November and December are always busy here at The Nomadic Press as people rush to get out Holiday cards of good will and cheer and thanks and promotion. And there are invitations to print and often a smattering of gifts which are comprised in whole, or in part, of letterpress pieces.
So, as the Holidays descend upon us again, with a vengeance, I am wont, with an eye toward tempering the associate stresses of full and fast deadlines, to reminisce about the joys and foibles of years past.
Last year one memorable project (joyful, yes, but fraught with hidden consequence) sprang to the fore in the final days of the Holiday madness. It was a piece I worked on for a local brain trust of creative Olympians, Zeus Jones.
They were working on a gift box containing a number of drinks, and drink recipes, that called for the letterpress printing of a series of small-bottle labels along with a recipe card. The card was a larger piece with heavy coverage which, in spite of its being printed on a thick and hard stock, required a deep impression.
The drink recipe, dear reader, was a recipe for a drink called Zeus’s Noggin.
Let us pause in our narrative here, for a moment, to examine some rudimentary anatomy of the Chandler and Price platen press: One of the immediately recognizable endowments of almost any letterpress machine is the large flywheel who’s stored and spinning inertia keeps the machine moving smoothly through its cycle again and again and again. The shaft of the flywheel is, in turn, affixed with a small gear on the end opposite the wheel.
This gear (being the smaller of a meshed pair of gears) is known as a pinion.
For a printing press built in 1897, and now printing into its 114th year, it is not unexpected that time and metal fatigue should take their toll. And, indeed they had.
So, while the spirits themselves lay, as yet untouched by the pressman in their bed of excelsior, the titanic struggle between Greek god and cast iron played out on the floor of the press room, and in the midst of the pounding thunder of the deadline-harried letterpress engines of the Nomadic Press, a small crack opened up in the afore mentioned pinion. Just a small crack.
But, on the one hundred and third impression (of a contracted for run of one hundred pieces), the pinion gear of the poor old press split asunder.
Pounding away on Zeus’s noggin proved too much.
In the end, the job in full quantity, was delivered on time. And, as a glad close to the story, a new pinion was hobbed in New Jersey. It now spins happily on its shaft. The press, perhaps a bit wiser now, awaits its next clash with the gods.
And I believe that it will fare as well, If not better next time around.