Letterpress-DayOne-Halloween-CardI already knew the San Francisco Center for the Book was badass. My bookbinding intensive was AMAZING. So when I signed up to take the 4 day letterpress intensive, I knew it was going to be, well, intensive.

Day One

The best part of these classes is that you just get RIGHT IN THERE and make stuff from the first day. After learning the basics (how to use the type, basics of the machine, etc) we were set free on the Letterpress studio. Our assignment for day one was to create a set of greeting/note cards. Since I took this class the week of Halloween, I thought Halloween cards might be fun and seasonal.

Hand-set type for my Halloween card.

Typesetting is Hard Work

Typesetting by hand is really, really hard. I mean, the basics seem easy enough – each letter comes in multiple sizes and the letters have to be very tightly squished together using little pieces of metal (lead slugs) that are the same height to form words and sentences. It’s straight-forward, right? I mean, handset type hasn’t really changed since the 15th century.  Sounds easy. Except it turns out to be tedious to squeeeeeze all of those letters together. And it’s easy to mess up. Really easy. Basically, it took about an hour longer than I thought it would to lay it all out on this little “metal composing stick” invented for this purpose.


To the Press!

Once you’ve set the type, proofread it (at least twice), and then tie them together (with string) and place them on the press. You can also do a proof run at this point, if you’re worried something doesn’t look right.

The moment of truth! After you’ve locked all of the type into  a metal frame and build out support structure with wooden blocks. This ensures there is equal pressure on all sides and prevents bad prints. Then you just have to ink up the machine, load your paper and roll it over.

If everything goes well, you get this:

Close-up of my first letterpress card! Spooky!