Thursday, July 21, 2005

Periodic Welcome

This is just a regular note that I will post to remind new readers to read from the bottom to the top.
July 2005

The press is working well at the moment, despite the fact that I still need several parts:

Repaired hinge at the front of the bed.
Counterweight for the tympan
Drop handle.

The first has been done and the second needs to be finished before they are both sent. The third is more of a problem and I am considering having one cast from an existing handle.

This hasn't stopped me from using the press. The bed is light enough to be pulled in and out by hand. There have been one or two concerns. A squeak developed recently but a spot of oil seems to have smoothed that out. I am more concerned that the handle is a little loose and so I am going to stop trying to print larger blocks that need great pressure. The trouble is that the Arab press is waiting for a repair and so I am going to go out and borrow a larger handpress to edition bigger works. Deep down inside, I know that I need to replace the Arab with a larger Albion!
I am starting to sort through the type I have accumulated over the years. This was my first attempt at letterpress on the Albion, following a weekend with Claire Bolton at the Alembic Press, near Oxford. Posted by Picasa
Here is a better view of the bed with everything in place. This is more or less the position that I am in now in Juyl 2005. Posted by Picasa
I am still waiting for the hinge that accepts the tympan to be repaired and returned. In the meantime, I am using hinged card as a temporary tympan. Iain Bain used this method when printing from William Blake's original engraved blocks. I find that it works well and may keep using it for small blocks, even when the press is repaired. Posted by Picasa
One of the very positive aspects of the new workspace is that I can engrave right next to the press, making it very easy to stop and take a proof. Posted by Picasa
I fixed a strip of wood to the front and back of the bed and used quoins to secure a chase. I will mostly use the press to print wood engravings from relatively small blocks and so I nested a smaller Harrild chase inside the larger ones. Posted by Picasa
I spent many hours of December 2004 and January 2005 converting part of a large garage building into a pressroom/studio. At last I could work in light and comfort. My local blacksmith repaired one of the cornerpieces at the front of the bed and I worked out how to fix a chase in place. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Further work, and then a couple of coats of paint, worked wonders. The press was starting to be transformed. Posted by Picasa
Even the coat of arms started to reveal it secrets. Posted by Picasa
I continued to work on the surface, revealing a suprising array of colours.  Posted by Picasa
The surface of the metal was already pitted with rust but the surface started to respond to the effort. With paint flaking off all the time, I knew that I had to carry on. Posted by Picasa
The handle revealed its date; 1865. Posted by Picasa
Wire wool and "elbow grease" started to reveal polished bare metal. Posted by Picasa

Once I had decided to strip the loose paint from the press, I had to decide whether to leave the bare metal or repaint it. I finally decided to use paint, although I know that some would prefer a duller finish. To be honest, I had seen and admired both finishes. One thing that tipped the balance of the argument towards paint was that damp conditions could be anticipated until I had converted the pressroom and I wanted to deal with the rust. I started to work at the old paint, which seemed to have been applied to almot any surface.
Finally. the press was set up, next to the Arab Treadle. I cleaned the worst of the dust off but the paint was very flaky and I decided that I would strip it down before printing as the fragments were almost certain to fall on to the inked blocks. Overall, I was very pleased with the press, despite the work that needed top be done .The mechanism worked well after Jeremy had adjusted it. Posted by Picasa
Gradually, the press took shape. It was an invaluable lesson to watch and learn the process. Posted by Picasa
Jeremy had stripped the press down to transport it. Here, he and his mate start to put it back together in the far end of the garage that was to become the press room. Posted by Picasa
Albion Stigma

As the press stood on its trolley in the warehouse, I had not realised that it was just loosely stacked and not not bolted together. As I examined it, the press shifted and started to collapse. The bed started to fall and I knew that the cast iron would probably shatter as it hit the floor. Without thinking, I stuck out my foot to break the fall. I hadn't thought about the possibility of breaking my foot. I limped to the car and drove for a couple of hours with a swollen and painful foot.

I reached Ely and pulled into the minor injuries clinic. They had a good poke about (ouch!)n and decided that the bone was probably not broken. They asked how I had injured myself and I told them. They did very well as far as keeping a straight face was concerned.

Today, nine months later, I still bear a small, clear red mark on the top of my right foot. My press had marked me. It seemed inevitable that I should buy it.

However, I still had concerns and set up a temporary website to show what I had found. I posted the URL on several printing lists anbd received several positive replies. I also contacted Jeremy Winkworth who I found through the Briar Press classifieds. Jeremy was experienced at moving and setting up presses and came highly recommended. He gave me a quote which I accepted and I settled a price with the seller. Fnally, I took out a loan to cover all of this and anything else that I would need to bring this fine old press back to life.
The drop handle for winding the bed in and out was missing, as were the straps to attach to the bed. It was obvious that there was plenty of work to be done. At this stage, I still was not sure that I would buy the press. I tookplenty of photographs and left for home. Posted by Picasa
Even more worrying were repairs that needed to be done. There was no way that the tympan would hinge until this was fixed. Posted by Picasa
I was bothered by signs of old repairs. How strong would the rails be? Posted by Picasa
The press was sitting on a trolley and was a bit of a mess. The mechanism was simply not working properly and the paint was flaking off. Where there was no paint, there was rust. Posted by Picasa
Here is my first view of the press. I had tracked a simiar model on eBay and the seller had mentioned that he had another, less fancy, Albion for sale. The price seemed good and I headed out to have a look.  Posted by Picasa