Tag Archives: imprimerie

Wednesday is time to typecast

Today we are listening to Martin Andrews from Reading University, and Richard Lawrence is also there to guide us through the practical.

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Richard, pensive in the background, Martin holding a stereo.

What can I tell you?

Type metal is an alloy of antimony, tin and lead. This is what the type is made from.

 

However the type punch is made of harder material, usually steel, because it is worked and used to punch an impression on a copper matrix, into which the type metal will be poured.

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There is a clever contraption that was invented in the 1500s to re cast type should you run out of letters.

You open it up and insert the copper matrix. You close it up and pour in the molten typemetal. Hey presto, here’s a letter.

 

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You can see Roberta (left)pouring the molten material in. It takes about a third of a ladle. Mindy, on the right, has opened the mold.

 

What if you want to copy a whole block? You might want to sell your design to others. You can use the dabbing technique. I have a few videos on my Instagram. But it goes along these lines:

  1. Place molten typemetal in a small non-flammable dish
  2. Wait until it is nearly set
  3. dab the wood block in it.

The block should come out intact, and you have a positive from which you can then make many negatives.Hey presto.

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So that’s about a block. What if you want to copy a whole plate? You can set it up in the chase and then take a copy of it with a flong.

Flong – that is a great Scrabble word. A flong is a large sheet composed of several damp pieces of paper, a bit like papier maché. You make an impression of the plate on this flong. After which you pour type metal over it, and you will get a negative from which you can make multiple copies. This saves wear and tear on the original.

You see Martin holding the papier maché flong. The blurry photo is because he was waving it around. Then at the bottom there is the newspaper version with its flong. The cyclinders on the table are the typecast flong used in machine printing (of newspapers).

It is amazing the sorts of things Richard and Martin found just lying out the workshop.

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Tuesday is ink day

My well thought out plan in getting to St Brides early fell on its ear when

  1. I got lost leaving my building
  2. Holborn was exit only
  3. it 9.18am and I have to catch 2 buses to Fleet St by 9.30am

You can see what sort of day I thought it might turn into. However, despite it all, I was not very tardy. Here is the entrance to St Brides Institute.

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The printing workshop is filled with historical printing presses and tools, and in many ways their significance is lost on me; I am sure Australian printmakers  Dianne Fogwell and Caren Florence would be far more appreciative than me. Let’s have a little look at what’s inside:

On to today’s topic: a day with Amy Worthen.

The day was dedicated to the histories of engraved plates and of etched plates, giving us the tools and basic understanding to identify and differentiate between the two techniques.

Her enthusiasm was catching and she was very generous with the information she offered. You could tell she had a lot of experience. It just emanated from her.

There was a set reading list to compliment this session. The sessions, though generalised, took us on a well rounded journey.  There were many historical examples on the slides. I didn’t actually take many notes; I will probably explore the readings at some later date. She explained about the different cutting techniques and how the depth of the cut could change to strength of the printed line.  And since we were in St Bride’s printing room, we could see first hand what tools were used.

Which brings us to the hands-on session in the afternoon.  Amy demonstrated how to hold the burin, and how to cut a line on a copper plate. “It’s like cutting butter” she said.

Seeing the ease with which she made her marks in the plate, and little swirls of copper that grew from her cuts, one would swear it was indeed as soft as butter.

Well, let me tell you that a copper plate is not as soft as butter. We all had a hand at making lines, and the hardest part for each of us was to maintain the correct posture; we needed to us our bodies, not have our wrists or shoulders at strange angles. She helped each one of us. However, just as in tango or bookbinding learning, once you have the acquired muscle memory, the copper plate would be nothing but butter.

Our main aim for the day was to print an etched plate. Mindy had come from the US with a plate her grand-father has etched, so she set about taking an impression from it.

We didn’t even get dirty, even though we each had a go at using the brayers to apply ink to the plate’s surface. We scrimmed and palmed the plate. Here you can see Richard Lawrence, St Bride’s print workshop keeper,  helping us.

The hands-on proved to be the best part of the day for most of us, bringing a better understanding of the morning’s discussion.

And here are some of the results.

That’s it for now. See you tomorrow.

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