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Letterpress for the masses. An at home ‘kit’

Hello everyone!

I just discovered this new product coming out in the fall. It’s an at home letterpress kit for everyday crafters. http://lifestylecraft.com/default.aspx

I’m still undecided on it. It looks neat, but very limiting. I wonder if custom plates can be ordered as opposed to using their pre-made ones. It almost does bother me a bit because now who ever owns it will think they are a ‘letterpress printer’ or an ‘artisan’. I haven’t been printing for too long, but I am a graphic designer and I know what happens when people get their hands on Photoshop and now all-of-a-sudden they are a ‘designer’!

I wanted to see what other people thought of this.

Andrea

*images from Lifestyle Craft

image: comboKit.jpg

comboKit.jpg

Log in to reply   96 replies so far

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This is for crafters similar to cricut for diecutting. Same as wire cutters and a screw driver makes you an instant electrician. I might buy the kit for 2 bucks at a yard sale some day as a novelty.
Mike

yep, this is definitely for the suburban stay at home mom scrapbookers, not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is shameful to even consider calling this a letterpress. I agree with Devils Tail, now this time honored tradition will simply become a Hobby Lobby fad. Eeww.

It looks like it might be good for flattening Play Doh… I predict they will be found under the kitchen cupboard next the dusty old George Foreman grill.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

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Oh come on guys, just look at all the plastic beauty waiting to be cranked. And that 2” wide brayer, what a dream. Just think about all the punch impression crafters driving the plastic images so far into the paper that the highly precision engineered cylinder shatters under pressure.

Just kidding, really, a Letterpress Combo Kit.

Maybe my Vandercook is a Letterpress Combo Kit, hmmmmm, no way am I going into that area of depreciation.

Can’t you just hear William Golding and Chandler and Price rolling in their grave to see such a play thing.

It’ll never work, it’ll break, it can’t take the pressure of the Punch impression that is being sought after.

It was great to read all the threads. Anyone want to post this on Letpress? Now that would be a hoot.

Casey
http://www.inkylipspress.com

This is awful, and laughable. Another bit of ridiculous plastic landfill.

(Although Daniel’s on to something with the flattening play doh… maybe for my three-year-old.)

Well, does it really matter anymore? Folks build presses from Home Depot parts and everyone applauds their DIY efforts, especially if it is broadcast on YouTube.

Nobody is really concerned anymore about quality, experience, knowledge, etc., etc. It’s considered “offensive” to even discuss it.

So… who cares? Why bother to add to the knowledge base?

Gerald
http://BielerPress.blogspot.com

Gerald…. yes it does matter. As older, more experienced printers we have an obligation to teach our craft to the next generation as best we can. Does this mean we can counter some of the lesser desirable trends that are developing? No….. that is impossible. We do the best we can do with those who will listen, and let the hard-heads do whatever they want to do. Even when you and I disagree on technical matters, or on what is desirable and what is not, we are still both striving toward the same goal: to help keep letterpress alive and healthy. It does indeed matter.

As a point of clarification though, I have to ask if you are lumping all hand-built presses into the same category as this plastic toy? If that were the case, I would have to take exception to your comment.

There are many, many fine hand-built / DIY presses out there in the world. My friend Ian Robertson built an excellent Hand-Press that turned out some of the most beautiful works ever printed. My own twin-screw handpress has produced numerous book pages for International shows, and prints pulled from my shop-built etching press hang in galleries all over the world. Inferring that these presses are in the same category as plastic toys would be a bit unfair, don’t you think? Certainly this is not what you are referring to, is it? Whew… good. You had me nervous for a minute.

As far as this particular piece of letterpress crap-machinery goes…. it’s not a new thing. If you look on E-Bay, you’ll find dozens of toy/crafty “letterpresses” from yesteryear. Some of them will print rudimentary letterheads or envelopes…. while others aren’t even as good as rubber stamping. Like those junk-presses, this one too will fade into obscurity. The impact it will have on our craft will be negligible.

Winking Cat, A round of applause for you!

Gutenberg’s press was hand-built…As was every pre-industrial revolution press.

DBurnette

Wooden common presses were built by trade carpenters. Not DIYers.

Gerald

I remember when the printing unions in Australia, along with the successful printers of the day, way back in the 1960’s looked down their noses at the little toy duplicator/offsets and primitive photocopiers of then and wouldn’t put any tradesmen on those little toys with no future.
They wiped out a whole technology, and rightly so.
The arrogance, the ignorance and the insularity of those nabobs of the day and it sounds like those of today, as well, was and is astounding. As a young estimator and costing clerk, I was amazed even then what could be done for a fraction of the cost and how fast!!!!.
These little “toys” under discussion today, as they are considered have the potential to entertain and introduce people of all ages and circumstances to letterpress printing, they’ll move on to the ‘Big’ real machines, one day. As a member of the Penrith Museum of Printing in Australia, and owner of my own private museum, I have seen all sorts of “toys”, including my Child’s Rubberstamp kit, Don’t forget the “exhalted’ yet humble Adana was developed by English school boys as a toy. Aren’t the Japs now building them?
I used to press my pencil through many sheets of paper and blue carbon paper to have a newsletter for my “boys” club as a nine year old! Letterpressing or Pressing Letters??? Does it really matter?
I encourage all developments that re-introduce letterpress printing to the world, no matter how elementary.
William Amer, Australian, Compositor and Machinist

William

You lost me at “Japs.”

Gerald
ps: what is the point of reintroducing letterpress no matter how elementary? Is there something about letterpress that would be so deserving, and is it is really its elemental “letter press”? I hope not.

Here’s an example of a good homebuilt press. Harold F. Smith’s Har-Ma Press was made of metal and with precision machining. The illustration comes from an article by Roger Levinson in the January 1985 issue of Fine Print.

It looks like there is one at Monash in Australia.
http://arts.monash.edu.au/cftb/ancora/

This press reminds me of these old tabletop presses as shown in the attached photograph. I think they were referred to as “hat tip” or “tipping” presses.

If you are interested in reading the article I have posted high res scans on Flickr here:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/7270121@N02/sets/72157621825478178/

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

image: -2.jpg

image: harma3.jpg

Hopefully the plastic letterpress will bomb! Just my opinion!

Yes, Gutenberg press was made of wood. They didn’t think of anything else to work with other then wood. I think one can build one like that. The idea is simple and you can collect more details of the construction by watching Stephen Fry and the Gutenberg Press documentary, that most of members here heard of. I am sure it would work and print nice stuff. For the works a book in carpentry would do.
Now, for plastic little pressing devices, I think it is a huge idea for the manufacturer of the of this kit, most people don’t have a clue and, after they print 3 prints out of it, they will possibly give up. Ending the device on a garage sale?

Andrea,

I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now: Don’t bother with it.

If you’re serious about learning to print, get a “serious” machine and seek out as much information as you can, one-on-one instruction being the best.

Lots of luck!

jacqui,

Oh no! I would never buy this toy! I just found it online and literally laughed so hard I spit on my screen!

I do print with a 6.5 x 10 Craftsmen that I love!

It is fun to read all the comments though.

Andrea

Oh thank God!!! LOL! (I found a post about it on a crafting blog and you wouldn’t believe the comments… Ha!)

By the way, I have the same press.

: )

Jacqui

Plasic presses
I am sure that many of the table top presses that have been brought back to life by hobbiest these days were laughed at by the Miehle and Heidelberg operators of yesteryear. However many of these tabletops are doing beautiful work today. If some of these plastic press users find some happiness or financial success then they will for sure start to look for real equipment creating demand for it making our equipment more valuable(everyone has to scale down or retire eventually). My only objection to them is the same as to all plastic and cheaply made items that have short lifespans and end up in landfill regardless of attempts to recycle.
Mike

I think this little plastic doohickey will actually benefit the letterpress community. When someone buys it and tries it and it is soooo disappointing they will have an “aha” moment and come to appreciate the skill that produces letterpress work.

“aha” indeed. Even those very well constructed Har-Mar presses (reported on earlier in the posting) were problematic. We had two of them when I taught at USC and the linkage collapsed with such frequency we dared not touch them. Beautiful and impressive presses though, and great examples of engineered DIY. Not that many produced and have never seen any examples of exemplary printing from them.

Gerald
http://BielerPress.blogspot.com

I think it’s great that people are into learning about letterpress. I see the craft of letterpress as a dying art form that will only be able to survive with an infusion of a new generation of interest.
The problem that I see is that things like this “toy press” is going to give a lot of people the impression that you can just get a press, put it in your garage and hit the paper as hard as you can and your a letterpress printer.
I had to apprentice for 2 years, and slowly learn to use a Intertype, then sort type, learn the proper way to lock up a form then get to a press. I had to learn that the maitenance of a press is as important as what you’re printing. Learning the correct way to makeready and set up a press to run a job corrrectly takes time and patience.
I have 25years in the letterpress field. I’ve run Vandercooks, Heidelbergs, C&P’s, Kluges and Miehle’s. I print, foil ,diecut and emboss on my presses and every job I run has it’s own idiosyncracies. Something new to learn everyday.
I check this site regularly and see the questions posted as well as the responses.
I’ve learned a few tricks and I’ve seen replies to posts that make me scratch my head.
I’d have to agree with Gerald, it seems quality is tossed out the window in a lot of cases. Hitting it hard and getting it done is a sad reality of the craft these days.
I know of several people who bought presses without much knowledge and ended up with machines sitting in their garages that are not running due to expensive repairs that are needed. I’ve also seen the damage that a little knowledge can do when running an industrial machine.
I also have clients that took the time to research what they’re getting themselves into and found someone to teach the the right way to do things.
Maybe I’m just a little to ‘old school’, but printing was never a hobby to me. When I learned to print it was instilled to me as a trade, something you learned as a vocation.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish every ‘newbie’ the best, but keep in mind it takes more than a press and a can of ink to be a pressman.

Don’t be too quick to condemn this little thing. Is it a press? No. But when I was about seven years old (back in the fifties) I had a small toy “press” made of tin. You know, the kind where you position the rubber type in the the little metal strips and then crank the paper through the drum? It couldn’t print any better than a rubber stamp, but it did do one thing. It got me interested in printing, and I never lost interest. Today I own five presses of different types from platens to etching, and I trace it all back to that little “worthless” toy. Anything that stimulates interest in something has value.

image: tin press 2.jpg

tin press 2.jpg

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tin press 1.jpg

People! People! My goodness! I can’t remember ever seeing a post that had more knickers in a knot!! Deeeeep yoga breaths!

I design custom wedding invitations, working every step of the way with clients, guiding, accommodating, suggesting… to ensure that the end result is exactly what they’re looking for, while still maintaining integrity of design.

Would I EVER attempt to use this ‘press’ on invitations I’ve designed for a client? Not for all the tea in China! All my designs are sent out, as they should be, to a letterpress who actually know what they’re doing. So that the end product is a beautiful, tactile, piece of art that my client is proud, and excited to mail off to guests.

HOWEVER, I am purchasing one for myself. The same way that every person who picks up a camera, does not quit their day job and assume that they’re a ‘photographer’, I would bet you that NO ONE purchasing this machine will now think that they are a letterpress!!

I personally, am purchasing to add some ‘texture’ to my own personal cards - things such as birthday cards, wedding cards, etc.. Do I think for a second that this ‘texture’ can compare to an actual letterpressed item? Absolutely not!!! But then again, I’m not comparing them! Letterpress….um, ‘texture’. Nope, not the same. And do I think that it might make my home inkjet printed item a little more interesting? Probably! I don’t want to purchase a pre-made letterpressed card, no matter how beautiful - I want in on the design process!

This doesn’t in any way take away from the education, skill, and experience it requires for you to be GOOD at letterpress printing.

I’m guessing the people purchasing these are the people who couldn’t affort to have those 25 baby shower invitations letterpressed - and so it’s not as though by purchasing this nifty little machine they’re taking away from your livelihood! Nor are they going to run out and purchase a Vandercook, and learn the ins and outs of letterpress, while respecting the craft, to churn out 50 thank you cards!

I think that’s the whole point of this thing. It’s not being marketed to people who want to become a letterpress! It’s being marketed to ‘suburban housewives’ as one earlier poster said, who want to add a little something to their scrapbook, cards, tags, blah, blah blah!

Also, I think by and large, this machine is being purchased by the ‘scrapping’ community; people who are looking for one or two designs, or words pressed to add to their scrapbook pages - what would your reaction be, if on any given day, you received a call from a ‘scrapper’ asking for ONE word to be letterpressed for their albums? You’d scoff, and politely hang up the phone.

Instead, one of you (letterpresses) might recognize that like it or not (I don’t. I hate ‘scrapbooking’ with every thread of my being) scrapbooking is a HUGE HUGE HUGE (did I mention, huge?) industry. With again, ‘suburban housewives’ flocking to every Michael’s crafts, Joanne’s fabrics, and Home Shopping Network they can get to. Instead of bemoaning the fact that thousands of people who know not what they are doing, are now going to be ‘letterpressing’ why not market to them?

Pick out a few sentiments. ‘Love’. ‘Laugh’. ‘Live’ - whatever crap you see on those scrapbooking sites. Letterpress a couple hundred of them. Put them for sale on Etsy - I’m guessing they’d fly out of your store.

… ‘All my designs are sent out, as they should be, to a letterpress who actually know what they’re doing.’…

Since when does a letterpress knows what he is doing? Do you mean a ‘letterpress’ printer? Talking about getting your knickers in a knot!

Forgive those who know what they want but don’t know the terminology. After 37 years in the diemaking, foil stamping, printing and embossing industry and self employed for the last 20 years. I know that when a printer wants a job scored he/she means a crease so it doesn’t crack. When they ask for face slitting it means kiss cut. If its foil emboss ask if they want it raised up if not its just flat stamping and less expensive. Most old time offset pressmen will admit that letterpress is better quality but like most things these days is too time costly. It really doesn’t matter how you print or what you use to do it .If you do it you are a printer. Foil stamping, embossing and letterpress are now considered specialty printing. Sadly most letterpresses that still exist in print shops are used for numbering or light diecutting very often due to economic and technical reasons. I really enjoy turning out printed work on my heidelberg even though the diecutting buys the groceries.Hope I’m not venting.
Mike

Thomas, you know what I meant ; )

Letterpress printing and print making, isn’t there a difference?? So let them dirty their paper, when they tire of the mess, they will return to the press??

There’s a demo on youtube if you want to see what this thing does. It actually works more like an etching press than a letterpress (maybe a combo of the two). If you want to buy it and play with it, go ahead! Why let someone else tell you what to think about it? If you don’t have a press and you just want to play around with printing, using ink and raised images, then this is a cheap way to do it. If you enjoy it maybe you’ll take it to the next step. Here’s the link….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYTRfeRjZyQ&feature=related

I appreciate the comments from smokeynewton. They were some of the few positive posts in this thread.

This whole conversation makes the letterpress community (with the exception of a few) look like its up on a high horse. What’s the big fuss about this craft kit? Just because someone has this thing (or even adobe creative suite for that matter) doesn’t mean they are “skilled” or an “artisan” or a “designer.” Why does everyone seem to be so threatened? This thing could never out do a real one. No one can fake being creative, or being a skilled letterpress printer…they all result in visual, tactile outcomes. What you all can make on your letterpresses is far more beautiful and far more sophisticated than this plastic thing with pre-designed “plates” could ever do.

The art and skill of letterpress is not well known, you are the ones who are knowledgeable and skilled so why not share it others. This thing could make people more aware and give them the itch to know the real thing.

I already have the itch, but I can’t afford to have it. Real ones are hard to come by and expensive. I’ve wondered for years why something like this wasn’t available to the general public. Perhaps the argument of the lost skill? Then why not take it to the extreme and complain about the existence of home printers and pre-designed templates for cards, books, stationary, etc?

I can’t afford a letterpress studio, so here’s the next best thing. I’m sure it’ll make prettier looking holiday cards for my family than my hp all-in-one printer/scanner can make….

My word, well for those of you who believe this isn’t exactly the worst thing to happen to the printmaking world, thank you, I do not believe this little toy will end craftsmanship forever. Although many just want quick and easy, there are still those of us out there that appreciate nothing more than craftsmanship and hard work. That is not going anywhere, those people will always be out there. And for everyone else who seems to have swallowed a sour grape, just calm yourselves and switch to a glass of wine. In no way do I believe that this piece of plastic is any more a letterpress machine than just another addition to the Martha Stewart Collection of silicone stamps (I spend a lot of time at Michaels). None the less, I am currently a printmaking student and I love to make my own crafts and gifts for people. The look of letterpress is lovely and I’m sure this machine does not provide that look, but rather the look of a stamp. At least with this piece of plastic, I could line up Martha’s silicone “stamps”. You know, I would love to own a little Chandler table top but I just don’t have the money. Perhaps one day, but in the mean time, this will do the trick. I promise that with the purchase of this little “letterpress” home kit I will not call myself a printer (no did I intend to), but hopefully I will make some festive little christmas cards for the quickly nearing holiday season. Enjoy your vino, it’s the holidays!

Searoots:

By all means, give it a shot. If you get some good results, please post them for all to see. I’d be interested in what kind of ink is shipped with it and what kind of cleaners are required. Being plastic, I suppose both the above are water-based.

It looks like a good device to get folks started on the letterpress journey.

you can’t promise not to call yourself a printer, if you put ink on paper then you are a printer, good luck dick g.

Searoots…. I’ve read your comments, and agree with you about whether or not this little machine will end craftsmanship as we know it. It certainly will not. Us old letterpress folks will go along just as we always have, and entusiastic newbies will still learn how to print on presses. This little machine is just a crafty toy….. not a threat to letterpress. (ref my earlier posting above.)

I also agree that its not the worst thing to ever happen to letterpress, or even the second or third worst. Those three distinctions belong to Offset Duplicators, High speed Photocopiers, and OSHA….. things that almost killed off letterpress entirely.

However, I fail to see the usefullness of it. Sure, it will print fancy little do-dads…. but then again, so will a carved potatoe or any one of a dozen other things that don’t cost a lot of money, and aren’t dependent on proprietary dies and/or special types. I would dare say that any hobby / crafty oriented person could do more and better work using more traditional hand-methods for printing their Christmas Cards or fancy do-dads, and do it for a lot less money. In my view, it’s just not a good way to spend one’s money.

Winking

Well, I certainly agree. This is sort of the very very lowest bottom pit of what letterpress is, er, was. Though I kind of doubt we have actually reached the very very bottom yet, I’m certain something even more inventive is coming.

So what? Who cares? Let it go where it goes. The 21st century is the garbage bin of the ages.

But, personally, making your own rollers out of gumbie bears or whatever they are called, as you have suggested, though, is somehow not dissimilar to this kind of crap?

Gerald
http://BielerPress.blogspot.com

what happened with the gumbie bear rollers? did they work or were the just cleaned off and eaten? dick g.

People don’t know what they are getting. Its just some plastic put together and after you try it and get 3 “impressions” out of it you ought to feel you aren’t getting it right and read the instruction manual, again.

This is one hilarious thread.
I work at a commercial letterpress shop, I own my own C&P 10x15, and my wife works at a scrapbook store. We were given hints and clues as to what the new “tool” was they were cooking up, and we knew what it was well before the announcement. She was in on the meeting when they “unveiled” the letterpress tool. From her hands on experience this really is a “toy” compared to any real press.

The inking is troublesome and messy. The prints are sloppy. Even with massive over-inking it must be reinked with every impression. Blind impressions are it’s strongest suit, but not great. The plates are cut around the shape of the design and from what I’ve seen the desire for a deep impression leaves the plates edge as an impression as well.

I think this will be a quick novelty for most scrapbookers that buy it. They will be pleased with the results (unless they are familiar with real letterpress), but the effort won’t be worth it. It will have a short life.

My biggest complaint is the constant use of the term deboss in their product information.

Gerald and Dick… The Gummy Bear Roller (GBR) experiment is not anywhere close to the same thing as the above mentioned plastic toy. While they do seem silly on first glance, they were actually a serious and successful experiment in roller making. GBR’s work quite well on Kelsey Presses.

The GBR’s are a method for making one’s own rollers for use with small tabletop presses. Chemically and functionally they are not much different than the composition rollers that many of the Briar Press folks buy from vendors…. except that they cost about $5 to make instead of a few hundred dollars to buy. As long as the mice (or the pressmen) don’t eat them, and you don’t get them wet, they are amazingly long lived.

winking cat, sounds like you tried gummy bear rollers, i thought i heard of everything, then i read on here about chases made of wood, they can’t possibly work, but i had a 6x10 kelsey with no chase so i made one of wood. it worked really well. so why not gummy rollers, ididn’t hear much about them but would like to try them. dick g.

Dick… search here on Briar Press… I posted a complete description of how I make them.

AND wood chases DO work. I’ve got a half dozen plywood chases I made for a Kelsey Star about 20 years ago, and they work just as good as metal ones.

Let’s look at the positive side of these plastic toy presses. Folks that buy these may develop an interest in letterpress & move on to the real thing. The demand for real letterpress will increase & we can sell our presses to the next generation of real printers. Carry on the dying trade as people have said.
Bob

Bob

I don’t buy that. Maybe they will just get frustrated and abandon letterpress. Um, happens quite a bit actually with folks who buy into the smaller presses. At least, from my perspective. More so than the other way around.

Gerald
http://BielerPress.blogspot.com

when I first saw this product, I was excited but skeptical. I’ve been wanting to get into letterpress for a long time but have been a little apprehensive. Sounds like you guys are spoiled (and talented!) - if someone could point me to a first press for under $200, I’m in. What I’d really like is a class or demo somewhere, upstate NY. I’m a graphic designer so I am willing to put the work into learning and will honor and respect the craft.
Jenn

http://boxcarpress.com/us/blog/2009/11/24/l-letterpress-printing-techniques-from-boxcar-press/
found this and thought it was interesting

This company will make plates for the machine. Interesting… http://www.letterpressplates.com/quickutz-l-letterpress/

Here’s a review of the machine, in its out-of-the-box configuration and also with some of Boxcar’s modifications, which are an admirable attempt at making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. :-)

http://papercrave.com/l-letterpress-review-update-with-preliminary-custo...

It seems that a machine like this could displace a few real presses for a while. Let’s just hope that none of them gets scrapped while we wait for crafters to get disillusioned with the as-is version or to realize that if they’re going to provide their own ink, brayer, and plates they may as well provide their own press as well.

Barbara

“an admirable attempt at making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

Well put. If there is a market to be discerned, I guess there will be someone to attempt to fulfill it.

Gerald
http://BielerPress.blogspot.com

it may be good for some people who can’t afford or have room for a large press

Hi, I’m new to this site.

I came to this site looking for a little info on this kit since I adore letterpress printing. After reading this thread, I may abandon my pursuit of learning more about letterpress printing because of all the negative, self-important elitist snobbery that I’ve just read. It’s pretty off-putting.

Plastic toy? So what? Guess what my first weaving loom was? A plastic Fisher Price weaving loom. It was a toy, but it introduced me and taught me about a craft I might not have learned about for years to come, if ever. Now I have floor looms that I weave on.

Let those who would, play. Those who want to learn more seriously about letterpress printing will find their way to it one way or another —possibly as a result of this toy. Those who admire letterpress but no nothing about how it’s done will be intrigued by this product, which may inspire the curious to dig deeper. For example, after seeing this product, I was inspired to do a little research. I learned of 2-3 options for taking real letterpress classes from local printing shops in my city, which I had no idea existed.

I would think the letterpress community would welcome people finding their way to this art any way possible even if it’s through a toy that true letterpress printers consider to be a piece of garbage.

n/a

Well, if you decide to get this machine and modify it per Boxcar’s suggestions, you can sell the plates and inks it comes with on eBay:

180446744901

Barbara

Hi all,
I’m a huge fan of letterpress, and as someone who had the opportunity to spend a semester learning how to put together a proper form at The Globe Poster company in Baltimore, I had to laugh at this toy. At $70 retail (i just saw this product in stores yesterday), I have to agree with the posts above - stay at home moms who scrapbook are definitely the prime target of this product. Hopefully, it will just introduce more people to the fine art of letterpress who may not have been familiar with it.

I have to agree that this is such a tempest in a teapot it almost boggles the mind. Why not compare the latest Matchbox or Hot Wheels car with a Lexus or Mustang? It makes about as much sense. The Erector Set and Lincoln Logs don’t seem to have discouraged people from entering the construction trades. Though I have to admit that I once had a chemistry set and didn’t become a scientist.

Products are manufactured of a certain type and quality with the intent to sell to particular markets. To pull them out of their intended context is simply to create a straw-man to which a torch can be easily applied.

Throw the thing into the pond and if it floats it’s a work of the Devil; if it sinks we can sleep in peace.

Rich

Front Room Press
Milford, NJ
http://frontroompress.com
http://frontroompress.blogspot.com

Let it sink.

The thing is, no one is marketing a Matchbox as a vehicle you can take for a spin down the street. It’s sold as a toy and its purpose is very clear.

If this bit of plastic sadness is really just intended to be a “toy”, the makers should be honest about that instead of trumpeting on about it being a “letterpress”.

For the record, my irritation is with the makers and marketers of the product, not the poor folk who’ll stumble into buying it.

To me the whole thing seems misleading and, frankly, depressing.

I too share a similar opinion with tisserande (although I dont think she’s checking back at this thread.) My interest in letterpress printing came long before this L Letterpress Kit was up. However, resources on Letterpress for me is severely limited to anything and everything that is available on the Internet only. Letterpress workshops or lessons are impossible to come by. Letterpress products as I can find on the internet is provided only by one single wedding stationary company who claims to have brought in an antique letterpress machine (the vibes that i get from such firms are that they are not really interested in sharing the art of letterpress, but just to make a profit out of it. i’m not too sure if they even really do the letterpress work or have it outsourced to the US, just being a pure skeptic here).

I do not have the letterpress kit, but i have a similar diecutting machine (the Sizzix BigShot). I do intend to source for paper suitable for letterpress, ink and go to the extent of carving my own linoleum blocks (or very ambitiously try my hand at woodcarving), and a boxcar press base (contemplating though. shipping will cost a bomb, not to mention having to get custom photopolymer plates). Does this mean that the work that I produce is necessarily inferior or cannot be called a letterpress product because it’s not from a recognized printing press?

Like the blog entry from Boxcar Press mentioned, you can get quality work out of it, but it will take effort, not like as if the machine made things any easier.

With regards to Barbara’s comment that that “if they’re going to provide their own ink, brayer, and plates they may as well provide their own press as well”, if only it’s that easy to have a press, to source for one, to have the money to pay for one, and to have the space to put one at home.

It would have been much more helpful if the thread was about how to improve the quality of work that can be done on this hobby mechanism (i’m avoiding the word press to avoid incurring the wrath of some) rather than just spitting and trampling on it when it is the only way for someone like me to have exposure to letterpress unless i fly to the US or Australia for an internship or apprenticeship.

P.S: I do hope to get my hands on a C&P one day, or a kesley because the size is quite limiting.

It’s a shame that the trade I served a six-year apprenticeship in, has deteriorated into a scam involving a few scraps of plastic. I sold my letterpress business recently, which comprised of Intertype, Ludlow, British Thompson auto platen and Verticle Miehle Cyclinder, plus quite a lot of case metal in display sizes. Over the last 40 years in business, I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed working as a printer. To see the trade compromised by this type of junk product is sickening.
All is not lost though! I don’t know what the situation is elsewhere, but here in the U.K. photopolymer plates are readily available at good prices. There is also a version on steel backing as apposed to Alloy, called Rigilon. The advantage of this is their ability to be mounted on magnetic block mounts. I have made up some small mounts, on low Cornerstone base, using 1mm magnetic sheet with an adhesive backing, supplied by my polymer makers. When mounted the height is dead on point 918”.
Once locked up, the polymer can be laid in position, being held firmly in place by magnetic force. There is no need for adhesive block mount. Although it is held firmly enough not to move during the run, it can be lifted without damage, and washed off with a quick dispersant roller wash.
This also means that a forme containing a ‘mag mount’ can be kept locked up and used repeatedly for different jobs. Perhaps this can be looked upon as real progress, Desktop publishing to Bench top Letterpress. One can only hope that this plastic toy,will inspire some youngster to investigate letterpress to it’s full potential.
Druckman

image: Intertype, Druckman Press.

Intertype, Druckman Press.

I hear you Druckman !

Geez, what’s with the rampant snobbery and constant dissing of stay-at-home “suburban” moms? That’s what I am. I also have an extensive professional background in graphic design and passion for all types of printing. Does the former negate any legitimate interest I might have in letterpress/ the printing process, etc?

As a twenty-something I also made plenty of— gasp, groan— _scrapbooks_ of my travels in Europe and I happen to think they’re damn cool.

Any type of creativity is productive and valid and should be encouraged.

This is pretty sad but typical of any industry. Purist never want to change. As a graphic designer who has paid her dues on archaic machinery and type, I find that piece of plastic refreshing. Just like # remarquestudio, I am a mom, and educated one.

This isn`t about depreciating the art, but about evolving it. The L letterpress may not be it, as I am certain better machines will take it`s place. But it is certainly a starting point, specially for an art form that is dying.

Letterpress is not dying, and it is not an art form (never has been - ask any art curator). A tiny (and extraordinarily expensive for what it is) plastic press marketed at the lowest common denominator is evolving letterpress? In consideration of the extraordinary rich history of letterpress printing (some 578 years worth), I think you properly mean de-evolving.

Gerald

I’ve got to agree …. and partially disagree on this one.

Letterpress is not dying. As a commercial process it suffered greatly with the advent of small offset, and later photocopy shops, but never died. However…. it is growing leaps and bounds as a means of personal expression. It’s also quite alive in many, many commercial niches that are not served well by other forms of printing.

Sure, some aspects of it like handset type are in the decline, but others like PP plates and the digital / letterpress fusion are growing rapidly.

About the “Art Form” discussion…… it depends on which Art Curator you ask. At the FAMOS museum, the historian and curator considers it to be a true Art Form in it’s own right…… but others see it as a technique. The definition of what constitutes “Art” is never well defined. If you were to poll all of the museum directors, art professors, and working artists you’d find such a wide range of opinion that the results would be useless.

My view is that it CAN be an Art Form if it’s used for purely expressive purposes, or it can be an atrisan sort of thing if the end result is more utilitarian.

n/a

Of more interest in what the future of letterpress is is the ad running in Classified for a Chinese built etching press. Granted, it’s $4500, but if it’s any good, much of the manufacturing technology could be transferred to letterpress equipment. It is something to keep an eye on.

I think the structural requirements of letterpress printing rather preclude plastic in manufacturing, but manufacturing has no interest in making stout equipment that will last 100 years like the Kelseys of yore. Perhaps we will see a “Improved” version of the plastic press with metal bits (and the other improvements that Boxcar has engineered. Or the manufacturer will get his buck and run.

I’m a Barbie girl
I in a Barbie world
Life in plastic
It’s fantastic.

I have some display types made of plastic (plakadur) by Hass and Berthold in the late 60’s. They print very well – but they are made of plastic.
Plastic (PP) is a part of the letterpress world today – although not a part of my world. But if you can print from plastic, you can also print on plastic. Just imagine an Albion or a Washington press made of plastic - scaring!!!!

God bless the Art of Letterpress Printing - from METAL & WOOD
Jens

Jens and Mike….. while I am VERY fond of my more traditional metal and wood presses, we shouldn’t discount plastic as a viable press-making material. If used in suitable thicknesses, with proper engineering behind it there is no reason that plastics couldn’t be used to make first-class presses. So far I don’t know of any that have been built…. but from an engineering point of view, some plastics would be suitable for many types of presses.

Does this mean I’m in favor of the above mentioned toy gizmo? No…. just that plastics are not all bad.

Ah… but a properly engineered press made of plastic probably would have a hard time making the price point for the mass market crafters that this press seems oriented toward.
You could certainly engineer something with fiber reinforced resins that would probably be STRONGER than equivalent sections of cast iron, but you still have to sell the thing. Still, that day will come, as long as interest remains in the hobby to drive demand. With Kelseys easily pulling over $500 and up, it might be sooner than later.

UPDATE on my earlier opinions:

OK… this last week-end I had the opportunity to study one of these little “print at home” kits….. and I must partially change my opinion on it: These are not bad little machines for what they are intended to do. For home-made invitations, scrapbook pages, or postcards they are actually pretty good.

The press itself is sturdier than I anticipated. Essentially it is a small etching press / sign press mechanism….. and easily puts down enough pressure to print on softer papers.

The little pre-made plates are a bit hokey…… but there is no reason why you could not use PP plates of your own design with it.

It is hand inked, so it’s probably going to be rather slow….. but then again so are my Poco and Galley presses. Besides, for a hobby press why do you need speed anyway?

So…. my bottom line: It’s not a bad little machine to learn the basics of relief printing, AND with PP plates, one could learn a LOT with it. So I’m changing my opinion to a “thumbs up” on this one.

You can use K 152 deep relief plates on these presses from what I understand, but all the same concerns with hand-inking and stock choice still apply. I worked with a couple who wanted to print save the dates on coaster stock, and that was definitely too thick for the device. Smaller text and line art is also tough to work with unless you have roller bearers built into your plate.

I would agree, this is a good starting point for those who definitely aren’t interested in housing a job press, but be sure to schedule a lot of time for your runs!

James Beard
Vrooooom Press
www.vrooooom.org

I think this is simply ridiculous…
A client came into my shop after buying one of these to do their wedding invites, needless to say it broke on the 3rd piece of 220lb Lettra they tried to pass through it.

I’m afraid this just waters down the process…this is why so many graphic designers buy a tabletop press, make gummi bear rollers, make PP plates and open letterpress studios in their kitchens..it seems like being a journeyman pressman and operating letterpresses…not proof presses…has slowly turned into a “craft”…just make sure you hit the paper really hard….

I don’t get all the drama surrounding this device. It’s an inexpensive way to get something printed and still have it look nice. I used one to print up 125 wedding invitations, reply cards, and info cards.

I only own a laser printer, so if I wanted color, my options were really to find a local/online press, buy an ink jet, or use the L.

I got the L when it first came out and used a 60% off coupon, bringing the press to total of $60, another $60 for some ink, $14 for a brayer, and $100 for the plates. So, going the DIY route would be $234 to get output from this or however much for an inkjet, which I generally loathe. I still use film cameras so I wouldn’t get any “multi-use” out of the inkjet. Also, you don’t see me berating digital cameras or point-n-shoots ;)

Also, I wanted a thick cotton stock, and I’m guessing that inkjet wouldn’t have done very well here.

There was 3 parts to the invite package, each two color with a blind deboss. I spent about 15 hours to get 375 pieces done and was pleased with the result. It cost me less than half of what a friend paid for some thermography invites.

image: Screen shot 2010-07-18 at 8.03.28 PM.png

Screen shot 2010-07-18 at 8.03.28 PM.png

Chris….. your invitations look great! Thanks for posting pictures of your work.

I think the drama surrounding these little machines stems from the “big fish in a little pond” thing. A LOT of the folks around here want to preserve their “Holy Guru” status…. and don’t much care for anything that might challenge their positions on Mt Olympus …. especially if it involves your learning a different method than what they espouse or earn a profit on.

I’ve seen the same sort of reaction when I’ve posted articles about solar exposed PP plates, making one’s own press, Laser-cut wood blocks, or using Gummy-Bear rollers. Everytime they see something different than what they consider to be “standard practice”, they immediately declare it to be wrong. I’ve come to view folks who think like that as small minded, and I tend to avoid them.

winking cat, Time or the concept of time is generally
considered valuable to humans. Most of us who work
professionally don’t have the time to jack off in the kitchen.
You know there are a few things in the kitchen you can use to print from. A wooden spoon for a press, you could even
jackleg a pasta machine onto a press, make ink with crisco
and food dye, potatos,cabage or jicama for plates. I think the folks that that see a plastic press see it for what it is. Chris.h seems to think he or she saved a lot of money. I charge $75 per hour for presswork, lets see 15 hours at $75 thats a chunk of change. I can’t wait for someone to invent a home surgery kit where you can be you own doctor and go to a website that helps figure how to do your very own appendectomy. A plastic press? ah come on! james

James,
I think you’re failing to look at the target market—the “home crafter.” While time may be *generally* valuable, this thing is being sold at A.C. Moore and, I’m guessing, are targeted mostly to stay at home moms or other people whose time is valued at much less than $75 an hour. That’s not to say, though, that it won’t be used by general people with jobs and valuable time.

Sure, I spent roughly 15 hours printing the 3 different pieces 125 times, but my time is definitely not worth $75 an hour. I’m a student. I can get a part time job and make $20 an hour, but I don’t want to. I’m a student. I have many more years left in me for working. So even if I worked 15 hours at a $20 an hour part-time job, I’d only get, what, $250 at most after taxes and withholdings?

So valuing my time + resources puts me at $484 for 3 pieces x 3 colors x 125 count. That still sounds like a pretty good deal to me…

As far as a home surgery kit… What else will they think of? At home oil-changes? Do-it-yourself Wills? Ways of printing photographs at home? Witchcraft I say.

Also, this “press” isn’t made entirely of plastic. It’s a metal frame, with metal rollers that make the impression covered with a plastic safety shield and a plastic feeder platform.

Don’t think I’m trying to devalue your work, I’m not. I think it should be taken for what it is and what it’s targeted as: a craft tool. I don’t think anyone is recommending starting a full-time business revolving around this…

chris

Thanks Chris for sharing your example.
It is easy to point out how this press is not going to fit into a production shop. I could just as easily point out that row boat won’t win a yacht race. Where this plastic press does seem to belong is in the studio or kitchen of a beginner. Sure, this press may not be suited to do a run of 10,000, but it has proved to work well for a run of 125 x 3 colors.
I have a hard time listening to talk about how this press isn’t cost effective. To most beginners, time is plentiful, and money is short. This entry level equipment provides another option for the hobby printer.
Now that I’ve seen results, I won’t hesitate to mention this as an option to my friends who want to experience letterpress.

This is the longest comment string I have seen and well I just had to blog in. There is no term blind deboss. It is all embossing blind or otherwise. The invitations do look good and your were pleased with the results. I too started with the Champion Cub listed above. It got me interested in the trade, craft, business of printing.
What will you do with the kit now Chris.h?.
Letterpress printing is not dying, it is very big in the packaging industry. Boxes, store displays, labels, bags (both plastic and paper), food wrapers and many more.
It is the small letterpress or job presses that have seen a decline in use other than to diecut, score, number or foil emboss. But there is this renewed interest in the small press by artists to find ways to produce limited printed pieces on relief presses. Just like they have done with older etching and lithographic presses.
For the skilled pressmen that have continued to work their trade on the small letterpress format,” Ink on Paper”, long may it run.

James

Great post. Besides the DIY surgery :—) I once encountered a lawyer on a letterpress list who was all for DIY letterpress and I asked if he recommended folks represent themselves in a court of law. End of discussion. Jacking off in the kitchen? Yeah, pretty much what this is all about, huh?

Then again, the DIYers think letterpress is just whatever, anyway, so what the heck. Punch it and be proud.

Gerald
http://BielerPress.blogspot.com

James, and Gerald….. you are missing the point of this little machine entirely. It is not intended for any sort of commercial operation, and the economics of it’s productivity are totally inconsequential.

It was designed specifically for those folks who want to create their own letterpressed cards and invitations, for their own personal enjoyment. AND as we can see from Chris’s examples, it is capable of doing some very nice work.

In this context, nobody cares that you change $75 per hour, and couldn’t make a profit with it. That’s not what it was made to do.

You guys do great work, but you are WAY off base on the whole “crafty printing” movement …. and your assinine comments about home surgery and legal practice sound like two old curmudgeons making excuses for not keeping up with the rest of the world.

Winking

You need to give it a rest. Everyone has a voice here. Why all the personally directed criticism whenever says something you don’t agree with?

Gerald
http://BielerPress.blogspot.com

Winking Cat Press…..

All of the negative comments on this topic have been the main reason that I haven’t been back to this site for several weeks. The self-proclaimed professional, old-world, only-one-way-to-do-it, journeyman printers on here are so arrogant that it simply makes me not want to associate with them. It’s the old guild attitude that kept the trade exclusive of outsiders for so many years in the past. I started out in a hot-metal shop when I was 16 years old. I’m 58 now and I’m still learning, mainly because the trade is evolving with every new technology that vies to replace it. The technology in this “plastic press” has been around forever. The only thing new about this is the marketing. Is that what they’re afraid of? I just don’t get it. Thank you for making an honest stand.

smokey, don’t let all the comments discourage you from posting, i enjoy your posts and its good to have you back. i too started in a letterpress shop at 16 and still work at it, i got a 3x5 kelsey at 13 and now make a living printing letterpress, i’m now 62 and plan on printing another 40 years. Good Luck Dick G.

dickg….

Thank you. It’s good to hear a calm voice amongst all these pious pontificating pressmen. A lot of people on here have a Kelsey 3x5 as their only press and are just trying to satisfy that urge to print on a press. That urge is what got all of us started in the first place. Whose to say that it can’t start with a little plastic do-hickey if that do-hickey will put ink on paper? Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway? Putting ink on paper? If I didn’t own a press I would still print something even if it meant making woodcuts and printing them with the back of a spoon. Ink on paper, people. Anyway you can. That’s printing.

heh - it’s pretty funny that i can look at just about any forum or discussion - any trade or craft and see the same exact argument. Old time photogs complaining about entry level d-slrs turning every high school girl into a pro, photoshop and a few free fonts making everyone and their mother a graphic designer - the list goes on.

honestly, thank god for cheap-ass products like this that gain exposure to a craft - because for every 1,000 soccer moms that buy it and use it once before it hits a yard sale, maybe there’s ONE person who falls in love with the craft and takes the next step to pursue it.

Silly to hear people talk about the bastardization of their precious craft by mass production - if you really love what you do, shouldnt you want to share that experience - and if the case is that you’re afraid you’ll lose business, then youre simply doing a poor job marketing yourself and communicating the value of experience.

I make my living making pictures - and i would have never discovered the absolute joy of taking photos every day if not for a cheap plastic toy camera i got my hands on in high school. I probably ran 1,000 rolls of film through that $40 piece of junk, and every one of those 37,000 photos was absolute garbage, i had no idea what i was doing - but it exposed me to a world i loved, and grew in me a desire to learn more - from the ground up, studying every one of Henri Cartier Bressons images.

Theres currently thousands of high school kids in my area calling themselves pro’s cause they got a dslr for their birthday - and sure, ive actually lost out on a couple jobs because of them and uncle toms over-saturating the market with inexperience. But you know what - i dont want to shoot for clients who cant discern the difference and could care less - but in spite of this, i LOVE the fact that high quality cameras are finally in reach of those who desire them, because it means there are more chances for the kids like me who fell in love with the craft to pursue it.

so whatever - hate on em as much as you want, but we were all beginners at some point, we all had to learn - as for me, im gunna go back to restoring my very first press, and in the process probably break every rule in the book out of inexperience - but i’m sure i’ll learn - and that sounds like fun.

-bk

n/a

Paul, even without a momentary lapse you can get hurt, i had a spring break and come flying off a press it went clean thru the end of my finger, the press wasn’t even turned on. lots can happen even if your being safe, watch some of the videos on u tube of these new kids hand feeding, it really scares me, some i can’t watch. Dick G.

Ben…. thanks for your comments. I’ve been making prints, woodcuts, and doing letterpress for over 40 years now……. and I’ve run into the self proclaimed “Guru High Priests” constantly since the very beginning. For some reason they always seem to take a “Do it my way or it’s wrong” attitude….. and thus tend to alienate many, if not most, of the folks who are genuinely interested learning. For some reason, they populate any group of artists, craftsmen, and trades people.

My own introduction into the graphic arts was with a group of printmakers who worked on home-made silk-screen equipment, and built their own etching presses. Their work, and even some of my own, is now considered some of the most collectible works of art from the late 60’s and early 70’s. It was there that I learned that it is the finished image that really matters, not how fancy or expensive the equipment was, or what the pedigree of the printer might be.

If you look at ChrisH’s images of finished work done on the little “toy” press….. you will see a very nicely finished invitation…. and more importantly, you can see an artisan with a very good eye for design and quality. Now…. we as older printers have two options:

1. We can deride Chris for using a “toy” press, and not following what the Guru’s proclaim…..

or 2. We can recognise the talent, and the potential of the little press…. and encourage learning. Personally, I intend to do the second course of action…. and if the self proclaimed gurus don’t like it…. oh well. So sorry.

I am really impressed by the quality of Chris.h’s invites. I have to say in contrast to all the naysayers, I think this press seems like a great idea.
Gocco didn’t destroy the screenprinting industry, it just opened it up to crafters. Macs and inkjets did make design more accessible to all, but as someone who put in the 4 years and all the cash for a BFA in communication design at Parsons, I don’t feel threatened or diminished by all these “desktop publishers”.

Quality knows quality. Isn’t there room for the cream of the crop hard-studied letterpress artisans, as well as the at-home hobbyists?

No one will really mistake one for the other. And I doubt that at home printing will ever really compete with the big presses. This at home kit invites exploration and curiosity.

I think you could look at these at-home kits as the very precipice of the edge of a big old bubble that’s about to burst.

There seem to be new letterpress companies popping up every day (I am guilty of this), all with clever names and fancy websites. There has to be a point when all these fish poison the pond.

Some will certainly survive, and they will have their pick of all kinds of great equipment, selling at great prices! I look forward to this and hope that I am one of the lucky ones. Thank you, current customers! I love you.

The possiblity of our nearing the end of a bubble is certainly out there. I’ve watched prices on Ebay more than triple for wood type (though handset and the rest of the market hasn’t quite enjoyed that growth).

However the mass market machine is probably going to pass as a fad (remember the Skizzix die-cutter, the Xyron what ever the hell it was (label laminator)?. Great ideas, but really not meant for doing quantity work. A lot of people who may possibly start with such a machine have probably either given it up, or quickly ran out and bought a Kelsey 5 x 8 and are rapidly approaching the wall of limits of capability without really notching up their hobby.

In some areas co-ops might be the answer, but for a lot of folks, they’re going to get bored and move onto the next great craft fad. I think it’s actually harder to find stuff now than it was five years ago, except for used hand type (based on my Ebay trolling for the last seven years).

I think it is getting more important for those of us working with letterpress to promote it and to make it interesting and exciting and, most importantly, accessible. Curiously too, I think that metal has to be part of the equation as it gives more variety for a given investment vs a plate system that is a one shot deal (yeah—I am a fan of composition and imposing).

The existence of Briar Press, LETPRESS, and the SF Letterpress lists (among others) is imperative for keeping folks engaged with the trade/hobby/whatall. so keeping posting your problems, and your successes.[

Excuse my language but this this is the biggest piece of crap on the planet. I own one of these. The ink bleeds, the roller just smashes the plate into the card stock and makes a mess. I thought that maybe it was me, but it isn’t. I have yet to meet someone who got this thing to work properly.

If anyone would like to waste their time trying to prove me wrong I will give you mine. $250 down the tubes!

Now I need to find a real machine that I can do small invitation jobs… Any suggestions!?

vondana

Um, were you not warned here?

Gerald
http://BielerPress.blogspot.com

Um, Gerald, she’s only been here a day. I suspect there are many, many more folks like her with the same experiences.

Perhaps Vondana can post her location (in a new thread) and see if there is some equipment near her, should she decide to make the jump to traditional platen press technology.