What Is It?

At the Common Press, where I work, we were just given this press, but we're not quite sure what it is exactly... It was described to use as a plate press, and when I did a little research, I found similar looking presses that were called arming or embossing presses. If it is one of these, I'm wondering if there used to be some sort of heating mechanism and how it could be restored.

The only other clue here is that the maker's name is E. Ermold of New York. I did find some old printing trade publications that mentioned his name and that he sold embossing presses, but no images. 

If you know anything about how this press might work, I'd be interested to learn more. Thanks!

 :: new mystery press ::

:: E. Ermold ::

:: the steel base pulls out and has a broken wooden hinged frame ::


 :: hecate and mushrooms ::

I've started the process of cleaning up my new-to-me Vandercook No. 4. I'm still a bit in disbelief. When I started cleaning it I kept having to remind myself - you're not at work (I work in a university print shop) you're cleaning your very own press.

 :: clean rollers ::

The cleaning process is a real rabbit hole. There's hard dried ink lurking everywhere and it does not want to come off. It's very satisfying though when you finish one area, like the rollers, and move on to the next one.
 :: ink and paint composition ::

I'm also learning more about the press as I clean it. When I got home and removed the tympan paper. I found prints with the press name The Stone House Press, a fine press in Roslyn, New York run by Morris A. Gelfand.

I found this photograph of Morris.

:: Morris A. Gelfand ::

Thank you, Morris. I will treat your press well.

:: results ::

Three Things

:: me and my buddy ::

I had such a wonderful open studio weekend. It was a beautiful weekend here in Philadelphia, and I'm so grateful to everyone who came by to say hello and see the shop, I had the best time and met so many interesting people.

Also on my list of things I'm grateful for...

:: Bear and Snake, by me ::

This week on Cheek Teeth, the blog of the Trachodon, the fascinating biannual magazine literature, art, and artisan culture, there's an interview about my work. I was invited by their super talented Managing Editor, Katey Schultz, to have my work featured in their last issue, thank you Katey!

:: Blade Runner Poster by Godmachine ::

And lastly, Blade Runner. I'm completely obsessed with Blade Runner. I think it might be the most beautiful movie ever made. The reason for this renewed love affair, a friend of mine gave me the soundtrack (by Vangelis) a few months ago, which I've been listening to while I work. Then I rented the documentary Dangerous Days, about the making of the film. I've always been fascinated by this movie and learning more about it's difficult production only made me more appreciative of its beauty. And, I think I want to be special effects designer circa 1984.

Hey, Nice Loafers!

hey, nice loafers
I sort and sort and sort some more. There's been moments when I've wanted to strangle the previous owners of my type collection but now those drawers are looking spick and span. There's more work to be done, but I've finally sorted all the standing type and spacing material that came with the typecases I bought. Progress!
I also bought this little beauty on Ebay for peanuts. I used it on Friday to cut the paper for my business cards (coming soon!) and it's the bee's knees. Welcome to the team, Kutrimmer, between you and the board shear, I am unstoppable.

Green Days

:: that's my mom ::
Summer is here, the trees are green, and so is the new typecase! Last weekend, I visited my parents in Delaware, we took a walk in Brandywine Creek state park. I live in South Philadelphia, where apparently they hate trees for reasons I will never understand. Going to Delaware is a nice change.
:: that's my new typecase ::
Last month was very productive. I spent a lot of it cleaning and rearranging the studio, which certainly is looking better than before. I also made my first test print on the press. To give you an update on the press, all that needs to be done now is

- reattach the feed boards
- figure out where it's going to sit in the studio
- plug it in!

:: that's the Cooper wood type in the back that I'm dying to use ::

I'm so happy I bought these type cases. I didn't really have the room for them, but now that I've sold my old typecase and the galley cabinet, I know I made the right decision. Look at all that wood type!

:: and that's more wood type ::

Things are looking pretty good. There's days where I feel completely overwhelmed, but I know I'm doing something right. I just need to be patient.

The First Print

:: first print ::

This weekend, after a year of searching and false starts, cleaning and oiling, adjusting and taping, I finally pulled a print on my very own press.

It may not look like much, but this print is the beginning of much, much more...

Note: In case you're wondering why this print looks the way it does, it was a test print to make sure that the platen, the flat metal surface on which you lay your paper, was perfectly parallel to the press bed, the other flat metal surface on which your type sits. To test this, I set type in all four corners of the chase (the chase is the frame that holds your type, see picture) and adjusted the platen until all four corners printed evenly and equally.

If you're trying to do this, here's the information I found most useful.

How to Adjust/Level the Platen on a Chandler & Price

- First, make sure your rollers are set properly (this is an entirely different animal)

- Spray the platen adjustment bolts with some WD-40 and let them sit for a few minutes. While you're waiting you can do this. (adapted from Green Dolphin Press's FAQ's)

Get a cap M or H, 48 pt. or larger, something you're certain is type high. Tape a 2 pt. lead to the face. Find a piece of string a couple of feet long and tie one end around the sides of the type. Remove the tympan and all packing. Close the press, stopping it with the platen lock (under the delivery board) snapped into place and the rollers at the top of the plate.Grasp the string and let the piece of type slide down between the platen and bed on the left side. If it won't go in, the platen is too far in. If it rattles around, the platen is too far out.

- Each bolt has two nuts. The one closest to the platen, top bolt, is the one that actually raises or lowers the platen. The one furthest from the platen, bottom bolt, locks the adjustment in place. It must be loosened first to make an adjustment and then tightened once the adjustment has been made.

- Get
two wrenches.

- Use a wrench to loosen all the bottom bolts by turning them counter-clockwise. Using the type on the string as a guide, judge where the platen needs to be adjusted in or out.

- Now you can adjust the platen by turning top bolt. Turn it counter-clockwise where the platen is too far out, this will raise it and close the space. Turn it clockwise where the platen is too far in, this will lower it and increase the space.

Make you adjustments slowly, bit by bit, back and forth, using the type on the string as your guide. To lock your settings, hold the top bolt with one wrench, and tighten the bottom bolt with your other wrench.

- Put on your rollers and ink up the press. Set 4 48 point or larger, definitely type high pieces of type in all four corners about 5 picas from the edge of the chase. (see picture). Put in regular packing, a sheet of tympan paper on top, a piece of red board bellow, and a couple sheets of text weight smooth paper under that. Pull a print and take a look. Add packing if needed.

Where it's printing light, raise the platen, where it's darker, lower the platen. Look at the back of the sheet too to see make sure the impression is the same in all four corners. Remember, make your adjustments slowly, back and forth. Every time you make an adjustment, lock it in, and then pull a print. This will take a while, when you move one, it will affect the others slightly, but eventually you'll zero it in.

- Congratulations, you just leveled the platen.

Gone Thrifting

:: mikasa plate ::

I went to the thrift store yesterday to look for old books. It was not a particularly good day for books, but I found some things, including a very pretty, large Mikasa plate.

:: wildlife encyclopedia ::

I did find one book, the A's of a wildlife encyclopedia, which I'll use in my books. I also learned some interesting facts about anemones, amphiuma, and the organizational habits of arctic foxes.

:: sweet little cup ::

Lastly, this little cup, made in France, with mushrooms and vegetables all around. A good day, with inspiring objects.

I've been thinking a lot about what I will want to print once the press is running. Postcards? I like designing postcards. I want the first few things I print to be made using the type I have in the shop, no polymer plates. Then again, I want to draw. Mostly though, I've been thinking about color, which will be my jumping off point regardless of what material I choose.

My roller gauge is set to arrive on Thursday, meaning I'll be able to set my rollers by this weekend. Oh, this is so exciting! Everything rests on you, lollipop-shaped tool!

:: picture via letterpress delicacies ::

Fortune Cookie

A fortune cookie told me the other day, do not let what you do not have, prevent you from using what you do have. I answered, how did you know I was secretly obsessing over not having found a Vandercook yet? It replied 39 5 12 4 7.

That cookie is right. It's so damn right. I'm lucky to have a space and great little Chandler & Price just waiting to get to work. Yes, I still want that Vandercook. Really bad. But it may be awhile before I find the right the right price.

Yesterday, I took pictures of the galley cabinet, type case, and now furniture cabinet I've decided to sell. There is now a flickr set with measurements, descriptions, and prices of what I am selling to make room in the studio. I'll be posting it on Briar Press soon too.

While I was there, I shot a quick video of me turning the flywheel of the press, so you can see the motion of the press. Plus you get to see how awkward I am around cameras.


Press Month began on Sunday with the addition of a two new type cases to the studio. As you can see in the photograph below, I have not yet found space for said type cases...It looks like I will be playing a little studio Stackenblochen.

:: Type Type Type! ::

But who can resist type!

Borders, ornaments, and oh so much more...

...and glorious, glorious wood type.

No, I couldn't resist. This means though that I am cut off.
That's it. No more. My 500 square foot studio has reached capacity.

By the way, this month, I'll be selling a single type cabinet (with type) and a galley tray cabinet, that also contains type, dies, and spacing material. You, dear readers, have first dibs. Please email me if you're interested.

So here we go, Press Month begins, and I submit to you this "before" picture, and we'll see where we are come June.

:: before ::

It's Press Month!

That's right, Press Month has begun. May is the month that I have decided to devote all my time and energy to getting my little C&P running and generally, putting the studio in order so that things will run a bit more efficiently at Huldra Press. Thanks to the timely arrival of the tax refund check, I'll be able to do all these things and also pay the rent.

:: that's Junior ::

It's been two months since I bought the press, during which I've given it a thorough cleaning and added oil to all the oil points. So now, when you give the flywheel a good push, it all the parts move smoothly and silently, which is very, very good.

Next, I need to
- level the press
- adjust the platen
- adjust the rollers using tape
- reattach the feed boards
- reconnect the variable speed motor

And print!

Since I don't have any exciting photographs of this great endeavor just yet, instead I'll share some things I've been looking at.

I really love David Neale's jewelry and recommend that you take a look at his charming blog and website to see the variety of work he makes. And I want these very badly.

A group of (handmade!) sketchbooks by the artist. Beautiful color and pattern.

There's something wonderfully 90's about this album art, if you follow the link, you can see a video clip of the booklet which comes with the cd, which is quite nice.

Everything's Coming up Milhouse!

:: wood type and cat ::

I went on an adventure yesterday, to meet a fellow with some letterpress equipment for sale. I came back with a big box of wood type! The seller and his wife were very sweet, and I spent an hour getting to look at and talk about all kinds of interesting things. Searching far and wide for letterpress equipment can be a thankless pursuit, so when you meet honest, kind people who just want to see the stuff used, it's just swell. Yes, everything is coming up Milhouse, indeed.


You know what? Fixing a press is not easy, especially if you're unfamiliar with the inner workings of the type of press you're trying to fix. I've used Vandercooks for years, and feel confident tinkering with one, because I know how it's supposed to act when it's working. But this press...

my press where it sat for 30 years unused

Is a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a vest. Recently though, I've made some more progress, and more importantly, I'm gaining confidence. I'm also coming to terms with the fact that this press will never look perfect, but it should work.

A few months ago, I found out that my press has some parts that weren't manufactured by Chandler & Price.

my press, ink disc bracket

My ink disc bracket is made up of three parts, two arms that bolt to the frame and one that lays over top, like a post and lintel. On a C&P, this is all one piece.

my press, ink disc lever

Another mystery was how come the ink disc lever, the mechanism with a little hook that turns the ink disc, was much smaller than a C&P's. It worked, it just didn't look like it was supposed to.

Lastly, there's the gripper cam.

my press, gripper cam

A C&P's gripper cam

Well, as you can see, one of these things is not like the other. I knew these parts weren't homemade repairs, because they had serial numbers on them, but I didn't understand where they could have come from.

So I did some research and found out that around 1887, Chandler & Price was not the only press manufacturer around. There were many regional manufacturers building nearly identical generic presses lumped under the description of old style Gordon jobber presses. The article George Gordon's Dream Press is a great resource if you want to learn more. I plan to buy A Catalogue of 19th Century Printing Presses by Harold E. Sterne when I have some extra dollars too.

Now that I knew that, I searched for images of "gordon jobber presses" and started finding some presses that had parts that looked like mine! Like this one, an S&L old style jobber press with a three piece ink disc bracket.

three piece ink disc bracket

And most striking, I found the Old Reliable. The Old Reliable was only manufactured for one year, 1888, and then the patents were sold to Chandler & Price.

Old Reliable

Chandler & Price Old Style

The two press's look nearly identical! So what I've come to realize is that my press is a mutt. The main frame and platen is from a 1887 Chandler & Price. The flywheel, gripper cam, ink lever, and ink disc bracket...not Chandler & Price. They could be from any number of regional press manufacturers that were around back then. I'm so glad I figured this out, because now that I know that there's plenty of other mystery presses out there that are working. Will it work even though it's a mutt? I think so.


This week, I've had the chance to spend some time in Delaware with my family. I've been going on walks, going to thrift stores, sleeping, and just acting like I'm on vacation. A Delavacation. It's been really nice.

nice ice

Yesterday afternoon, I went for a walk with my Dad in Alapocas Woods, by the Brandywine River, and looked at the ice. By the way, what do you call a bicycle with an infinite number of wheels? An icicle. That's my math joke. I made it up when I was twelve.

pretty pretty board shear

Last week, Mike and I put together the board shear, and it works like a dream! I will no longer be cutting book board by hand, and this is good news. Cutting book board by hand was by no means impossible, but it did feel like a chore. The board shear will make it far more pleasant and quick work.

This brings to mind a quote from Books, Boxes, and Portfolios by Franz Zeier, my philosophical and technical advisor.

Again and again in these pages I demand precision, but far be it for me to discourage those who are truly unable to work with a high degree of exactness. Creative freedom, however, should not be confused with sloppiness... An object made with love and care can be a thing of beauty, a whole, even when it is imperfect, by contrast another one, although flawless, can leave us untouched and strike no sympathetic chord.

Wilson Jones!

Check out this bad boy. It's the Wilson Jones "Hummer" and it's my new three hole punch that I picked up at the thrift store on Wednesday. You can adjust the distance between holes, and it punches cleanly through book board. I love it.

I also love this children's encyclopedia which has the loveliest end pages. I think I'm going to use them for book covers.

I've been working on a whole bunch of new leather and hardcover books. I'm pretty excited about them, especially the hardcovers. I'm trying something new with those...

I'm making all these new books for the holidays, I'll be selling them at Crafty Balboa on December 4th. More info here, and I'll post about it again when the date is nearer.

Is that a press?

Is that what I think it is? A Chandler & Price Old Style 10 x 15? Sans flywheel? Why it is! Yes, for the first time since its purchase and dismantlement, the C&P is back on its own four feet and looking like a press again. Sort of. We still need to reattach the flywheel, drive wheel, and other important things.

Upon closer inspection, we also realized we're missing some nuts. 30 years of sitting in a basement unused will do that. I keep picturing the previous owners doing something like this:

- I need a nut for this bolt.
- Just get one off the press.

We should be able to get replacements at any hardware store. Otherwise, things are looking pretty good so far. The mechanism behind the ink disc needs some work but the platen looks great, as do the gears and the rails. Not bad for a 120 year old machine.

Pretty exciting stuff, people.

:: pretty drawers ::

I brought home my new type cabinet last weekend and spent some time looking at what was inside. My favorites are 14pt Stymie Light, 12pt Pabst Oldstyle, and a sans serif simply named Airport. I'll have to do a little more research on that one. Last but not least, a humble little drawer of wood type!

:: wood type ::

I was also thrilled to see this again.

It's a short film about the making of crayons and when I saw it, I had a Proustian moment of childhood memories. I can't really explain why, but I believe this film has a lot to do with who I've become, someone who makes things.


This week, I'm spending afternoons in the studio. I'm trying to get into the habit of putting aside a few hours and starting to feeling comfortable there. I can be a bit of a homebody, you see. I do like it there. The light is diffuse and comforting, I can listen to the radio, and it smells nice, like a studio. Like concrete, metal, wood, and cardboard.

I cleaned the ink disk, which was covered in 30 year old red ink. It's smooth and shiny now, sort of looks like a full moon.

I'm sorting the type I brought from North Carolina, which is very dusty, but it's quite enjoyable anyway.

I'll be leaving for the studio soon, it's almost noon already. Any podcast recommendations for getting work done? I've been listening to This American Life, Radiolab, and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me.

The Studio! It's...Evolving!

While it may look like a decommissioned tugboat yard sale, there is progress here at Huldra Press. Progress indeed.

Last weekend, I drove to Lititz, PA and got two full cabinets of type as well as a galley rack and a mess of wood furniture and other odds and ends. The seller, a retired printer, was so friendly, a nice break from the usual curmudgeons I encounter when buying equipment. If you're in need, he's selling a 8x12 C&P and a sweet tabletop Challenge paper cutter. Like I said, super nice guy. I wish him the best.


Now it's time to break out the mineral spirits and start cleaning so I can get printing! I hope to have the press running by mid-June. But in the meantime there's work to be done. Like these...

Holy registration, Batman!

I finished these Yellow Submarine birth announcement cards, thanks to the folks at Lead Graffiti, who let me rent press time in their studio. They have beautiful studio and well maintained equipment and made me feel right a home, so I highly recommend their services if you are ever in need.

That's all for now, enjoy the weekend.