Common Press Construction Update at The Wonder of Wood

On Tuesday we visited Settle, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, to check on the progress of our wooden common press components. There may not be a lot to show at the moment but, as this aspect of the project has received such interest, it is incredibly exciting to show how it is beginning to take shape.  You can find out more about wooden common presses and the reproduction side of our project here.

Settle
Punny benches at Settle station
The Wonder of Wood
The Wonder of Wood

As wooden common presses are typically over six feet tall and construction requires low moisture content and solid hardwood, we couldn’t simply drop by B&Q to source our wood. Many parts of the press will be made from much larger stock than what is readily available but the team at The Wonder of Wood managed to source timber large enough to be used for the cheeks, and it can be seen in the photo below.

Cheeks

Till
Other recognisable forms beginning to take shape include the till.

It was incredibly useful to meet Robert and the team in person to consult the plans, answer some questions and, thanks to their great problem solving skills, come to conclusions that only involved making minor adjustments to our original plans. Therefore we can work with the wood and not compromise on creating a true reproduction of the early 18th century Gent press.

Our plans
Our plans at The Wonder of Wood
Gent Press
The 18th century remains of the wooden common press owned by York printer Thomas Gent have informed the plans for our reproduction.
Uncommon Press
An example of a modern common press reconstruction – the Uncommon Press at the Cary Graphic Arts Collection at RIT (photos credit Seth Gottlieb).

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a more detailed update on the construction process and the work of the machinist and blacksmith, as they too begin to pour their expertise into our project.

You can check out The Wonder of Wood and their work here.

Yorkshire Dales

Thin Ice Press at The Print Project

Last week members of the Thin Ice Press team visited The Print Project in Shipley. The workshop, hosted by Nick, gave us the opportunity to learn about letterpress, get covered in ink and create something beautiful.

Nick began by using his work (check it out here) to show us the creative possibilities of experimenting with wooden and metal type and how we will soon be able to use the Thin Ice Press studio for our own creations. To get some experience with metal type, as members of the team less acquainted with the practicalities of letterpress, we decided to each set a line taken from The Life of Mr. Thomas Gent, Printer, of York.

In January 1739, the frost having been extremely intense, the rivers became so frozen, that I printed names upon the ice. I first set up, as it were, a new kind of press, only a roller wrapt about with blankets.

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We opted to use different faces and point sizes. To someone far more comfortable with Photoshop, letterpress can be a daunting medium. If you set a line of text that ends up being too long you can’t just swipe over it to decrease the point size. This may sound obvious to readers familiar with letterpress but really got us into the mind-set of this completely different way of creating and showed us it is best to not ignore these differences, and treat letterpress like a digital printer, but to work with and embrace them. This led us to alter the line lengths and in turn, we think, create a more interesting design. The experimentation with different faces also taught us that we’re going to need some strict measures in place to ensure our type stays organised in a studio that will be used by many students in the coming months!

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After transferring to the galley, packing with spacing and adding a flourish, we used the proofing press to highlight some amusing errors. We corrected our errors, proofed again and used this imprint to experiment with different layouts.

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We finalised the layout and placed the forme on the bed of his Vandercook press. Nick showed us how to lock up the forme and secure it with furniture. He explained how pressure is exerted and the ideal shape to achieve – this certainly made us appreciate the work that goes into creating his extraordinary layouts. With paper size decided and cut, it was time to print. We took it in turns to use the press, ink the type and place on the drying rack. We even looked like we knew what we were doing…most of the time.

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It was wonderful to get acquainted with metal type and spend some time in a fully operational studio. Big thanks to The Print Project for an incredibly useful and really fun day out. You can check out the website here.

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Crowdfunding Update & a Busy Week

Our first wonderful announcement is that, thanks to you generously donating and spreading the word about our crowdfunding campaign, we have hit our fundraising target! To find out how this will shape the future of Thin Ice Press click here and if you missed the crowdfunding deadline and still wish to donate you can do so here (please select ‘Other’ in the ‘Designation’ drop-down menu, and then type YuStart – Thin Ice Press into the box that appears).

To spread the word about our ambitions we welcomed members of the York Antiquarian Book Seminar into the studio. These guests were the first to see the space and it was brilliant to fill it with such enthusiasm.

Antiquarian Book Seminar
Members of the York Antiquarian Book Seminar in the studio.

We have also been out and about with our smallest press. The first of these events was the International Association of Bibliophiles visit to the University of York library. It was great to get involved with this event, talk about our project and in exchange see some interesting items from the Borthwick Archives.

International Association of Bibliophiles
Illustrated journal created by a 9 year old, on display during the International Association of Bibliophiles visit to the University of York library.

The next day we headed to the 2018 York Book Fair. The event, at York Racecourse, featured over 220 bookdealers and is considered to be the largest rare and antiquarian book fair in the U.K. We took a stall by the entrance to entice people to chat and learn about our project as they waited in line to drop their bags.

2018 York Book Fair
Thin Ice Press team members chat to visitors at the 2018 York Book Fair.

Over the weekend the University held Open Days. We took this opportunity to get back in the studio and open it up to prospective students. Everyone loved printing on the Adana during the July Open Days and this enthusiasm was seen again (such as people reacting to the magic of their first imprint) but now alongside three large iron presses and the fragments of the early 18th century common press. It was also lovely to give tours of the studio and chat about our plans to integrate the print studio into teaching, student societies and publishing over the coming academic year.

Getting involved with these communities has been so rewarding and we’ve realised just how many people have connections to letterpress, from those who had once set metal type (and now want to stay as far away from the fiddly stuff as possible!) to people whose ancestors had owned a press. All acknowledged our madness for embarking upon such an ambitious project but certainly share our joy in the revival. It’s been busy here at Thin Ice Press and, in light of our fundraising campaign, we’re eager for this to continue.

New Adana 8×5 & Open Days at the University of York

Last week we welcomed an Adana 8×5 to the Thin Ice Press. Below you can see some photos of the team gathered round our new press as we set it up and the first ever imprint!

Our new Adana

Setting up the Adana press
Learning how to set up, ink and clean the Adana
First imprint by the Thin Ice Press, at the University of York
The first imprint by the Thin Ice Press on our new Adana!

After viewing a wide range of presses at The Logan Press we began to realise how amazing it would be to own machines from different eras, allowing us to chart letterpress history. As the Adana is the first and most modern of our press collection it will allow us to extend that vision all the way from the 1700’s, with our common press, into the 1950’s with the Adana.

During our visit to The Logan Press we ordered three large iron presses so decided it would also be a good idea to have a more portable press, as the smallest iron press may be called a ‘table top’ Albion but it is far harder to transport in comparison to the much smaller Adana.

Tabletop Albion Press
Tabletop Albion Press
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The much smaller tabletop Adana

This will allow us to move the Adana around the University and even transport it to events – so we can tell people about the Thin Ice Press and the future of the project with a press alongside! Our first opportunity to try this out happened last weekend as the Adana arrived just in time for the University of York open days. We set it up in the English Department foyer so we could offer prospective students the exciting opportunity of hands on engagement with our first press, alongside chatting about the printing history of York and our future plans for the letterpress studio.

Adana Press at University of York Open Day
Using the press at the University of York open day!

It was brilliant to see how much enthusiasm was created by our first and smallest press – we can’t imagine how excited people will be to see the finished studio and other presses! Follow our Twitter and Instagram for more project updates and a big thank you from the Thin Ice Press team to Caslon for the speedy delivery of our Adana.

The Logan Press

On Saturday 16th June we traveled from York to the East Midlands for a visit to The Logan Press. As one of the busiest commercial letterpress printers and restores in the UK, it seemed like a fitting place for a research and buying trip.

The Team
The team (from left to right): Seth, JT, Lizzy, Helen, Megan and Carla

We toured the company from the main studio to a separate warehouse that, as you can see from the photos, was packed floor to ceiling with a massive collection of presses.

The Logan Press - collection of presses

There was the chance to see the beautiful restoration work on Arab platen presses up-close, with several in stock and at different stages of the restoration process. Patrick Roe told us about their work and the different projects The Logan Press has worked on, including an 1880’s Cropper that made an appearance in the film Sherlock Holmes II and many other projects. Some of their restoration work can be seen on the very punnily titled ‘heidelblog’!

The Logan Press - Arab before restoration

The Logan Press - Arab after restoration

The site is also home to the Fine Book Bindery who offer specialist hand bookbinding for private presses, publishers and the printing trade. Housing the two trades under one roof meant we could see how specialist book production works from letterpress printing to bespoke bookbinding – the result is a truly beautiful product.

Patrick Roe of The Logan Press and Giles Hovendon of AMR Press have also recently merged their two companies. On the website they describe how, having worked closely together in the past, the merge will allow the continued partnership of experience and equipment. It is also because they have ‘decided on a new strategy to ensure their ability to provide these indispensable services in the future.’ Therefore it feels brilliant to be delving into this world of letterpress, to not only support it but to also create and develop our own press within it.

As we viewed the different machines it became clear how amazing it would be to have presses from different eras at Thin Ice. Our vision had quickly evolved from the common press and a small table top Adana, to charting the history of print through our presses, but avoiding the dangerous Heidelberg’s of course – no chopped fingers at the Thin Ice Press!

The Logan Press - Heidelberg

We purchased a beautiful table top Albion, a later Arab Crown Folio with a solid flywheel (that will be restored by The Logan Press) and a large Colombian (complete with the eagle that is also currently waiting to be restored). So, by end of July, we hope to have one platen and two hand presses restored and ready at the Thin Ice Press.

By having presses instead of ‘a press’ our studio will be able to chart the evolution of letterpress history – from the original Gent common press alongside our reproduction, to The Columbian, the Albion and finally the Arab. We hope this will also really help to fulfill our aims in teaching an outreach, as more presses offer up more practical ways to engage with history and different applications and techniques.

The Logan Press - table top Albion Printing Press

Having three presses on the way has certainly made us more aware of how far we have to go to establish our press room and made our endeavor seem  more real than it did a few days ago but still remains, above all, a very exciting development in the Thin Ice Press project. We would like to say a massive thank you to Patrick, Guy and Fran at The Logan Press for helping turn our vision of the Thin Ice Press into a reality…and also for the ride to lunch!

 

Check out http://www.theloganpress.co.uk

The Logan Press, 21d Orchard Road, Finedon, Northants. NN9 5JG United Kingdom

Telephone +44 (0) 1933 681961   Email patrick@theloganpress.co.uk