Looking for feedback…

I’m not trying to start some wild thread here, but I’m curious to get some feedback from some of the “old timers” here on Briar Press.
I’ve been a press operator for over 30 years and a business owner for 8, I check this site just to see what’s happening with friends and get feedback for various issues I run into. I think it’s great to see new people getting into letterpress, I have no problem with it at all and I try to help out when I can.
But some of these posts are driving me crazy!!!
Not trying to single anyone out but to share a few examples…

I just want a ridiculously deep impression…
I spent $0000.00 on a press and it doesn’t work!
I sent a check but did’t get anything!
Took a class so I’m buying a Windmill…
How do I take apart my C&P to paint it?
If the flywheel is bent is it broken?
Kickstarter to buy me a press…

Is letterpress becoming the new scrapbooking?
Is it becoming the realm of designers?
Are we helping people to learn the craft of operating a press or just teaching them to hit it hard?

I’m not trying to just throw out a rant, but I’m seriously curious to see what some of you really think.

Log in to reply   14 replies so far

Hey, if you’ve been printing for 30 years you are already crazy, so don’t blame these posts. I’m not a big fan of deep impression but to each their own, i don’t like to see old foundry type beat up to get deep impression, i think most use poly plates for that. The thing that drives me nuts is shipping these heavy c&p’s by freight, then when it rolls over and arrives in pieces no one can figure out what went wrong (this is where your bent or broken flywheel comes in). It amazes me that there hasn’t been more people getting hurt moving some of these presses, well there is my rant. Dick G.

Yes, a lot of threads are ridiculous, but you may choose to ignore them too. No one is forcing you to react. Briarpress is a discussion forum for all levels and intellects.

Times change, and the _real_ tragedy is seeing well experienced, well respected pressmen bottle-up with their own pride and ego, and refuse to accept change and progress.

Onto providing feedback as requested:

___ “Is letterpress the new scrapbooking?”
Does it matter? Mainstream popularity does not take away from your own respected achievements.
This isn’t directed to anyone in general, but: Stop taking offense; No one likes you less simply because there are more people to like, or there are alternative perspectives to yours.

____”Is it becoming the realm of designers?”
I hope so. Print and design go hand-in-hand. For too long, most printers have not understood how to communicate with mainstream society. Design is the solution to the rut that printing is in.

____”Are we helping people learn the craft / hit hard?”
Who said the craft wasn’t hitting hard? Something you see as important, does not necessarily mean it is an absolute importance.

Horse and cart was perhaps once perceived to be important, as it involved a live animal driving the motion. How relevant is that today?

You are not absolutely more correct, because you have been doing it for longer. We live in a world of change, and real success is found by those who embrace it.

Yes, there is a tremendous amount of stupidity out there…. But have as much faith that their stupidity will fizzle out, as informed people have in the skills and knowledge that experienced pressmen will always have.

@ tangerine, I’ve read every post you’ve sent on Briar Press and have yet to find any positive posts rather you’ve critiqued everyone elses. Time to change behavior like you advise and start providing education and encouragement or move on to Letpress.


It seems like the “old time printers” that have problems with polymer, deep impression, and change in general, should really just get off the internet and focus on their rotary phone and kiss impression. Times change. Deal.

I do not want to see anyone go away or change their comments or questions! New “absurd” questions can make us old timers think out of the box a little. There is value in everything. I am glad that all of this is helping to keep letterpress alive and hopefully continue to grow!!

I think it great people are coming into the letterpress world again.

Just wish many would read about what went wrong with the other guys purchase.

These presses are heavy and one wrong move can cost you, your life or major damage to the press.

I was almost killed in 1971, while moving a case of type from our old location to the new one. The case had 24 drawers and will totally full of monotype castings. We placed it in the back of the van I was going to drive and didn’t tie to down, thinking the weight of the case would hold it in place.

Wrong, the Lo-d was looking out for me that day, I was the only person in the van, as I came up to the first traffic light I hit the brakes and the case full of type crashing in the seat next to me, the seat was damaged and the case emptied onto the van floor.

If someone was sitting in that sit I would hate to think of what would happen to that person.

Please people, be careful, it might look as it will not move due to the weight, but, it will and it will move faster than you can jump out of the way.

Also, remember letterpress is an art of getting the right amount of ink and impression on the correct paper stock to have the finish product you want.

Not, all inks work on all papers. Sad, back before letterpress died here in Houston around the early 80’s there was business that only sold, ink and business that sold paper, and printing supply business, a person could talk to them about your printing project and there would help with the correct purchase.

@ cmcgarr

Fair point.

OK here we go: Hey everyone! Embrace change!

Face it, anyone can punch paper so hard that the blind can read it. It takes a real craftsman to do a make ready and kiss the sheet with perfect impression and ink coverage. No, I don’t have a rotary phone, got rid of it last month.


To all,
So we all spend a lot of time and effort here on Briarpress talking about deep impression vs. kiss. Personally I strive for the kiss method. This past weekend a dear friend and I spent about 15 hours in his shop printing a suite of wedding invitations with a lovely young couple that wanted letterpress invitations. The groom is the grandson of a deceased friend our ours, who himself was an accomplished graphic designer and gifted letterpress printer so it was a pleasure to teach and work with this young couple to produce these invites.
The bride wanted a very deep impression and choose 220# Lettra for the stock. The design itself was quite challenging to pull off, which made it all the more fun and interesting. We wrestled with getting a good impression only to find the cut, (magnesium on wood) had warped and had a bow causing the outer edges to have a deeper impression than the center. This situation was exasperated by the thickness of the stock leaving us very little adjustment through packing. We were able to demonstrate that on lighter weight (100# cover) we were able to compensate and get a clean impression.
The purpose of telling this story relative to this thread is that we taught and introduced letterpress to a very ernest and talented young couple while demonstrating the real difference of what deep impression and a simple kiss is all about. Our young friend Rich will undoubtedly be back to print again..he got the bug!

@printertim I have to agree completely.

I am one of those new guys to the block. But it does annoy me along with other with posts such as “Hey here is my Kickstarter Campaign” to basically get free cash. Take some pride in earning and saving your money and then when you buy your press love it, oil it and learn it. I know that I’ll be learning for a long time, and one of the best ways is by reading posts on here. This hobby has become a passion of mine that I hope I am able to enjoy for years to come.

I am not a huge contributor to this site not even a small come think of it. But people put some research into your questions. Don’t be lazy and post something just because you are wondering. Research it, type it in that box on the right side of the website and hit the green button that is titled “go”

Remember people there is no such thing as a free lunch. I won’t be contributing to anything like that on KickStarter maybe if someone is starting a museum, but not for their own financial gain. Put some sweat and tears into it and the reward will be ten fold.

Rant completed. Sorry I just had to.

as a newcomer, i would like to say how grateful i am to the briarpress community. i’m doing a little different work than most of you (focusing on printing carved blocks more than typesetting), but i’ve learned a great deal from reading the discussions, and i’ve had several questions answered quickly and generously.

i’m also catching the typesetting bug. i happily stumbled into a letterpress mentor here in memphis who has been sorting out her stock and sharing with me. she also walked me through printing wedding invitations for a friend i wanted to help. thanks to all the experienced printers who are willing to share your knowledge and hard-won wisdom.


@printertim I am probably one of those people that annoy you, just bought my first press, a Windmill and am on here asking for help and learning everything I can about it from the wonderful discussions here that are only as rich as they are because of the generosity of ‘old timers’.

I am sure you were a beginner at something once, even if it wasn’t printing. I have been an international advertising photographer for 25 years, I’ve taught photography on The Discovery Channel and at Yale School of Art…that is the area in which I am an ‘old timer’, where I get to help beginners with their silly questions and misunderstandings.

I like to think that what goes around, comes around and I’m hugely grateful to those that have shown patience and shared their press knowledge with me here.

Tim if you need any help with your camera, I’m your man :-)

@mattchu: So, you might donate to a printing museum, eh? I know of one ;)

I’m glad to see some good feedback.
I wasn’t trying to post a rant, but was interested to see what people think. Obviously to each his own, some people strive for depth and other go for the kiss. I’m in no way trying to discourage people getting into letterpress, I teach classes and do plenty of consulting for people who are getting started, I just think sometimes ‘newbies’ have the idea that it’s easier than it is sometimes.
I look at it like this…I have a camera but I’m not a photographer, you know what I mean?

It’s all good, we’re just putting ink on paper…