Yesterday I printed out some fun cactus holiday cards and today I put them on Etsy. This is my first time making cards using a decent quality paper (Arturo Stationery from Hollander’s). I got the cactus print block from Ebay and hand-set the type that says “Happy Holidays!”
I’m pretty happy with the result. I may end up buying the supplies to use photopolymer plates (a metal base) because this is way, way fun!
I’ve been busy printing random stuff on my letterpress. I got some color ink and an old wood ‘H’ block. Oh, and I also ordered some blank business cards, so I decided to print myself a few.
I printed each card twice. First I printed the green ‘H’ and after that I set the type for the name, phone, email etc. I ran into a few issues with the width of the card at first. Since I wanted to have a vertical card, I only had so much space for the info. The type that I have doesn’t have the ‘@’ symbol, and “Hung AT Hung-Truong.com” wouldn’t fit on one line. So I just ended up putting it on two lines, which is nice because then the other line is just my website address.
I like the grainy look of the block ‘H’. Each one looks a little different, and at one point I mixed in some more blue to make it a darker green. It’s nice that the card itself is a slightly unique print.
If I could redo this card, I’d probably try to pick a smaller font for the info. And I’d also choose different sizes for my name versus the other stuff. I’m sort of limited in the type that I currently own (4 trays). If I end up making more cards, I might just buy a base so that I can make my own photopolymer plates. That’d be cool because I could also make my own designs for cards/coasters etc too.
Today I decided to have the Apple “Back to Mac” keynote stream while working on other stuff. I was literally setting up a print job in my composing stick when I heard Steve Jobs mention that iLife will have a letterpress printing option. I never imagined that Apple would move in on my turf when I decided to get an old style printing press!
It looks like you’ll be able to order prints from a number of templates, some of which can also include photos:
I think it’s neat that letterpress is becoming mainstream (again) enough that it warrants a feature in iLife. As far as my concerns about taking away business (which I haven’t quite decided to get into), I think it’s good that Apple’s pushing this kind of typing further into the mainstream. There’ll probably be a lot more people interested in letterpress, and not just for the personalized photo cards, etc.
On a technical note, I’m interested how Apple is going to farm out the print jobs. Do they have their own print shop with all the Heidelberg machines, or are they partnering with a shop? Depending on the volume of orders, I wonder what their turnaround time would be.
I finally got the rollers for my letterpress machine yesterday, so I tried printing something.
I had ordered all the other supplies I needed, including:
A crapload of blank coasters (1000)
A giraffe printer’s block
I already had the ink from my purchase of the machine. The machine itself is from 1941, and the ink was from the same company, in a tube. I’m not sure the ink is from 1941, but if it is, it’s held up really well!
I also bought a bunch of other stuff that ended up helping me a lot when troubleshooting. Luckily, I read a lot of posts on briar press and was eventually able to get a decent looking impression on my coasters.
At first, the ink was getting onto the block, like behind the giraffe’s neck. This meant that the ink rollers were pushing up too hard against the printing surface. I had to adjust the pressure by putting some electrician’s tape on the chase bed. Three layers of tape made the rollers touch the printing surface just right, while not getting on other stuff.
The impression itself was also a little too deep at first. You could see the part of the block that pressed into the coaster (which at this point didn’t have ink). So I adjusted the pressure of the platen (the part that runs into the printing surface) with a screwdriver. After getting a few crazy impressions, I started getting the hang of the adjustments. I got quite a few good looking coasters. Here’s a video of the machine in action:
I’ll be experimenting with letterpress stuff some more once I get different colored inks and more printing blocks. I’d also like to get a printing base so I can make my own photopolymer plates (printed from normal Illustrator files). Those cost quite a bit though, so I’d like to see what my press can do before blowing a lot of cash on it. I also put the coasters I made on sale at Etsy, so take a look at my giraffe letterpress coasters and buy ‘em before someone else does!
As I wrote earlier, I really like letterpress stuff. I’ve been thinking of getting into it on my own, so I scoured eBay and craigslist looking for a printing press for myself. I wanted a tabletop press that wasn’t too heavy.
I ended up getting a Kelsey Excelsior 5×8 model from a guy just outside of Lansing. Emily and I drove over there to pick it up, then we took it to her parent’s place in Grand Rapids where Randy did a super good job fixing it up with WD-40 and oil. He also attached it to a piece of wood for easy letterpress action! Thanks, Randy!
We learned from the seller that this particular press was rescued from a funeral home, where it was used to print memorials and stuff. We also found some pre-set type along with the press with words like “DIED” and “INTERNMENT.” Creepy! I hope no ghosts decide to haunt my press. Because of its history, I named the press Mortimer. It also sounds like a good old-timey name. The serial number on the press’ chase bed reads “B41D” which tells me that the thing was built in April 1941.
Although I need to buy new rollers for the press, I decided to practice setting type. I made a pseudo business card and made a blind impression with the type. I made the imprint on some of my old Microsoft business cards (won’t need those ones anymore).
I can’t wait to see what the results look like with ink and paper that’s made for letterpress. I also have a few other supplies I need to buy before I’m in business. Stay tuned for updates on letterpress stuff!