I’m lucky enough to have access to a fantastic old printing press – specifically an Albion Press, from the mid nineteenth centruy. It really is a beautiful machine but has been out of action for quite some time and hiding in the corner – well, as much as you can hide a 2 tonne, 7 foot cast iron printing press!
I decided that enough was enough and over the weekend set about getting her working again. I’m not the most technically minded, but this press is a remarkably simple bit of kit to use. In fact, the trickiest bit I found was getting the pressure of the press right on top of the blocks. I tried all sorts of different packing materials, some of which were semi successful and others which were an outright failure! In the end I settled on a large piece of thick fibreboard, which was soft enough to slightly wrap around the type blocks, but firm enough not to damage the paper.
That pretty much took up all of Saturday but by the end of the day I thought we were pretty close to it being right. So on Sunday morning I went out to buy some supplies to have some fun with. I still wasn’t sure what weight and style of paper / board would be best, so got a few different options to play around with. We already had a variety of inks that somehow hadn’t dried up, and a couple of old rollers, so the next task was to set about creating something from the array of type that we had.
I thought I’d try and create a phrase from one of my favourite films, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, so I got to work bringing all of the required letters together. I wanted to use a variety of fonts and sizes, so getting the balance right was tricky – especially when some vital letters were missing or didn’t have a duplicate! After a couple of hours of planning I was finally in a place where I could start to set up the type on the press, so I got began to lay out the letters. Again, as this was my first proper attempt, I probably took far too long in doing this but I wanted to make sure I was happy with the positioning and that the type was held securely.
Once I was happy I fixed my paper onto the hinged frame and began to roll ink over the letters.Then it was time for the moment of truth! It needed a little bit if tweaking, as some of the leading was too large and a couple of letters hadn’t got enough ink on them, but it was pretty close to what I wanted straight away!
I’ve got to say that I’m really chuffed with what came out. Having never used the machine before to producing this in a weekend was a pretty good result. I foresee an awful lot more time being spent on the press in the very near future!