Sunday, February 21, 2016

More joy with type

My love affair with type and letterpress continues.

During the week Barry and I got dirty and dusty on a road trip to discover more type.

We travelled south a bit and visited a fellow who has a shed of type and things and sometimes presses.

No presses this time, but I did get to purchase some 'fancy' typefaces and some ornaments, as well as a few technical and very useful items.

But first to the dirt on the fancy type. Such fun and fancy, but oh so dusty. Task one is to wash it it all, then discover what might lie within. Is there a full alphabet? Do I have punctuation?  It's always a gamble, but I just want to gather type and save it from being melted down.

A fancy N or an upside down U?
 It's a U.

I also picked up some random wooden type and a small box of more fancy things - ornaments as they are called in the trade I think.

And then on the weekend I got to play a bit too.

 So I put a test chase into the 1890 Lightning Jobber press to see what was there. When you are working with fancy or unusual type, it's always hard to tell from trying to read them backwards whether things are as they seem.

From this test sheet, you can see I don't have a capital D, K, or M, and that what I thought might have been a fancy L is in fact the pound sign.  And what I thought might have been a fancier lower case l was in fact a b. I was happy that all the lower case was there, including two 'e's and two 's's and two 'd's.

And so I went to town, merrily printing away with my beautiful old workhorse press.

Just a bunch of cards to have in my stash to send, but such a fun time. The over-printing doesn't really work, but that is what play is about no?

Sigh, love that soft impression into the paper.

One of my favourite cards to send.

And how cool was it that Barry found another tray of type that had two smaller sizes of a fancy typeface; and it wasn't until I had cleaned the larger size  that we confirmed they were pretty much smaller sizes of the one in the dirty type tray, with a few variations here and there!

And then I played with the ornaments. Not an easy task to just pile a bunch of different sized pieces of type into a chase and try to lock it up - so the pressure wasn't perfect in a few places - but I just wanted to get a feel for what they looked like. You'd never really use them like this, but once more it was fun getting in and learning heaps.

Nothing earth-shattering here again, just some lovely swing tags to attach to gifts at some point.

It was good to get into the studio and make something again.  It has been a while, but I am slowly working my way back. I have started thinking about a book I want to make using letterpress, so that is  a good sign.

Until then, I am just so happy to be playing and learning.


  1. Lucky you - I think the swing tags look great. When I was a little girl I had an uncle who lived in London. He had his own printing firm and on the rare occasions that I stayed with him and my aunt I would watch him set up the print and watch the press and listen to the air and vacuum as it picked up and let the paper go. Sixty years on just thinking about it magic - I only wish I'd lived near and then I could have learnt his skills and saved all the beautiful wooden and metal type that was no doubt thrown away or bunt. Thank you for awakening such happy magical memories.

    1. What wonderful memories...the magic lingers all these years later. Go well.

  2. Oh Fiona, this makes me wish I was 20 years younger and could go searching for type and presses. Love what you are doing.

    1. Thanks Penny - I'm a bit of a woman on a mission at the moment I must admit!

  3. Love the tags Fiona and the whole experimentation process. I was wondering if you could use the type to emboss your paper without inking up? I know it is a relief process but some letterpress leaves an embossed finish doesn't it? What would happen if you used slightly damp paper and no ink? Can't you tell I'd love to be there experimenting with you!!!

    1. Well...I did run a page through without wetting it, but without inking up because I had just the same thought as you Lesley! I cut the page down into yet more swing tags, but will try to find a photo. Snap for good ideas! Go well.


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