Cleaning House

“Is the shop always this clean?” asked Jim Sherraden, the man responsible for — gulp — raising the famed Hatch Show Print in Nashville, Tenn., from the ashes.

Shop Boy was so flattered. A big-time letterpress celebrity, unprodded, voicing his approval of how we’ve put the shop together. I mean, Shop Boy tries to keep the place neat for those visitors who happen by Typecast Press and so that Mary will enjoy being there. Of course, on many late nights, Shop Boy wonders if he hasn’t done too good a job of that second part. But … wow.

Sherraden was at Typecast Press for a tour — seriously — during a Baltimore letterpress looksee that Mary had helped line up as part of The Man’s visit for a speech and demo at the Maryland Institute College of Art. And he was really cool about everything,  stuff like telling Mary which sets of wood type she’d collected were the real deal, adding with a twang and a wink that, naturally, the other sets weren’t exactly worthless in the right hands. What a down-to-earth, articulate, well-mannered fellow. (Shop Boy tried to watch his own manners and, um, articulation while Jim was there, with mixed success.)

Before leaving, he agreed to sign a copy of his book for Mary, and proceeded, with a ballpoint pen, to produce a full-page work of art reminiscent of the posters Hatch Show Print is famed for. You’d probably recognize his shop’s style. If not, you should check it out.

Anyway, Shop Boy tries to keep Jim’s visit in mind while surveying the wreck that is Typecast Press these days. Between moving all of the Vandercooks to the new space and cleaning out the old space by a January 1 deadline, stuff is everywhere, entire systems torn asunder. We’ve been in many printshops where stuff’s piled on top of stuff on top of stuff, and printers limbo over and around heaps of lead and paper as they move from press to press — and great work is produced nonetheless. But that ain’t us. We’re lucky we haven’t injured ourselves tripping over things in unaccustomed places.

Mary’s bummed. She’s eager to get things back to normal. Unfortunately, things are back to normal — goodbye, holidays — for the five-days-a-week commuter half of Shop Boy. That means it might be a couple of more weeks before all this stuff has got a permanent home and we can begin to memorize where it all is again.

Worth it? Oh, my, you betcha. Mary’s dad spent his holidays in the new space, painting sections of a room that through the years has acquired a funky color palette. You know, purple paint covering the acoustic tiles that begin about 16 feet above the black-tiled floor and extending across the ceiling 20 or so feet over our heads. Mocha-colored walls in the main area. An aggressively teal, L-shaped divider at the big room’s center. A lime green office off the main area. All cool colors on their own, no doubt. But we’d have had to leave the space every time we needed to do an ink color check — despite the bank of bright spotlights we inherited. So we figured we’d tone it down just a bit.

The teal divider became white with a red trim to match curtains we’d brought along. The mocha walls got the “Wayne Mashburn special”: three separate servings of joint compound to cover up any blemishes — in a few cases, pothole-sized — and subtle paint touch-ups to the point where you’d think the whole place had gotten a fresh coat. (This was despite the comedy routine of Wayne trying to pry the plastic lid off that drum of old paint the former tenant left in a closet. Shop Boy half expected the bucket to end up on his head.) And the lime green office has been similarly patched up and is now “Vail blue” or something. Subtle and lovely.

Then Wayne set to work building us the heavy-duty paper storage shelves of our dreams. Guy’s incredible.

As for “Shop Boy’s office” — aka the lunch area — Wayne ran out of time, leaving me to my own devices. When it comes to picking paint colors, Mary will tell you that this is rarely a good development, often ending in, um, unappetizing shades of whatever. Good thing I’ve been too busy to mess with it. The super-teal accent wall stays for now.

Meanwhile, Tom Beal, Mary’s machine whisperer brother-in-law, rewired the No.4 and SP-15 Vandercooks, discovering dangerous electrical wear-and-tear in one of them. Then he singlehandedly moved each 1,200-pound-plus press into final position (yikes!) and leveled each one.

Oh, and he hung the curtains.

What? You think that’s a bit sissy after throwing around thousands of pounds of metal? You weren’t watching Tom.

There he was, atop a 10-foot ladder, leaning toward the big, old industrial window glass and, power drill in left hand and monkey wrench in the right (for leverage to help push the drill since he was in such an awkward position), coaxing mounting screws slowly into the brick on the left side of the 10-foot by 10-foot bank of windows.

That manly enough for you?

No way Shop Boy’s doing that.

Besides, I was kissing the floor as “Low Boy” (in Wayne’s parlance). He’s about 6-foot-4 and Tom’s up there somewhere, too. I’m, uh, not. Meaning I’m the guy picked to worm my way behind the Vandercooks, shimmying along the tile to tape and then paint the floor-level trim.

To be fair, Tom’s at least as nimble as Shop Boy and has never been afraid of tight spaces or a physical challenge. But like I said, he was busy at the moment: one foot on the ladder, one knee atop a wall segment, bent at the waist, head cocked, wrench now in left hand, power drill in the right hand, coercing the right-side mount into position — it was like Cirque du Soleil or something. Swear to god.

Shop Boy might be a little nuts sometimes about keeping things tidy (at least at the printshop — ;-) ). But that’s clean crazy.

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One Response to “Cleaning House”

  1. Tom's Wife Says:

    SO glad I missed that particular move by mine spouse. (La, la, la: I can’t SEE you.)

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