time. And, it's easy to use...
So. With this project off of the list, it's time to clean up the shop, regroup and return to completing all of those other projects which had to be set aside as this one took all of our attention for the past few weeks - excepting, of course, for all of those surprise interruptions which took me away from it and kept me focused on meeting this critical deadline....
All of the devices referenced above will soon be added to our "Things We Make Here" page - with more detail, pricing and a link to our contact form which will transfer data from the page directly into our custom-made online ordering system.
But first, I have to fix my tractor so that I can cut the recently-neglected and rapidly-growing grass.
July 4, 2019
It's been a busy few weeks. But mostly not printing-related matters.... Problems (again) with two of my tractors - the two with mower decks. I have 3 acres of grass that is beginning to look like a hay field. But my tractors are both broken. Two weeks ago, the clutch throw-out bearing on the 1974 Cub 1200 disintegrated from wear and age. This is the one I began cutting the grass with when my Red International Harvester Cub 782 failed to start at the beginning of the season. Fixing the 1200 seemed to be a difficult and possibly time-consuming task, so I put it off - whereas troubleshooting the 782 seemed pretty straightforward. and might only take a few hours.
I was wrong.
I began trouble-shooting the 782 and found more problems than I expected, so it took me a few more days than I expected - and during all of that time, I had been unable to get anything done in the shop - and I have clients waiting patiently for supplies, parts, even presses.
But it took another day. And then another day. I finally got the wiring straightened out, installed a new solenoid and a new ignition switch, and then discovered a fuel leak - into the crankcase. Not good.
So I just spent a week trying to get the 1980 Cub Cadet 782 back in to service - and failed. I decided to get that part and turn my attentions to the 1200 after all.
So I called Patrick today to see if he found the used clutch bearing I needed and he said he had, but when I got there, we discovered that is was installed on a shaft that would not fit my transmission with the "creeper" gear - essentially a low-low range meant for pulling heavy things slowly. The part he had wouldn't fit.
When I groaned about my need to cut the lawns, he suggested a simpler and immediate solution.... He has about 90 Cub Cadets - kind of like me with Kelsey presses...
So, for $300, I brought home a very nice running Cub Model 109. It's not a cream-puff beauty, but it works and the engine sounds really, really good.
Tomorrow, I will cut the grass.
And next week I will bring my 1200 to Patrick so that *he* can repair it - as I am back here in the shop doing what I do better than tractor repair. And then I'll bring him my 782. He said it could take him a month or more to even get to it - sort of like me again with printing press repairs and restorations. He's good - and booked solid. I like that.
So, if any of you have been wondering where I've been these past two weeks, there it is. I was trying to be a tractor mechanic.
Better I stick to printing presses...
A pleasant surprise here in the old print shop - our old friend Nicholas Silberg stopped by for one of his annual visits. We had a great time, comparing notes and stories about old printing presses.
It's not too often that such a knowledgeable and accomplished young printer comes by - especially one who has also dealt with - and fully understands the issues I have dealt with while repairing and restoring presses. Nicholas' visits are always welcome.
So, no grass was cut today, no type case stand worked on, but just a bit of catch-up with an old friend. Nicolas has been coming by since he first began to develop and interest in old presses - some 10-15 years ago or so.
And, as usual, I sent him home with something that he could use which I could not use - an odd-sized caps case - very handy when laid on a type bank, but it wouldn't fit into any of my cabinets and I was glad to see it go back to Georgia with him.
July 8 -
As if I wasn't far enough behind on my work already, the Hamilton Letterboard Cabinet arrived at the Fastenall store in Flemington and I had to go pick it up.
... and unload it and make room for it in the shop and then finally take this photo of it safely in place and prepare to get back to the other things on my to-do list.
This cabinet is great - and was worth the effort to get it here. I will use this elevator-powered set of 20 20x30" shelves to store the heavy type forms, galleys and packages of type which I simply cannot carry around any more as easily as I did when I was younger and stronger. Finally, I can begin my long-delayed project of organizing, cataloging and preparing to sell some of this extra type that I have been collecting for many years.
I can hardly wait to get started. But first... a few other things to do....
After I get a few hours of mowing done, I'll come back to the shop and get to work on that Hamilton City Stand for Kurt out in Ohio. Then I'll set up to cast some rollers - got lots of rollers to cast - rollers of all sizes, some custom... Then I'll get Dolan's 6x10 ready to ship to Seattle, and then I'll get Rick's Pilot ready to sell and crated to ship.
And then I can get work on The No. 11 7x11 Pearl that Claudia wants at the end of the summer and begin working on old "Irwin" - the Early Series 10x15 C&P which is a tent outside. It will will be returned to Fieldston School in September all cleaned up and ready to install in their new printing studio. In between, I'll get back to my "to-do" list to see what else is on the schedule.
- Oh and I'll be filling supplies and parts orders - and making roller bearers, Excelsior Chase-Bases, Ink knife holders, Cushion Quad Guide and Paper Register Devices and Galley Press Inking Assemblies as well. - And sorting type. I'm gonna be busy. Better call it a day now and get ready for a morning tractor run. There should be little dew tomorrow - and there will be more raspberries to pick out on the far edge of the field - if the deer don't get to them first...
Well, I did get started with that mowing on July 10, but I didn't get done. That $300 Cub Cadet Model 109 was not a good choice for me - and for 3 acres of lawn. First of all, it barely had the power to cut the taller grass, and the blades were only 33" - which means a lot more driving. The first few hours went fairly well, but then, while in the middle of the back field, the engine died. I checked for spark; there was none. I called Patrick for advice and he suggested that I take the coil off of my currently broken Cub 1200 and use it on the 109. That worked, and I was back in business - for a while.
But after some other problems, I realized that this tractor was not the solution I needed, and I began to reconsider a very nice $450 Cub 1170 that was for sale down the road. It had been this fellow's father's, but he rarely used it and it was in pretty much cream puff shapte - am $800-valued tractor for only $450/ I bought it, brought it home and began to use it. It, too had some electrical issues, but with my recent experience working with these tractors' wiring systems, I quickly tracked down and solved the problem - a loose cable on the starter motor. And boy, is is clean on the inside - a far cry from the 50-year-old Cubs I am used to working on...
So, I was back in the mowing business and could clean up the yard as I promised my wife I would.
But I didn't cut all of the fields. As I had promised Kurt, once I had the equipment operational and the most critical fields cut, I would go back to work on that wooden Hamilton type case rack.
So, on the morning of July 16, I cleaned out the shop, put the wood planer into position and prepared to plane down the nice poplar boards that I would use to make the parts I needed for Kurt's Hamilton City Stand. I was in a good mood and optimistic.
Just one thing before I bean the wood-working; check my email for the day...
But instead of seeing my web mail program pop up, I saw this ->The server was down - again. I could not reach Excelsior Press Webmail or even the website. This was something I had to deal with right away. Aside from my own Excelsior Press website, I still maintain a few others and also host about a dozen sites on my server.
For years, everything ran pretty much smoothly. There were hacks, of course and minor problems to solve now and then, but this one woud prove to be the worse yet. My server had been hit by a DDOS attack - Distributed Denial of Service. The hackers got me and took down my server. It wasn't as if anyone had particularly targeted me for any reason, they had targeted the server because it was old and insecure and an easy mark. "Script kiddies" use old servers like mine for practice.
In any case, the phone calls began to come in - folks couldn't see their web sites or get their email and my day turned into something I was not looking forward to. In fact, it has taken an entire week to get things working again - and I'm still not done.
I have had to move all of the domains off of the old server and onto a new one that is newer, faster, has more diskspace and far better security than the old one had. But it's taking time. I set up that old server over 12 years ago and, frankly, things have changed a lot since then and these new-fangled GUI interfaces are harder to learn than the real nuts and bolts concepts behind them. Twenty years ago, I knew how to set up servers and domains via the command line - the Unix version of an old DOS interface - which I had become familiar with back in the 1980's. I would type actual commands into actual files and knew where everythign was and how to congifure the server and domains and programs that ran on them. But these new GUIs are a whole different world. They simply don't make sense and are very confusing to an old dog like me.
I really want to get back to fixing old printing presses - that technology hasn't changed in 100 years...
July 23 - 3:30 am
So, as of tonight, http://ExcelsiorPress.org is back online on the new server, and I am finally able to update my blog and let the world know where I have been all week - offline... But the web site is now back online and although the contact form isn't working yet, it will be soon.
So. Rough coupla weeks. I'm sorry I wasn't working on the things you need me to work on, but I really had little choice but to take care of these things first. Responsibilities...
I sitll have a few days' work to do on the new server, but as soon as that is all done, I will go back and plane that wood and make those parts and get that type case stand out to Ohio where it is needed...
That is... if there are no further surprises..... Wish me luck!
Well, not much to report - except that issues are being resolved and problems are being solved. But, damn! Why does it have to take so long? I've got other things to do...
And I feel as though God is testing me - one more little roadblock pops up after another.
When I thought that I finally had the grass cutting issue under control, the belt on the new tractor snapped! I hadn't even finished the first full cut of our lawns. But, as with other obstacles we've had to overcome recently, it too has been resolved - and easier than I would have expected. After trying in vain to find the right replacement belt for my model mowe, I finally gave up and took the old belt to a local lawn mower shop, and yes! They did have just the right belt in stock - and the cost was about the same as I'd found online, but this was the right one, and it did fit.
Of course, none of the Youtube videos about the belt replacment process on this model actually reflected the model I have - an MTD Cadet 1170. I could not find a worthwhile instructional video - or even a proper diagram. None of the diagrams that I found matched up to the 42" mower deck on my machine... so I just had to figure it out myself - which I did. Two hours later, I had the mower deck working as it should and was able to go out and complete the cutting.
And then, when I came back in to the shop, I wrote my own damned web page of instructions for the next person who searches for this information but couldn't find it. I'll be posting it in my /essays & articles/ folder over at my personal web site - http://AlanRunfeldt.com if YOU want to mount a new mower deck belt on your Cadet 1170 with a 42" deck, my notes should help...
And now, I am keeping my fingers crossed that nothing else goes wrong - or if it does, that I can fix it quickly...
AND THEN, there's still all of those web sites to set up on the new web server - and I have install some special software on there to let me run programs. This new server won't run my old programs, so I have update them - and now compile the code to run on this newer version of Linux as well. I have quite a few new things to learn - and to do - before I can get those web sites back to running as they had for the past ten years or so.
MEANWHILE, All of my Print-Shop-related work is on hold - and darn, there's a lot to do here - even without the tractor and now the web server issues. But I will get back to it just as soon as I can.
August 7 -
Still not back to being a printer... After bumping into repeated "brick walls" while trying to get the new web server working, I am still getting the server error message..
The web sites are working okay, but the programs are not. However, I am getting closer to finding the answers - mostly new security stuff - that I need to finally get this new server working and put this all behind me so that I can get back to working on the printing presses and other shop projects that are still on hold until I can get this new web server running - and running the programs that make mine and my clients' web sites interactive - contact forms, guest books, etc...
So. Until I can get these contact forms working again, if you need to reach me, try direct email using this temporary email address - callAlan@ExcelsiorPress.org or by phone at - 908 627-2730....
Note: Once I get the contact forms working again, I will likely delete this public display of my email address and phone number. But until there is an easier way to reach me, this will just have to do. I just hope that my email address and phone number are not "harvested" by some hackers or scammers who will sell it to other hackers or robo-call sales companies...
Of course, calling or emailing me right now does not guarantee a response until these web server issues are resolved and I am back to work in the print shop.... I must apologize in advance...
Finally! It works! The Miva Virtual Machine is installed on the new server and the compiler is installed on my desktop machine and I am running freshly-compiled code on the server!
Finally! After two very frustrating weeks, the pressure is beginning to drop down a bit.
There is still a lot of work to get things back to where they were nearly three weeks ago, but at least the most difficult challenges have been met and I pretty much know what to do now - and how to do it.
So. I am back! Tomorrow, I will work in the wood shop and get to work on Kurt's Old Hamilton City Stand and come back and sit down at the computer for a few hours, then back to the shop for a few hours and then, maybe even outside - if it's not raining - and cut some more grass - with the new riding mower, which is working fine.
Keep your fingers crossed for me - that no new emergencies crop up until I have chance to catch up with all of these long-delayed projects and orders... I'm only about a month behind schedule...
OK. The tractor and web issues are pretty much behind us - for now, at least. Now, it's time to get back to work on that old Hamilton City Stand. Time to make sawdust!
This photo shows the first Poplar riser about to be drilled to fit the 100-year-old upright of the frame. Later, we will run it through the thickness planer to make it fit perfectly to the old post.
After that, we'll drill and mortise it for the cross-piece tenoned rail and the long concealed bolt. When it's ready, we'll bolt it into place and go on to the other 3 risers, fitting each perfectly and then permanently... Final re-assembly will occur in Ohio.
Aug 17 -
Hail Storm, Flood
While working in the shop this morning, I began to hear the distinctive sound of hail striking the roof of the shop. And, boy was it loud. I stopped work, went to the door and took some photos of this rare occurrence. And then, when the rain began coming down harder, I went back into the shop and returned to my desk.
I have good drainage outside the shop, so thought nothing more of the storm - even though I did hear fierce howling winds and some really close lightning strikes. One of them struck a neighbor's barn and began a fire which burnt it to the ground. A second strike hit another neighbor's 4 foot diameter tree and blew half of it apart - branches and wood every where. The photo here shows the rain as it began - with 3/8" hailstones and lots of rain. By the time the full force of the storm was being felt, that little trickle of water shown in the photo grew into a 30 foot-wide flow of toooo much water... and then it came into the shop.
We lost a few limbs, but no trees came down, and thankfully no lightning strikes or fire here. The only thing that came down was rain, and I think it may have set a record - 4" in less than an hour! In fact, so much rain came down that it overwhelmed my drainage system and backed up in front of the shop - backed up to 4" deep, whereupon it began to come in under the doors. I didn't realize that we were flooding until I swiveled in my chair and saw water only a few feet away. I began by pushing it back out using the old push broom, but that was not enough. The water ouside was already 4" deep and it just kept coming... and coming.... and coming... until the entire shop was under 1-2" of water. It all drained away shortly after the rain stopped, but the damage was done. Fortunately, few things in the shop were sitting directly on the floor. Those that were suffered water damage. Nearly everything else was up off of the floor and fared much better...
We are still cleaning up. And, I have widened the drainage to twice its size. This is the only time in seven years that water came in and flooded the shop. I don't intend to let that happen again.
Beth's Press Move
Although I was hired to move Beth's 8x12 Chandler & Price, somehow Barry and Beth wound up doing most of the work - and enjoyed it - while I supervised - and rested a lot. I felt like Mark Twain's character Tom Sawyer when he "let" his friends white-wash the picket fence for his aunt in the famous story about Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn...
No worries, though. They were well supervised and did a good job. I did my part by supplying the truck, trailer, jacks pipe and other equipment to make such a move go smoothly and by showing and telling them what to do and how to to it. They were both happily suprised at how smoothly the move went. (I was not surprised..)
We laid down thin sheets of masonite inside the store and plywood outside to protect the pavers of the walkway and to lead the press onto the trailer ramp. After that, we hooked up the block and tackle and pulled the 1000-pound press up onto the trailer. Smooth and easy.... The press was on the trailer within two hours of arrival - and could have been loaded in 1/2 the time if I weren't sitting down to rest so often... I will be adding more photos and some details of the move on the new page which will be appended to our "Moving a Press Safely" page...
Aug 26 -
Cleaning up, Catching Up
Got some catching up to do with the blog. Since our last entry, we have moved an 8x12 Chandler & Price, finished the major wood working of the Hamilton City Stand and survived (barely) a devastating flood that filled the entire shop with 2" of water for a few hours last Monday. We have also been asked to prepare an 1860-era print shop for a new tv show, and *that* will be a big project - if it comes to pass as expected.
But here's the best part - the Hamilton City Stand. The major wood working is done and it's even closer to being shipped.
Aug 31 -
Wow. What a month. Just waiting for the locusts to arrive. I swear, God is testing me - testing my patience, that is.
Did I mention that my cell phone quit on me? took me a few days - and a few tries - to get a new one. But I did, and now I have a phone...
And, on the day of the storm, our cable modem was apparently damaged by some near-by lightning strikes. After trying for a few days to troubleshoot and fix it ourselves, we finally called in the cable guy to check out the line and replace the modem..
Oh - and that same storm took out our router, too, so still no internet... Fortunately, my Verizon account includes a Mobile Hotspot. It eats up the data - at $15/gb, but it does work. Soon we will have a new router and maybe then get back up to speed...
So... got a rush printing job in the shop. Gotta get it our right away - for my best and longest term printing customer. I've been printing this repeat format job for MGL for over 40 years now... Stop what ever else I am doing and get this order printed and shipped a.s.a.p.
I finally got the area around the Heidelberg cleaned up after months of accumulata built up around it, and then moved the stuff that had been piled up there while cleaning up from the flood on 8/17...
I got it all cleaned up and was all ready to print this delayed "rush order".
... and the press wouldn't start.
What now? I run the 1953 220v Heidelberg Windmill Platen Press using a 220v generator for power, so I began troubleshooting there. Aha!- I found a loose wire in the plug. Tighten it up, plug it back in, pull the cord to start the generator again. At least the Harbor-Freight Chinese-clone "Predator" engine - a clone of the Japanese Honda engine - is still running as reliably as it has for the past 5-6 years...
But still no power. Try it again. Damn! Another wire was loose in the plug. OK. Fix that and try again.... STILL no current to the press. Take the plug apart again and this time, pull firmly on ALL wires to make sure that they were well-connected.
They were. "Third time is the charm"... The generator started and put out the power to run the Heidelberg. Now to do some printing....
- an hour later and the job is done, ready to ship first thing in the morning. Only a few weeks late, though....
And the fancy mortise & tenon joints I used on the Hamilton Cabinet worked out well - until I began drilling the 4" deep holes into the boards from the sides. I couldn't fit the pieces into the drill press for perfect alignment, so I tried to free-hand drill these long, deep holes - exactly centered in both directions, and perfectly parallel to the outside of the rail... I failed on two of them. Went in at an angle. Did'nt meet up with my side hole. Made a mess. Got it fixed, but it sure does not look as professional as I'd like....
So, God. We've already had the hail storm. When should I expect the horde of Locusts?
Sunday, September 15 -
Gee, no wonder one of our friends asked what I've been up to lately. I hadn't updated the blog! - No time. Busy getting things done - like the Hamilton Cabinet. I cut the last board and mounted the last shelf on it today. I also got a special new stain that's designed to make my new wood look old. Seems to work well. I'll be treating all of my fresh Poplar with this so that it blends in better with the 100+ year-old untreated wood Hamilton used when they made it.
And, I came up with a neat trick to make it easier to install the square nuts that hold the long bolts in the cross pieces. I'll do a photo-essay of the process. Photos will help explain it all...
And, I finally solved the problem with the new web server. My DNS servers - ns1.nodeadlines.net and ns2.nodeadlines.net stopped working when I moved all of the web sites to the new server. After weeks of struggling with this IT issue, I finally got it figured out and working correctly.
I also put a lot of time lately into putting together an entire 1850's print shop - if things work out as expected, you may be seeing out old Wooden Common Press on tv some time in the future. More on that once the plans are all set.
Saturday, September 21 - FIELD TRIP!
Frank Sattler of NMIHand I drove down to Lancaster, PA to attend the 6th Annual Printer's Fair put on by the Lancaster - based ".918 Club" - a group of old - and young - printers who are "Keeping the Craft Alive" - and boy, are they! And they put on quite the event - With tables and booths and even hot dogs and sodas! Printers, printer suppliers, and visitors - LOTS of visitors. One booth was set up to enable kids to select type and print on the Nolan Proof Press. Those kids were having fun!
Lots of artists and printers selling prints. Some selling old tools and letterpress paraphernalia. I went a bit over the top, myself and bought a reasonably nice - and certainly readable - (but also *very expensive*) copy of the *extremely rare* 1906 American Type Founders Catalog. The type in there is nice and interesting, but what I was after were the pages showing equipment they were selling in 1906 - including the Washington Hand Press - for $150 back then - $4275 in 2019 dollars - and the same price as a "new" 10x15 Chandler & Price at the time. A Pilot sold for $35 in 1906 - $1,000 in today's dollars. A 7x11 Pearl sold for - $135
I also picked up this interesting and unique Type Case. It's odd in that although the left 1/2 is a standard lower case layout, the two sections to the right are both caps layouts. I suspect the second set of boxes on the right is for small caps... I will be reaching out to Dave Bolton at Alembric Press to see if he can put a name to it...
update: I did find out that this was sold by Hamilton as their "Improved Type Case" in 1906...
Too much - and too many photos for this blog, so I'll be posting a page about The .918 Club Printers Fair. Suffice it to say I am pleased that I took the time to go this year.
Sunday, September 22
- my brother's birthday... Steve Runfeldt, born Sept 22, 1955
Today is a day "on press" - printing that big annual forms job. Not very beautiful, nothing much to brag about - and not terribly challenging - any more... It was more difficult in the beginning - back in the 1970's, when carbonless paper was new and a bit tricky to deal with. But not any more. The paper and glues have stabilized and I've been doing this job so long - (for the same client - a forms broker - since 1976 - for over 40 years...) that it's become quite routine. Every year - since 1976, as summer turns to autumn... and often into some very cold days of winter, I have been printing this repeat job for the same client.
At one time - in pre-computer days - we would do upwards of 300 larger orders each year. But these days, most of the big orders have gone away as the municipalities computerized, so the volume has dropped precipitously. But even now, with all the pc's and ink jets and laser printers in use in every office in the land, some towns prefer to simply buy one book of pre-printed, perforated and numbered custom printed forms... So, although we're down to just over 100 orders these days - and they are smaller, they are still being numbered and perforated on our old 1953 Heidelberg Windmill... It's fun.
Wednesday, October 2 Big day today... The deal is confirmed; contracts exchanged, proof of insurance covered... and, the deposit check arrived. I guess it's official: We will be supplying an entire 1850's Print Shop for the Apple TV production of a tv show about Emily Dickinson. This is a very exciting project - and has encouraged me to begin actively marketing "Print Shop Props" for other tv shows and movies. It's a good way to help fund an otherwise barely profitable museum.
We've already gotten some experience in this niche of an already niche market dealing with old printing equipment. Back in 2008, we supplied the presses and other items for the filming of the pilot for the popular tv show White Collar. In 2011, we serviced the 8x12 C&P that was used in the Disney musical Newsies. In 2014, we actually built a Wooden Common Press that was used in the musical Amazing Grace.
We were also the subject of Fiona Otway's documentary "Kiss the Paper" and have had film crews from New England in the shop as we printed an Emerson essay for his biography, and another from old England who came to film me printing "Jack the Ripper in America" as a newspaper headline used in the title shot of their Discovery Channel show.
So. This is not our "first rodeo" snd won't be our last. We've done this before and, hopefully will do it again in the future. Time to make up a web page on this subject of "Printing Press Props Rental" and see if we can do more of this.
Friday, Oct. 4 -
Getting a bit chilly tonight. Gonna get down to 42 degrees - and tomorrow's high may only be 62 degrees. Time to get that wood stove installed in its new location in the middle of the shop. Last winter, it was by the big door and the back of the shop stayed cool. By moving it to the center of the shop we hope that it will heat the entire space more efficiently.
Anyway, I made a faux "stone" today. The real marble stone weighs about 200 pounds and is easily broken. The faux stone is made of mdf coated with a special "stone" paint. It looks the same, but weighs only about 25 pounds - 1/8 of the real granite stone which I have had since I was a boy - since 1964... This will serve better as a tv prop.
I also picked up our new shirts today - with "Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop" Embroidered over the pocket. This is the first time I have ever actually had shirts with the shop's name on it, but I suppose it is about time. Wearing these shirts, I hope that Burt & I will look more professional to the crew at the location when we install the 1850's print shopequipment on the set of the tv show next week.
I don't like rush orders or deadlines, but sometimes I do make an exception - as when Steve G. inquired about "some items" he needed to make their "new" (used) 5x8 Excelsior operational for their Walt Whitman exhibit that was opening only two days hence - on Thursday, 10/17...
The press arrived on Long Island with two bent ink roller hooks, no chase, no rollers and pretty much "not enough to print with". They also did not have any type.... So, in true "help the museums" tradition, I set about to rescue Steve from an embarrassing failure - and we did.
First, although we are currently backlogged in casting new rollers and bending up new hooks, we did have some good, used rollers and hooks - and a chase. Then, Steve sent us the text and we set the type and printed some of the broadsides he wanted to allow visitors to also print while they were there.
So. After setting the type and printing a few dozen pieces, we removed the chase, wrapped it up - with the form still locked up in it, then removed the rollers I had been using - along with two of the roller hooks, and even included the tympan top sheet - with gauge pins installed, and sent the entire kit off to Steve.
It arrived midday on Wednesday - just in time for Steve to put together what I had sent him with his press and begin printing the same form as I had done here. The exhibit was scheduled to open the next day... talk about "just in time", eh?
But it worked out well. The display was a hit and Steve and his visitors were able to print. Problem solved and one more feather to stick into our Excelsior Press cap... I was glad to help and pleased that this time, I actually was able to help and Steve get set up just in time for the Thursday opening.
The "Cholera" theme, btw, was a reference to the fact that Walt Whitman was working as a typesetter in NYC during the 1832 Cholera outbreak and stayed at his post and setting type for the newspaper even after many residents of New York had fled the city to avoid Cholera.
Sunday, 10/20 -
James Rura and his wife Joanne came by today to pick up some items for his shop. Jim had been a printer for years, then retired and had no print shop for a while. Then he tracked down a 9x12 Excelsior and a 4x6 Sigwalt and began to "get back into it". He had some type and stuff, but wanted some more to round out his font library. We had a great visit and he went home with a few more cases of type from our "for sale" collection, m,ost of our spare spacing and some leads & slugs that now he can continue setting up his "retirement print shop"
Monday, 10/21 - Busy Day...
Started the day today with a phone call from one of the crew from "Emily". New schedule is set for pick up of their "shop" equipment (../projects/1860sPrintShop/index.html) on November 7.... Still ready, still waiting, still adding some last minute pieces and doing some last-minute cleaning and oiling of the old wood...
And then, there was a visit by the grandson and two great-grandsons of my earliest printing mentor - Joseph Ishill of The Oriole Press in Berkeley Heights, NJ. Mr. Ishill had printed books in his basement shop beginning during the 1920's or 30's and has become renowned as one of America's finest small presses of the era... Mr. Ishill's grandson Alex & I had shared the experience of visiting Mr. Ishill in his home shop circa 1963-64. Sadly, I was so busy talking about Mr. Ishill and the resurgent interest in Letterpress Printing (I do tend to go about that), that I neglected to take a photo of them with his press. It as a missed opportunity... But the grandsons do plan another visit - and to learn the craft that their grandfather had practiced so remarkably. I will make sure to get a photo then...
Now it's time to resume cleaning and organizing the shop a bit so that it doesn't look quite so bad when Bruce arrives from West Virginia to visit and discuss old presses, etc. on Thursday.
Yep. Sure am busy here....
Next project on the list: resume casting ink rollers, fix up that Pilot and ship out some delayed supplies and parts orders.
Bruce Brenner, came up from West Virginia to visit some print shops in the NY Metro area and stopped by our little shop today. He's been a printer as long as I have. In fact, way back in 1967, when I was considering applying to West Virginia Tech to study Printing Technologies, he actually did and was a student there when I began a different adventure. If I had attended WV Tech instead of joining the Air Force, we would have been classmates...
These days, Bruce is involved with the Hunterdon, West Virgina Heritage Museum & Village where Austin Jones portrays Ben Franklin (left) and demonstrates printing on their old Wooden Common Press. He is also having some fun with his own laser engraver and showed me some of the highly-detailed laser-cut wood engravings that he prints with. Neat stuff. Wish I had a laser engraver... I'd make replacement letters for some short-fonts of wood type I have here.
After chatting about printing, presses engravers and his new interest - restoring looms (http://purringtonlooms.com), We went over to the barn and I showed him our Wooden Common Press and the other items that will comprise the 1850's print shop for the tv series about Emily Dickinson. It was a nice break from my normally hectic schedule.
Saturday, 10/26 -
Today it was John and Christine and their 5x8 Excelsior, plus cases of type and boxes of stuff. It was a great visit. I identified and explained all of the odd things in the boxes and discussed the type and type cases in the collection of items that came with her press. We also, btw, saw the most worn ink roller hooks of any we have seen over the years. Needless to say, we replaced them, then mounted a set of our rollers on the press, locked up an engraving in their chase, mounted some tympan paper and inked up the press. Then we set the gauge pins and began printing. She was thrilled. The press had been a gift from John and today, she got to really enjoy it. Once again, we had a good time. Christine plans to print cards of her own detailed line drawings and our test print today showed her just what she can expect when she gets her own wood-mounted metal photo engravings to print on this press.
Going over to see Susan today and evaluate her father's printing equipment. It has to be out of the house before they leave in January. Time to find new homes for some old and treasured equipment. Until she found me, she thought she might have to pay to have it scrapped. Not now, though. Letterpress rescue continues...
Wow! A nice little one-press shop; one old open City Stand style type cabinet and a few other basics. But. Wow! "The Press" is an *original* George P. Gordon 10x15 - built at Gordon Press Works! Very rare press. Much like my Gordon, but mine was made by Damon & Peets in NYC. This one was made by Gordon Press Works - and is the first one of this group that I have ever seen in person. I had expected to see "just one more C&P", but instead was treated to something far more special...
And, this old (1870's?) press is in great shape. Good rollers; smooth motion. It had been used with a one-speed motor driving the large flywheel. I'd prefer to see treadle power instead, but this is the way Sue's Dad used this press beginning in the 1940's - when this press was already likely 50+ years old.
I've added a full description of what's available there to our "Presses Available" page, but I think that this unique old press may already be spoken for and is destined to live out the rest of its life as a working press in an active and growing teaching and printing museum.
Saturday, November 2
Oh, Summer... Where did you go?
Well, it has begun.... Ice on the bucket this morning, 46 degrees outside at 10:00 am and a chilly 50 degrees in the shop... and the wood stove is still not connected in its new, central location in the shop. Propane space heaters are helping, but it's certainly time to get the wood stove going to warm up the shop and get ready for WINTER...
Thursday, Nov 7
Well, today they came and took away our complete 1850's print shop set up for use on Apple TV's series about Emily Dickinson - including scenes in her friend's print shop... - with a new page - The
"Dressing" Page - about how to set up these items...
Friday, Nov 8
The plans arrived today - to be used to calculate a price for making another Wooden Common Press for a museum in Texas. But this time, rather than use the design of the English Common Press, we have been asked to produce an American Common Press - just like the ones that Adam Ramage made in Philadelphia around 1817. This one will be a challenge; it must be 100% accurate - including 75" tall Honduras Mahogany uprights, Cherry rails and Red Oak base legs.
The English Common Press and the American Common Press do look identical, and I used to think that they were the same - but now - after studying these plans of "The Vincennes" press, I know better - at least once Adam Ramage began improving on the common English design. Specifically, Ramage increased the diameter of the spindle (screw) to apply more pressure with less effort and left the "hose" open in contrast to the closed hose of the English model. Otherwise, they are pretty much the same.
And I won't be doing this alone. I am clearly getting too old and slow to tackle a challenge like this by myself. Last time, Paul & I pretty much did it all, but this time, I plan to enlist the help of Alan Brown to machine the spindle and Blacksmith (& printer) Bob Bozzay to forge the iron parts. Paul, of course is ready to do the wood work with all the care and skill he applied when we made our last wooden press five years ago.
We also plan to make some new upper and lower type cases - as would have been used with the old Ramage Press in the 1800's - before Thompson Cabinet Co or Hamilton Wood Products even existed.
Monday, Nov 11, 2019 - Veteran's Day
Today was a day of rest - and phone calls; checking up on and keeping in touch with the guys I served with in Vietnam in 1970 - those of us who are still alive so many years later... We're all reaching or passing 70 years old now - and few of us thought we'd even see our 21st birthdays while we were in that damned, hot, dangerous jungle during those difficult, confusing years of our lives...
Sure it good to be an old man now, looking back on the past and barely recognizing that boywho spent his 20th year being shot at in that jungle so far from home...
Tuesday, Nov 12
Had a pleasant visit today from my old friend and film maker Bert Shapiro. Bert is 90 years old now - and still making films. He worked as a hand typesetter during the London Blitz of WWII when he was a boy and recalls fondly the distinctive sounds made by our Heidelberg Windmill platen press - our press sounds just like the press in the shop he worked in back during the early 1940's... - 75 years ago...
Wednesday, Nov 13
Today our visitor was Alex Mendelsonn - great-grandson of my earliest letterpress mentor - Joseph Ishill of the Oriole Press. Alex and his Dad came by a few weeks ago to meet me and to see Mr. Ishill's 5x8 Pearl, which has been one of my most priced presses since it was given to me in 1972. Now Alex wants to learn the craft of his great-grandfather and has asked me to help him fix up a press- this excellent 5x8 Kelsey Excelsior Side Lever (aka "Victor") press, made in 1964. Soon it will be back in service as Alex learns to set hand type and print as Mr. Ishill did so long ago...
One unexpected surprise in the bag of parts he brought along with the press was this very unique foundry casting of the image of a Kelsey Excelsior. I'd never seen this before and wonder who has the matrix to cast more of them. It's a nice 36 point piece of hard metal type.
Thursday, Nov 14
Well, it got cold - damned cold. 20 degrees this morning... But I was ready. Tuesday night, I tore apart the shop and installed the new smoke stack for my trusty old wood stove.
On Wednesday, I fired it up and warmed the shop with it all day. It's nice to have that warmth and enjoy the glow of the fire in this old wood stove which I bought way back in the 1980s and which sat, unused over in the barn from 1986 until just last year, when I installed it near the front door of the shop. But this year, I moved it to a more central location and opened up some space for it here, nearer to my desk...
Now, I just have to buy and/or cut a lot of firewood for the coming winter...
Friday, Nov 15
The plan for today is to perforate, number and bind a large municipal forms order.
Then, I have to pack and arrange for shipping that City Stand to Ohio.
And then, I have the new rollers for Rick's Pilot press, so it is time to get that one working 100%, then packed and shipped a.s.a.p. to Arizona...
Meanwhile - gotta get a load of firewood to keep the shop warm enough to work in...
AND THEN, I need to resume casting rollers. Already lost two orders due to the delays...
I will be out of the office Tuesday - Thursday. Back to work on Friday - or at least by Monday. Will check email when I can.
December 15 -
Well, I just got back to my desk. My "out of the office Tuesday-Thursday" from 11/25, turned out to be "away from my desk for the next two weeks"...
Apologies to all who were waiting to hear from me. I haven't even been doing email until just this evening.
So. Where was I? What was I doing?
Funny you should ask.
During the past few weeks, I have been working on a big project - setting up a print shop for a tv show, teaching actors how to act like printers and being on set as an advisor/consultant as they were shooting the "printing" scenes. It was quite the experience, and, although tiring, it was lots of fun. The folks I worked with were wonderful. The crew's appreciation of historical accuracy was certainly encouraging.
But now I am back to work and will begin to catch up as best I can with all those inquiries and orders that have been delayed due to this adventure into the world of TV Production...
Please accept my apologies if you are one of the folks who wondered where the hell I was...
Monday, January 13, 2020 -
Sorry to have fallen so far behind with this blog. It's been a very busy time... Lots to add to the 2019 blog as well as lots to add to the as-yet-unavailable 2020 blog...
So. Where's Alan? Not here this week. I will be in the hospital for a few days, taking care of some Elective Surgery whose time has come. Accordingly, I will be offline and unavailable for the rest of the week. When I get home, I'll begin filling in some of the events as 2019 ended and then will begin the new 2020 blog... I got a good photo for it, too.
In the meantime, please bear with me and my abbreviated schedule. For those of you waiting for something from me, please continue to be patient and understand that I have been moving slowly lately - even more slowly than usual - and, if possible, even further behind with projects than I usually am. But when I do get back to work, I will be focused on catching up with still more delayed projects and will get you the parts or supplies - or restored press - or printing job - that you have been waiting for.
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