Letterpress List No. 44: Follow Directions

So I’m directionally impaired … there was no need for Mary to start cursing.

“You don’t know where the (bad word) you are, do you?”

We were brand new to Baltimore, meaning we’d moved there five or six years before. Hey, in Baltimore, that is brand new. And it takes Shop Boy a little time to get used to his surroundings.

Like when we lived in Denver, Mary would get frustrated with me when I’d get turned around. (This was basically whenever I got behind the wheel.) “The mountains are west, Shop Boy. Just look at the mountains!

This helped a bunch amid the glass towers of downtown.

Somehow I just don’t learn directions as well by driving — something about watching the road or whatever. Walking? Now there you go. I could tell Mary more about Denver’s 16th Street pedestrian mall than she could stand to hear: “Oh, that restaurant? It’s at 16th and Arapahoe. When you see a red awning, you’re close. Look for the bent street sign, an odd metal sculpture — the sidewalk bricks get a little slippery if they’ve just hosed them down — and probably a bunch of skateboarders hanging out near where the shuttle bus goes by, and you’ve found it.”


But put Shop Boy in a car, and sometimes I forget my place.

True story: Our friends Jen Delaney and Martin Fogarty were in Baltimore for the day and Martin allowed as how he’d been watching Barry Levinson movies recently — you know, Tin Men, Diner, Avalon, Liberty Heights — and would love to see the Baltimore spots featured in the local boy’s movies.

So with Mary at the wheel and Shop Boy in the navigator’s seat, we headed out. “Can you point out where we are on the map?” Martin asked from the back seat. Shop Boy pointed toward the general area at the northwestern section of the map. A few moments later, Martin asked again, and Shop Boy gave a general indication that we were somewhere on the right-hand page. A few moments later, an agitated Martin asked again for Shop Boy to pinpoint on the map exactly where we were.

A few moments later, Shop Boy was in the back seat and Martin was our navigator.


Why didn’t Martin just say at the outset that he’s a map freak. That, as a brainy kid on a farm in Ireland, he’d send away to travel and cruise companies for info on exotic vacations, just so they’d send him maps. In seconds flat, he was all over Levinson’s favorite spots. Apparently, you could drop this dude in Outer Mongolia, hand him a compass and a pencil — OK, and a Guinness — and he could map the way home quicker than Shop Boy could say, “Where am I?” Yes, you could call that amazing.

Shop Boy calls it a parlor trick. Hmmph!

All right, I guess it’s pretty neat …

But where was I?

Lost … movies … movies are made out West … the mountains are west … Colorado … near Nebraska … Porridge Paper’s in Nebraska. Paper! We’re cutting paper!

What? Did Shop Boy lose you? Follow along, folks.

Of course we’re talking about cutting paper.

See, when you’re figuring out the bid for any printing project, a key element is how much paper you’ll need. Few of us small letterpress shops have the storage space to warehouse all the paper we use, so we buy it in batches to fit the job. It’s often so expensive that you want to know exactly how many sheets of paper you’ll need. Well, to find that number, you need to figure out — for instance — how many 4.5″ X 6″ pieces can be cut from a single 22″ X 34″ parent sheet.

Which way does the grain go? Also key, as this can influence impression and, especially, scoring if you’ve got a fold. Which is the “factory” edge, a side that you can use as your “straight” measure? Since Porridge is handmade paper, you might need to create your own “straight” edge somehow. And how many sheets can/should you cut at once? If the paper’s soft, you might need to use extra chip board to prevent crush marks from the cutter’s clamp. And which cut should be first? Don’t forget to figure in a few extra pieces for make-ready if the registration’s tricky.

OK, then. The grain’s running east-west on a 22″ X 34″ rough-edged parent sheet. How can you carve out the most 4.5″ X 6″ cards with the least waste? Which cut is first? And how many parent sheets will you need to print 175 cards, with 25 left over as samples?

Don’t ask Shop Boy. He’s still trying to make heads or tails of Mary’s, um, road map. Check this out:

Let’s see Martin find his way using that.


Letterpress List No. 44

Hey, before we get to the list, a quick update on Artscape weekend 2008. First off, it was full, screaming hot and humid. (Told you.) Low point: Chub didn’t show with the Heaven and Hell art car. (Maybe it melted on the way.) Musical high point: Joan Jett. (The theme to the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Wow!) Most important point: Mary had a good time. OK, Shop Boy, too.

Now, how about an hour of music to get lost in or to simply help you regain your cool? Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy or great video links are to YouTube.

StandR.E.M. (Now face west … which is, um, that way, I think.)
Turn This Car Around Tom Petty (I’m going back.)
Terminus EldoradoTed Nugent (No control of the sitchy-ation.)
Drive AwayHalfcocked (The fuzzy dice sway to the time you’re making.)
SummerlandEverclear (Just a name on the map …)
Heading Out to the HighwayJudas Priest (Nothing to lose … except your way.)
Must of Got LostJ. Geils Band (Maybe once or twice.)
The Devil’s in My Carthe B-52s (And she’s dropping F-bombs.)
BaltimoreNina Simone (It’s hard. Couldn’t find a link to her version. Here’s the author’s.)
The Mountains Win AgainBlues Traveler (They never move, Shop Boy.)
King of the RoadRoger Miller (When I’m walking.)
Walk This WayAerosmith (And look for the stop sign with the bullet hole in the lower left corner.)
Which Way Is Up Stargard (That I’ve got.)
VertigoU2 (Most of the time, that is.)
Long Walk Back to San AntoneJunior Brown (Don’t accept rides from strangers.)
Ridin’ With James DeanJoan Jett (One wrong turn.)
Do You Know the Way to San Jose?Dionne Warwick (Hang a left at Baltimore. You can’t miss it.)

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