Monthly Archives: August 2009

Cleanup & Cleanout

Wall to Wall Stuff

Oh what a painful exercise! Cleaning out even just one bay in the garage where the printshop will be situated. We moved rather suddenly about 10 years ago. And since, we have made at least three, no four moves in Calgary. There are boxes that I have not opened in more than 10 years. It’s like Christmas sometimes, and I cringe other times. A lot of it is destined for recycling and the garbage. There is soo much good stuff…

I plan to build a wall on the left to separate the space, and to be able to heat it in the winter. Not looking forward to -25 C weather right now. I have given myself a month to have the space ready. But in between there is a wedding at the Coast and a bike trip and some out of town work commitments.
Really there are not too many days left, and the press is coming!

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First Picture of New Press

Here is the first picture. Basically I bought the press based on description only. Yes, it is the big one to the rear. The other one got scooped, just as well – one learning curve at a time. About 1926 C&P (Chandler & Price) is the best I know at this time. The serial number makes it a 12 by 18″ new style model. More to come…

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Horay I Got One!!!

This morning I got the confirming email that I am the proud owner of a circa 1925 large 12 x 18 new style C&P letterpress! It is in Seattle. And I am in Calgary. So there is a 2000 pound press move coming up in a couple of weeks (correction: it turns out it’s more like 2700 pounds!).

I had been making inquiries about the suitability of the 8×12″ press that I was originally looking for, and was told that I really should be looking for a larger press. Due to the rather large solid colour impressions required for my artwork the press needs to be of a larger size. One person said I should really go for a Vandercook. I tried, but could not get close to any in a month of trying. And then the cost…

I can hardly wait to get my hands on the machine.

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Why Letterpress for Art?

I have come to art rather late in my life. I started painting nine years ago, in acrylics first. Then after three years due to Ted Godwins influence, I moved to oil. I love it! But the process of finishing a painting takes way too long for me, mainly due to a personal defect that makes it difficult (and takes a lot of time) to get to the right colour, it involves a lot of scraping off. A side effect of that is that my paintings cost way too much.
Then I discovered a method by which I could be more productive. Scanning my pencil sketch into a computer I can redraw the image using software tools, and then apply colours at my hearts content until I get it right. So originally I used that process to make a printout, that I could then use as a guide for my painting.
Then, via an interesting detour that I will have to write up some time, I came to printing my art with a fine art printer. Now I could sell my work in a much more affordable manner.

But this has left me in a real art no-mans land. I can’t get my work into any shows or galleries because they insist that they will not accept “reproductions”. I guess it will be some time before competition administrators and galleries will come to accept original digital art. Some actually think the computer does all the work (by computer magic), but most seem to like the final result. People who like it, like my digital originals a lot – and it’s for those folks that I do it, providing the best quality of materials and production.

I took time during our holiday this year (due to the less than optimum weather), to do some soul searching and research into what I can do to make my work and the process of producing it come into better alignment. What was the problem you say? Well, I always feel that I have to explain the process and why I am using the fine art printer. Even though, and maybe even because, I do all my printing myself (not that I’m a control freak you know).

A chance encounter with one of the Glenbow museum archivists pointed me in a new direction here. Amazing what happens when you shut up and listen. Took me a while to get what she was talking about though. But after a detour looking into wood block printing, etchings and pochoir, I came across letterpress printing. What a realization! The solid black lines that I have in my work are exquisitly suited to letterpress. It gives an almost embossed quality to the work printed onto heavy paper. And then the machinery. The old cast iron presses that are used to produce letterpress printing are just up my alley. A lifetime spent designing and fixing machinery now comes in handy. What a match, to bring my art and the production of it into such alignment, and then to be able to make the end result even more affordable! I am real exited to make it happen.

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Well, after some explorations the owner of the “remains of the C&P press” and I could not come to terms on a price. He felt that he had invested some $2500 in the press, type and furniture and wanted to recoup most of that (the more I got interested – the higher the dollar figures seemed to go). Well, since I am/was only interested in the press for printing my artwork, that was way too much risk – and time commitment to get it into working condition. He felt that the press was working before he “stored” it, and there would be “nothing too it” to put it back together. I had guesstimated eight weekends full-time to dismantle, recondition & repair the press. And in re-evaluating why I want the press in the first place, it struck me that I want to print, and the repair – while I can do it – it really is secondary. So I declined and we parted ways on that subject.

Since then I’ve actively searched for another press, but so far have come up empty.

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Looking Ahead

I visited the press resting place once more. As time has passed I imagined the rust worse and worse, and I convinced myself the press would be write-off for sure. While there I moved the part where the main shaft is poking deep into the ground. That is the part that I was most worried about because the big connecting rods with their journals attach there. A piece of thread with the retaining nut on it was covered with moist dirt, and there is fairly severe corrosion at that area. Worst outcome, if I can not get that cleaned up I might have to reduce the bearing diameter and put a bushing into the connecting rod. And the connection rods, some levers, the flywheel and the ink platter were found. I’m almost giddy with excitement.

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First Post

Hi! This is going to be a record (and possibly a discussion) about the rescue and rebuilding of a C&P (Chandler & Price) old style letterpress.

This is what the main frame of the press looks like at this very moment. It is laying in a pile of gravel, outside – and has been there a few years. I don’t know really how long. There is a thin layer of rust on all parts.

If the present owner and I can come to an agreement, I’m going to recover it in the next couple of weeks. Then I will start to remove the rust and first evaluate the shafts, threads and bearings to see if there is enough to work with, to make it operable again. Part of me wants to say “no thanks – too much work”, and part of me is a sucker for the challenge…

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