And this thingy is called … the whatchamacallit

Show-and-tell was going poorly.

Oh, not for Mary. She had a tour group of 16 students from a summer letterpress course at the Maryland Institute College of Art eating out of her hand. Kid’s got the gift of gab.

Shop Boy? He spent most of the visit hiding out in the secondary studio, organizing flat file drawers or something — anything rather than face a crowd of bright young artist types. Then came the knock at the door.

See, Typecast Press is actually two large studio spaces down the hall from one another in the Fox Industries Building — known to locals of a certain vintage as “the Noxema Building,” as it was the birthplace of the stuff. One of our spaces was the office of the president of Noxema. Chris Hartlove’s half of the studio was the secretary’s office. Our side houses the Vandercooks, a Chandler & Price 8×12, an imposing stone, tray cases, the platemaker and the computer. It’s the nerve center of our little slice of what buddy Bruce Baggan of North American Millwright likes to call the “Wacky Subculture of Letterpress.”

The secondary space is a big lug of a room that houses, you guessed it, the big lugs of our press corps — the Miehle Vertical, the Heidelberg windmill, the hydraulic paper cutter, an antique, hand-cranked guillotine (ooof!) and the old C&P 12×18. By the way, not only were we lucky to know Chris Hartlove and painter/illustrator Andy Snair (previous tenant of the Lug Room), but we were very lucky to have landed on the side of the factory built atop concrete. Otherwise, with all this tonnage, we’d be in the basement by now.

OK. So when Kyle Van Horn of MICA and his 16 students arrived at the secondary space, there was no place for Shop Boy to hide. Oh, I’m getting better at the public speaking thing, but let’s just say there’s room to grow. Not in the crowded secondary space, unfortunately, which left Mary on one side of the student group and Shop Boy on the other. Mary thought it’d be fun to let the visitors hear the difference between the C&P 8×12 in the other room — a creampuff, let me tell you — and its lumbering big brother on this side of the hall. Shop Boy turned “Big Boy” on and the old 12×18 graciously did its thing, geezing and wheezing, clanking and clattering through its paces. No music list today, but to quote Bruce Springsteen: “You ain’t a beauty but, hey, you’re all right.”

Now for some real noise, Shop Boy decided to fire up the cutter, a Chandler & Price dynamo that has sliced a ton of time off Typecast Press’ paper-chopping duties. But not only does running it require the high-pitched whine and hum of a three-phase electricity converter, but the cutter’s no shy flower itself. Shop Boy popped the switch and decided to give an impromptu demonstration.

The cutter decided not to.

Like a stubborn mule, it stood there while Shop Boy sweated and stammered. By the time I’d coaxed a full cut out of the stinker, most of the crowd had moved on, better entertained by Mary’s stories of great and/or crazy old-time printers.

In Shop Boy’s defense, the cutter really is Mary’s baby. But you’d think I’d have picked up something by osmosis as I held the ends of all those big paper sheets. Clutch right, lever down. Like that’s so hard?

Shop Boy was still muttering as the class filed out. I waved glumly and wished them luck.

Afterward, Mary said that the tour had gone well, that the students seemed to have gotten something out of it, which you hope and pray for, after all. She agreed that maybe the cutter thing hadn’t been seamless and offered that maybe it and I should spend a little more quality time together. Hmmph.

Then she said that Shop Boy should take a greater role in these tours. (We’ve done several — there are lots of art and printmaking students in Baltimore. And who doesn’t love letterpress?!?!) It should be clear by now that we consider having a fun space to work and hang out a pretty key part of the Typecast Press experience. Anyway, Mary’s decided that future tours will include Shop Boy taking the lead in the Lug Room.

The lines are forming right now, eh?

Oh, I know the stuff: The ages — and weights … ugh! — of the presses, how they work, what they were mainly used for and how we came to own them. So do you if you, ahem, follow this blog. It’s just that, sometimes under pressure, the knowledge won’t drop from Shop Boy’s brain to his mouth. Like the cutter’s blade, you know?

Anyway, tour groups are nothing: Mary’s also talking about Shop Boy as a letterpress INSTRUCTOR.

Hey!

Wait!

Come back …

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One Response to “And this thingy is called … the whatchamacallit”

  1. kvh Says:

    Ha! I made the blog!!

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