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Shang
01-05-2012, 08:04 PM
I've mentioned earlier in these pages that I have a long-standing interest in fine art letterpress printing. All of the presses and equipment I own came from tangled heaps of antique and junque equipment I found in dusty corners of old print shops. In years gone by I used to go out "type hunting" on Saturday mornings. The north side of Syracuse had been the center of commercial presses and job printers. Many of the letterpress printers had gone out of business when offset printing came along, but often in the back of the offset shops there would be a couple of type cabinets. I could buy the type for its scrap metal price, and usually they'd throw in the type cases for free.
But the real mother-lode was found in Mr. Fox's Second and Third-hand Gold Mine of Old Printing Equipment. It was on the sixth floor of of an ancient ruin called "The Industrial Building. Mr. Fox had been buying and selling old printing equipment for many years, and by then only God and the elderly Mr. Fox knew what all was stored in the piled-high floor of dust covered printing equipment.
Some of the type from Mr. Fox's trove consisted of actual museum-quality antiques, so I began taking a friend along--Dave Norton who taught typography in the journalism department at Syracuse University. Dave had the patience to buy "hell buckets" of mixed type, carry these home and sort them into fonts after cleaning each piece of type with type wash.
One Saturday morning I arrived at Mr. Fox's as he was moving a Vandercook printing press and asked if I would give him a hand. The Vandercook dates from the turn of the century and weighs as much as the space shuttle. I offered to help move the press, so while I raised the edges of the press with a pinch bar Mr. Fox inserted sections of steel pipe to serve as rollers. Once the rollers were in place the press became surprisingly easy to roll, we just had to keep a few pipes ahead, and to give the press a boost with the pinch bar. It was even possible to steer the Juggernaut, and Mr. Fox directed me to drive the rolling press into a small wooden room I'd never noticed before.
The press and I barely fit into the wooden room, in fact it hit the far wall and I felt the whole room shake. I glanced down at the wooden floor. Through the cracks in the floor I could look down six stories. Mr. Fox joined me and the press in the room, he closed a gate behind us and activated a large wooden clamp which was holding a thick hemp rope. The room shuddered and began to descend. It wasn't a room, it was an elevator.
With the wooden clamp no longer holding onto the hemp rope the elevator began to accelerate its descent. Galileo was wrong--heavy things fall MUCH faster! As we passed the fifth and fourth floors we were falling at near-terminal velocity. I noticed a look on slight concern on Mr. Fox's face as he leaned on the wooden brake and we passed the third floor without slowing down.
The situation began to improve as we passed the second floor and Mr. Fox leaned all of his weight on the wooden brake lever. The elevator was slowing, but I realized that the first floor was coming up too fast. Fortunately there was a basement, the existence of which I had previously been unaware. We hit the basement floor which was equipped with several large coil-springs which caught the shock of our descent and bounced the elevator back to the level of the first floor. Mr. Fox deftly locked the brake lever and we came to a stop. He had a bemused expression on his face, and said:
"Huh... it's been quite a few years since I've had to do it that way..."

Paul Pless
01-05-2012, 08:12 PM
Y> ...

Tobago
01-05-2012, 08:17 PM
Dude!

Waddie
01-05-2012, 08:33 PM
So, was the rest of the day good after you changed out your underwear?

regards,
Waddie

Woxbox
01-05-2012, 08:49 PM
Hemp rope?

Nicholas Carey
01-05-2012, 09:04 PM
There's an "instaprint" place in Seattle on Capital Hill that has a rather grand old press on display. Looks a lot like this one:

http://www.briarpress.org/?q=system/files/Chandler-Price-Oldstyle.thumbnail.png

I've always thought that it should go to somebody who would give it some love and put it back into use.

Shang
01-05-2012, 09:15 PM
There's an "instaprint" place in Seattle on Capital Hill that has a rather grand old press on display. Looks a lot like this one:

http://www.briarpress.org/?q=system/files/Chandler-Price-Oldstyle.thumbnail.png

I've always thought that it should go to somebody who would give it some love and put it back into use.

That's a Chandler and Price/Gordon Oldstyle press. Yes, these need to go to good homes where they will be taken care of.
I have my eye on one--I can buy it by making a donation to a scholarship fund, but moving it is the real problem. I moved my Kelsey Star press last summer, but even after stripping off all of the weight I could it still took two of us to ease it down a ramp and into the shop.

Shang
01-05-2012, 09:18 PM
So, was the rest of the day good after you changed out your underwear?

regards,
Waddie

Not a problem--screaming equalized the pressure in your body, so everything is alright.

Paul Pless
01-05-2012, 09:26 PM
I noticed a look on slight concern on Mr. Fox's face as he leaned on the wooden brake and we passed the third floor without slowing down. All part of the e-ticket ride. . .

Ian McColgin
01-05-2012, 09:27 PM
Great story.

Mrleft8
01-05-2012, 09:39 PM
Excellent story!
I can tell exactly the number of times I had to move my grandfather's presses (3 of them). 2 of them twice, one of them 3 times.
All of them into, and out of a basement which was only 4' high, but had a basement bulkhead door that was 3 steps higher than the ceiling.
I never did understand grandpa's infatuation with printing presses..... But then again, he was an old school newspaper man.... And he never understood my infatuation with Volkswagons.....

seanz
01-05-2012, 11:36 PM
Great story.......had me wondering if you'd get out alive.

;):D

David W Pratt
01-06-2012, 11:56 AM
Shang:
You would probably enjoy a book I recently read; Just My Type by Simon Garfield.
It is all about various fonts.

TomF
01-06-2012, 12:02 PM
Most excellent.

More please.

Concordia 33
01-06-2012, 12:06 PM
So, was the rest of the day good after you changed out your underwear?

regards,
Waddie

+ 1

TomF
01-06-2012, 12:14 PM
Just finished a fluff book about William Morris - whetted my appetite to read his own stuff about art, craft, and self esteem.

Following from Ruskin, a big theme of his was that the introduction of machines often ended up turning previously very highly skilled workers into quite unskilled labour, with negative outcomes for all concerned. Not that he was against machinery when thoughtfully used to improve quality, and assist an artist/craftsman to do their best; his Kelmscott Press edition of Chaucer is considered a masterpiece.

But it occurs to me that even the machinery you've written about here probably represents part of the de-skilling Morris despised ... even though the skill level to understand and work it properly is pretty high compared with many jobs nowadays. Makes you wonder at the amount of capacity Morris had seen lost ...

ItsFancy
09-17-2012, 02:45 PM
What a great story! I found this forum recently on a letterpress search. I love wood boats, don't get me wrong, but I am a designer and letterpress printer first and foremost.Shang- I see you at by lake of the Ozarks. I just moved my studio to the Joplin area.I have a Vandercook universal III and a C & P 8x10 right now. I need to pick up 2 other platen presses in my area so I can restore them back to working order.Cody

skuthorp
09-17-2012, 04:56 PM
I was trained as a compositor/letterpress machinist way back. Moved on to offset and photo and then digital composition before going into advertising as a designer and then publishing as a photo manipulator and colour corrector. Retired a couple of years ago.
I don't have a press any longer, had a Kluge platen and a big old Caxton style press once, but along the way I took to craft bookbinding and my store of type and other LP stuff has found a home with my gold blocker and hot press in that field. My partner is a marbler of some talent with a good hand at design and a better colour sense than mine so we compliment each others skills. Good to see the craft hasn't died completely.

Shang
09-17-2012, 05:10 PM
There was a day when men were MEN, and printing was done with cast iron presses!

Where are you located in Joplin, ItsFancy? I do get down there from time to time, so maybe we could get together.
Drop me a PM.

ron ll
09-17-2012, 05:29 PM
I love this era machinery. Altho this is not a press, it is somewhat related. This is a Hickok book bindery paper cutter. It currently anchors my conference table in my office.

http://i1171.photobucket.com/albums/r560/ron_ll/hickok.jpg

skuthorp
09-17-2012, 07:55 PM
I love this era machinery. Altho this is not a press, it is somewhat related. This is a Hickok book bindery paper cutter. It currently anchors my conference table in my office.

http://i1171.photobucket.com/albums/r560/ron_ll/hickok.jpg

Now that is something I'd give my eye teeth for, if I still had my eye teeth.

Woxbox
09-17-2012, 09:05 PM
And that little white box on the floor is like the mouse that ate all the dinosaur eggs.

I retired today after 37 years in the newspaper business. When I started, the Linotypes were still running (although fed by a punch tape even then). Today, it's all disposable servers and PCs. Not much to love in that. I suppose it's because the impressive part of the engineering is all invisible.