January 09, 2014

Insta Press

Being a letterpress printer in the 21st century is a little like being a web designer in the first century. Not really. Or that's how it feels sometimes. There's a pica ruler in one hand and an iPhone in the other. But all we want to do is figure out what else we can do for, to, on, with a piece of paper. And get your job out the door. So in the process of figuring out little things and big things alike, we'd like to invite you into another aspect of how EM Letterpress works - how we see things - and for that we're resorting to something that's not that old in this century: Instagram. Yup, we have an Instagram account. For all the little things we see that might give you an idea of how we see, and consequently how we do.


January 07, 2014

Happy New Year

2014 brings some changes with it to EM Letterpress. First to report is our move to North Attleboro, MA, where we are teamed up with The Artcraft Company, and can now offer almost every conceivable form or printing - or just about anything you can do to piece of paper. One of our first projects for the year combined letterpress and offset printing, as well some bindery work to create Stoltze Design's 30th anniversary celebration in the form of a 2014 calendar. We're looking forward to a year of exciting new opportunities - what else can we do to a piece of paper?

August 25, 2010

Big Man Little Press

Our new part-timer is Dave, who is by several inches the tallest man in the shop. Dave has been running presses since high school, and is now happily back to letterpress (after spending far too long with a process we hear about from time to time called "Off Set" printing, whatever that is). His transition was a matter of slowing down, and nothing like creasing 75 seating cards on a lever operated table top press (often referred to as a "One Arm Bandit") to put some perspective on things.

The Heidelberg Windmill by contrast to the table top  is a big press. It weights in at around 2200 pounds and occupies a good 16 square feet of floor space. But today as we ran a two color booklet I looked over and noticed that maybe the Windmill isn't such a large machine after all. It really is all a matter of perspective - or it could be the wide angle lens.

July 09, 2010


A note pad is a pretty simple thing. A stack of sheets glued to a piece of chipboard. With any paper cutter and a dab of glue anyone can make a pad. 250 50 sheet pads is another story. The press sheets start out as 4up, a piece of chipboard is inserted between every 50 press sheets while the press is running off the 3,125 impressions. Theses stacks of sheets and board are then trimmed, stacked, glued, and broken apart. It's been a standard job in many print shops for generations. Our new part time pressman showed off his technique for us today, and the tradition lives on.

July 08, 2010

Die Cutting

Designed by Merike Van Zanten of Double Dutch Design, die cut on one of our Heidelberg Windmills. The learning curve (pun intended) with this die was in getting the widths of the lines to meet the strictures of the die making process. Once that was figured out with the help of our very patient die maker, it was a simple process of press set up to cut 100 + sheets. Punching out all the shapes was not as easy, but our friend Merike was up to the task. Below is a shot of the back of the steel cutting die, to give an idea how well made it is.

CMYK + 1

Designed by Jen Strickland for Amy Clarkson. Both designer and customer were on press to help guide the process, mostly for the contrast the black plate gave. The four colors were run without the benefit of a densitometer, but the results were for the most part consistent and true. Text was printed in a spot pantone gray, instead of a screen of black. Screened type may look alright flat from an offset press, but it detracts from typography in letterpress. Process printing with letterpress is not just fun, it's reliable, and beautiful. There's an elegance to the layers of ink and impression that only letterpress can offer. In the case of a very short run like this (250 press sheets) it was also very practical.

April 29, 2010

Solids, Floods, Bleeds & Knockouts

What's the hardest thing to do in letterpress printing? Without a doubt it is the full coverage solid with the knock out. We do our best to discourage people from making us do them... but sometimes we recommend them. As far as we're concerned, difficulty isn't a good reason not to do something. There are times when letterpress does a better job than offset when it comes to solids. We put down more ink, much more, and we drive that ink into the paper. The result is better saturation, and less risk of rub off (for textured papers). The problem is that it's slow and with fine knockouts there is some compromise to the cleanliness of the outlines, with some papers we get a mottled look (that some clients ask for). A lot of ink gets used: one solid was 9.5 x 6.5, on very absorbent thick paper, an edition of 1800, and it used nearly 3 pounds of ink. The result was stunning (bright orange in last photo). The following images show the process, from ink fountain to the drying of short lifts, to final products. Enjoy.

For solids especially, inks must be modified

The fountain must be used

Rider roller has to be put over the form rollers

Offset powder - lots of offset powder - or slip sheeting if that fails

Constant checking of press sheets throughout the run

Must be set aside to dry in short lifts

Product that is well worth the effort