Bookbinding, Printmaking, Projects, Uncategorized

First Im’press’ions

I’ve got a press! At last! Woohoo! After a couple of months of getting stupidly outbid on eBay, where bookbinding presses seem to be much sought after and going for anything upwards of £70 (even the wooden ones can sell for over £100!) I stumbled upon this one that was listed as a paper making press:

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I was still the highest bidder with a minute to go, but wary, as previous experience has taught me, this is when the action takes place. I did a little jig around the office when my bid of…£24 won! Twenty four quid. bargain. The press was for collection only, obviously, and was located in a place between Stockport and Oldham. A fair distance, but a call to my excellent brother-in-law Malcolm who lives up there brought it a little closer. Did I mention that he was excellent? I did? Well, he is. So a trip ‘Up North’ was arranged for this weekend, combined with a visit to my parents in Sheffield (United beat Wednesday 3-2!), my sister and her excellent husband out near Stockport, and my brother in Rotherham on the return leg. A few miles covered, some excellent driving routes (I had forgotten just how amazing the Snake Pass is – I was grinning for much of that part of the journey!) and back home to King’s Lynn with a boot full of cast iron and brass!

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It was pretty filthy. It had obviously been well used, and then stood neglected for some time (note the cobwebs in the bottom right of the image above) buy the screw turned smoothly and squeakily and I was very pleased with my £24 quid purchase. I had expected it would need some work to bring it back to life and had been researching how to clean cast iron, get rid of rust and bring back the shine to tarnished brass on the internet for the last week.

I couldn’t wait to get on with it, so this afternoon (Sunday) after hauling it from the boot of the car with Mrs.Lestaret (by ‘eck she’s strong) and installing it into the garage, I gave it a light rub down with a wire brush. Immediately, things began to shine:

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Encouraged by this, I gave everything but the balls on the handles a going over with some 60 grade sandpaper, to take off any surface rust, loose paint, and ended up using a paint scraper to chip off some of the other stuff that was coating parts of it.

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There is not much information on the web on restoring presses, and most of the searches kept directing me to cast iron cookware, bathtub and fireplace restoring. I did find a of good tip though, from a discussion thread on the Briar Press site – a mixture of vinegar and salt used with steel wool to remove surface rust. I love things like this; ordinary household stuff being used creatively. So, with the strong smell salt’n’vinegar in the air I tried it out:

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It worked well I think. I washed down all the areas I’d worked on (the other side is still filthy – it’s too heavy to move unnecessarily) with clean water and dried everything off fully. What I hadn’t noticed was that there were some gold lines painted around the base and the shoulders. Faded and worn, but adding something to the cleaning process by revealing itself beneath the grime:

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Eventually, the stench drove me out – the garage now smells like a municipal carpark stairwell! But not before a final shot:

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I will keep posting as the restoration continues…

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