Archived entries for custom letterpress

Hydro74 + lasers + letterpress = awesome

hydro74 artwork letterpress printHydro74’s Purveyors of Sin. I suggested Mohawk Superfine Soft White 80# Cover for its bone-like color.

Smug Labs’ laser cut wood block on the pressSmug Labs used their big-ass laser to engrave Hydro74’s artwork into a cabinet scrap. Hooray for recycling!

Laser cut block locked up on the pressI locked up the block on the Vandercook Universal I at the Book Arts Studio. For you keen-eyed printers in the audience, fear not, I noticed the furniture starting to buckle and loosened the quoins.

Frisket to protect the prints from stray inkThe shallow depth of the engraved block meant the prints picked up some stray marks. Frisket (fancy word for mask) to the rescue!

Brett, of Smug Labs, feeding the paper to printI taught Brett, proprietor at Smug Labs, how to feed the paper and pull prints.

Brett, of Smug Labs, pulling a print from the Vandercook

hydro74 prints on the drying rack

hydro74 prints and laser cut block

Worry Lines

This past Monday I finished some A9 showcards for an upcoming exhibit of drawings by my incredibly talented friend, Mary Toscano. I handset the type for the first run using 10 and 24 Cloister Light Face, cast by The Dale Guild.

I chose a warm brown, straight from the can, for the first color.

The type was set on a 50 pica line to make registering the second color, also set on a 50 pica line, faster and easier.

Few things rival the beauty of carefully spaced Roman capitals.

Due to the angles, placing the type high brass rules presented a challenge. I really love the creative problem solving required to letterpress print from metal and wood type and rules. Here’s my on-the-fly solution. I laid a thin sheet of paper over a laserprinted comp and traced the lines representing the brass rules. I placed the tracing paper on the press bed and used strong magnets to secure the brass rules directly on top of the traced lines. Voila!

Mary’s drawings have an anxious, compelling energy about them. And wavy rules seemed appropriate for a show titled Worry Lines.

Mixing the “salmon” pink for the final run required combining four inks; opaque white, yellow, transparent tint base, and warm red. I was also relying on the Cream Rives BFK to warm up the final color.

Despite hours (no exaggeration) of cleaning the 14 and 18 point Franklin Gothic I set by hand for the final run, I could not get consistently clean prints. The transparent pink kept getting muddy. To avoid ruining the entire edition, I improvised and made a photopolymer plate.

The finished prints. I printed the A9 cards two-up on 8.5 x 11 inch sheets then cut the stack in half on the guillotine. I wanted the design to allude to the Into the White showcards I did last year for Mary and Cara Despain.

Blessing or Curse?

What’s the danger of having access to a full case of new Cloister Light Face expertly cast by The Dale Guild Type Foundry?

. . .the compulsion to set line after line in august Jensonian capitals, requiring hours of letterpspacing and proofing. Of course, one might also see that as a blessing.

Sweet Somethings + Giveaway

The first five people to like Smart & Wiley on Facebook will receive a hand written note on a one-of-a-kind makeready postcard from the press run. We’ll also throw in a bonus makeready card for the first five to make a purchase through our Felt & Wire shop.

Smart & Wiley’s latest offering is a set of four Valentine’s Day postcards, just right for the type/letterpress lover in your life. See more pictures on our website, check out our Facebook page, and pick up a set for you and your sweetie from our Felt & Wire shop before they’re gone!

Each greeting was lovingly set by hand in 12 point ATF News Gothic metal type.

A 10 line wood type heart was printed in four pastel, candy-heart colors with a vigorous kiss.

The one-color (passionate, Fireball Red) postcard backs were composed from foundry metal type and brass rule.

Eat your heart out Cupid. Nothing will besot your beloved quite like letterspaced Bodoni and Steelplate Gothic Shaded caps.

New in the Store

Click the “Store” tab at the top of the page (or click here) to check out 4 new-to-the-store prints! Also, the limited stock of proof / makeready books made from the “Free Amos Kennedy” posters are on sale, grab ’em while you can.


Vista Sans Wood Type Project

Ashley John Pigford and Tricia Treacy invited me to participate in a “collaborative exploration of the interplay between venerable/archaic and experimental/modern technology in the effort to produce a hybrid form of typographic design where the production process is ingrained in the product.” Check out the Vista Sans Wood Type Project.

I received five individual letters, t, o, u, c, h. The blocks each measure 42p6. Extrapolating from the ascender heights of the t and h, I estimate the letters to be 8.5 inches, or 612 points.

The unvarnished, CNC cut letters all prominently (proudly?) reveal the grain of the wood.


Happy Holidays 2011

click image to enlarge

For the first holiday card I’ve done since 2006 (and the first for Smart & Wiley), I used a 10 line wood type pyramid, paired with 18 point ATF Garamond Italic. Rounded corners and a blind embossed kraft envelope give the card a finished, upscale look.


Happy Holidays… 2006

Kitemath, a Chicago design firm, commissioned me to design and letterpress print a holiday card they would be proud to send their clients. The only parameter given: the design needed to incorporate a green ink custom mixed to match a box of overstock A7 envelopes.

The illustration was made using wood type circles for the ornaments, metal type periods for the strings, the ferrules are capital letter Us from Univers, and I set the text in 10pt. ATF Century Schoolbook.

Happy Holidays…2005

In 2005, my studio was in the front room of a house I was renting in the suburbs of Indianapolis. Easily the shortest commute of my life. I realize now, looking back, how influential it was to my process to have immediate access to my studio. I felt less pressure to have a completed design or fully formed concept before starting to work. It felt more like play.

As was the case with many of my projects at the time, I had no clue what this card was going to look like. I entered the studio with a plan to print something for the holidays. While looking through a galley of metal ornaments that could easily pass for snowflakes I found the inspiration I needed, locked up a form on my Vandercook SP-15 and started printing.

Once the metallic silver and gold snowflakes were done, I selected 18pt. ATF Garamond Italic for the text, but I felt the falling flakes needed a little extra punch so I interspersed colons from the same font. The finished cards were nicely complemented by some surplus soft gray envelopes.


Miniprint 13, fourth (final) run

Though the final run was also black, the tight registration to other elements required the six brass and type metal rules to be locked up separately.

I used angled furniture to cant a single type high rule to 45 degrees.

Detail of the rules registered and ready for the final run.

Three color letterpress
8 x 10 inches


Miniprint 13, third run

Though I have 48 point circles, I chose to use wood type for its character.

4 line circle and big brother oval.

Almost done.


Miniprint 13, second run

Van Son’s Dutch Fireball (aka Pantone 185), my favorite red.

Vandercook recommended applying ink to the riding roller. That is not the riding roller, that my friends is the oscillator. I live on the edge.

Two wood type circles, one 4 line, one 8 line, locked up and tripped.

Registration complete, commence printing.


It’s That Time of Year

Last night I started printing my contribution to Miniprint 13. This year’s print continues the theme and color palette used for 1:2 (fourth image down).

Amos Kennedy in SLC, part 3

The two linocut asterisks locked up, inked and ready to print on the Book Arts Program’s Vandercook SP20.

Feeding the first sheet of the final run into the grippers.

Pulling the first print from the press.

The asterisks are like warm red frosting on the cake.

This was a challenging project to coordinate, but it turned out great. I can’t wait to see them hanging up around Salt Lake City. The true measure of success will be in how fast they get swiped from shop windows and light posts.

Please download a high resolution scan of the finished poster, share with friends, come to the FREE film screening, and don’t miss this rare chance to take a workshop with Amos Kennedy in Salt lake City! Spencer and I would like to thank all the event sponsors: Book Arts Program, AIGA Salt Lake City, The Mandate Press, XPEDX, and Smart & Wiley.

Amos Kennedy in SLC, part 2

For the third run – copy written by the incomparable Emily Tipps – I handset the text using 72pt. Alternate Gothic No. 1  (dates & location), and 12pt. Monotype Univers 45 (film screening and workshop info), cast for a Red Butte Press edition by the late, great C. Christopher Stern.

We locked the form up on the Book Arts Program’s Vandercook Universal 1 and Spencer printed the run using Gans rubber based XX Black.

While Spencer was printing away. I worked frantically to lock up a photopolymer plate with the logos of the sponsors for the film screening, a single, wood type diamond, and four, 12pt. dotted metal rules. We decided on metallic silver for the fourth run.

I was nervous about printing such a variety of materials together, but by carefully controlling the ink and the roller height on the Program’s Vandercook SP20, I achieved a good balance and the run turned out better than I anticipated.

Only one more run to go. Check back tomorrow to see the asterisks and the final print!

Amos Kennedy in SLC, part 1

Amos Kennedy will be in Salt Lake City September 8–10 for a free, public screening of Proceed and Be Bold! (Thursday, September 8, 7pm) and a two-day workshop at the Book Arts Program. The film screening is co-sponsored by the Book Arts Program and AIGA Salt Lake City.

To promote the film screening and workshop, I’ve been collaborating with Spencer Charles to print a poster. While brainstorming ideas, I wondered aloud about the best way to draw people’s attention and inspire them to come to the events. I thought of the old standby, “Free Beer,” and immediately suggested we (AIGA SLC and the Book Arts Program) were offering the next best thing: Free Amos Kennedy.

Spencer and I printed the first two runs in tandem. I ran the red “FREE” on the Book Arts Program’s Vandercook SP20. As I pulled each print from the press, I handed them to Spencer who ran “Amos Kennedy” (in magnificent 20 line Grecian) on the Program’s Vandercook Universal 1.

We needed two asterisks for our concept so I used a Hammond Glider to trim a 10 pica square and a 6 pica square from a 3 x 5 inch Speedball lino block. Next, I laser printed the asterisks with a square outline that corresponded to the size of the pre trimmed lino blocks. Using a #2 pencil, I traced the perimeter of each laser printed asterisk, being sure to use plenty of graphite. After tracing the shapes, I taped one edge of the print to the lino block  so the pencil traced image was face down. Then I rubbed the back of the paper with a bone folder to transfer the pencil graphite outline to the lino block leaving a perfect template for me to cut.

Once I finished cutting each block, I inked them up and pulled proofs. I’ll be printing the asterisks in red (the final run!) tonight and posting more pictures this week.

Thin is In

Combining 70pt and 5pt type in one run is slightly bonkers, but if any paper could hold the delicate curves and extravagant swashes of Elegy, Mohawk Superfine would certainly be it. Check out Alyson Kuhn’s write-up about the production of what looks to be an exquisitely printed broadside: In the thin of it: Patrick Reagh’s letterpress tribute to Elegy

Detail of the Elegy Broadside, photo from Felt & Wire

Weekend Update

We spent over 12 hours yesterday at Smart & Wiley headquarters, working on the Design Ignites Change Notebook Project.

We briefly considered perfect binding (see previous Design Ignites Change post), but ultimately decided on wire binding.

What are the advantages of wire binding? The notebooks will lay flat, we love the functional elegance of the staggered wire spine, and I did some freelance work a few years ago in exchange for a wire binding machine, so the edition can be produced in house.

The front and back covers are being printed simultaneously on a 13 x 10 inch sheet of Mohawk Loop Antique Vellum Kraft, 110 dtc (double thick cover). The type shown above is 30 line (5 inch) Gothic  Condensed.

For the first run, I mixed a blue-green with about 75% transparent base (the foreground ink blob). Notice the pinch of red in the lower right corner, used to tone the blue-green down a bit.

The first print of the first run coming off the press. Check back for more updates.

Design Ignites Change Notebook Project

This is what greeted me when I got home today! Not quite as exciting as finding a box of recently purchased wood type waiting for me, but still pretty damned cool. The top carton contains Mohawk Loop Antique Vellum Kraft, 110dtc (double thick cover). In the lower carton is Mohawk Loop Smooth Ivory, 70t. I loaded both boxes – 250 pounds! – into my hatchback and headed to the studio.

There’s no printing on it yet, but here’s a 6 x 8 inch paper dummy containing 64 leaves (each side of a leaf is a page, so the completed notebooks will have 128 pages) of the text weight Ivory.

Yes, that is a Mohawk branded sleeve (printed on Superfine, of course!) for my bone folder. . . jealous!

Hyperbole For Sale, part 9

A Novelty Unparalleled

I don’t have a clue what that red machine/gear is, but that’s what makes it interesting. Like the concentric circles (both on the same block) surrounding it, the machine/gear was printed from a vintage advertising cut. The type is handset 18 point Park Avenue, from the American Type Founders. The sheet size is 5 x 7 inches; the paper is Mohawk Superfine, Smooth, White, 100lb. cover.

Hyperbole For Sale, part 5

Guess this is backtracking a little, but I just realized I wrote this post but never published it.
Easy Assembly No Tools Required
This is the first print I completed for the show and it set the tone (and color palette) for the rest of pieces. The type is 18 point ATF Garamond Italic, the image a vintage advertising cut (see Pattern Recognition), and the star 18 point Monotype. Printed on 5 x 7 inch Mohawk Superfine, Smooth, White, 100lb. cover.

This is the 18 point star locked up on my Vandercook SP15.

and a close-up

Hyperbole For Sale, part 6

Superior Quality
12 line Trafton Script and 5 line wood pointer. Printed on 9 x 9 inch sheets of Mohawk Superfine, Smooth, 100lb. cover.

Hyperbole For Sale, part 4

Hyperbole For Sale
I finally found an appropriate use for Lydian Bold Italic! The stars are 5 line wood, printed in metallic silver; the arrow is a vintage linocut, purchased from Dave Churchman, it measures approximately 15 inches long.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I had intended the arrow to point in the other direction, but when working on three or four prints simultaneously mix-ups like this happen. I’m glad it did. I like the opposing directional movement of the arrow and the Lydian Bold Italic. The print measures 19.75 x 9 inches and is printed on Mohawk Superfine, Smooth, White, 100lb. cover.

Hyperbole For Sale, part 3

Improved! Like Never Before
“Like Never Before” was typeset in 15 line Gothic and printed in metallic silver. Wavy, type high brass rules interleave the lines of wood type.

The exclamation “Improved!” was set in 24 point Kaufmann, with brass rules above and below. As you can see in the next image, I used furniture from an angle-bodied wood type script font to slightly rotate the line.

Hyperbole For Sale, part 2

An Invention that Obviates all Danger

Well, since you asked, yes, that is a halftone brick man. I printed the automaton in metallic silver to emphasize its robotness. The phrase, typeset in letterspaced 8 point Spartan Black (Spartan was the American Type Founders’ version of Futura), is advertisement copy appropriated from an 1897 Sears Roebouck & Co. catalog. The paper is Mohawk Superfine, Smooth, White, 100lb. cover, the dimensions 5 x 7 inches.

Hyperbole For Sale, part 1

Last night I installed a small show at Alchemy. Lauren helped me hang twelve new prints, plus two completed last year. The main attraction of the show, entitled Hyperbole For Sale, is the immense “Super, Extra, Ultra, Mega!” At 19.75 x 27.5 inches, it’s easily the largest print I’ve made, and it was only possible because of the fabulous Vandercook SP20 at the Book Arts Studio.

Super, Extra, Ultra, Mega! on press
The first line is 30 line Grecian Condensed; second is 20 line French Clarendon; Ultra is set in 24 line Gothic X Condensed (the only type used for this piece not from my collection); and last but not least is 15 line Antique Tuscan.

All of the type used for this print is quite old and in pretty rough shape. The makeready took nearly eight hours, and still could have been better, but I had a show to hang!

Printing on the SP20, photo courtesy Lauren Huber

The first of three runs on the drying rack at the Book Arts Studio

Holding a copy of the finished print for human scale

Detail of the 8 line Aldine Expanded exclamation, printed in red

I decided to really emphasize the scale of this print by flanking it with two 5 x 7 inch prints.

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