Letterpress List No. 54: Taking Turns

The problem with stopgap fixes is that they’re so … temporary, you know?

Sure, Shop Boy knew that the plastic roller trucks were only keeping their spots warm on the big C&P while we waited for brand-new Morgan Expansion Roller Trucks — or MERTs — to arrive. But they worked. I mean, once the Delrin trucks (named for the hard plastic they’re made with) were expanded by wrapping them with two layers of thick tape and putting a couple of lines of tape on the rails.

This, of course, is all to prevent the rollers from overinking the plate. You want the rollers to “kiss” your plate, not slobber ink all over it. (Same way with dating women, fellas. Shop Boy learned this late.) Naturally occurring wear on your rails means more slobber, less subtlety. That’s why MERTs are so cool. These roller trucks can be cranked one way or another to “inflate” or “deflate” them a hair. Almost like a bicycle tire. No tape.

Now, most of us tape the rails of these old machines. That’s no sweat. But getting tape around a Delrin truck — when any discernible seam means the truck bounces rather than glides along — is a real pain. In fact, Shop Boy lets Mary do it. What else does she have to worry about, right?


So, after we’d worked successfully with the Delrins for a period, the new MERTs arrived and it was time to make the swap. The Delrins were getting gunky from solvents and inks seeping beneath the tape. And they’d gotten the rail tape gunky, too, meaning the press ran with a sort of squish-squish, squish-squish sound. Didn’t bother Shop Boy much but drove Mary crazy. So we took a vote.

Final tally: 1 to “you don’t get a vote, Shop Boy.”

The voter had spoken. Shop Boy set about removing the big C&P’s rollers, then popped the Delrins off the ends for cleaning later. Mary pulled the MERTs from a box that rather appropriately looked to be 75 years old. But the trucks were new, and perfectly “flat.”

At the bottom of the box lay a wrench specially designed to fit the nut at one end of the MERT and to also provide absolutely no leverage to the inflater. Oh, the first few turns are a snap. But we needed these things just about full out, and soon there was just no turning the mechanism.

Shop Boy grabbed a rubber glove for extra grip and tried that. Good for a turn or two, but nowhere near filling the jaws of the micrometer, set by Mary using the gunky Delrins. I set one MERT on the end of a spare set of rollers so it was held in place, grabbed the roller, turned the wrench and … tore the roller to shreads. “That’s close,” Mary said. “A couple more turns.”

Shop Boy was flat gassed at this point. On roller truck No. 1 of six.

Mary: “What I’ve found is if you do a couple of the trucks at a time — you know, until your arms are exhausted — then wait a couple of hours, your strength comes back.”

Shop Boy: “(Inaudible.)”

The rat. Some time before, Shop Boy had cranked the MERTs for the little C&P to within one micro-Mashburn (a unit of length visible only to Mary) of the necessary size, she ran them over the press a while, they loosened up and she managed to goose one more turn out of them. Ooh.

Anyway, Shop Boy’s still waiting for his arm strength to return.

But Typecast Press could not wait any longer to put the big C&P back to work. So, I cleaned the Delrins, Mary retaped them and back on they went.

The great thing about stopgap fixes? You can make them again and again and again.


Letterpress List No. 54

How about an hour’s worth of music to, oh, I don’t know, wait for the feeling to return to your arms — or tape a Delrin truck — by. (Oh, Shop Boy should mention that Mary’s looking into purchasing some sort of tool specially designed to inflate MERTs without wrenching your wrists or ego. Hey, I’m not proud. As far as Shop Boy’s concerned, the family crest can be a white square on a white flag. Just kind of wondering why she didn’t mention this tool before …) Most of these tunes should be available at the usual places. Goofy and great videos are from YouTube.

Tape YouN.E.R.D. (Naughty, naughty.)
Turn, Turn, TurnThe Byrds (Then turn some more.)
Monkey WrenchFoo Fighters (It ain’t the tools. It’s the hand that guides them.)
Round and RoundRatt (Give it time.)
StrongmanLuscious Jackson (Hmmm.)
SchismTool (A bit overinflated, but interesting.)
Every Which Way But LooseEddie Rabbitt (What’s he doing inside Shop Boy’s brain? It was from a pretty cool movie, I guess.)
I TryMacy Gray (It’s no use.)
White FlagDido (Run it up the flag pole and see me salute.)
SurrenderCheap Trick (And blame the manufacturer.)
I’m So TiredLil Wayne (Blowing up huge … somehow.)
Hold On I’m ComingB.B. King and Eric Clapton (Mary says Clapton is unworthy to share the stage with The Man.)
Don’t Turn AroundAce of Bass (We turned around, and Ace of Bass was gone. Poof. A couple of guilty pleasure songs are all that were left behind.)
Tumbling DiceRolling Stones (Got to roll me.)
I Don’t Mind the PainGlenn Danzig (Great, because Shop Boy could use a little help here, big fella.)
Battle Is Over But the War Goes On Levon Helm (The MERTs aren’t going anywhere, and neither is Shop Boy. We shall meet again.)
TemporaryParamore (But it’s working fine so far.)
WonderwallOasis (You know how, with some groups, you hate every single song but one? This band’s different. The next Beatles? Ho-ho, ha-ha. But the song title fit.)

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