‘Round the Corner

It’s the designated hitter of the printshop, the letterpress version of a baseball player who can’t do anything but hit well. Perfectly one-dimensional, by design.

Now batting for Typecast Press: Corner Making Contraption.

OK, that’s just its nickname, based on the manufacturer’s initials — Challenge Machinery Co. It cuts corners and it’s stiff and heavy. What else are you going to call it? Maybe “Jason Giambi“?

(Sorry, Yankees joke. It’s reflexive.)

This corner rounder fascinates me. Is it ugly or beautiful? The most amazing piece of machinery we’ve got — or dead weight? It’s got one very particular skill, turning sharp papers corner into a rounded edge, a whole stack at a time. (Oh, it can also scatter bits of confetti all across the floor, but is that really a skill?) It helped us turn simple peel-and-stick labels and unadorned shopping bags into classy dress-shop totes.

The Corner Making Contraption does its thing, then sits quietly until it’s needed again. In six months, we’ve used it just that once.

We bought it from Wayne Phillips of Oliver Press, yet another venerable Baltimore letterpress printer closing down his business. Can’t blame Wayne too much for wanting to leave this particular neighborhood. A drug dealer eyed us as we pulled my truck up to the building. To an outsider, the look might have seemed like suspicion. If you spend much time in the rougher parts of Baltimore, though, you know the look means, “What can I get for you?” He’d sized us up as two more white suburbanites trying to score.

Three doors down the block a house suddenly was on fire.


Baltimore’s like that: Well-to-do neighborhoods butt-to-butt with struggling ones. Mary’s working on it. She volunteers with a group called Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD). Good organization. Rob English runs the show. Hope isn’t dead.

Anyway, we got off on the wrong foot, me and the Corner Making Contraption. While loading it into the truck, Shop Boy failed to notice that the metal rods of the foot-pedal mechanism extended out the back of the thing. So, rather than sit flat, it tipped and rolled. Bruised skin … and feelings. But that’s not the machine’s fault, I suppose. It was just following a rule Shop Boy apparently wasn’t aware of: Every piece of machinery, when moved against its will — and that of gravity — must leave a mark on the mover. This can be a cut, bruise, torn muscle or broken bone. Knowing this rule now, Shop Boys realizes it could have been worse.

It could still be. The CMC is sitting there waiting for the end of the month, when I have to move the Contraption so I can paint the studio. Still, I’m hoping I can get around the bruise/cut/tear/break rule just this once.

Knock on cast iron.

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