About Time

Hey, I’m no fortune teller, but every once in a while, Shop Boy can see into the future.

Usually it happens at about 6 p.m., after Mary and Shop Boy have been at the Typecast Press printshop for eight hours or so. Quitting time, right? Uh-oh. We’re up against a deadline … say a wedding invitation that’s to be delivered by morning. Mary’s fighting with the ink, the puddle of muck growing on the ink plate as she mixes in a little of this (nope), that (nope), this (almost) and …

Shop Boy’s waiting to feed the Chandler & Price 12×18, anticipating slowing the press way down to deal with a wonky feed — warped paper has been jumping the gauge pins a lot more often these days, thanks to a bucket of Baltimore humidity.

A flash hits me. Actually, it’s more of a sinking feeling. But the future appears before my eyes:

I see a darkness … Two people, one with a limp … A lone car exiting an empty parking lot.

Yes. We are going to be here all night. Again.

Dang.

Take the weekend I mentioned in my previous post, for instance. (Go ahead. I don’t want it anymore. Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk.) Friday: 9 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Saturday: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday: 10 a.m.-1:30 a.m.

Shop Boy had clown feet by the end of this. Seriously.

Mary? Frustrated, but fresh as a daisy. And she did most of the work. But that’s part of the problem. See, while she focused, buckled down and untangled things, Shop Boy busied himself with carrying heavy stuff from room to room, cleaning the machines and … um … I don’t know, things like, um, going for food, practicing his golf/baseball/tennis swing, singing along to the radio, checking the baseball scores on the computer and, uh, kinda standing around, mostly.

Exhausting!

Don’t get me wrong. Mary’s good at this stuff, and she keeps getting better with practice. It’s her shop. Shop Boy’s still sort of the weekend/vacation help. Willing and helpful help, but … I can imagine a guest observing certain parts of the process and asking Shop Boy: “What exactly do you do here, little man?”

Hey, I’ve got a full-time job in, ahem, Washington, D.C. And Mary’s too busy right now to teach some knucklehead the ropes.

Which is why Shop Boy, in an odd rush of initiative, decided to take matters into his own hands.

If you’ve visited this blog before, you know that Shop Boy has never claimed to be a master printer or anything. That’s Mary’s gig. But I’ve been doing a lot of watching. And with Mary slammed by design work, I needed to, in her words, “man up” (she’s way too fond of the movie Training Day) and take a project from start to finish. That Woodberry Kitchen needed a fresh supply of menus seemed the perfect excuse.

Oh, I’ve told you about this deal. Typecast Press prints the shell of the Woodberry Kitchen menu, two colors. We then hand these off to restaurant co-owner Amy Gjerde, who types the constantly evolving inspirations of hubby/co-owner/chef Spike onto a computerized form created by Mary. Amy then feeds the shells through a large copier and … let’s eat. Thank goodness the paper and ink are “green,” because Spike trips over a stalk of rhubarb and gets 25 new ideas — rhubarb in appetizers, main dishes, desserts and, yep, cocktails — and the old menu’s cooked. Dude’s a mad genius.

So Mary casually mentions one day that Shop Boy cooks his own peanuts. (Mary’s dad, Wayne Mashburn, has them shipped raw from Virginia as a gift every now and then.) Spike’s eyes light up, and we go running to the studio.

This day, though, Mary had to stay put at the home office.

Shop Boy was nervous. Mary had just finished a scoring job — creating a fold by pressing a crease into the paper — and had left the rollers off the big C&P. (The metal scoring rules can slice the rubber of the rollers. How does Shop Boy know this? Don’t ask.) Can’t blame Mary for not wanting to mess with the rollers. Because of previous damage and plain old age, the 12X18 is a cranky bugger. Never more so than when you touch its rollers. This is the machine that once threw its lower roller into Shop Boy’s gut as we were printing one of our first jobs together. Ornery.

But Shop Boy is, too, if you “slip” repeatedly and snap a few of his bare fingers between your metal pieces. Mary’s got no sympathy here: “Use your gloves! That’s what they’re for.” But I find protective gloves too clumsy for roller changes. The process went about as well as expected, though. One slightly purple fingernail but no blood.

The tympan also needed changing, again the result of scoring. Yes, you pros do this once a week or more. But Mary’s a bit, shall we say, persnickety about the tympan. If she’s printing on it, she’s setting it up. So this would be Shop Boy’s first “diaper change,” as I call it. So, I pulled a fresh sheet of tympan — the oily/waxy paper that holds your gauge pins and whatever packing and make-ready you’re using on the press bed — then replaced the scoring rules in the chase with a boxcar base.

Now, here’s a little trick that a few of you might not know about (OK, maybe Shop Boy was the last to know … but whatever):

It’s easy to damage a boxcar base, or whatever steel base you’re using to hold polymer plates. You can dent it with the grippers, you can scratch it up with the gauge pins, and the impression’s uneven for the rest of its days. So you need to know exactly where base and tympan come together.

OK, find an old polymer plate that features a box border. Snip the corners from the old plate so they look something like this: > Now stick them to the four corners of the base, load the chase into the press, put the press on impression and bring base and tympan together (ink optional). Afterward, the tympan should be marked where the polymer corners hit it. With a pencil and a ruler, draw the outline of the base.

This is also handy for adjusting the — gulp! — platen, since you can tell by the depth of the corner impressions whether the plate is hitting the tympan evenly.

(Geez, Shop Boy’s just brimming with helpful hints today!)

Anyway, I set the gauge pins, put the first menu plate on the base, inked the press and off we went. Then, with the help of a printed sheet, Shop Boy registered the second color, cleaned and re-inked the press and finished the job.

It felt amazing. My first solo!

I called Mary to tell her of my success, wondering aloud if we needed to change the name of this blog to reflect my, you know, new, important role at Typecast Press.

She laughed (a little too long and hard, if you ask me).

“Don’t quit your day job, Shop Boy.”

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