Now our presses up and running (and looking rather good too), we have been able to get our type, paper and inks out and start printing. As so many people had given us a helping hand, much needed advice and encouraging words along the way that we felt they deserved a thank you. And so as a little token of our appreciation and gratitude, we designed and printed our first proper limited edition print especially for them.
To start, we handset and locked up an extended 5-line grot for the 'thank you', inked it all up in silver and printed it onto GF Smith Pale Grey Colorplan.
Next up was the blind de-boss, handset in 7/8pt Univers Light, fresh from Supertype. We're pretty pleased that even on the hard paper stock, the Model presses were more than capable of getting a great impression. And all with very little effort too.
The final addition was to print our logotype and monogram, made up for us by Metallic Elephant. All the while being careful not to crush the de-boss in the process.
We complimented the card with a tonal Smoke Colorplan envelope, sealed with our symbol in silver wax. And now they are sent, we're off to print the next thing...
Having decided that we wanted to finally take our love of letterpress from simply appreciating it from afar to getting inky and doing it ourselves, the first thing we needed to do was find a press.
|From rusty, broken and unloved…|
After months of fruitless searching, we finally found a lovely if not slightly unloved Model 3 being sold by a steam engine restoration trust in deepest darkest Devon. Where else?! Dave at the Robey Trust in Tavistock had come across it by chance, it was due to be scrapped and despite knowing nothing about printing presses his natural instinct to preserved old machinery kicked in and he took it home. Top man.
We bought it, unseen, for the princely sum of £25, with a case of type and a box of furniture…needless to say, we snapped it up. However, when we finally picked it up it was clear that it needed more than a little tlc: although the rust wasn’t too deep, it had spread to all parts; the rollers were, as you'd expect, perished beyond all use; the ink disk bracket was snapped, although was miraculously still holding the ink disk firmly in place; and there was no chase. Let the adventure begin.
|The broken bracket. Snapped clean but still holding surprisingly firm.|
Having given the press a good clean to remove all the grime and dust, we wrapped the worst of the rusted parts in kitchen towel soaked in a solution of vinegar and lemon juice. Once the worst of the rust had been removed and the parts all moving more freely, we took the whole thing apart. Even though I said I wouldn’t. ‘I wonder what happens if I undo that bolt…?”.
|The living room floor. For over a month. Oops.|
With the press in parts, and scattered across the living room floor (oops), it was time for serious rust killing. A little research led us to a marine product called Fertan, a liquid that converts iron oxide to iron tannate, a black, shiny, stable substance that can then be painted or waxed. After the first coat there was a drastic improvement, a second coat finished the job and all that was required was a little paint on the barest of metal (we may have made this sound slightly easier than it was…the living room floor looked like this for a month!).
|The newly welded bracket ready for painting.|
Gas fusion welding.
Whilst all this was slowly taking shape, the ink disk bracket was not in a good shape. It was snapped. Cast iron apparently isn’t very easy to fix once broken, so it needed to be gas fusion welded (nope, no idea either, but it sounds good), so we sent it to cast iron welding services to be repaired, re-finished, drilled and tapped. The £25 price of the press was starting to seem like a distant memory.
|One of the new chases cast by the Bridport Foundry.|
The next little problem, which was actually a pretty big problem, was the missing chase. eBay was scoured, wanted ads were placed, and everyone we’d ever met was quizzed, but to no avail. It was clear we’d need new chases cast, the next problem was finding someone who would be willing to lend us their precious chase in order for us to get new made. A little poking around amongst some BPS members finally paid off as Peter Scarett lent us a chase from one of his many sheds full of stuff. This was sent off to Bridport foundry, who were able to cast from the slightly modified original, which avoided the need for a very expensive pattern to be made for the mould. Chases procured, we were almost there.
New rollers were purchased from Elli Evans Rollers, and the bearers were raised to the correct height (this required new bolts as the originals weren’t long enough. The only new bolts that are the exact imperial dimensions and thread type for a Model 3’s bearers? The top jaw screw from a blunderbuss gun!).
|…to gleaming, fully working and much loved.|
And there we have it, 4 months, much frustration, a lot of mess, more money than was ever expected, gas fusion welding, newly cast iron, blunderbuss screws, paint, blood, sweat and tears, we’re proud to present our fully working, good as new (almost) Model 3. We are print ready, at last!
For the past few months we've been busy getting oily and dirty bringing our presses back to working condition, but our little letterpress studio wouldn't be complete without an identity. So in-between the nuts and bolts and oil, we've been hard at work crafting our brand. We decided early on that although it would need to live in a digital world, the identity should be created from a purely analogue approach. So out came our wood type, and after some development we decided to use a combination of S&B Old Style Italic and De Little 296 for the logotype. A trip to Amberley then saw us tweaking and printing the design on the rather impressive S&B cylinder proofing press. Next stop was digitising the print ready for use on- and off-line.
|The prints drying|
|Digitising and amending the logotype|
|Sketches for the symbol design.|
Whilst the logotype was being crafted, we were busy obsessively sketching and scribbling down ideas for a brand symbol —a modern 'imprint' for our press. After much development, we finally settled on a graphic monogram that plays with the idea of negative space — the 'counters' of the characters — to create a simple, single colour mark that could be used across all applications and would lend itself to embossing and a range of print finishes.
|Finally the logotype is ready to go.|
|The final symbol. Our monogram and imprint.|