Archive for August, 2009

1,000 Points of Light

August 31, 2009

The perforator had sort of punched holes in the idea that if you bring something pretty into the printshop, it will automatically stand out and be noticed. It was about time it had its day in the sun.

We’d driven all the way to Richmond, Va., to get the thing, after all — the Route 95 corridor being its usual bundle of giggles — and it was serving no purpose in the corner of the studio aside from a spot to hold the tea kettle.

And dust bunnies.

A proud old machine like this can’t go out like that. Still, Shop Boy had to convince Mary to try the contraption — black cast iron body and gorgeous wooden tabletop with a row of what seems like a thousand needle teeth and a treadle that brings them down and through the paper — out where it could be better seen.

See, the machine was covering up a wall blemish. But it was doing such a great job of camouflage that it had become all but invisible itself. Nobody ever asked about it when we were giving tours. And let Shop Boy tell you, you cannot normally walk by this thing and not wonder, in these modern times, “what in the world is that?”

That is a perforator, a device designed to poke a line of holes in something. You know, to create a tear-off coupon or whatever. We’d been told by a wise old printing type that the FBI once kept track of who owned these machines, as they were essential to the creation of counterfeit stamps. Ooh! Shop Boy on a poster in the Post Office! Believe it or not, that’d be a first.

Nowadays (actually for many, many years), a perforating rule does the same trick, but much less awesomely. OK, because each of the pin holes on this antique sucker was drilled by hand, the line poked into the paper can get kinda crooked. Fine. But come by and try it and you’ll be hooked.

Shop Boy’s counting on it.

I mean, I hope I didn’t carry it all this way just because it’s cool …

Oh, wait. That’s my job.

Sleepless in … August

August 28, 2009

When you hang around old printshops and falling-down garages that once were old printshops, not to mention eBay — um, Mary, we have to talk — you can end up with a lot of funky treasures.

Just one of thousands we’ve somehow acquired is this crazy old die for cutting out a card in the shape of a milk carton. Not sure what it was used for but Shop Boy immediately thought:

“Have you seen me?”

Sick, right?

But I’ve felt like a missing person these past couple of weeks. So I thought I’d check in. Man, we’ve been busy. Whee!


Well, yes, but Mary is about toast, and Shop Boy is only a little less fried by the pace. This blog, in case you can’t tell — pay attention, folks — is a sort of therapy for me. And we don’t want Shop Boy off his meds for too long. Besides, I’ve got so, so much to tell you.

Let me catch my breath a sec, and I’ll be right back with evidence of what we’ve been up to. Promise.

Until then …

Class Tripping

August 14, 2009

Mrs. G said she could tell we were a special class 35 years ago, and that she was very excited to hear everything we’ve done.

I told Deb V that though she’s driving a minivan today, I could tell she still had that Camaro she drove in high school somewhere inside her.

Liz F had to tell us all to be quiet during the announcements, just like our old teachers had to …

Except for Mr. C, who told me that he probably could no longer jump atop a schoolkid’s desk and slam his feet down to make a point. (I didn’t dare test him.)

I told Denise S to bite it. (I’ll explain.)

And when my old best friend then enemy now friend again Shawn G told the dapper Dan B, “I hope I don’t have to kick your [behind] tonight,” I checked my watch.

And that was the Daniel D. Waterman reunion in a nutshell. More firewater than Water Fire — is it my round? — but all in all a completely charming experience.

And what does any of this have to do with letterpress?

Let’s start with Shop Boy’s dad. Now, when you put one guy who’s obsessed with being on time with another guy who’s equally or more obsessed, it’s not simply 1+1=too (early). Nope. The earliness grows exponentially. Which gave Dad and Shop Boy a little time to kill before the Sunday brunch that was meant to conclude the festivities. Dad was dumping me off at a place called Julian’s in Providence — the school is in Cranston, but Water Fire was a cool excuse to have the reunion one town over — from which I could walk to the Amtrak station for the ride home to Baltimore.

As luck would have it, the Federal Hill restaurant is right around the corner from Knight Street, where Dad grew up. His father owned a grocery and convenience shop nearby. “Yeah, this is where the house was,” Dad said. “And this was the printshop.”

Honest. My dad lived next door to a letterpress business. Shop Boy nearly wept.

I suggested we grab a cup of coffee at another local joint (so as not to make Shop Boy look too geeky arriving pre-promptly), then Dad drove me to Julian’s, where Liz was waiting outside for the rest of the group to show.

And we waited. And chatted. And waited some more.

Yup, we decided, they probably all were home with ice bags on their heads. Whatever, more eggs for us. (Got to tell you folks, if you’re in that area at brunch time, check it out — 318 Broadway.)

Liz and Shop Boy hadn’t had much time to chat the previous night as she was running around organizing stuff, so this was cool. She talked about plans for a book, about how she’d done some printing (!), career conniptions and how funny life is.

Shop Boy talked about how he already writes books (Liz did remark on the, ahem, thoroughness of my blog posts), has done some printing, etc., etc. Then it was time for show-and-tell. Shop Boy produced a packet of favorite Typecast Press samples. I’d lugged them all this way and had not bored anyone else with them, so Liz was going to have to suffer alone.

As we got toward the bottom of the pile, Liz looked down at the table and laughed.

We hadn’t noticed that the tabletop was a thin glass sheet over … old magnesium- and copper-on-wood die cuts, all artfully arranged into a perfectly square collage. All the big Rhode Island brands were there — Del’s lemonade, the Ram from the University of Rhode Island logo — and Shop Boy couldn’t help thinking that these all came from Dad’s neighborhood printshop.

This was getting weird. And we’re not even to Denise. No, she’s cool. But I promised to explain. (Almost there.)

I’d been struck dumb the night before when Deb said her main profession has been that of a mechanical arts teacher — shop class … you know, like wordworking and instructing kids on how to set lead type. And this was before she realized she was standing with, dun-dun-daaaah!, Shop Boy!

In fact, she still doesn’t know that. But that’s OK. Steven S was good enough back then and it’s good enough now. Besides, I’m not sure how they’d take all this. Was I talking with them, or just listening for tidbits that I could use in the blog? Oh, heck, I’ll probably just come clean with it on Facebook, where I’m friends with several old school chums.

Which brings us to Denise.

See, back when we were, like, second-graders, Denise would sit next to me in class and jab me in the arm with a sharpened No. 2 pencil. Over and over. I was smitten. She’d forgotten all about that, of course … until Shop Boy reminded her during a Facebook meet-up.

Well, as I walked up at the reunion to say hello after 35 years, Shop Boy winked at Denise and began jokingly rolling up my shirt sleeve to expose the flesh. She giggled, and said she had something for me. A No. 2 pencil, dagger sharp. (I rolled down my sleeve.)

Shop Boy looked the pencil over. Just like I remembered it, except for one little thing. No teeth marks. I had never seen a pencil at Daniel D. Waterman without some kid’s teeth marks on it. Think back to grade school, people. Am I right? Denise laughed … then graciously obliged. Now that’s a souvenir!

Speaking of which, the whole K-6 reunion thing ended up a front page story in the little local newspaper, the Cranston Herald.

How old school is that?