Borders & Corners

I had a wild idea for a weekend project this morning: printing a 2021 calendar. I have a small-format calendar set, so I’m OK there, but I also have some corners and a holly-leaf border I thought I might use for December.

I’ve never used borders or corners before. It might be a stupid question, but how do you use them? Would I have to, for example, print my calendar text first and then print the border in a second press run, or could I somehow set the border around the text portion and run them together? Are there any “tricks” to use?

I’ll probably attempt to “learn by doing”, same way I learned blacksmithing, but if anybody has any suggestions, I’m ready to take suggestions.

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If you wished the border color to be the same as the enclosed text, you simply set them both up and print at the same time. It takes some skill to carefully space the lines so they all are exactly the same width, so the vertical elements of the border align properly, but, as they say, it’s not rocket science.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

I agree with John Henry.

Sometimes it is a good idea to put 6 pt slugs around the form before you put the border pieces around it, to keep the border nice and straight. However, it will depend on whether the size of the border pieces is an even multiple of the length (and width) of the form or not.

As usual, after you lock up the whole thing, raise one edge a quarter inch or so off the stone and push against every piece of type and also every piece of spacing material to be sure everything is tight. If they aren’t, put in copper thins and if necessary, pieces of paper cut to the size of thins, until everything is tight.

This brings to mind another procedure which isn’t really related, but might be of use at some time. When you are planning to print a form where different lines of type (and ornaments) are to be in different colors, it is sometimes a good idea to set the whole thing up as if it was a one color job. Then for each color, take the type and ornaments for the other colors out of the form and replace them with spacing material. When you get the first color printed, take the type and ornaments for that out and put the type and ornaments for the second color back in, and so on. Then you are printing all of the colors with the same form and all the colors should register well. You may not have to re-adjust the gauge pins either.

There used to be cast by the foundries, small ‘L’ shaped six point things that helped to keep the corners square. But what Geoffrey is saying seems to me to be spot on. Copper half point thins are a godsend sometimes.

Geoffrey’s technique seems sound for next year’s calendar. This year I decided to keep it simple. I’m just going to use a single line of holly border under the December month name.

Next year I plan a larger calendar and will remember the idea(s). By then, hopefully I will have learned more. Being retired is great! You got all kinds of time to read and try new things.

Here is the form I came up with to print the ampersand character within the corners in one press run. It does require some careful measuring and fancy work with the table-saw and miter-box, but as JHenry said, it isn’t rocket science.

The quoin inside the form could probably be done away with, but as I had it, I saw no reason to tempt fate. The lengths of the furniture that lock the corners in place are quite critical. Each one must match its opposite counterpart exactly if you want it square. I used the edges of the chase to square the form up.

The length of the interior “form” furniture is less critical, but the width IS critical if you want the ampersand character centered and securely clamped in the form.

If I were going to try to get away without the inside quoin, I would probably have used a center quoin on the outside to allow the furniture to “flex” a bit and lock the ampersand in place. Using a quoin on each end is a more solid lockup though.

Using metal and wood type together can be somewhat of a challenge I have noticed as there is just enough variation in type height to make a difference, especially if it is more or less humid in the press room. Make-ready will be just a little challenging I suppose.

The tear off sheets of the calendar are printed in black and additional text will be in either gold or blue… I haven’t decided yet. The corners and the ampersand will be red. I’ll probably lock it up and do the press runs later this week.

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That’s a better lockup than many I’ve seen lately but both Practice of Printing and General Printing discuss and illustrate proper lockups. One or both books should be the main reference for any letterpress printer, especially the beginner. Both are available as used books and should be studied. With more material, as your collection grows, forms will become easier to build with fewer problems. A good assortment of furniture in standard, accurate lengths and the use of leads and slugs, again accurately cut, will go a long ways towards making printing easier and much more enjoyable.

I should add that it’s entirely ok to own a real book, and more to spend some time reading it and looking at the pictures and illustrations. And it can be looked at many times over the years fulfilling your needs. One of the authors of General Printing was one of my college instructors, so the span of knowledge represented in that book goes back to the nineteenth century.

Well, I do actually own several real books. In fact, I am in the process of inventorying them. There are about 400 in boxes and indexed by title (so I can find a specific book) and probably another 300 - 400 to go before we are done. Eventually… maybe this summer… I’ll be building several bookshelves and setting up an actual card catalog referencing the books by author, subject & title. The plan is to shelve the books in vertical stacks like a traditional Korean library, but that is not etched in granite yet. Some of my books are really old and falling apart. Shelving them in stacks will be easier on the bindings.

Toni tells me that I should get rid of some of them. Sacrilege! It is not possible to have too many books.

I do have a copy of General Printing, but I found an old hard-cover version for sale this morning and bought it along with a copy of The Practice of Printing… thanks for the suggestion.

General Printing was my shop class text book in the early 1970’s. Wish I had stolen that copy… but I guess an honest purchase is better practice.

I didn’t find any reference to locking up corners in General Printing, though I certainly might have missed it. That book has a lot of information in it.

Today this form gets inked up and used. My padding compound arrives Wednesday, barring any insurrection attempts interrupting delivery, so I should have some calendars ready by the end of the week or so.