Sunday, 12 December 2010


A couple of months ago, I did a little 'post' about The Print Project, who have a working letterpress in the basement of the 1 in 12 Club in Bradford. Last week I went there and had 'a go' on it myself.

Here are some pictures.

In letterpress, the printing is done using typeface made of ACTUAL METAL. ACTUAL METAL that you set yourself, using ACTUAL HANDS. (I got covered in a lot of ink doing this). In the picture above, you can see the trays full of typeface bits. Above the trays, but just out of shot, there's a little card showing you which letters are in which compartments.

Apparently, once you get used to setting type, you don't need to refer to the card any more, since you get so smart about knowing where the letters are kept. This is not me.... yet. Maybe one day.

This is a line of text. Look at the little metal letters! In between each word, you insert 'spaces'; little slivers and blocks of metal that separate the letters from one another. You have to be super-careful lifting it out of the tray, otherwise the text spills all over the floor and you cry bitter tears of regret, like a big clumsy baby.

This is the line of text in 'the chase'. Its secured into place using 'furniture' (bits of wood) and then tightened up with 'quoins'. It has to go in good and tight, otherwise the letters will fall out when you put the whole shebang in the press (see above, 'crying bitter tears of regret like a big clumsy baby'.) You do not want the letters falling out. Aside from the fact it takes ages to set everything, you don't want to be scrabbling about under the machine trying to retrieve all the bits of typeface. That's like a public safety information video waiting to happen.

This is what it looks like when you set the typeface backwards, like a big bloody idiot. Ahem.

....and this is what it looks like when you do it right!

I had such good fun using the letterpress - thanks very much to Nick for showing me how it all worked, and for helping me get the chase into the machine right. I'm hoping to set some more text and print some more 'words of encouragement for writers' cards in the near future.... watch this space.

In the meantime, you can visit The Print Project on the internet.

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