Letterpress, print

The Postman Always Prints Twice

I thought I’d share some further adventures in letterpress at Lestaretgd Industries! I have been enjoying myself in the garage printshop, getting inky fingers and filling the place up with bits of card and paper, each imprinted with a variety of typefaces, colours and qualities. In a recent post I posted a bit of my work space so I thought I’d begin with something a bit more expansive:

First, a personal guided tour.
1. An empty pint glass (thirsty work, this printing lark!)
2. Some little plastic price numbers from an old Bush/Murphy price marking set.
3. Spare chases for the two Adana presses (one inside the other)
4.A bit of printing ephemera.
5. Tesco Value baby wipes.
6. Tin of ink.
7. A spatula (for getting ink out of tin), a roller (for rolling out ink), on a sheet of glass (for rolling ink onto), on a bit of non-slip rubberised mesh (for, well guess!)
8. A decorative border block.
9. An old typecase.
10. Pre-printed postcards ready for printing on the reverse.
11. Set-ups – old postcards; misprints, smudged blanks etc to help set the press up properly.
12. A stack of wood and plastic type drawers and boxes, containing everything from 6pt Times italic to 10pt Univers. I have storage issues already.
13. Adana 3×5 press
14. A box of assorted graphic equipment, retired computer hardware and general junk.
15. Adana HS1 press

There is more out of the shot; the nipping press, more type drawers, more typesetting equipment, a cupboard full of metal type, boxes of wood type, spare chases and sundry boxes and parcels of other bits of typographic ephemera (or just more junk says Mrs. Lestaret!)

I am mostly using water based relief inks from Caligo, but have also got some regular ink by Gerstaercker, but only use them sparingly at the moment. I have opted for water based inks because I have sensitive skin and the traditional inks makes the skin on my fingers very fragile. Here’s what my left thumb looks like right now. I won’t even begin to tell you how painful it is.

I know you really didn’t need to see that. Sorry, I’ll keep to my original theme for the rest of this post. Honest.

For some of the postcards I inked up full founts and printed them just as I bought them. Over a couple of days, I overprinted the cards four or five times with different founts, shades of blue, a bright rubine red and some white, which printed very dirty as the type I had used still had traces of previous activity on it.

I also set up a larger block using a variety of wood type. All of this was printed on the nipping press as it was too large for the Adanas. I don’t get quite as crisp a print using this press, but it’s quality does have some charm…

Who doesn’t like an italic ligature, eh?

Here are two of the large wood U’s I recently acquired set up ready for inking  in my home-made press jig.

I made this after seeing something similar here and thought that it was an excellent idea. This device serves several purposes. Firstly, the jig is sized to fit perfectly under the platen so I can be sure to position it in the same place every time. This is useful for pressure (the best/most even pressure is in the centre directly beneath the screw) and register (the art of positioning so that multiple colours will line up correctly.) – the base is marked out to enable print blocks to be accurately centred. It also hold printblocks in place – they can be wedged against the lip using blocks of wood and fastened tight using the adjustable arm. It also helps to transfer the inked printblocks, paper and press blankets between the work area and the press.

This is how I ensure that my prints line up squarely on the paper. A bit of paper taped at each side (after some careful measuring of course) with a hump between the tapes. This allows me to place the sheet of paper in the same place each time, and collapses under pressure. I also use pencil marks on other areas to make sure that I have everything as close as can be.

I often post images of woodblocks, either dirty or clean, moodily lit and often using dramatic perspectives (there are some later, don’t worry!) and I will always show prints from them. I never seem to show blocks when they are inked before printing. They look completely different from their ‘raw’ state.

And this is the moment that always counts (I have been talking to my first year students about this only last week after showing them the BBC Stephen Fry programme on Gutenberg from a couple of years ago – see note at the end of this post) when the paper is peeled away and you turn the edge to see what has occurred there. Even after the nth print, there is still a frisson of excitement following each pull. Simple pleasures, but I don’t get out much.

I don’t know what I was thinking when i took this shot – I should have done it with ink on the press. I guess I must have been going with the flow… This shows the old postcard block in the Adana 3-5, ready to print on the back of the fount overlays I did previously.

All stacked up un my drying rack. I love seeing the reflection of the print above and below. By the way, my drying rack is a length of wood with saw cuts in it. I only use it for little cards and such. Bigger sheets are hung from strings across the ceiling. High tech.

The scale is a little deceiving on the next few prints. The ABC above is a standard postcard size. The next few are printed on A4; paper, card and corrugated board. I have been tying out some new colours – rubine red and a bright yellow. The orange below is a mix of both.

And what would you think if I didn’t include a close-up and a dramatic perspective?

I take these images because it’s the best I can do to share the tactile surface qualities of this kind of printing. In my day job, I spend more time replenishing the paper in the laser copier that getting touchy-feely with print. This is my therapy.

I have also printed a small run of postcards with bright pink X’s – kisses? or is this just a kind of censorship? I think I’ll send some of these out soon…

I printed a whole bunch of these – more than are shown here – just for personal use/pleasure. They were never intended to be sold, or had any other purpose than this.  I think I may need to start writing postcards instead of blogging… if you get one, post a comment here!

Please have a look out for the film about Gutenberg presented by Stephen Fry. it was available on the BBC iPlayer for a while and is no longer available. I have it on good authority that it still viewable upon this internet contraption, and that ‘Gutenberg’, ‘Stephen Fry’, and ‘The Machine That Made Us’ used as search terms may yield some  possibilities on opportunities to view. Not that I condone any illegal viewing of material by any broadcaster, of course.


8 thoughts on “The Postman Always Prints Twice

  1. Another great blog! I just thought I would let you know that a friend of mine, Martin Andrews, was one of the men operating the press towards the end of the Gutenberg programme!

  2. Cheers Wayne, you are just SO connected! I recall that you said that the press was now installed at reading University – does it get used? And who is in charge of it?

  3. Really good to see and feel some impressions on a postcard. I have one of your works underneath my computer screens as inspiration.
    Now you have the printing workshop all set up I’d love to see a major project from you.
    A calander? A (modular) poster made out of postcard segments? A pamphlet or poster for a local cause. That’s the only piece missing – the reason. Or is your work like music forms that interact without having to have an agenda?
    Great stuff, more power to your ink soaked thumb!

  4. Ah yes, the reason. Well, I intend to do something a bit more substantial during the summer – books, pamplets etc. but all of this so far has just been learning about the equipment, and just doing it because I can, and it doesn’t matter too much if it goes wrong.
    I am ready for something else though now, and have already sketched out some ideas… you’ll see it all here eventually!
    Glad you liked the postcard!

  5. Thanks Bruce – and it’s also nice to know that people are reading too. I get a lot of ‘hits’ every day, but few comments, so I appreciate those that feel compelled to add their own thoughts to my humble web offerings.

    I have viewed your work also, and really like your “El Fuerte” and “Lemon Peeler” prints – I would be honoured if you would consider a print swap with me – I have a number of letterpress, monoprint, collograph and dry point etchings that I haven’t really featured much on my blog that could offer in return. My email can be found on the ‘Bookery’ page…

    1. Mr. Skinner,
      I tried sending an email but it bounced back each time.
      –original message–

      Mr. Skinner,

      I would absolutely consider a swap and be honoured as well.

      I currently have all prints on my website in stock. Let me know which ones and colour ways you are definitely interested in. I’ll certainly cover any shipping costs incurred to get them to you.

      I’m also working on a new three colour poster and a three colour art print, both linoleum cuts. I’m hoping to get them on my website in a month or so.

      Let me know how you would like to proceed.



      1. Hi Bruce – I don’t know why my email wasn’t working – try christopher.skinner (at)sky dot com – as well as christopher (at) lestaret dot com – and we’ll se what happens!

        Once we get email contact I’ll send you my address (and ask for yours of course) and we’ll do a swap.

        Look forward to hearing from you,


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