I am super excited to be writing this post, as this marks the beginning of my letterpress documentation. You get to sit in shotgun and watch me stumble and learn how to letterpress.
If some of you were curious – I am hoping to be able to create my own stationary. I am especially interested in creating letterpressed cards featuring whimsical, weird messages (think unicorns, narwhals, and such) and/or science-nerd-love cards. I am more than slightly obsessed with the beautiful texture letterpress provides, which is unachievable through screen printing. Correct me if I’m wrong.
How did this interest begin?
Well, I surprised my boyfriend with a letterpress workshop last year as a present. Then several months later, I took it upon myself to learn screen printing. I slowly developed a strong desire to create adorable cards, but realized most places producing beautiful, imprinted cards used some type of press. So of course, I immediately signed up for a letterpress class.
Let me introduce you to a couple of my friends over at Spudnik Press:
Meet The Pearl. By spinning the wheel on the side, you move the rollers up and down so it collects ink from the circle above. You are also probably not paying attention to what I am saying at this point, and instead thinking about Pirates of the Caribbean. I don’t blame you.
Meet her sister, The Pilot. She operates with the side lever, which makes it a tad clunky to use. Moving the lever down brings the two rollers up (thus inking the letters) and your paper is pressed into the type. At the roller’s highest point, it makes contact with the inked surface, thus collecting ink. When the lever is brought down, it sets a new layer of ink on the type and your piece is moved away from the set type.
As you can see, my project was set up on The Pilot. We were only focusing on setting Linear Type: having the same type of character and point height on the same line.
While setting the type, it was super important to make sure everything fit tightly and that no pieces could fall out when lifted. I even snuck in some thin pieces of copper to make the type more snug.
The wood pieces surrounding the type are known as furniture. These are blocks of wood used to help hold the type in place.
The little alligator teeth are known as quoins. These are screwed tightly together using a quoin key (not pictured), so as to lock the furniture in place.
I didn’t personally mix any ink this time around, but a few of my classmates mixed colors together based on the Pantone Color Guide. In letterpress printing, a little bit of ink goes a very long way.
And here we go! First official print job ever – a simple business card for my blog and dream print company.
Baby steps, y’all.