Letterpress List No. 30: In Waves

Only Mary can take a mini-vacation to the beach and come home with a printing press … or three.

What’d the stuff do, wash ashore? Did her magnetic personality pull it away from some mermaid printing company? Is it pirate booty exposed by a storm? Did she find a bottle on the beach, set the genie free and get a wish granted? And if so, didn’t she ever hear of wishing to get money instead of wishing to, ahem, shell it out?


OK, settle down, Shop Boy. Breathe.

Dang! This was the bullet I thought we’d dodged a week ago when a letterpress dealer outbid us for the contents of a crazy old letterpress studio in a Washington, D.C., suburb, a building that needed to be demolished, pronto.

We’d been to see it. No one else had in about 15 years, since the previous owner died. His neighbors apparently hated him for building the two-story, cement-block structure (you could sort of see why) and the new owner is taking it down. The electricity has been shut off for some time, meaning it’s pitch black inside even during the day. Well, we grabbed as many flashlights as we could find — including Shop Boy’s geeky helmet light (no cameras, folks) — and went to look around.

There was a Miehle vertical older than the one we already have. No! There were two old hot-lead Intertypes. No and No! There were trays of really big, really heavy type. No! Old dies featuring designs from a book on Norwegian postal history or something. No!

Shop Boy was putting his foot down so much it was like an Irish jig.

Then there was the No. 4 in the corner, covered in mouse poop, its lowered rollers (ugh) having melted onto the steel cylinder that spreads the ink; the form in its bed glued in place by … I don’t even want to think about it; its hinges corroded; and its metal cabinet doors bent when it was apparently moved carelessly with a forklift.*

HOLY CRAP GRAIL: Typecast’s “new” Vandercook No. 4

For Mary, needless to say, it was love at first sight. And so she was very disappointed to learn on the ride home to Baltimore about missing out.

Not Shop Boy, who was relieved not to have to deal with salvaging the machines we thought worth taking: a Vandercook No. 01 tabletop press; the Vandercook No. 4 (with automatic inking — Shop Boy’s always whining about hand-cranking the ink roller on our No. 3); a rolling metal tray case; two turtles (cleverly retrofitted to hold shelves and spare rollers in the space beneath the steel top); and a bunch of old newsprint. Oh, we also liked the two C&Ps and the Ludlow (mostly used to print larger type like headlines), but had talked sense into ourselves.

Well, a few days had passed when Shop Boy’s phone rang at work. Mary was calling from the beach across the dunes from sister Melissa’s Massachusetts home. “We got the stuff. The dealer backed out!” Shop Boy was silent, stunned. “Hey, can you hear the sea?”

To Shop Boy, it sounded like a lucky break going down the drain.

*(If you are reading this and have bought or are planning to relocate a Vandercook press, DO NOT simply stick a forklift or a pallet jack under the metal cabinet and lift the machine. The base is made of a thinner steel than the top and will buckle if you don’t distribute the weight correctly. Trust Shop Boy on this one.)


Letterpress List No. 30

Here’s about an hour’s worth of music to disinfect by, or to simply let wash over you. Most tunes should be available in the usual places. Video links are to YouTube.

Mermaid Avenue the Klezmatics (Sweet, quirky old Woody Guthrie tune.)
DigMudvayne (Bury me.)
Genie in a BottleChristina Aguilera (Many a young man’s first wish.)
Money Ain’t a ThangJay-Z and Jermaine Dupri (Spending hundreds since they had small faces.)
FlashlightParliament Funkadelic (A head lamp distorts things. It fools you into thinking, for instance, that your head is clear of that beam. Ouch.)
Rainbow in the DarkRonnie James Dio (If Shop Boy plays it loud enough, it might melt the gunk.)
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea George Harrison (Hmm.)
I Got My Mind Made UpInstant Funk (Say whaaaaat?)
Never Is EnoughBarenaked Ladies (Never want to do that stuff.)
AlbatrossCorrosion of Conformity (Shop Boy’s ‘tross to bear.)
We’ve Got EverythingModest Mouse (And it’s all in need of a good cleaning.)
I Think I Smell a Rat White Stripes (OK, mice and rats can’t coexist. You’re so literal. Geez.)
What You Need INXS (These, them and those.)
Going UnderEvanescence (Gurgle, gurgle …)
My Name Is MudPrimus (I’ll make ’em shine.)
Help! — the Beatles (I do appreciate you being ’round, but please, please.)
Breathe (2 AM) Anna Nalick (Out with the bad, in with the good.)
Walking on Sunshine
Katrina and the Waves (Ah, that’s better.)

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One Response to “Letterpress List No. 30: In Waves”

  1. Ned Says:

    How, oh how do you guys find these things? Months of trawling craigslist, briar press, and ebay, and still no luck. Maybe it’s just a Maryland thing?

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