Letterpress List No. 35: Which Doctor?

You think you have a problem solved …

The uneven inking that has resisted your every bit of twisting, tweaking and testing is simply gone. You’re patting each other on the back for a stroke of genius and dexterity. Printing projects begin to sail right through the shop and into the hands of satisfied customers.

Ah, it’s good to have this letterpress business licked. Almost like printing money.


Then a couple of weeks later you pull a printed sheet from the press and … what in the world? And you join the humbled folks at Typecast Press in, say, unwrapping sticky, bubbled, torn, oil-and-ink-soaked tape from the rails and — ugh! — roller trucks of your Chandler & Price. And the pat on the back turns into a slap on the head for the one who — it is assumed — gummed up the works.

Shop Boy claimed ignorance.

Mary seconded the motion.

And then we got to cleaning the rails and trucks and reapplying the tape. See, just one or two layers of tape can mean the difference between the rollers being too close to the form and sitting at just the right height. If they’re tight, the ink is mushed all over the form rather than spread evenly across it. This creates a kind of smear, or “slur,” on the printed materials. It can look pretty cool sometimes, in Shop Boy’s opinion, but it drives Mary ba-zonkers. And nobody’s going home until she’s soothed and satisfied. Them’s the rules.

The whole hero-to-zero thing sort of reminded me of a visit I had one time with an eye doctor.

See, though he reads for a living, Shop Boy’s alter ego had never had problems with his eyes. But since his company plan offered a free eye checkup once a year, why not? (A health benefit … remember them? Don’t worry if you can’t. It’s been a while.)

Anyway, the doctor pointed toward a chart and asked which rows of letters — you know … large at the top, smaller and smaller toward the bottom — I could read clearly.

All of them.

Then Shop Boy read him the ID number at the bottom of his badge. (He was standing across the room.)

“Today you can, Eagle Eyes,” he said snippily, apparently not overjoyed to learn of my visual good fortune. “People who have eyes like yours … you think you’ll see that well forever. Then, one of these days, bang, it all goes. And once you turn 40, it goes even faster.”

The dude was offended or something. And after he’d finally finished laying it on about my impending blindness, Shop Boy left the medical center convinced that he couldn’t read that sign a mile down the road after all. Mary told me to calm down and shake it off, that even if I lost a little vision, I’d still see better than 85 percent of the population. OK, she was right.

But so, eventually, was he. (I’m not ruling out the possible existence of a Shop Boy voodoo doll in his medical bag. Ouch.)

Because years later, standing by the C&P, prepping strips of tape for the trucks — the rollers on the 12×18 can be such a bear to get off, we just tape the trucks in place — a squinting Shop Boy was completely unable to find and separate a corner of the stinking tape from its non-stick backing. Mary, who’s worn eyeglasses all her life, had to do them all herself.

As we’ve seen time and again, that might be for the best.

Letterpress List No. 35

How about an hour’s worth of music to clean rollers by (without getting the corn oil/ink mixture all over the trucks, where it can seep beneath and buckle the tape you spent an hour applying)? Like you’ve never done that. Geez. Most of the tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy and great video links are to YouTube.

Semi-Charmed LifeThird Eye Blind (Hindsight is 20/20.)
I Can See Clearly NowJohnny Nash (Now, but maybe not tomorrow, Eagle Eyes.)
OverjoyedStevie Wonder (The green-eyed monster?)
Voodoo ChildJimi Hendrix (Stick it, doc.)
Sight for Sore EyesAerosmith (From an underrated, if muddily produced album. Tyler and Perry were a bit blurry back then, after all.)
Right Through You Alanis Morissette (You kinda hurt my feelings.)
No RainBlind Melon (Not sane.)
Jeepers CreepersLouis Armstrong (Where’d you get those eyes?)
Fortunate SonJohn Fogerty (Thanks, Dad.)
InnervisionSystem of a Down (A cluster migraine for the non-believers.)
SpectacleVelvet Revolver (Saying mean things.)
Goin’ Blind
Kiss (With and without.)
Bad Medicine
Bon Jovi (Take a pill, Shop Boy.)
Danger Zone
Kenny Loggins from movie “Top Gun” — (Yep, pilot vision, 20/10.)
Lyin’ Eyesthe Eagles (That tape corner is here someplace, darn it.)
I Can See for Milesthe Who (On good days, Shop Boy still can.)

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