Archive for January, 2016

Ol’ Factory Issues

January 11, 2016

SB_CanarySo we’re moving. Typecast Press, that is. Lock, stock and most of the barrels, just down the hill as it turns out. The new studio is a bit smaller, but it’s one contained room vs. three separate spaces. It’s got solid wood floors that will eventually be lovely (I’ll talk about that another day) and will be easier on our legs. It’s got dependable heat! And it’s got that reassuring, stood-the-test-of-time smell of an old building.

“No, that’s a gas leak,” Mary insisted as I gave her a tour of prep work Shop Boy had done on the space. And when our little canary in the coal mine smells gas, she flies away. “We’re not moving in. I can’t work here.” This constituted a bit of a problem, since we’d just signed a three-year lease.

See, Mary’s nose is something of a marvel. It can smell a gas leak in the next county (proven) as well as a mouse taking its first cautious steps (and poops) in from the cold. I don’t even argue the second one anymore. I just go get the traps. But gas? Here? After all we’d been through to find the perfect place to start our second decade as a business? We’d eliminated several previous buildings because of molecules per billion of natural gas seeping from … somewhere. (And landlords who were dismissive of Mary’s concerns … bad idea, FYI.) We’d waved off a seemingly ideal spot in an up-and-coming complex (with a grassy amphitheater, water fountain, patio and gas grills thrown in!) because it smelled a bit of “basement.” Truth be told, the anticipated build-out costs even for our simple space there made that decision more OK.

Here we were, though, in THE perfect spot by Shop Boy’s way of thinking. One big room, just under 1,600 square feet. We were giving up a few hundred square feet in total. But no more wandering down the hallway to a separate space to make plates or to check color consistency on an envelope job with the Heidelberg windmills (wedding invitation) and Chandler & Price clamshell presses (envelopes) in different rooms. I’d measured the new digs, four squares on the graph paper representing 1 foot, then created little cutouts of each piece of equipment, furniture, type cases and shelving we own using the same formula. We’d need to offload some things we’d bought as newbie printers but outgrown or shifted away from. But my layout worked, and followed my only rules for a printshop Mary and Shop Boy occupy.

Rule 1: Lots of space to safely work on and around machines. (I realize that many talented and prolific letterpress printers have made do with far less space, but Shop Boy is far less proficient, nimble and organized sometimes and must build in the cost to cover his shortcomings. Anyway, the difference in rent ends up being a wash because Mary’s smart.)

Rule 2: Clean and, where possible, pretty.

Mary’s rule: No gas smell. (Oh, and aprons with fun patches like “Bear Friends Society” or “sock monkey in a chapeau.” This part Shop Boy has on lock, being fairly accomplished at the ironing board.)

But the holidays were approaching, we needed to get our presses moved out of the old space and, well, we’re printers. We kind of needed to, like, print. Shop Boy called the building manager and, oh, um, uh, asked whether Mary could maybe examine the heating apparatus and test gas levels under the building.

(Stand in Shop Boy’s shoes for one minute and tell me you wouldn’t have done the same.)

Oddly enough, the answer was not “we’ll open the basement door and then you can just keep going all the way to hell” but “sure, why not?”

And so that is how (and where) Mary met the building contractor, and if Shop Boy ever meets the dude I’ll kiss his ring. He showed Mary around, patiently explained stuff, even sort of confirmed her theory that pre-winter boiler work could be behind it all. A bad valve had indeed been replaced recently and the gas smell was probably just working its way out of the building.

Sounded about right by Shop Boy and sensible enough that Mary gave the riggers the OK to move in the presses. Still, she’s not taking chances. “What’s this?” Shop Boy asked of a box that arrived the other day.

“I bought a gas meter,” she said. “I’m getting a reading over there. It’s still a little seeping up from the basement. But if you caulk, and fix the loose baseboards, and do trim around the whole room, and …”


We’re home.