Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Blue Press

Well, not sure yet really what I'm going to do with this thing but this afternoon I finally got it all put together.

I did some etching and monoprints in college and again later in a few workshops and although I could spend the rest of my life working in and learning moku hanga (hand printed, water-based, woodblock prints) I miss every now and again the plate tone and scratchiness that is so inherent in those other processes and the speed with which an idea can be worked out in monotype. I need a fast and quickly rewarding alternative to the very slow process of carving and printing woodblocks. I've been looking on craigslist and Ebay for about 2 years for a used table press...I wanted something bigger than I usually work in moku hanga but not so big as to cost a fortune. I was hoping for something that would handle a full 22" X 30" sheet of paper . Several came and went. One as I was driving to Monterey to look was sold in the 1hr it took me to get there. One was in San Francisco but the owner decided in the end she really didn't want to sell it to a man. So one morning this showed up on craigslist; one 30 year-old, home-made, 33" X 44" etching press-- and it was in Pacifica, CA (about an hour away on the coast) and still $300 under the amount I had inwardly agreed to budget (squander) under the category, "Tools I really don't deserve/need/or have enough money to buy". I wrote to ask if it was still available and seconds later the owner answered amusedly as he had just posted it 30 minutes earlier! Turns out he was a woodblock printer who was now in his late 60's and had just finished re-printing a suite of prints for his kids before putting away the blocks and selling the press for good. I drove up left a deposit and agreed to come back later that week with a van, a helper, a socket wrench and the rest of the money.

This was in NOVEMBER, just a few days shy of Thanksgiving. I did go up the following week with my friend and always energetic colleague K. We dismantled it; wrestled it all including the 200-300lb+ press bed in the back of his van. We got it home, threw it all in the garage and I've been looking at the dismembered parts almost daily until now thinking,
"Now what?"

So NOW it's May 1. I have a few days off and I finally just decided to stop staring at it and just mount it up in our remodeled garage. For a home made press it was pretty well thought out. It all comes apart. It all goes back together again easily with the same size bolts. It's 30 years old and a little bit off-kilter but I greased it all up and it seems to be serviceable. The steel bed had been in storage for about 10yrs and doesn't appear warped. The previous user made another bed out of a solid-core door that is 33" X 72" that he used most of the time. That's still tucked away in the shed. It came with blankets and a plastic/acrylic pusher for woodcuts.

Hmmm. Now what. I have some ideas bouncing about in my head that I'm anxious to try out and will be looking for some free days to start experimenting but I better get cracking. I'm going to have to produce something to justify this.


  1. Congrats on your blue press!it will be fun to see what you do with it. And LOL the SF woman didn't want to sell her press to a man!??

  2. I also have one of these staring at me every day. And I also could spend the rest of my life exploring moku hanga but I keep thinking about how I can combine moku hanga with dry point or monoprint. It will be interesting and exciting to experiment, eh?
    Linda Beeman

  3. Happy Printing!!!
    Just play and it will all come together.

  4. Sweet press. Look forward to seeing what happens.

  5. It looks a good press. Happy printing

  6. I love the "Blue Press" title. Have you named the thing yet? I found that once I give inanimate objects a name, I feel obliged to "play" with them once in a while, just so they don't get mad at me when I need them.

  7. It will probably remain simply, "the big blue press" unless, in keeping with my "Toadprint" print venture maybe it will be "Bluebottle".

    I'll post some pics of the first workings of it but first I have some hand printing to get done.

  8. I've been looking for a press for 6 months now that I can no avail :( this is exactly the type i've been looking for...wish I could calibrate and have a machinist make me one but thats very difficult. Congrats on your find and happy printing! If anyone has some leads feel free to email me...Boston area
    $500 is budget (lol)