Oak Root Press
(the home office shop)

Opening January 2012

A traditional letterpress print shop only needs to be what you need it to be. The challenge of utilizing a small space for best effect is what I'll be addressing here. The different elements of the space I have created will allow for proofing, printing, cutting paper, make-ready, bookbinding, and hand-composing with metal type, cuts (larger images), and ornaments.

The overall room is one-half of a two-car garage, which years ago was finished as an office space. It has carpeting, two windows, one entry door, a closet, and drywall walls with many bookshelves installed. Not including the closet space in the back, the usable space is 9 x 16 = 144 sq. ft. Complicating the space challenge, this space has for many years been my home-office and research center. I am an author of many books an ancient Maya culture. I continue to research arcane aspects of the Maya calendar, astornomy, and ritual. As such, I could not forsake the space entirely to my letterpress obsession. Nevertheless, I did reconfigure some things. The front section of the room contains the centerpiece of the shop, a suitably small but elegant Shniedewend & Lee platen treadle press, with a 7 x 11 printing area (or "chase"). It's a beautiful, fairly rare, totally originally press of the 1890s. I bought it in Taylor, Michigan, in February, 2008. It was the very first press that I physically took possession of, but it languished in storage (on the other side of my two-car garage, the rough side) for almost four years, until I decided to design this little shop. The benefit of doing this is that the office side is insulated and a small electric heater toasts up the space really nice, even in winter.

Near the S&L press, I constructed a little table. This will serve as the bookbinding and composing station. A wooden frame that displays three type cases is set against the wall, leaving a 2 x 3 foot surface area open for working. All around this space are book shelves anchored to the wall. On the immediate right of the S&L, various tools and roller holders hang. Against this wall, on a bookshelf, I have vintage furniture cabinet holding the variously sized spacers used for locking up a form.

Walking to the back of the room, along the outside wall of the space, near the window, I've cleared space for the Poco "0" proof press (12 x 18"). It rests on a modified dresser with a drawer and space underneath for paper storage. This press was my most recent acquisition, for $100 on eBay. It can do simple page-proofing operations, but can also do deep embossing. With a tympan set-up it can also do multi-color posters, matching the capabilities (with careful attention to details and inking) the much-prized Vandercook proof presses. As mentioned, this Poco proof press is against the side wall, in front of the window, which allows for a nice westward view of the yard and the distant Front Range horizon (about 15 miles away). I can glimpse marvelous sunsets and the high peaks of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Soon, I'll have my patio porch overhang finished, with grapevines and trellisses outside.

In the corner beyond the Poco, by the door for the closet, I've fitted the Pearl paper cutter, a 19" antique table top I acquired in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was part of a shop purchase, for a very affordable price, that included 60 drawers of type, a Gordon clone 10 x 15, and a 1920 C&P 10 x 15. Plus lots of extras. Those are elsewhere. The downside, of course, was that I had to atomize each press and carry everything out of a basement. I borrowed trucks and vans to do it, and paid sturdy youngsters to help, and finally got it done with the help of my firend Don Hildred. (We had to pry a gear off the C&P to dissemble it into pieces that could be carried out).

My vintage book press, useful in bookbinding operations, is partially visible on the left side of the picture below.

The equipment:

Brand-new Fonts (from M&H Type Foundry and Dale Guild):

In addition, I have several composing sticks, various necessary paraphernalia, and many vintage ornaments and borders.

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The Poco "0" proof press (at time of purchase, before restoration):

The Poco press after restoration and setting up in the Home Office printing studio:

The Pearl paper cutter:

Projects I am currently working on:

The Printer at work (click for mini-movie)

My three new rubber rollers, from Ramco Rollers, arrive mid-January. One of the roller arms was slightly bent, and Don Hildred straightened it out with one determined blow of his hammer. I am organzing my new fonts into three drawers. The press was moved over from the garage-side in October 2011, with a pallet mover. It was outside for one night, while I cleaned it up. I was able to manouver it into the door without taking off the flywheel & axle. So, my shop consists of equipment pulled together from: Taylor Michigan, Cheyenne Wyoming, Canyon City Colorado, California, and Denver Colorado.

first inking and test prints, January 22, 2012


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