400-Pound Toaster

Oh, it’s a beauty. Chrome for days. Shop Boy can check his hair in the reflection. All sorts of neat drawer trays and dials. Just a great set of wheels. It rolls smoothly anywhere you want it to go. And it’s perfect for gathering dust and storing empty boxes on top of.

Meet our Jet platemaker, the next hairpin in the Typecast Press series of learning curves. Once operational, it will allow us to make our own polymer dies: plastic forms that adhere to a specially cut metal base to make them type high. When the job’s finished, the forms pull right off for easy, flat storage. Currently, we send out for the polymer dies, which gets pricey if you’re working on tight deadlines and constantly have to pay for “rush” shipping. And if you happen to notice a typo on an arriving plate (which has happened, through no fault of Mary’s), the fix is a couple of business days away. Magnesium- and copper-on-wood dies are much more cool to look at, of course, but they can be less precise, their production is more harmful to the environment and they take up a lot of storage space.

Here, basically, is how the Jet will work: Mary creates a design on the computer and e-mails the file to a company that will output it as film, or a negative of her work. The negative is set atop a polymer plate, which is then exposed to light. Simple tap water and scrub brushes dissolve anything not touched by light. It bakes a while, and there’s your form, ready to print with.

Anyhow, we bought the Jet second-hand from a guy in Denver, Rob Barnes, who’d upgraded. Rob’s shop is like a Hollywood set. In fact, his brother does set designs in another part of the building — both mammoth and intricate — for upscale parties. The place has a martini bar. Ghosts, too. Rob’s seen them. Soldier-type dudes, full uniform and such. His place sits on the grounds of an old West fort. They’re restless … or maybe just thirsty.

So, the Jet landed on Typecast Press‘ doorstep aboard a pallet, mummified in plastic wrap, and needed to go up one story and down the hall to the printshop. Now, Shop Boy is no rocket scientist, but he knows enough about physics to realize that Mary and he had no shot of accomplishing this. Down at the building’s main loading dock, we noticed a guy working a forklift. It couldn’t hurt to ask. He agreed to help, though we’d have to figure out how to get the steel-wheeled forklift over a curb and up a rutted gravel incline to our loading dock.

Well, sooner than you can say, “Don’t ask Shop Boy how best to do this,” the forklift was hung up on the curb, having collapsed the two-by-fours Shop Boy had set up as a ramp. Yes, in retrospect he maybe should have foreseen several tons of forklift and platemaker crushing pine board to splinters. But hindsight’s 20/20 and it’s rude of you to bring it up.

At this point, we got lucky. Despite the fact that he’d listened to me, it turned out our forklift guy was smart, and he was eventually able to wiggle the machine free, so our landlord would not have to hire a crane to fix the new tenants’ mess.

Still, we were no closer to getting this puppy inside. By now the forklift guy had bought into the project and was stubbornly insisting that we could muscle the Jet up the stairs. He got a burly volunteer and the three of us — Mary couldn’t watch — boosted the unit step by step up the 13 stairs. These guys were unreal. Shop Boy pretty much just steered from above. Boom, zoom, it was inside the printshop.

The operating instructions were not. Ghosts!

And so there it has sat. Shop Boy will bore you sometime with the details of how, exactly, it took 16 months to procure the instructions. For now, know that we’ve got them, and any day, week, month or year now, we’ll find time to fire it up.

In the meantime, everybody compliments us on its shine.

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One Response to “400-Pound Toaster”

  1. Felisa Doxtator Says:

    A pal encoraged me to check out this page, great post, interesting read… keep up the nice work!

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