Monday, September 10, 2007

The Toolbox

Terry Fleming, one of my posse of retired printers, gave me his journeyman's toolbox last week. I almost burst into tears, overwhelmed at such a generous, thoughtful, incredibly useful and appreciated gift. I feel so honoured.

The best thing in the toolbox is the quoin key- regular readers will be familiar with my pining for this implement. It's a dream to use. Another treasure is the micrometer which is a remarkable instrument for measuring infinitesimal lengths to ensure all the printing surfaces are type high and the same height. I haven't quite got the hang of that one yet, just as I am still struggling to get comfortable and competent with the printer's rule and measuring in ems. It's a big leap from millimetres especially for a near math phobic like myself.

The Arab press is looking very flash these days, since David Golding cleaned the rollers and made a new tray. I had no idea that the rollers were actually pink and green matte rubber not shiny black from years of not being cleaned properly.

But despite all this freshening up of the platen jobber I spent the weekend on the proofing press working towards my next book: Do the Dishes. One project was proofing the longest page of text. The book's pages will be die cut into circles and I'm trying to justify the type to echo the curve of the page. It was tricky, but with Jim Morrison's expert coaching the last proof looks perfect and I will start printing the edition (of ten) on the platen next Friday.

My other weekend project was printing a background pattern for the book's cover using the upper and lowercase 'o's of about 7 different typefaces arranged in a block on a galley. I've come a long way in terms of technical skills since my previous attempts to print unlocked type on a galley. This time it was pretty much effortless to pull a good print. The idea was to evoke bubbles, but it looks more like a retro curtain design from the 1950s. Square matrices inevitably make for a grid-like pattern and there is no way to get the circles all bumping up like bubbles. But I really like how it looks and I am quite happy for a such a modernist-looking design to be on the cover of the book. Realistic bubbles might have been a bit too naff. Paper bag proof subscribers can look forward to some very groovy bags with this design on it.

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