Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Boston Tiegel A5--a new tool enters the workshop.

Boston Tiegel (although unmarked); a hand-lever operated tabletop platen press.
I wasn't looking for another hobby or money sink but this followed me home a little over a week ago.  I took a letterpress workshop last year (with the charming and talented women of Betterpress Lab in Rome and where I later gave my moku hanga workshop). I had seen something similar to this in their printshop, so I had an idea of what it was when I saw it peeking out from behind an old armoir in the back of a local shop.
There is a business just down the street from my studio that empties out basements and attics in the neighborhood.  The bulk of the items end up for sale in a kind of used-goods shop where old clothes, books, framed posters, and all sorts of bric-a-brac come and go on a daily basis.  Florence is an old city and people might inhabit the same apartment for 50 years so sometimes there are some old and interesting things.  The other day I was walking by and I saw this WAY in the back.....you'll have to look hard to see it--look at the blue rungs of the ladder, then down....(sorry about the blurry foto).

I went back the next day and it was still buried but I could get a closer look.  The owner said he'd let me have it for a great price and he threw out a figure that was low enough to be worth investigating. (He knows I'm American, and that usually means higher prices than if I looked or spoke like a local). 
It was clearly a platen press with a curved lever for manual printing of moveable type.  The shopkeeper couldn't say much about it other than it came from a bookbinder's house, that it was working, and "had a german name..".
I made plans to come back the following day with a tape measure and I went online to try to figure out exactly what it was. This listing on Briarpress helped a lot: http://www.briarpress.org/23429 as it had a very similar press (but with a nameplate) and an asking price 10x greater than this was likely to cost. Further research confirmed that in the US prices for these hard-to-find, and portable machines were similar, and climbing.
So, the NEXT day, I went back (clues already that I was likely to be interested).
We pulled it out to the street and I looked it over. It was intact. The lever works and the rollers were in decent shape. No cracks in the cast iron, and linotype and spacers still locked in the chase from the last printing session.  It did indeed have the words "Boston" on it, but they were written on a piece of masking tape, with a magic marker--no other serial nos. or manufacturers identifications that I could see.  The deal was sealed when I measured the chase. It was a good 7"x10"...still pretty small, this will just print an A4 sheet folded in half, but as big as many of the prints I do and if I use it to add text to my woodblock prints I can print on a larger sheet than the chase would otherwise allow.
He wouldn't haggle, but I had already decided that the price was fair for a used machine, and he agreed to help me get it to my studio, and said he'd look through the other stuff that came out of the house for a quoin key or any type (but "no promises")--so we loaded it into the back of his APE and he drove around the block while I went to open the doors and move things out of the way.
For a tabletop press it was still VERY heavy.It took 3 of us to carry it down the narrow hall and it now sits on my carpenter's bench.
I cleaned off the worst of the dust and oiled the rollers and a few of the moving parts.
I inked the linotype locked in the chase and pulled a couple of rough impressions.
This says,  "Abruzzo--Hiking path from Block house leading to the fountain just before the Cavone cave/grotto. 2100m above sea level.  9 July 1977."

I'm not sure if the date indicates the date of the photo this was a caption to, or represents the date of the last time this was used. 

It has no label anywhere, but from my search of the web and letterpress sites, it's a German-made, Boston Tiegel (Boston refers to the clamshell-type mechanism).  It's a sturdy, well-made, machine and has an A5 chase with an opening about 19cm x 25cm (7"x10").  It's meant to be hand-fed, but has a system for self-inking and was designed for small print runs of items like business cards, postcards and small displays.

Now I need to find a Quoin key (for releasing what's locked in the chase), take it apart for a good cleaning and oiling, find some used letterpress, moveable type and additional spacers and then I have to figure out what I'm going to do with it.

As a friend in Rome said, "can you produce something that will have a value to justify the purchase of the machine and the supplies you'll need to set it up and use it?" Good Question.
I will probably use it to add type to my woodblock prints (which up to now I have been hand carving) and the small artist book I've been thinking about making will now have a greater likelihood of being made.
At the worst, it's a beautiful thing, like many machines of the early industrial age, and I know that once it's been cleaned and oiled, I could resell it and recover my financial investment easily.
But first, I need to find the WD-40 and a rag.
And then, I need to go find some type.
Oh, and while the shopkeeper wouldn't budge on the selling price, he did throw in this charming pair of toast caddies, that are now in my studio and being repurposed as small print displays.

Saturday, January 9, 2016


Mandrills mean bright, bold, colors.
I am participating again this year in the 2016 Baren Forum's Chinese Zodiac Artist print exchange. 
2016 is a Monkey year, according to the Chinese calendar and I'm busy thinking about what I can do this year that would be something worth spending time to carve, print, send and receive.  Last year I did a black and white wood engraving so this year I'd like to do another moku hanga, color print.

I'm not into the astrology aspect at all and I don't really spend much time with the supposed traits and attributes that each animal year is supposed to bestow on people born in a given animal year......
But I like drawing and printing animals and as a chronic procrastinator, the fact that the Asian New Year is in February.

So, I'm drawing monkeys and apes.....
I have a bunch of conflicting ideas....and my final choice of subject will have to be translated into a number of blocks and colors once I decide if I want simple and subtle----or bold and dramatic.



Monday, January 4, 2016

End Of Year, Odds and Ends.

 I'm still dealing with some unfinished, 2015 end-of-year odds and ends. I "finished" this print this summer. But I only actually printed a few-- I think I have 5 good copies plus a couple of variants out of a still-to-be-printed edition of 30.   So, over a month ago, I started an actual edition, but I got half way through it and had to leave them so I stashed the partially printed prints, damp pack and all, into the freezer. 
Well, Christmas and New Years have come and gone and my frozen damp pack has been jostled by frozen fish and fowl, tortellini, leftover soup and sweet breads and cakes.

So New Year's Day, my first resolution was to get this thing done so I can move on to the next project(s).

I think there are probably 30-40 in the damp pack. 28 or so on good Japanese Kozo (the same as the first 2 I printed in August), there are a few on Rives Heavyweight and a Few on Magnani or Fabriano (to see how it prints on European papers) and a couple on my home-sized, Japanese papers.....

I've printed this week the shadows (I print them first so that when I print the body color it will flatten them out as I don't want the shadows to be in relief). 
Today I printed the first color pass of the torso/skin color.  It's a yellow/pink and I add a red flush bokashi to the neck and shoulder.  It will need a second pass, to even it out and add another bokashi to the shoulder and neck but not until the rest of the colors go down.

Next up is the strong magenta horizontal stripes to the blouse. This is the strongest color in the print and the final colors will have to go down after, so I can adjust the strength of the background and the skin colors to it....then there's one more hair block......and then the chop.

SO....it looks like as of tonight, I still have at least 4-5 colors to go on this "Finished" print of 2015.
--Sign and number my Mantis engraving (I've printed 30 of the 100 total I hope to print) so there's that too.
--Sign and number my Chestnut/Autumn Treasures woodblock print.
--Finish making a few portfolio folders for a bunch of loose prints so I can get them organized and put away. 


I've promised myself that I won't start carving or printing anything new (Monkeys, engravings, moku hanga, etc.) until  (most?) of this is done--although I have been busy, I've been fleshing out a few print ideas both for engravings and woodblock works and I feel a collagraph coming on too.....