Tuesday, 22 January 2013
I bought my Adana 8x5 on eBay a few months ago. I was lucky. It was a bargain and in complete and full working order. The only thing that really needed doing, and I've been meaning to get round to this for ages, was to replace the packing on the platen. It had gone a bit wavy in the less than perfectly controlled humidity of its surroundings. Now however, as I'm about to print some business cards for a friend I decided the moment had come to tackle the job.
A previous owner had rather ingeniously used magazine pages covered by brown card to pack the platen. I was curious to see what lay beneath - just to see what year the packing had last been changed. If I'd thought about it at all I would have assumed that the pages were from a Radio Times or a Reader's Digest. Or perhaps even from Small Printer (The British Printing Society's magazine, though come to think of it, Small Printer would be better suited to packing an Adana 5x3).
Imagine my total delight when I found that the magazine pages actually came from a soft porn magazine. Not just any soft porn magazine either, but from Fiesta magazine, which is famous for introducing the original "Readers Wives" feature to an unsuspecting and more innocent world. There are so many things which I could write about this discovery – but it would feel like shooting fish in a barrel, so I won't. It certainly brings a whole new meaning to the phrase "Ladies of Letterpress" though...
Enough to say that I made the following observations:
1. The women have carefully tended but luxuriant lady gardens - it's all rather retro
2. There were no dates (the pages had been cut to size) but judging from the film reviews (Aliens, Stripper, Pretty in Pink and Invaders from Mars) it seems that this was an issue from 1986.
Clearly, replacing the platen packing was a job that was long overdue.
Thursday, 3 January 2013
... masquerading as wrapping paper
On the Friday before Christmas, when I should have been tidying the house, putting up decorations, chained to the stove (insert Christmas blah here) I was actually printing wood type in the print shed. But it was ok because I was printing wrapping paper... or that was my story anyway.
The idea was to assemble some nice examples from my various sets of wood type, including some tasty individual letters picked up at markets and second hand shops, in a random arrangement and make a large poster.
I absolutely love wood type - it has a tactile, strokeable quality that lead type simply doesn't have. However it really is a world of pain to print, because being made of wood it expands and contracts. And if you print type from different sets you're sure to have a lot of work to do to make it all the same height. I knew this which is why I bought lots of sugar paper (12p a sheet - bargain!) so that as I worked with the type to bring it up to type high, I could turn the waste prints into wrapping paper.
"Phwoar! Look at the wood grain on that!" This was obviously my first reaction to the first print. Followed by surprise at just how invisible some of the letters were compared to others. To a non-printing person this looks rather nice -- though to a printer just looks like bad printing! I discovered why there was quite such a difference when I measured some of the letters using a micrometer. They ranged in height from 0.903" to 0.934", when as Any Fule Kno they should be 0.918". Although it doesn't sound much it really does make all the difference.
It did occur to me to sand down the backs of the tallest ones to make them match the rest... no, just kidding! The only way to get all the letters type high was to print a sheet to find the light letters, then unlock the type and raise up the offending letters with sheets of paper of various thicknesses and thinnesses and then print again... and then go through all that again and again and again until it looked right. (If any readers know an easier way to do this, please do make a comment!)
The type on the bed ended up looking like this:
And the grim reality of working with wood type, aka the mess I created, looked like this (I did clear everything away before making the next print):
It could have been a chore, but it wasn't because 6Music was playing and I dropped into a sort of meditative daze. Quite pleasant.
I ended up with loads of wrapping paper, which satisfyingly looked like this:
You can spot the later prints as they are the ones where all the letters print at more or less the same strength.
However, ironically my friends and family actually preferred the paper where some letters printed really well and some badly. Nicer contrast apparently!