Archive for the 'Machines' Category

A new Heidelberg cylinder press

7 May 2011

Delivery of our new Heidelberg cylinderAt the end of February we wrote that we were having the cylinder of our Heidelberg SB renovated. We were premature. The engineer did come, and a series of height measurements showed that the cylinder was too worn to be worth repairing. It would have to be replaced. We talked to a couple of specialist engineers, and the offer we liked best was for a thorough inspection of our present machine to see if it was worth spending more on it. So, at the beginning of March, Mark came down from Senior Graphics. He told us about broken pinion teeth and worn compression screws. Even more expensive, and if the work was done there were still other things that could go wrong. The bullet was bitten, and we ordered  a fully refurbished, part-exchange replacement.

Yesterday was the big day, and our picture shows Mike from Seniors guiding the new machine through the doorway. Clicking on the picture will take you to our Flickr album of the old press being taken out and the new one coming in.

We’re particularly pleased that we’ve got a press that was previously used by Gwasg Gregynog. We are assured that it was in beautiful condition when Mike took it out, and he has stripped it right down, replaced what was worn and fitted new electrics. It looks, and smells, like a new machine.

Swapping the machines over only took a couple of hours, but then the guards and tables that had been taken off for transit had to be put back on, and the lovely new set of rollers put in. It’s a fiddly job, and probably the longest single part of the whole operation. We were finally ready for a test print in the middle of the afternoon.

Was it all worth it? The test printing was very promising. We used a forme that had already been printed on the old press, and we got to a point where it was looking very good without a single piece of make ready. We had previously spent the best part of two hours making it ready. We ran twenty or thirty sheets through twice, and the register was so good that the two printings couldn’t be seen under a magnifying glass. Running a few jobs over the next few days will tell us whether it’s living up to our high expectations.


Dead register

23 February 2011

We really like dead register, which probably makes us printing nerds. The register marks in the picture have been hit twice, and it’s hard to make out the two marks even under a linen tester. It’s no surprise that our Heidelbergs are that accurate, as we can, and have, used both of them for four colour process.

The job, by the way, is business cards for architects AHMM, which also have their company initials reversed out of a blue solid on the reverse. The Heidelberg cylinder takes that in its stride too.

We’re having some more work done on that press. Having had the bed renovated, it’s now the turn of the cylinder. There’s an engineer coming tomorrow who we hope is going to electro-plate it to bring the areas that are slightly low back up to standard. He says they get them better than new. We can’t wait.

The Curwen Studio

20 February 2011

The Curwen Studio was started by the mighty Curwen Press in 1958. Stanley Jones was hired to set it up and run it, and he’s still there, as dedicated as ever to lithographic print making. Phil had the good fortune to go to the studio with the Double Crown Club yesterday.

It’s an awe-inspiring place, with a tradition and artefacts going back to the 1920s and 1930s and beyond. There was one of the plates that the Curwen Press used to print Barnett Freedman‘s illustrations of Anna Karenina; a stone on which Freedman had drawn the tools of the trade over which he had such mastery; and an Ardizzone plate, possibly for Stig of the Dump or The Otterbury Incident, we thought, but more likely a Little Tim book given the size. There are some pictures of them here.

The presses were impressive too. Sitting outside is a German proofing press from the 1920s that the Studio used for years. Metal fatigue finally took its toll, and now it is a rusting sculpture among the trees. We were shown a stone litho press that had been used by the Press for music printing. It has burn marks from the fire that followed the bombing of the Curwen Press during the Second World War. And there are two massive B1 proofing presses, made by FAG, one of whose letterpress proofers we have in Pinchin Street. Interestingly, Stanley, and Jenny Roland who is managing director of the Studio, believe that eventually the printing trade will completely move over to computer to plate, the film and plates they use will no longer be available and litho print making will revert to using stones only. Like film-setting, it’s the intermediate technologies that go, the new ones march on and the earlier ones continue as a medium for artists and craftsmen.

Stanley took us through the different ways of preparing a lithographic image, and for illustration there was a pile of proofs that included a Paul Hogarth colour separation, David Gentleman trying out different pencils and pens on sheet of exquisite figure drawings, a Paula Rego and some Henry Moores.

There are lots of wonderful prints on the walls too, as might be expected, and a plan chest where Angie Lewin shares a drawer with Bob Dylan.

Each of the group of seven was given a piece of A4 drafting film, pens, pencils, crayons, markers and scalpels with which we made their own images. They were put up together on one sheet and exposed on plate. Then we could see the magical process of the plate being developed and watched as prints were made. There was no Freedman or Gentleman present, but t we did have Ian Beck in the party, and it was a great deal of fun.

Super Caster reassembled

12 November 2010

This is our Super Caster, reassembled at last. It’s been in pieces since it was moved here while we’ve been concentrating on the Composition caster. That’s working much better now, so we asked Gerry Drayton to come back and show us around the Super. A lot of his time was spent looking for missing bits, and since then we’ve been spending more time on plumbing and water leaks than we would have liked. We think we’re ready to have a serious attempt at casting display type now.

Monotype at last

18 May 2010

Yesterday we  cast a full galley of type for the first time. We’d been getting a whole load of inconsistencies before, like rogue commas at the beginning of lines. We thought we’d tried everything, and we were about to unhitch the computer interface and have a go at casting a paper spool to see if we could find where the fault lay. We had another go before doing that, and Nick did some very fine adjustments to the pressure of the air going to the caster. That did the trick.

Our attempts to get the Monotype working have been interfering with the rest of out work. We have started work on The Taming of the Shrew, and we’re not as far along as we should be.

There’s been another distraction, because Phil is giving a talk at the Edward Johnston Foundation Ditchling Seminar on Sunday.

Monotype: progress and setbacks

8 April 2010

The good news is that yesterday we cast type on our composition caster for the first time. The not so good is that the letters were coming out in the wrong order. An email to Bill Welliver, who developed the computer system we’re using, revealed that we had attached the interface to the caster upside down. We’ve turned it round, but when we started to test it we found that the nozzle that injects the molten type metal into the mould was blocked. We don’t have any imperial sized drill bits in the workshop and we have no intention of fooling around with this high precision machinery, so the next step is a trip to C W Tyzack in Kingsland Road to pick some up.

We feel that we’ve learnt quite a lot in getting this far. We know that we have to take good care of the pump piston, that the machine won’t cast type unless the pump is seated properly, how to stop and start it… All being well this knowledge will result in some usable metal type before too long.


23 March 2010

It’s three months since our Monotype machines were installed, but there have been a couple of hurdles to overcome before we can start casting type.

The first was getting them plumbed in. Fitting a water supply was fairly straightforward, in theory at least. What to do with the waste was trickier, as we are on the ground floor and the water runs out fairly close to floor level. We enlisted the help of a couple of people with many years experience of the machines, and it took several weeks to get them together with our plumber. The solution we came up with was for the water to flow out to a small tank fitted with a pump that pumps the waste to the drain when it reaches a certain height.

We were very happy with the work done by Buckinghams, the plumbers, and they connected up the air lines from the compressor to the casters. Unfortunately we ran into another problem when they were tested, because the compressor wasn’t cutting out as it should do. We’ve had that repaired now, and had an inline pressure regulator fitted. What is more, the second and final part of the computer interface that will run the casters is due for delivery today, so everything is finally ready to go. We’re having our first casting lesson on Friday.

Monotype at Hand & Eye

5 December 2009

We’re pretty busy at the moment. As well as printing Christmas cards we’re getting ready for a new challenge. On 17 December we’re installing our own Monotype casters. We expect that it’s going to take some time before we’ll have learnt enough to run them commercially, but we believe they’re going to open up exciting possibilities.

At present we’re booking movers and electricians prior to re-organising the workshop. Once we have the machines in we’ll be putting together a list of the matrices we hold and starting to get to grips with type casting.

Whittington Summer Show

12 August 2009

WhittingtonPosterWe will once again be at the Whittington Summer Show this year. It takes place on 5 September, and you can see the gorgeous poster here. The illustrations were hand stenciled by Miriam Macgregor, and we think it’s worth going just for the chance of picking one up.

As last year, we’ll be on the proofing press. We are currently putting together some type for a poster which we’ll be taking with us so that those who want to can print their own copy. We’ll have other posters too, as well as books and cards.

Cropper treadle platen

23 June 2009

cropperThis Acme Cropper treadle platen used to be in Bruton Museum in Somerset. They no longer have room for it, and Lucy and Robert Carter have given it a temporary home. They would like to pass it on, together with some type, to someone who can use it.

If you’re interested please contact Lucy.