Last week I told you about the letterpress class I’m taking. Well this week was my first time to print on the press! It was a ton of fun!
The press at the place I’m taking the class is a Vandercook 4. It’s a fairly large press, at least it’s bigger than my little SP15. At first I was putting too much power into cranking the press and I crashed it a little hard into the end! Oops!! It was a little difficult to get the hang of how hard to roll the printing part of the press.
The Vandercooks are all hand operated; originally they were only intended for proofing, not large runs. They are not fast presses, even though there are some that have motors. The motors for the Vandercooks are more to help ink them faster. Another type of popular press, a Chandler & Price (C&P), is almost fully automated, but these can be dangerous because of that. I may get to use one next week.
Out of the 50 cards I printed, only this one fell off! It’s a one-of-a-kind collector’s item now
I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the comments and on other blogs that I’m restoring a Vandercook SP15. The first time I went to try and clean off some of the rust, it was a rather depressing prospect.
This weekend, armed with some Simple Green, CLR and Goo Gone I was able to make some considerable headway! I got brave and started taking things apart in order to clean them better.
Above is the gripper, before I cleaned it. The gripper is what grabs the paper in order to keep it in place as it rolls with the large cylinder and over the type or image that’s being printed. I still need to lubricate it and then put it back together. I’ve had quite a few experienced letterpress printers recommend using graphite powder to lubricate the gripper. Do you have any advice?
The place where my presses are located is owned by the local historical society and while I was cleaning stuff up on Saturday, a tour came through! It was a couple and their family celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary (aww!). It was kinda cool to have them asking questions and watching me clean. Hopefully when I get the press working again I’ll be able to be there when other tours come through!
Compare the left and right sides of the press. All that black was over the whole press. The right side is where I’ve cleaned things up a bit. I think all the black is old gummed up ink.
If you’d like to follow my progress on the restoration, you can visit the Flickr set I’ve put together. I’ll do my best to upload progress photos each time I go up to clean it (it’s about an hour’s drive from my house, so I only go up once/week or less).
Oh and if you’re interested in starting up in letterpress yourself, check out a recent post on I Love Typography by Benjamin of British Letterpress called Letterpress from Scratch. Interesting reading!