Letterpress, Uncategorized

TFI Friday!

On Friday, Christian – a graphic designer par excellence – came to Norfolk to present his work to my students and spend some time in consultation with them on their final major projects. Christian is a former student of mine who now works for Design Bridge in London and does all kinds of creative things in an excellent studio – I am really jealous! However, Christian kindly offered to come back to the college to share his experiences with us, but I like to think it was the offer of food, beer and printing on the Adana 3-5 that he very generously lets me use as my own that really swung the deal!

So following one of Mrs. Lestaret’s seriously enormous pizza’s Christian and I retired to the garage printshop to get down to the real business of the evening. After browsing through all the fonts, Christian decided to set the type for a simple business card. We narrowed the choices down to Rockwell light for his cards,


and Thorowgood Italic for mine.

And yes, we took loads of photographs! All these featured in this post are a mixture of both our shots. Christian even photographed me photographing the type!


So the serious business began: typesetting. Each equipped with a composing stick, we began to assemble our letters, Christian discovering the necessary references to the Pantone blues after many knocks, nudges and bumps sent much of his efforts crashing out of place! But eventually, he got things set up ok, which is the only way to learn really.


I was setting up some type for me too whilst Christian was cursing and getting frustrated. I decided to set two sizes of Thorowgood italic and got stuck in pretty quick. I’m not showing off here you understand, just making a point – it was only a few weeks ago that I was doing things just like Christian – fumbling and trying to get things right first time, but now I feel much more comfortable with the process, materials and the time it takes to get things prepared properly. There are no ‘undo’ buttons here!


Once we had the type set and spaced they were locked into the forme:


At this point we cracked open a couple of cans of celebratory lager (what other kind of lager is there?) and went to cut some card.


Well so far on this blog I have referred to the garage printshop on a couple of occasions, and feel that it has taken shape enough to include a photograph. I still have some work to do, and intend to make much better us of the space, but it’s cool having a place for the stuff.


 At the front of the image at the bottom is my Adana HS1, behind that is the Adana 3-5, both with the rollers removed from the last cleanup. At the right is an old type case, slowly filling up with type, blocks and other letterpress paraphernalia. The Thorowgood type (both sizes in the flat box to the left of centre.) On the slightly higher surface are boxes of spacing material in metal and wood, a small chest filled with seven drawers of type. I keep a lot of regularly used stuff here too – there are pots of pens, pencils, rulers, glues, scissors and knives. At the very back in the middle is my nipping press. We didn’t use it during this print session, but did do a bit of playful embossing before we stopped for the night.


On with it then. We began by inking up the disc – Prussian Blue you may have already guessed! And then worked the rollers over the disk to ink up the rollers. The formes were then locked into the press bed, inked up and the first cards were carefully positioned. (I had set up the lay gauge to get the best level and made positioning marks on the tympan just before)


And then the first print was pulled:


Christian pulled about half a dozen prints before feeling satisfied with the results, and then got PRINTING. After a short while though there was a faint groan and an expletive. As he had grown confident in using the press he began to get quicker, but managed to drop a blank card just as he was positioning it on the tympan. We got it out using some tweezers and it had an inky blue line across it where it had touched the rollers, but I thought it looked good and told him to use it again. And he dropped it in again! This was the eventual print!

A small but neat pile of business cards was gained from this evening though, and we had gone beyond the first celebratory lager! I think Christian was pleased with the good prints though, don’t you? I’m sure that you understand the necessary pixellation…

And me? I ran off a few more odd little cards…


And a final message goes out to Christian:

I really hope that you are too! Thanks for taking the time out for the students Christian – I hope you enjoyed it too. You are welcome back for more printing anytime!

Many thanks also to the kind folks at Design Bridge for sparing Christian for the day – we made very good use of him at college and the students are mighty grateful!


2 thoughts on “TFI Friday!

  1. Thanks to all the students who shared their work – a truly inspiring day for me.

    Thanks for the print lesson Chris! I’m very proud of my first set of prints – and very envious of your setup. Perhaps my ‘gal will let me convert our little flat to a proper workshop!


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