Saturday, December 31, 2011

three sites for sure eyes

here are three brilliant sites I have found for the first time this morning - one letterpress, one wood type, and one marriage of wood type & new technologies - here they are -

Virgin Wood Type
the brain & hand child of Bill Jones, who is making new wood type, mainly of traditional, historical origin - his blog is tremendously informative, with good pictures & videos -

Letterpress Daily
very nice for letterpress information, often showing a type in metal or wood and then a printed version - David Wolske is informed and interesting, and also involved in the -

Vista Sans Wood Type Project
a collaborative international project using wood type 'for the 21st century' - nothing retro or old-fashioned funky here, just beautiful design & printing with new wood type in fine combinations of traditional and new technological thinking & processes -

I'm highlighting these sites because they show to me just how much, after all these years, I don't know and haven't explored - I cannot recommend them too highly

Friday, December 30, 2011

damping paper for printing 7

today's contribution is from Inge Bruggeman of Textura Printing & Ink-A! Press in Portland, Oregon - another & different approach - [& by the way, Inge is, among other things, involved in the Vista Sans Wood Type Project, seriously worth checking out]

I have used all kinds of dampening methods, the fanciest being a large plastic lidded box with a photo tray in the bottom - the photo tray has two sponges wet with distilled water and just a small amount of rubbing alcohol to prevent mold, then a sheet of gridded plastic is placed over that - this is what the paper rests on. For a lot of paper I have used one of those dispenser/sprayers from the hardware store that people use to spray nutrients (hooray!) or pesticides (boo!) from. The paper gets spritzed on one side and depending on the paper, I may skip spraying every other sheet - the paper is stacked, then put in the plastic box to even out the moisture throughout the fibres of the paper and as evenly as possible - usually 24 hours. This method was published somewhere by Cathy Baker, maybe in the Friends of Dard Hunter Newsletter? I will see if I can dig that up. . . it does have some nice photos.

In the end though, and for most things, I just use distilled water in a spray bottle and spritz each sheet, stack them, and keep them in a plastic bag under a light weight for 24 hours - a traditional damp pack. This method seems to work very well for most papers and printing that I do.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

damping paper for printing 6

replies to my request for paper-damping methods keep coming in - this one from handpress printer Norman McKnight at his wonderfully named Philoxenia Press (the word means something like 'love or acceptance or welcome of strangers', the best antidote to its 'opposite', xenophobia - I'm reminded again that in Homeric times Zeus himself was the god of, or protector of, the stranger - Norman's Albion, it should be said, is a bench-top model, an exact copy of Lewis Allen's Albion made by D & J Grieg, Edinburgh, just as mine is, made by Steve Pratt in Utah - anyway, Norman has kindly written this -

I am going to start my own blog to chronicle the work of the Press & hopefully find it a spur to activity as well; I had intended doing a demo of my own method on the blog soon after I begin it (January 3). My method is simple, but of course various papers would require various approaches, mostly the same method however. I am dampening only for use on the Albion, so the maximum sheet is always 11 x 15. I am, so far, only using Rives BFK white which is fairly heavy. 

I first dampen a sheet of blotter on both sides, & then dampen each subsequent sheet of paper up to five; then another blotter; then another five until I get thirty, as my editions do not exceed twenty-five. The sheets are then placed in a plastic zip-lock bag & placed in the nipping press between two Lexan sheets 11.5 x 16.5 to keep the sheets flat while gently pressing them while the moisture equalizes. I do this at about 07:3o then later in the evening at about 18:00 I have sheets that are supple to handle but not very damp, certainly with no residual moisture. Any residual moisture, should there be any, means I sprayed too close to the sheet, and I simply wipe the residue off with a piece of Kimwipe (a tissue like a giant Kleenex which is used for wiping offset plates & is usually found in paper supply stores). 

The method of dampening is a Dahlia sprayer available from Talas Supply in New York. They cost about 100 dollars US & are well worth the price for the many times I use it & the extremely fine mist it gives. I hold the blotters & sheets by the corner & spray at a distance of at least 12" to 18" to get a fine overall mist on the sheet & avoid droplets which occur when sprayed too close to the sheet. I have excellent results with this, although I have not used other papers, nor have I printed on the verso; but timing would be the main concern, and as I am working on small editions this probably wouldn't be a problem for me, only that the ink must be dry before backing up [or, as I and others do, use slip-sheets for backing up - Alan's note] - 

I will be doing another print run on December 31 with our "Albion Club" which includes a printer who will pick up Pratt #18 in Utah sometime in January. I will try to photograph my method when I next dampen sheets. I learned this method from Fred Voltmer of Havilah Press who has a lot of experience with Albions (his own & numerous he has set up or acquired for institutions & individuals) & his own & others' Columbians.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Sirens at Ninja Press

a few weeks ago I posted a double-spread from my book The Sirens, printed superbly by Carolee Campbell at her Ninja Press in Sherman Oaks, California - the book can now be seen on her Ninja Press Books website  - here's a 'picture' of a siren taken from a 5th century BC vase from Attica, which Carolee has used with extraordinary flair for the book's doublures - the text, Siren eimi, simply means 'I am Siren' - 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

damping paper for printing 5

Sebastian Carter of Rampant Lions Press, Cambridge, UK, has generously written of his paper-damping method as follows -

My method, as described in The Book Becomes [Rampant Lions 1984 - there are several copies available on at very reasonable prices], was to damp in batches of 25 to 30 sheets, depending on the thickness of the paper, between blankets soaked in a bucket of water. The paper should end up damp but not soggy, otherwise it will repel the ink. I piled the paper and blanket sandwiches wrapped in polythene sheeting for a day, and then took the blankets out and restacked the paper, halving alternate batches so that the damper outer sheets in one batch were against the drier inner ones above and below. I left this pile for another day, and then printed. The dampness evens out very effectively. This method would suit you if you need quite a large run of quite small sheets.

We adapted this method from Peters and Foster at the Vine Press. They used to interleave dry sheets at the middle stage, but we found this increased the risk of the paper wrinkling, so we stopped. Some people advocate weighting the pile, but paper expands significantly when damp, and needs freedom to move, otherwise you do get wrinkling problems.

There is no comparison with dry paper from the point of view of quality of impression. Once you've printed a page of type on a sheet of damped rag paper, you are spoiled for life. But you have to plan ahead, and there's a set-off problem, so you have to have a sheet of paper behind [i.e. between the sheet to be printed and the tympan] if you are backing up. My note in The Book Becomes about the merits of Hostmann Steinberg ink in not setting off was over-optimistic: I think they may have changed the formula, and made it a runnier consistency. 

With wood engravings, I found I often ended up not damping. Large areas of black (or colour) tend to stick to the damp paper and be difficult to separate on a powered platen press (no problem peeling off on a hand press). Also, damp paper tends to pick up shallow clearing on a block (very common unless they have been mechanically routed) so you get printed backgrounds where you don't want them. I found I ended up damping in some cases and not in others, even within one book. The Primrose Academy books I printed demonstrate this. The smooth Zerkall was sometimes damped and sometimes not. The special calendered version made for the Society of Wood Engravers did not require damping, ever.

Monday, December 26, 2011

new book planned for late 2012

for a long time I've wanted to do "something" with Nicolas Jenson's 1471 Greek type, about which Victor Scholderer said - 1927 - "The universal fame of Jenson rests, of course, upon his roman type; but in truth his Greek is also in its way a masterpiece, and the best thing of its kind done in the fifteenth century". - here's a sample, from Aulus Gellius, Noctes atticae, 1472 -

and this is my provisional setting of it in 12pt New Hellenic, designed by Scholderer, but based, not on Jenson's but on one used by Joannes Rubeus in his Macrobius of 1492 , also in Venice - 

when I thought about printing Jenson's last Will & Testament some years ago, I asked local calligrapher Deirdre Hassed to draw some of Jenson's letters large as a way of illustrating the book - she drew six letters, and here are three of them, printed from magnesium blocks -

they are the double-letter sigma-theta (sth), psi, and an unusual version of pi - the text itself is from Plato's Gorgias and says something about the relation of philosophers to 'real life' - Deirdre's letters are approximately 2.5 to 3.5 inches high, or 60 to 90 mm - in any case, I intend to do the translation myself, and add a few other bits & pieces to make up a viable book -

Saturday, December 24, 2011

damping paper for printing 4

a nice thing about the paper-damping methods coming in is the little bits of extra information that come in with them - here's another, this time from Scott King at his Red Dragonfly Press in Northfield, Minnesota - let me say here tho that if other printers out there are reading this blog and would like to add their method to the mix, you are most welcome to do so - just email me (and of course pictures would be splendid) and I'll post it here - meantime, Scott says he'll try to do some pictures for this present post, and if he manages that, I'll add them when they arrive - Scott writes :

My method is about as simple as it gets, but it works.

Day one: Fill the sink with cold water. Interleave dry sheets with dipped sheets, for example 3 dry, 1 wet, 3 dry, 1 wet, and so on. Increase the number of dry sheets if the paper is thin or absorbs a lot of water; decrease if the paper is thick like watercolor paper. When I dip a sheet, I pull the entire sheet by one edge through the water, then lift it out and let the excess water run off before placing it in the stack. When the stack is ready [i.e. completed] I place it in a garbage bag and close the bag with a tie or tape. (IMPORTANT: let the dampened stack of paper sit in the garbage bag without any weight on top of the sheets for at least several hours. This will prevent the paper from wrinkling as it expands.) After the sheets have sat in the bag for several hours, place some flat weight, either large books or a case of type, on the sheets overnight. This assures that the moisture transfers from the wet to the dry sheets and equalizes amongst all the sheets.

Day two: I try to make sure the print shop is somewhat humidified, in Minnesota, in winter, the dryness can be downright frightening. When printing I remove a sheet from the plastic bag, print it, then place it in a second plastic bag, minimizing the amount of time it has in the open so that it doesn't dry out. (IMPORTANT: less ink is needed on the press to print on dampened sheets.) After all the sheets are printed, they are placed between cotton blotters so that they dry flat. Drying time varies.

Friday, December 23, 2011

desperately seeking Libra

I've been searching for some time for a supply of Libra type, designed by S H de Roos for the Amsterdam Typefoundry - I found some 18pt a couple of years ago but it is a small font and already well used when I got it - if anyone knows if anyone is casting it these days, or if anyone has a supply of any size they'd be happy to sell to me, I'd be very grateful for the information - here's some of my 18pt -

Thursday, December 22, 2011

damping paper for printing 3

Jason Dewinetz of Greenboathouse Press in BC Canada has kindly sent me notice of the damping process of  Heavenly Monkey  Press - part of my interest now is to see how many different damping methods, with which their practitioners are perfectly happy, can be collected

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

meanwhile, back in Serendip

yesterday, I posted the print using M&H Nicholas Cochin Open type - and a few hours later a little box arrived in the mail, a xmas gift from who else but M&H - MacKenzie & Harris at Arion Press - its printed note said "Isn't it nice to get a letter in the mail?" - and here it is -
the "letter" is a 72pt Goudy Hand-tooled E - wow, gosh, and all that sort of thing. . . 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

a fresh print

printing something for Miriam's birthday, we chose a rewrite of a quote I gave her some years ago (sort of half-remembered from something somewhere in Ezra Pound - and which she said she'd like to put on the wall - so, with my new Nicholas Cochin Open 36pt Initials (from Arion Press's M&H collection - I set & printed the print below - when we were looking at which one to have framed, we realised that we need two "beside" each other for the work to be complete - here's the work, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, 290 x 420 mm, before pressing flat -

Monday, December 19, 2011

'if not in paint' launched

Marion May Campbell's if not in paint was well & truly launched recently, with a wonderful speech by her childhood friend and novelist Joan London - the last 5 copies of the book sold out on the night - a rare thing for Electio - with Joan's permission, here is some of what she said about Marion's work & the book -

From my first reading, and all subsequent readings, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and skill with which the poem unwinds its interior vision, its journey back to a landscape that seems terribly familiar to me, the harsh brightness of its highways and the shining beauty of its natural world. Its imagery remains alive in my mind, like something awakened: the mother 'still giving advice from the rear-vision mirror', the 'red wattle bird flexing / the yellow callistemon / chokchoks at the glass'. . . . It's a long unwinding, a voice speaking from deep inside, flowing from thought to memory to allusion, a prisoner released, each image an emotion, like a brushstroke. . . . Everything speaks for this poem. The golden box, containing the heart's treasure. The rough, beach-coloured texture of its cover, the vibrant lemon yellow signboard of its title. The flashes of red print, like the images of red - flamehaired, red birds, red dreams - that recur throughout the text. . . . Miriam Morris's sinuous drawings, splashed with water colour, are alive with a practised, graceful lightness of touch that reflects the poem's art. . . 

Marion (right) acknowledging Joan's speech at the launch -

Sunday, December 18, 2011

a Grabhorn prospectus

picked up this lovely prospectus at Grant's Book Shop in Armadale, Melbourne the other day - the date is 1933, and the types are Weiss Kapitale, designed by Emil Rudolf Weiss in 1931 for the Bauersche Foundry of Frankfurt am Main, and Lutetia, designed by Jan van Krimpen in 1925, and cast by Joh. Enschede of Haarlem - the illustration is by Valenti Angelo who worked with the Grabhorns 'over a six year period' (Roderick Cave in The Private Press, 2nd edition 1983, Bowker - the page size = 12x9 inches, or 300x225 mm - here are two openings -

damping paper for printing 2

Philip Gallo of Hermetic Press in Minneapolis has very kindly sent this note about his paper-damping process - no pictures, but his prose is crisp & clear - 

As for me, I have taken to misting the sheets with a spray bottle. Then I store the sheets in a plastic bag. 

The only problem you have to watch out for with misting the sheets is a tendency toward overspray - and build-up of water along the edges of the stack, as you continue to mist one sheet on top of the other.

If there is build-up, I move the sheets, wipe the table down and continue.

And yes, I mist every sheet - and sometimes will turn the stack over, and mist the back.

Nor am I misting directly at the sheets, but rather high - two- to two-and-half feet above them, and at a slightly oblique angle downward. So, we're not talking a heavy spray here.

Then I store the sheets overnight; unless I have to be on- and off-press quickly - in which case, two or three hours can be made to suffice.

With multiple press runs on a single sheet, there have been occasions when I have had to slightly redamp sheets, or redamp an area, as might be the case with a large initial letter requiring more dampening than the text.

If I have to redamp an area, I use a small sponge. 

Nor have I experienced any loss of impression with redamped sheets, although as I said I keep the damping to a minimum.

In short, I have moved closer to the expedient than you.

So, this is a very different process from mine, but if you have ever seen the printing of Philip Gallo, then you'll know that this process works very well for him, and his printing is as sharp and clear as any I have seen, anywhere. Not only does he print & publish on his own account, but he is also in demand printing commissions for other publishers. Check him out at Hermetic Press

Saturday, December 17, 2011

COLORWORDS completed

the printing for COLORWORDS is now done, and the boxes, to be covered in a red moire-patterned cloth, are due to arrive this coming week - here are the title-page & the colophon pages - the type in blue is Eusebius Open 24pt, and the ink a mix of Handschy bronze blue & opaque white - on the title the inks are Handschy Orange and Process Yellow - 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

damping paper for printing 1

here's the layout for my paper-damping process - a bowl of water, a sponge, two towels, and two press boards (bought from Talas in New York) - tho any waterproof boards would do - that take my largest printable sheet in the Albion and that fit perfectly in my nipping press - 
take the sponge and fill it with water -
making sure that the sponge has a decent amount of water but is not dripping water when you hold it in the air -
lay two (in this case) sheets of the paper - two because this is 270 gsm paper - if the paper is lighter, say 180 to 200 gsm you might want to put three sheets at a time, and if lighter still, four or even five (which I have done for 120 gsm papers) - 
drag, lightly, the damped sponge across the paper, making sure that the whole is evenly wet - Lewis Allen says no deserts or lakes - then lay another two sheets on top - damp those, then lay another two sheets down, damp those, and so on till the pile is completed - I tend to have at least one dry sheet on top - it may take a little experience to know how much water you should spread on the sheets - too much, and the ink will go fuzzy in printing - too little, and it will look as if the print is under-inked - it's all about the feel of things - some papers are more water-absorbent than others and buckle like crazy when water touches them - after a while you'll be able to guess what a particular paper needs - but nevertheless, be alert to the possibility of being surprised. . . 
when you are thru the pile of sheets, place the second board on the top of the pile -
then wet the two towels (one may well be enough but I use two - and lay them over the pile of boards & paper -
when that's done, my stack looks like this - 

I tend, following Lewis Allen in his Printing with the Handpress, to damp paper in the morning, let it stand all that day and the following night, to print the following morning - unlike Allen, I don't put weights on the stack (I used to, but found thru experiment that it wasn't necessary - he also recommended turning the stack over at day's end, and I'd also recommend that if you have 100 or more sheets in the pile - but I found it's not so necessary when I have 50 or so sheets - the result should not be wet sheets, almost not even 'damp' but just slightly cool to the touch - other printers have more elaborate processes than mine - but I've been using this method for over 20 years and it has always worked well for me