LetterPress

Wednesday morning I did some letter pressing in my Dalton Maag group. Letter pressing was the early way of printing on a big scale. Johannes Gutenberg 15th century to the 19th century publisher, blacksmith and printer created the letter press because he wanted to create an easier way of publishing books, because in this age every book was handwritten. The first book that was letter pressed by Gutenberg was the Gutenberg bible. Now it was our turn to make some letter pressing and we had to print a quote from Dalton Maag that describe what we think about Typography.

Dalton Maag is a graphic design company that do many things from logos to signs but they are more focused on designing new typefaces. They are well known around the world because their work is shown everywhere from websites to magazines. They are everywhere. I decided to use “Harmony of form” as a quote from them to use in my letter pressing because its short and sweet with plenty of meaning.

img_52071In this photo I have placed the lead letters together to spell my quote out. With letter printing the letter needs to be upside down to work which was confusing at first but I quickly got the hang of it. In the photo you can see the lead strips where the letters are placed, this is the baseline for my letterpress.

img_52091In this image I have placed the type into the chase and I am in the progress of weighing the type together using lead and wood strips. This keeps the letters together in a firm position for the pressing and equal weighing on top and under the letters. The two boxes at the top are called keys which when turned open up and apply pressure on the wood and lead to tighten the letters together. There are four of them two on top and two on the bottom of the chase to hold it tightly.

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This picture just shows how much of the letters stand out of the chase. The lead and wood are closely the equal size so that they are not in the way of the printing. If one of the strips were bigger than the type, the ink would only cover the strips and when printing we would only get a line and no type. So it was important to ensure it was flat and the strips weren’t jeopardising my pressing.

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This picture shows the printer on standby and ready to print my quote. As you can see the rollers are all inked up, my type is in the press ready and the paper is waiting for the ink. To work it, you push down the lever which moves the rollers  up to cover the type with ink and at the same time the paper tray closes on to the letters with force which implies the ink on to the paper. Its a magnificent piece of engineering to create this press because there are so many aspects which happen at the same time  by simply applying pressure when pushing the handle down.
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As you can see I’ve gone a bit overboard with my pressing, it was so easy to do when it came to the point of putting the chase into the press. I did numerous prints to see how the letters came out on different papers and it was very successful. I really enjoyed doing this because I could see the type coming together and the mechanical side of it was completely up my street!  This session has helped me by giving me more ideas when coming to do projects and also gives me some encouragement to know that there’s always the old way of going about things and this method has worked for centuries.

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