The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum will be hosting this year’s Wayzgoose Letterpress Printing conference November 7th through 10th in their new location. The Museum has moved from it’s historic location on the 1st floor of the several block long, Hamilton complex in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, to a modern unused manufacturing building. If you go to their web site, www.woodtype.org, you can find out more about the move and all the preople around the world who have helped provide funds and labor to make saving the wood type museum possible.
The good people who help to run the museum have been very helpful, and are one of the reasons I have been able to cut wood type. They have provided answers to many of my questions about the entier wood type cutting process, from frozen maple logs to trimmed finished type. They have allowed me to photograph, measure, and experiment with the historical equipment. I have been able to open drawers containing beautiful new type and look at boxes of very old patterns to understand the pattern making process.
I recently spent two days cutting 230 pieces of the same eight pointed historical wood type star to send to Hamilton for the attendee gift bags. The full day of cutting the same piece over and over gave me a little taste of what the real wood type cutters had to deal with during their 12 hours work days in the 1880’s. It was not hard work, but very tedious as I tried to make each piece of wood type perfect and in the shortest amount of time.
Two Rivers, Wisconsin was a factory town. Everyone worked for Hamilton. Some in the old growth forest cutting maple and oak, some in the saw mills and on the assembly lines. Others doing all the hundreds of jobs that comes with running the massive factory.
I will take lots of pictures over the coming Wayzgoose and post them in a few weeks. I also printed two color posters on my daughter’s Vandercook to trade with other printers on the last day of the event.
I have been very busy over the past few months.
In early June, I attended the APA ( Amalgated Printers Association) Wayzgoose in Phoenix with afternoon temperatures in June of 114 degrees. I attended several very interesting workshops and sold lots of wood type to a new set of printers and universities in the western United States.
I traveled with Don Black, from Don Black Linecasting, one of the largest resellers of printing equipment and supplies in North America. Everyone I met told me how they had purchased their first type and press from Don.
In late June my daughter Erin and I made the road trip to The Ladies of Letterpress Wayzgoose in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Beside a small pantograph wood type cutting machine and tubs of wood and patterns for my workshops, I traveled with another letterpress master, Dave Peat. What a trip. We talked printing and printing history all the way to Iowa and back.
The group had invited me to lecture about the history of wood type and the process I use to cut wood type at their Wayzgoose held at the famous Printer’s Hall in Mt. Pleasant. I had three different workshop groups and sold wood type for two days. I met lots of new printer friends and visited with old friends.
The Hacker Block Leveler I recently acquired from a good friend originally came from the American Type Founders (ATF) auction. He had purchased it to level the feet of European metal type down to the American Standard .918″ type height. When he found out I was reviving the production of wood type, he offered to sell it to me to save the 400 passes I was wasting with my surface sander to bring the glued-up slabs to perfectly flat. That still does not include the 150 additional passes thru the machine to get the mirror polished “friction finish” on the printing surface; starting at 80 grit abrasive, ending with 2000 grit; but it will save me hours of sanding time and help me make better maple slabs.
My daughter Erin, taped me running the Hacker Block Leveler and has produced
the following video on the operation for everyone to see how it works:
The 500 pound machine was brought home in my trailer down a steep, winding, mountain road back to Ohio and into my garage. I spent the next 4 months adding three new motors and a series of pulleys to slow down the feed rates. Every step in the process of converting the leveler from a hand-fed and hand-rotated machine to the “sit back and watch” version I now have was a learning experience.
Thirty five years of Industrial Arts experience and lessons from building my other machines helped. However, I was building something that did not exist in a working, powered form. The block leveler at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum is a massive machine with a 16 inch horizontal carbide blade and a leather belt drive feed screw 12 feet long.
I have always had the gift of designing furniture, machines, and stage props in my head, including all the steps needed to produce it. Every step in making my block leveler went through many experiments and prototype pieces. I ended up with a bucket full of odd pulleys, belts, Acme threaded shafts and metal bars. Thank goodness there was a Tractor Supply store near my workshop. read more…