Letterpress, type, Typography, Uncategorized

No Ctrl+Z

The last post about printing was full of excitement and glee about the Adana 3-5 and how much fun I was going to get out of it. Well, something happened to bring things to a temporary halt; after cleaning up the press, much oiling and fettling (boy, those adjustment screws were gummed up!) I got all set up for some trial prints only to find out that I was missing a crucial part. Well, four really – a set of roller runners for the new set of rollers – little round ‘wheels’ that hold the rollers at the right height to ink the face of the type!

I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t spotted this before, but I hand inked a few small blocks because I was SO eager to do something. Just  few postcards using the postcard block I bought earlier this year from Portobello Market. I sent one to Christian (the press’ real owner and damn fine fellow – looking forward to having you back at College soon!) to mark the first printing from the press, but haven’t included it here.

So in the meantime, I thought I’d do a little typesetting in preparation for when roller runners come. I had found a small print-related piece of text on the web and decided to set it using the first metal fount that I bought – 10pt Univers Medium.

So line-by-line I pieced it all together:

I must admit, I wasn’t very proficient in my setting – if my old print tutor saw me he would have exploded and grumbled something in an unintelligible Scottish twang! (Sorry Mr. Kirkwood!)

I set up three or four lines at a time and transferred them between some wood strips and a hand clamp for safety. I didn’t want to bumble them out of the composing stick by accident, or knock them over whilst setting the next part!

Eventually, I got all ten lines set.  Now for the tricky part – getting them arranged into the chase and locked up into a forme.

By now, you may have wondered why this post has the title it does. It is because at this point I did something stupid. I had all but three lines set into the chase, but only loosely whilst I fettled with the last couple of lines. Instead of sliding the chase over to where I needed it, I picked it up. Yes, you read that right. 

No Ctrl+Z. No undo. No quick fix. B****r!

Luckily, not all was lost, but a fair bit had simply dropped out:

Of course, it wasn’t as simple as just picking up the text in order and slotting them back in. I was so hacked off by making such a stupid mistake, that I clumsily began to reset it and sent most of it clattering across the table and onto the floor.

The air turned a shade of blue that would have made a corpse blush, and I put the kettle on and made some VERY STRONG BLACK COFFEE. A bit later, and all was restored (my mental stability and the type), and locked into a forme:

As much as I was frustrated, I was still pleased with the end result. I am still quite in awe of the visual power of set type and always try to recall the old adage about “twenty-six soldiers of lead”  by Benjamin Franklin, or was it Karl Marx? I can never remember which. This then gave me an idea for the topic of another post, but whilst looking for the text to include here I found an excellent post here that goes some way to exploring the origins of this often misquoted quote.

As I sat back and sighed, I cast a glance over at my workspace and thought it looked, well, right. There is a great sense of satisfaction on completing a time-consuming and frustrating task, especially one that you have made more difficult for yourself. No Ctrl+Z – oh yeah! Bring it on!

Just a close up for you get a sense of scale, before pulling a test print by hand to do a right-reading check:

Ah.    Well.    Erm.    Ok, so I still had some work to do; correcting the mistakes and getting everything flattened and tight. I’ll need to do some ‘spotting up’ too when I get to print properly. I have also set up a second forme with the title to print in a second colour, but more of that text time.

And finally…

I have been quite busy with a CD design job that is almost complete and will be posted here soon – and very digital it is too! A real return to vectors!  I’ve also been linocutting too, and printing the base colours for some greetings cards. I will be printing the design in a  second colour next week and you will see them all in good time. It seems like a while since I posted anything other than metal type and printing, but expect to see some new ceramic work appearing over the next month or two…

It’s also the time of year for my second year students to get busy on their final major projects and consequently, their end of course exhibition. I too will be busy over the coming months, producing work for the exhibition, and may post a little less frequently for a while. I still hope to post something each week, and may also feature some student work for the first time on this blog. Keep calling back, won’t you?


6 thoughts on “No Ctrl+Z

  1. Great to see the old ‘gal back in action! Thanks for the post card, there was quite a lot of interest from the designers I sit with at work.

    Look forward to seeing the press set up, and chatting to students.


  2. Thanks for running through all this – I’m a learner in letterpress and am all too familiar with my own mistakes but rarely get to see those made by others. When I do I am comforted!

    1. Hi Pamela, thanks for your comment – I know the feeling about being comforted by others making mistakes, which is probably why I am happy to post my own here!

      With letterpress there are so many big opportunities to make little mistakes but it’s by making mistakes that we really learn for ourselves – no amount of advice or book-learning gives you this kind of experience!

      Let me know how you get on with your adventures in letterpress!


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