Cylinder Press Core Certification

In February, I completed the Cylinder Press Core Curriculum at the SF Center for the Book. My teacher was Mary Laird, a Master Printer from Berkeley, and owner of Quelquefois Press.

We practicing setting type in the composing stick, working with the pica ruler, measurements and point systems, tying up type on a galley tray, making proofs on a proofing press, locking up the type with furniture in the Vandercook press beds, inking, adjusting the rollers, making corrections, and cleaning up the press and redistributing type. We produced different printed materials during the week including broadsides, posters, letterhead and envelopes, using metal type, wood type, and designs on photopolymer plates.

One of the main lessons I learned from this intensive course is that printing requires flexible thinking and problem solving. Any number of elements in the production of a print could bring up challenges. On some projects, the wood cuts were not inking correctly so the printer rollers had to be adjusted and paper had to be packed under the form to raise it up in one worn area.

Some of the ink colors for projects didn’t turn out the originally intended color. Ink doesn’t always look the same on the glass mixing counter as it might when it’s run on the rollers and pressed on a page. And adding ink to existing inked rollers can sometimes bring delightful or yucky surprises.  A rainbow roll, as seen below in the video with my teacher, Mary Laird, is lovely at first, but eventually runs brown. The color, texture, and thickness of the paper matters as well as I’ve found in my own experiments at home with my tabletop press.

Alignment of images with text and registration of the paper are all exercises in patience. Of course many of these challenges are probably easier to solve with more experience printing and knowing the particular quirks of the individual press. As with bookbinding, I do better “eyeballing” alignment and going with intuition, then I do trying to adjust to measurements (always feels like missing the forest for the trees).

On the first day of this Cylinder Core Course, I discovered that I love setting type. I memorized the California Job Case IMG_0566and got into a meditative flow working through the 15 line poem I had selected to print. The following day we were encouraged to use the larger wood type, meaning fewer words on a large poster, but I chose to go back to the metal type and experiment with combining two different typefaces and some decorative capital letters. It just made me happy.

The course also included lessons in cleaning the presses every afternoon with 1. Crisco, 2. vegetable oil, and 3. California Wash. I did the same process on my small tabletop press last weekend and am finally glad to understand how not to over-ink a press and how to clean it up properly!

Among the students joining me in the course were three Stanford University Special Collection’s librarians who brought interesting projects to print and share, including a translation of a medieval catholic indulgence.

Having completed the core cylinder course, I will be able to take additional printing courses on the cylinder presses and acquire more experience before setting up my Vandercook Universal III in the fall. I am also going to take the Platen Core Courses whenever the Center offers those again so that I can learn how to use and take care of my Chandler & Price.

Here are some videos from the class:

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