Talking Shop

Hey, a while back, Shop Boy presented a collection of letterpress terms that he’d become familiar with, promising more as he acquired more, ahem, learning.

Like learning, for instance, that if you mishandle a grease gun, you can shoot a hole in your skin where, because of the gunk you’ve just blasted into your body, gangrene can quickly set in.

Swear to god.

And you’re going to put one of these in Shop Boy’s hands?

Anyway, it seemed like a good time — can you tell I’m trying to stall rather than face said grease gun? — to continue our little sharing exercise. You’ll notice that many of these terms have been picked up during Shop Boy’s ongoing wrestling match with the lubricant-guzzling Heidelberg Windmill. (I’ve got a special term for it that I will not share here.)

Love ya, big guy.


Knurled Knob: Refers to a “grip” pattern in metal that, when stuck in place, like on the impression stick of a Heidelberg Windmill, removes outer skin to reveal several new layers … for a more youthful appearance. It also reminds you to keep those tetanus shots up to date!

Impression Collar: It tightens, leaving an angry, red indentation on your neck as the clock ticks and your project doesn’t.

Red Ball: This is the emergency status a project acquires when your windmill press refuses to pick up the thick paper you need it to pick up, like, right now, to meet a morning deadline. Usually followed by the frantic inking up of the big C&P.

Kerning: This is the space between letters, which affects the readability and the “fit” of a line of type. Now adjusted with the push of a button on your computer, it once was quite a physical challenge for typesetters. The term also refers to using your tongue to try hopelessly to free the stuck kernel of microwave popcorn from your teeth rather than use your lead-dusted fingers.

Ligature: This is automatic kerning done at the foundry between two or more letters that would otherwise, because of typeface issues, fit together awkwardly — ff, fl, or even ffi, for instance. These letters are molded to become one perfectly kerned piece of lead. It’s also the type of injury that can occur when you drop a tray of lead type on your foot.

Learning Curve: This refers to a spot at the back of the Heidelberg shaped so you can store an inky roller there while you clean the rest of the press. Through repetition, one hopes that Shop Boy might some day learn not to lean his good work pants against it.

Readers: Dollar-store spectacles for those who, upon reaching a certain age, find themselves ordering the huevos rancheros every single time at the Mexican place near Typecast Press because they know it’s available from previous experience and everything else on the menu is blurry. As Mary might say, these also are the poor folks subjected to Shop Boy’s carrying on about such petty things.

Huevos Rancheros: Cowboy breakfast of eggs, beans and green chiles, to you gringos. Caution: Shooting this stuff into your body may cause gangrene of the heart arteries.

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