Letterpress List No. 14: Mechanical Bull

“Don’t send your readers to the dictionary. It’s much more fascinating and better written. They’ll never come back.”

This is advice that Shop Boy, in his other life as an editor, has half-jokingly offered writers inclined to use big words or foreign phrases simply because they think it makes them sound smarter. You know: deus ex machina or bildungsroman. It’s no shock, really, to find that in Webster’s New World College Dictionary, “bildungsroman” — Shop Boy’s, ahem, personal bete noire — is followed by the word “bile.” You can look it up. No, wait … don’t go!

Oh, and be concise. “Unlike me, your readers aren’t getting paid to slog through this.” Mr. Old School has committed that sin himself a few times in this space, I know.

Now, I also know that this is just a silly blog. But if you’re going to write something — even for fun — you might as well make it understandable.

So before we get any farther along here, let’s begin to assemble a glossary of cool and goofy terms that stray readers and those who — gulp! — actually visit this space on purpose are likely to bump into. Believe me, Shop Boy was unaware of 90 percent of these words and concepts about two years ago. Mary, of course, has long been fluent, having stalked a few of the letterpress experts into the Witness Protection Program and having scoured books and the Web. (She also uses too many big words, so nyah, smartypants.)

Just a few to get us going …

Imposing Stone: This is the aptly named station where the Old Masters of composition, the final step before putting ink to paper, did their thing. First off, it is imposing. It took six movers just to lift the top of ours. Its steel surface is buffed to a perfect flatness, kind of like a riverbed pebble smoothed by the current. This is so type — and thus the impression it makes — remains perfectly level. The base is a wooden cabinet with drawers, trays and slots for thousands of bits of wood furniture. I know, because I cleaned each wooden bit by hand. The guys who worked on it were Stone Men. (Wow. Shop Boy is hoping his apprenticeship can lead to a title like that some day.)

Chase: The metal frame that holds in place whatever form you’ll be printing on the press. The bigger the press, the heavier the chase. Then you add the lead. The Shop Boy Workout Video is available for $19.99.

Hernia: See above.

Furniture: The wood or metal pieces — like honking Legos or Lincoln Logs — that surround and support your form in the chase.

Quoins: Metal locks that expand to tighten everything up, keeping the form and the furniture from falling out of the chase as you carry it toward the press.

Pied type: What you get if you don’t correctly lock the form into the chase. Also known as “$#@%&*!” — not just because of the jumble of metal type characters that results but also because it probably all just fell on your foot.

“$#@%&*!”: Also your supervisor’s response to delays caused by pied type.

Loupe: A sort of magnifying glass used by Mary, once the form is reassembled and the first proofs are made, to find and obsess over ink coverage issues.

Creature: Cool speaker setup from JBL that turns your iPod … OK, or other MP3 players (heathen!) into a full stereo.


Wait, did somebody mention music? Oh, it was me again. How about a few ditties with a Southern twang? What … Shop Boy can’t like any country music now? Please, hater. Besides, you have no choice in the matter. Here’s about an hour of music, country and crossover, most available in the usual places. Video links have been added if Shop Boy’s found great or goofy examples. Yes, it’s a day early, but it’d been too long between posts.

Letterpress List No. 14: Mechanical Bull

La GrangeZZ Top (“Uh, you know what I’m talkin’ about.” Not really, but you rock! And a-how-how-how.)
Go Walking Down ThereChris Isaak (Yeah, he’s soooo lonely.)
Let ‘Er Ripthe Dixie Chicks (Don’t let the door hit you in the butt.)
Blame the VainDwight Yoakam (Finger-pointing at the mirror.)
Wichita LinemanGlen Campbell/Freedy Johnston/Dwight Yoakam/REM, etc. Shop Boy had no idea the effect this song had on women, or he’d have embraced it much earlier.)
Pony Kasey Chambers (Just because. By the way, don’t let this song fool you. Mary and Shop Boy have seen Kasey in concert a few times. That voice is a WMD.)
Liquored Up, Lacquered DownSouthern Culture on the Skids (A new role model for Mary.)
Four Kicks Kings of Leon (These Southern boys been pumpin’ too much AC/DC. Cool song, though.)
Beer RunGarth Brooks/George Jones (Can’t stop thinkin’ what the hell they were drinkin’ when they made this county dry …”)
Crawling From the WreckageDave Edmunds (Too fast, too drunk, too habitually. OK, I know he’s British, but rockabilly’s close enough.)
Gimme Three StepsLynyrd Skynyrd (Man, all them gee-tars! Found this snippet on brainy Brian May of Queen and his awesome harmonic guitar tricks. Skynyrd didn’t need ’em.)
CowboyKid Rock (Not your Roy Rogers type.)
I’m No Angel
Gregg Allman (Honesty’s a nice place to start.)
Bleeding Fingers — Lucinda Williams (Shattered nerves, itchy skin, dirty words and heroin never sounded so … sexy.)
No Stranger to Shame
Uncle Kracker (Trading a trailer and TV dinners for a crib and a chauffeur.)
Born on the BayouCreedence Clearwater Revival (John Fogerty sounds kinda Southern, anyway.)
My Wife Thinks You’re Dead Junior Brown (The man’s flat cool.)

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