Monday, January 29, 2007

I get chills, they're multiplyin'

Mostly because we now have Valentine's Day cards! Whoopee!

The other reason for the chillness is because this weekend it was cold. I mean, it was COLD. Sorry, just needed to clarify.

For those of you who give a hoot, it is really, really hard to print with a consistent quality when it is ten degrees in your shop. So, this weekend was a learning experience. Here's what we learned:

  1. Dan is a crack hand at installing insulation under pressure.

  2. It is possible to print as long as the following components are warm: ink, ink disk, rollers, paper, base and plates.

  3. It is difficult to keep these items warm once they come into contact with 900 pounds of cast iron that has been essentially sitting in an icebox for two weeks.

  4. Maddy the dog will gladly sit or lay on snow for long periods of time, to the point where you need to drag her inside, but she doesn't like cold concrete floors. Go figure.

  5. Swearing a lot only makes you feel warm for a second.

By Sunday afternoon, the temperature in the shop was a sweltering 58 degrees, and we had successfully printed our new line of Valentine's Day cards. We got some other good news as well, but I'll save the honors for Dan to post.

Friday, January 26, 2007

And here is a dog wearing a hat

And a scarf.

OK more posting this weekend. You will thrill to the tale of my installing pink fiberglass insulation in the shop. Swoon to the story of the Valentine's Day cards: should we make some? And then there's the wedding invitation fonts: Too many serifs? Wow, the good times keep rollin' here.

OK we'll be back soon.

Monday, January 15, 2007

But we couldn't have done it alone.

Not to toot the ol' horn, but we've come a long way in this little endeavor. Confession time: we had help. Lots and lots of help. So let's give a little credit, shall we?

  • Briar Press. This online directory/classified/museum/discussion is the best place to start out for anyone dumb enough to want to break into letterpress. You know, like us.

  • Letterpress Things. Okay, so his website's a little minimalist, but this is the place to go in the Northeast if you need letterpress equipment. The owner, John, is a bit... old school... but he's a nice, kind-hearted guy who loves to show newbies around.

  • Letpress listserv. The great thing about this listserv is that the archives are searchable, so you get the benefit of ten years of grizzled old letterpress printers' arguments and wisdom without actually having to slog through fifty emails a day. Also, sometimes they give away free things.

  • Five and a half. This excellent blog is not specific to letterpress, but covers many issues that independent letterpress printers deal with. Also a great place to see what other folks are doing, to keep an eye on the competition.

  • Five Roses Press. A great, comprehensive introduction to letterpress printing. Enough said.

  • Boxcar Press. Okay, just because we LOVE their base and platemaking system doesn't mean we can't be objective. Also, they have a bunch of old manuals and parts lists scanned as pdfs. Check these guys out.

  • NA Graphics. They have just about anything you could possibly need to start printing, aside from the actual press. Also, look at the cute widdle puddy cat. Awww!

Okay, enough. I don't want to give away all of our secrets. I mean, be fair, we DO rule.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A certain establishment in the 212 area code

We're still trying to get our cards picked up by a retailer, preferably an uber-hip one where stylish and rich Belle and Sebastian fans go to spend some of their trust fund. I think I might start selling them at garage sales if nothing happens soon.

But I have a certain amount of hope, which fluctuates depending on how many chemicals I have in my system.

Delicious, delicious a sweaty glass filled with ice cubes...

Last week I was in New York visiting Matt and Jen. I had the day to myself while they worked, and I found a shop in the Village that sold letterpress cards.
I won't go into too much detail now because I don't think putting someone on the spot in your little blog is a real smart business move, but they seemed open to our stuff. I may know something next week.
So now I'm going to go to the grocery store and pick up some provisions for another family visit. Dad, step-mom, and brother are on their way. They are low-maintenance guests, God bless 'em. Dad's idea of me "entertaining" him is not minding while he reads the paper on my back porch and has a beer.
No, I don't mind at all...
* I suppose now the entire trip there is a write-off, yes?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cold. Damn cold.

It's been a warm winter but it's still cold enough in the shop to make your life miserable. OK, lately it's kate's life that's been miserable, frostbite-wise. We've had some sales through our Web site and some people from my day job, which means that we've needed to produce some cards rather quickly. Which means it's best if I fill out the paperwork and packaging, and let her make with the actual products.
But, first of all -- sales - that's exciting, eh? A couple strangers actually found our Web site, too, which restored some of my faith in my Google ad.

In order to help, I've taken a whack at heating the barn. We have a standard kerosene heater that should be plenty. But unless you're standing right next to it, it doesn't do much good. It's about as useful as a candle right now. It's not radiating or convecting, or making it any more comfortable to be out in the shop. And a cold press means that the plates won't stick to the aluminum base, which means we (kate) have (has) to bring the base inside to warm it up, then go back out and use it, and then bring it inside when it gets chilly again.

I've heard the word "motherfucker" around the house a lot lately.

I'm going to try nailing up some insulating panels between the studs.

My wife: it's just shop, shop, shop, chat, chat.

The old yankee we bought the press from wouldn't talk to Kate directly. He told me everything, even all the really complicated parts I didn't understand, even when Kate asked him the questions.

Kate: So when you ink the ink plate, how do you know there's enough on there?

John, looking directly at me, while pumping the foot treadle of his own press, moving the rollers across his ink plate: Hear that, Dan? That's what enough ink sounds like. You'll hear it. Yeh.

He was showing Kate and I plus another couple about to spend hundreds of dollars how to use the presses and each time he expalined about measurements, he said, "Sorry girls, more math..." Then he would explain a really esoteric concept, like two picas plu,s two picas, plus another two picas ... wait for it ... equals six picas.

Maybe if he used a more easily digestible unit of measurement the gals could understand: like kittens or lengths of pretty, pretty ribbon.

Of course, Kate knows way more about actually operating the press than I do, and when it comes to me and tools, I'm basically lucky to be alive.

Anyway, I'm positive there are no paperboys buried underneath that guy's spooky old warehouse.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Oh, God, We've become crafty

Not the kind of crafty where you sit around and knit with your gal-pals, talking about how much the new Decemberists album rocks*, but the kind of crafty where you can easily lose a finger. I like to think of it as a more manly kind of crafty. I know, whatever gets me through the night.
This isn't actually our press. It's nearly identical to our press, and it was about 20 feet away from our press on the warehouse floor in Chicopee, Mass. where we bought it. But this picture came out better.
It's a Chandler and Price, c. 1891 (nerd snort). It was fitted with a motor sometime in the first half of the 20th century, but we disconnected it. It's hard enough to make a decent impression when the gears are turning slowly, by hand. Add a 60 year old motor into the equation and we'd be selling greeting cards caked with our own blood. Although, that just gave me an idea for a new Precious Moments line.
*I did not enjoy this album.