Wood engraving is a form of block printing which is similar to wood cut insofar as the printing process is a relief process, like letterpress printing. The difference is that a wood engraving is cut on end grain maple rather than the plank grain used with wood cuts. End grain maple is a tighter and harder material which, along with the use of burins rather than gouges, allows for very fine detail.
The piece shown here involved engraving 2 blocks, one for the black run and one for the red run. The red was printed first with the black printed after the red dried. The yellow of the leaves is a hand painted gouache.
This is just a bit of play-time occupation here at the Nomadic Press and no clients were involved in the process.
Here is a poster The Nomadic Press printed in 3 colors for a company which had a booth at a medical trade show. My client designed it in the style of Hatch Show Print and it was used as a promotional give-away at the event.
Situated at the intersection of Stryker Avenue and Annapolis Street in St. Paul, Minnesota the offices of the Nomadic Press are often visited by characters who do not have the contracting of letterpress work on their minds. For a number of years a peddler stopped in with some regularity. Yea, a peddler. He had a sack on his back which, when opened onto the shop’s big work table was shown to be filled with all manner of trinkets, tools and toys. It was like having the Dollar Store pay a house call, and while none of the proffered goods were of very high quality, everything was interesting insofar as it had all arrived on the back of a man who’s itinerant business seemed as anachronistic as the running of a letterpress print shop.
The Fuller Brush Company also, for a time, had a traveling salesman who’s territory included the Nomadic Press. His wares were of much higher quality and the broom pictured at the top of this blog is a Fuller Brush tool I purchased from their representative fully 2 decades ago. It still sweeps a floor as well as it did the day I bought it.
I have a collection of print industry periodicals from the late 1800s and in the 1891, March – April edition of The British Printer is found this little item which shows an attention to detail reflected in the working philosophy of the Nomadic Press. The sharing of that article here in this blog will provide some explanation for my mentioning my broom.
To wit . . .
“How to Sweep a Printing Office:
We don’t use a leaky old sprinkling pot to sop the floor all over in puddles when we sweep. No, sir! We have wet sawdust, and I put a row of it across one end of the office and sweep that right along to the other end just like a regiment marching across a ten acre lot. It catches all the dirt and carries it along. If it gets a little dry, I add some more. Some folks scatter sawdust all over the floor, but that’s no good; the reason for using sawdust is to avoid wetting the floor all over, and to have something that will absorb the dust.”
Basic information but critical to the running of a jobbing shop of good reputation.
This is an enlargement of a standard 2 x 3.5 inch business card designed and printed using the half tone process. Seldom used in modern letterpress work, the half tone process allows for tints and color gradations which can ad race to relief spot color printing.
The above sample is a 2 color piece which has been designed using a 120 line screen and required printing with some pretty tight registration.
Although the Nomadic Press has a 1932 Kluge automatic feed and delivery printing press for use in printing jobs of really large quantities, the work here at this iconic West Side print shop is executed almost exclusively on the 4 other hand fed presses which are part of the Nomadic equipment family.
Working with hand fed presses allows for the printing of beautifully designed pieces onto unlikely materials which would be difficult, if not impossible to run through automatic feed and delivery presses. 180 grit sand paper, 0.03 inch thick brass shim stock, 1/8th inch thick birch plywood, beef jerky and the bristles of paint brushes are all materials which have been picked up and fed into presses and printed here at the Nomadic Press.
Some letterpress printers (‘Im not naming names) primarily use automatic cylinder presses which are not able to feed even the 220 pound Lettra which is a thick and luscious letterpress staple. They then cover that limitation by claiming that impression show-through is a problem (?) and that one needs to print onto 2 separate sheets of the 110 pound stock and then duplex those sheets together.Processes that add both expense and registration difficulty.
The hang tags shown in the photograph at the top of this blog have been hand fed into a 10 x 14 inch C&P for the 2017 Land of 10k Scoots Twin Cities scooter rally. (If you ride a scooter then visit their site at <landof10kscoots.com> to register for 4 days of rally events on August 10 through 13.)
Spec thick. Spec odd. And count on the Nomadic Press to run it smoothly through the letterpress process.
Sky blue, the blues, the deep blue ocean, the blue devils.
The first time that a word for the color blue appears is about 4,500 years ago. Until that time there was, apparently, no word for blue. But to be fair, 4.500 years ago we were probably lacking words for lots of things.
One might safely presume that throughout human history the sky has always been blue (except at night or at sun rise or set and, of course when the sky is cloudy, but you know what I mean). This is because the wave length of blue is very short and scatters more readily in the mix that makes up the air of earth’s atmosphere than do the other colors in the spectrum.
Similarly, the world’s oceans (and our beloved lakes here in Minnesota) are blue because the non-blue colors are absorbed by the molecules that make up the waters they contain. Leaving the blue to seem to be the color of the water.
For centuries blue pigments were made from minerals such as lapis, which is a semiprecious stone mined almost exclusively in what is now Afghanistan. This was a very expensive pigment and at times its value rivaled that of gold. Because of its expense its use in classical art was saved for very special things such as the robes of the Virgin Mary.
Early blues also came from mineral mixes such as those developed by the ancient Egyptians to get what we now know as, wait for it, Egyptian Blue. Egyptian Blue resulted from a careful combining of limestone, sand and naturally occurring coppers which contained azurite or malachite. These were mixed and melted to form a glass frit which could then, in turn, be ground and mixed, as a pigment, with a variety of vehicles.
Another blue, indigo is not a pigment but is, rather, a die which is derived from a plant easily grown in many parts of the world. Indigo was used to color fabrics until it was supplanted by the the development of a synthetic colorant in 1880. (A supplanted plant.)
Prussian blue resulted first from a combination of cochineal reds and the red of animal blood. The chemical reaction of these ingredients created blue.
The blues (in both song and feeling) apparently gets its name from the term “the blue devils” which, in its turn is used to describe visual hallucinations which accompany the delirium tremens associated with alcohol withdrawal. History though seems quiet about why this unpleasantness was laid onto the shoulders of blue.
Personally one of my favorite applications of blue is the song “Blue” sung by the Jayhawks (a Minneapolis, Minnesota band) in 1995 on their album “Tomorrow the Green Grass.”
A set of quoins (shown here in a chase with a quoin key, furniture and a milled aluminum mounting block) is an indispensable tool in the lock-up of a printing form. Actually a simple pair of wedges, quoins are placed in both the x and y axes of the chase and, with the aid of the quoin key, they are tightened so that they literally wedge the printing form and the surrounding arrangement of furniture snugly into the metal frame (or chase).
This is the flywheel of a printing press built by the Chandler and Price company in Cleveland, Ohio in 1898. When this wheel spins the inertia of the weight in the outer rim of the wheel is what drives the printing press and allows the press to print smooth and even impressions from small printing forms and to throw some weight behind the printing of large forms. This press is the go-to machine for the letterpress work produced here at the Nomadic Press.
In 1898 this press was designed to be run using either a steam powered rotation source or, more commonly, a foot treadle. For very long print runs I have a electric motor that I use to spin this wheel, but for most of the day-to-day work I use the foot treadle. Pumping my foot 6 times gets me one impression allowing me to keep the heat set low in the shop in the winter and to keep my weight down in the summer.
The Nomadic Press. Producing hand crafted (foot aided) letterpress work since 1987.