New vs. old

When we began our letterpress adventure, one of our first concerns (after the presses) was excitedly looking to build up our type collection. After some talk amongst ourselves, and with people who know better, we decided to get new lead type cast. But when it came to wood, despite hearing whispers of new wood type being made, we felt old was best. Perhaps we came to this conclusion from wood printing's history in ancient China, before Gutenberg and movable type came on the scene in Europe. Or perhaps it was somewhere in the recesses of our minds that we held the traditional belief that letterpress should use old wood poster type. But its most probably because it not only looks beautiful as an object, but the nicks and softened edges of each individual letter create an unique print.

All that said (and old wood type duly purchased), recently there have been some very interesting rumblings from new wood type craftsmen. Notably, we stumbled across Virgin Wood Type over in America, where they have a large catalogue of type which is slowly being worked through, learning more as time goes on it seems. Then type maestros Dalton Maag launched their new digital typeface for Nokia… But interestingly choosing to collaborate with the design agency Build, who got the Paekakariki Press in London to create the brand new typeface as a wood fount to be printed. Not content with creating the wood type and printed edition, a film was made of the whole process… Well worth a look.

So, now we are torn; new or old wood type? Well its nice to have the choice, even if we can't make up our minds.

Rusting away

Wrapped in lemon and vinegar

The results starting to show

As expected, our presses having been a little neglected by past owners had developed quite a coating of rust over the last few years. So, after a bit of trusty internet research (often from the miles of letterpress discussion on the Briar Press) and some conflicting opinions, we found a traditional method. Nice and simple; mix up four-parts white vinegar to one-part lemon juice, then dampen kitchen roll in the solution and wrap up the press. Mind you wrapping up a press is no mean feat. But once it was done, like magic the kitchen towel started picking up the colour of the rust – its pretty amazing to watch. And now to unwrap it…

Our super Models

A Model No.3 of old
(image borrowed from the British Letterpress website…)

Our Model No. 2 inscription
We are the lucky owners of a pair of Model printing presses, but until stumbling across them we had no idea they existed. So wanting to know a little bit about their history, we have tried to find out more. Of course being Victorian iron beasts they don't have their own dedicated website.

However after a bit of digging we discovered that the Model Press was patented by Willian Clark and Joshua Daughaday in America in 1874. By 1877, Messrs. Clark and Daughaday had sold the British patent to one Carlo Giuseppe Squintani, who began selling the presses in the same year. Our Model No. 2 states in no uncertain terms that it was Squintani who produced our press, possibly in his London showroom in Farringdon (coincidentally around the corner from where we work).

Wanting to market his presses to the largest audience he could, Squintani declared everyone could be their own printer. Something we are hoping is true. And to make sure there really was a press for everyone, Models came in a range of sizes; from the teeny No. 0 to the hefty No. 6 jobber. We have a No. 2, with a 5" by 7 1/2" chase, but weighing 112lbs, and the larger No. 3 coming in at 148lbs and a chase measuring 6" by 9". Yet despite being beautiful and sturdy pieces of engineering, and with a big variety of sizes, the Model Presses paled into insignificance once Adana presses took over. Shame really.

A big thank you to Benjamin Brundell at, where they handily have articles on a host of presses. Next stop St. Brides…

Humble beginnings

Model No.2 Press

Model No. 3 Press
Not the cleanest, nor ready to use, but these are our two wonderful Model presses. The smaller (although still a weighty 8st) press is the Model No.2, and came to via eBay and a garage in Oxfordshire. Our Model no. 3 press needs a bit more love and attention, but we except nothing less after it was found after some years of being hidden in a corner of a steam engine repair shed in deepest, darkest Devon. Best get cleaning…
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