I am struggling to find the right term for my newest letterpress creation. My intent probably falls somewhere between the informal personal mini-cards made by Moo that tech folks seem particularly keen on and the old-fashioned calling card. You know, the kind you’d leave on the silver tray held out to you by the butler to announce your presence to the lady of the house.
I wanted a piece in my stationery arsenal to bridge the gap between business cards and note cards. I get asked a lot at social events what my site was called again? How do you spell “Lyza”? It is my hope that these new cards give an idea of what interests me and how to find me.
These cards are set in—what else?—Caslon. The ornate drop cap is from my set of two-piece Massey initials from the Skyline Type Foundry. Each Massey initial is actually two pieces: one for the leafy background part and one for the letterform, with cutouts for where the leaves and vines overlap the letter itself. This means that these cards required two “runs” through the press: first for the black ink, second for the red (Pantone Dutch Fireball red, if you were curious).
Here between runs, I (among other things) switched out one piece of the Massey initial for the other.
The following challenges present themselves when trying to do accurate two-color work on a press such as mine, a 6.5×10″ Chandler and Price Pilot:
- Alignment. This is terrifically hard. I use guide pins, nitpicky arithmetic, prayers and frustrating trial and error to get the type to print on the paper without slanting off in one direction. Even with well-placed pins, it is nigh impossible to get accuracy better than 1 to 2 points (a point is 1/72 of an inch, approximately). With something as complex as the Massey initials, this makes for tears. Approximately half of my printed cards did not have accurate enough registration on the red part of the initial and ended up in the recycling bin.
- Roller tension. This is the biggest sticking point with my printing right now. My roller tension is too high, which means that when the rollers roll over (and thus ink) the type in the press, they “push” ink onto the type form “too hard,” which results in mushy or, even worse, fringed or bearded edges on my print. I put layers of tape onto the rails (on which the rollers, um, roll) to get the rollers a bit further away from the type, but it’s not really working. Suffice it to say that there are not a lot of guys you can call in the Yellow Pages to come fix your rollers. Even getting these rollers required paying a local fabrication company—under the table—to make them for me from scratch. I’m a bit out of ideas on this one.
- Paper cutting accuracy. This kind of relates to the alignment problem. I have a decent paper cutter, but it, again, is not going to be accurate to more than a point or two. This can put things out of alignment enough to ruin things dramatically. You might suggest I purchase paper already cut to size, but this has three drawbacks: expense; lack of selection (not very many paper stocks come pre-cut to business card size); and no clearance for my guide pins. This last thing is fatal: without a bit of extra space on the bottom of the paper, my type would ram into my guide pins.
- Myriad other things.
Cutting the cards
First run, with arithmetic; "fun" with alignment
In the end, I have about 50 first-rate cards and about 100 acceptable ones. I considered numbering the run of 50, but that seemed a touch pompous. Want one?