Acorn Anchor Book Arts Studio
Ft Collins, Colorado
est. April 2008
What is it?
Acorn Anchor Book Arts Studio is a 450-square-foot space annexed to Oak Root Press (180 square feet) which operates in a different location (in Windsor). Letterpress printing machines operate in both locations. The two studios are both within 1/2 mile of Colorado's endangered Poudre River. Oak Root Press is located some thirteen miles further downstream from Acorn Anchor. One day soon the Poudre River bike path will connect the two. See http://www.ci.fort-collins.co.us/parks/trails.php for the Larimer County portion and http://www.poudretrail.org/map.htm for the projected Weld County connector and the newly opened path from Windsor to Greeley.
What do we do here?
Acorn Anchor B.A.S. consists of various facets of a bohemian artist press focussing on hand-set letterpress printing on both vintage cylinder presses and vintage foot-treadle printing machines, and bookbinding. Hand-made linoleum & wood cuts illustrate the pages of our books. A type foundry operation (Lettersmith Type Foundry) is a possible addition to the enterprise in the future. This latter pursuit is ambituous and rests upon acquiring a vintage Monotype caster, Linotype or Intertype linecasting machine. In the interest of preserving traditional letterpress printing, we rescue and restore old letterpress machines and related book publishing items, including proof presses, cylinder presses, platen presses, paper cutters, cabinets, and other items.
Ultimately, as rescued machines get restored and the shop takes shape, we plan to publish limited editions of high quality, richly designed books of mystical poetry and inspired writings. Our first offerings will include tryptagonal poetry and excerpts from the Finnish Kalevala. To date, Oak Root Press and Acorn Anchor Book Arts Studio have printed hand-set flyers, poetry broadsheets, business cards, and a CD cover for the local band Wildwood Holler! These are the preliminary projects since early 2008. Later on this page I document the adventures (and misadventures) of rescuing and moving equipment, and setting up shop.
A Simple Philosophy
A traditional craft of high quality, limited edition literature, made from scratch. And powered by notable creative and historic content. In the tradition of William Morris and the Roycrofters. Read about the Private Press Movement at Five Roses for more information.
Acorn Anchor rescues, restores, preserves, maintains, and uses vintage book arts equipment. These amazing machines have seen a century or more of use and some were designed in the late 1800s without the expectation that power would be on hand in the country print shops. By mid-2008 two platen press printing machines were installed at Acorn Anchor are:
A Chandler & Price old-style tabletop "Pilot" press, with a 6 ½ x 10 ½ chase.
A Chandler & Price old-style (1910) floor press with an 8 x 12 chase. It can (theoretically) be run with its original variable-speed vintage 110-volt motor, or treadled by foot (preferred). Of novel interest is our unique "letter-cycle" - an old bike adapted to power the printer's flywheel. Of course, this method requires an assistant who wants to get some exercise. This press is in great condition and is installed with a foot treadle, which I bought from Hern Iron Works. It can be dated with its B5402 serial number to a 1910 manufacture date.
These two presses print hand-set type and wood cuts. We began with have a modest selection of fonts in two Hamilton cabinets, but the type collection has been growing. Two preferred fonts are 12-point Caslon and 14-point Century Schoolbook. In late 2008 I visited M & H type foundry in San Francisco and purchased three sorts of fonts with special characters, which will enable me to hand-set text from the Finnish Kalevala. In early 2010, I acquired plentiful sorts of 24-point Civilite, an ornate antique font which will be used for the hand-setting and printing of The Black Art book of tryptagonal poetry.
We have in the shop a large hand-operated guillotine cutter, a Peerless Gem built around 1900 (serial number 9409). It can cut through a ream of paper or an old phone book like butter. We also have a Chandler & Price 19" guillotine cutter that is sharp and nice for smaller jobs, such as trimming booklets. In late 2009 I cleared out a home-based basement shop in Cheyenne. It was the classic situation of having to take apart two large presses and haul everything up a steep flight of stairs piece by piece. It took many trips and the help of Don, Fuzzy, and Chase. A nice antique Pearl Cutter was part of the haul. The two presses are now in pieces at rthe shop, awaiting reassembly this spring. They are: a 1919 C & P New Style 10 x 15, with a Miller paper feeder attachment and speed control motor; really a nice press. The other is a 10 x 15 Gordon clone (O.S.) with original foot treadle. It probably dates to the 1890s, after the Gordon patents ran out and many unnamed generic clones started being made. This was also running and printing at the time of removal. It utilizes a roller arm mechanism similar to the Arab press.
We have an iron hand-crank book press - handy for bookbinding - with a 10" x 14" press surface.
We also have a vintage foot-lever Rosback Perforator, ca. 1900. It is complete and needs only some minor reconditioning to be operational.
Two acquisitions in the summer of 2008 open up the possibility of larger scale book production: A rare 1926 Kelly A flatbed cylinder press (13.5 x 21 chase) and a Chandler & Price flatbed cylinder press (12 x 18 chase). These presses came from a museum in Port Ludlow, Washington and are both in operating condition with intact rollers. Additional items are discussed below.
The following is sequential log of various ambitious dreams, press acquisitions and restoration efforts in the Acorn Anchor shop.
The shop configuration as it took shape:
Peerless Gem paper cutter - reassembled and tested May 4.
Click on first picture for a short movie:
The Rosback Perforator will be set aside for now, to be thoroughly
restored in time. Today, May 5, I'll transport tables and boards and various
other things to begin setting up the various operations. Here's the Chandler
and Price 19" paper cutter:
May 10 and 11, 2008. Got the press running on the motor, tested out some printing. It's looking good. Ordered a foot treadle from Hern Iron works so I can print via foot power. Will pick it up in Idaho on my trip out west in late June.
Projects. June 5, 2008. Am setting up three cabinets to house the many California type drawers I salvaged last-minute from Ken Ticket in Denver. I've tested the 8 x 12, got the belt hooked up and running. It's a nice little press. Printed up some tryptagonals using the same form that I used on the 10 x 15 C&P. A project that I'll begin will be a two-sheet, eight-page sequence of 24 tryptagonals in 14 point Century Schoolbook bold.
Looks like my timing and fortuitous providential "going for it" I have secured ownership of a rare 1920s "Kelly A" cylinder press, in fully functional condition with good rollers. Here's the actual press:
It comes from a private museum shop in Port Ludlow, Washington. I was planning a driving trip out there to visit my brother's family and pick up the C & P Pilot press, and with an impending July 1 pickup deadline, I quickly adjusted my plans. I used mileage to purchase a one-way ticket Denver-Seattle ($140), and will rent a pretty huge truck - probably a 24 footer with 12,000 load capacity. Why? The Kelly weighs 4200, and the seller wants to give me an intertype or a linotype - must be another 4000. Then, there are other miscellaneous things of interest which are going to have to be disposed of one way or another, including a C&P cylinder press, a Little Giant, cabinets and other things - which would pay for a good chunk of gas and truck rental if it happened to be tossed onto the truck. Gas driving my own car would have been close to $400.
The Old Style Pilot Press, with semi-good rollers, to be donated for use at the local printing collective
Update. July 4, 2008. My evolving strategies with letterpress now includes a level of endeavor that is best described as "traditional letterpress book publishing." It's not quite the scaled down, hand-set and off-the-grid concept I started with (which can still continue as its own enterprise), but instead I envision a book publishing operation that uses vintage high-end letterpress equipment - such as my new Kelly A - along with Linotype or Intertype casting of text lines for books. The automation of a high-speed Kelly flatbed cylinder press, so popular in the 1920s and 30s, will allow the production of books on the order of 1000 to 3000 copies. My recent trip to Port Ludlow failed to acquire the Intertype, which is now looming as quite a disappointment. It would have been the key to this new concept of book production. However, I am in no place to devote the time right now to mastering typecasting on one of these highly complex machines, for it looks as though I will be signing a lucrative book contract with Penguin Books, due date of the manuscript March 1, 2009. The vision of a dedicated book publishing operation on a grander scale - still completely managed and operated by yours truly - will be set aside for now, with some angst and difficulty. Besides, I have my work cut out for me with figuring out the Kelly A press.
Also, I did manage to load the C & P cylinder press (a 12 x 18). My hired assistant, Kevin, and I had to mobilize our efforts very quickly to get it hoisted into a pallet mover and dragged out 30 yards of barn on boards to where the fork lift could put it in my truck. This is a nice little production level press, and is virtually ready to go, although I forgot three of the rollers in Port Ludlow; they will be shipped ASAP. Both of my cylinder presses run off 220 lines (The Kelly has a newer 3 h.p. motor), which I will work on getting activated in the shop. The lines are there, I just need some junction boxes and plugs installed.
Ideally, my new book production outfit will produce between one and two books a year; material costs per item will be fairly minimal, thus maximizing profits. The low print runs will assume direct sales for 60% of the stock. A low print run being perhaps 2,500 copies at a time. The high-end design concept will be the major selling point, with nice borders, multiple colors, ornamentation, and paper choices. Attention to design and multi-color process will add to the books' selling appeal - and cover price. They will be nice, solid, harcover books to own. And the content will likewise be noteworthy.
Some hypothetical numbers to work with: A typical run of 2,500 copies will cost $5000 to produce in material costs. My time, and the rental of my shop, is assumed and set aside in this estimate as an accepted business expense. The machines used will be: Linotype, Kelly / C & P cylinder presses, C & P foot-treadle 8 x 12 for special features of the book, Rosback Perforator for special paste in features, C & P paper cutter, Peerless Gem paper cutter, and a signature sewing machine to be sought and aquired. Gross sales of this run, at 60 / 40 direct/distributor sales of a $35 cover price, will equal $31500 + $17500 = $49,000. Figure $5000 in material costs, $5,000 in packaging, promo, and other costs, and you still have a nice profit for the year. The ideal would be working on the project an average of 15-20 hours a week, 2 to 3 days per week.
Some pictures of my Kelly A cylinder press follow. A Kelly B press in action is here on Youtube.
The Kelly press with feed board and roller mechanism lifted up.
The Style A Kelly presses began being produced at the Elizabeth plant in 1925. Serial #A166. A data sheet from ATF indicates that a total of only 554 Style A presses were built between 1925 and 1936 --- the biggest production year being 1926, which is when my press was made. Almost all of the 554 press were made before 1929. It's possible that the Little Giant no. 4 (see below) was built in the same factory in Elizabeth, N. J.
Fork Lifts are handy! The Kelly A on my heavy duty homemade skid. Weight: approximately 4500 pounds.
The two presses loaded in the 24-foot rental truck, ready for the 36-hour, 1500-mile drive, Port Ludlow to Fort Collins.
The Chandler and Price 12 x 18 flatbed cylinder press (left) and the Style A Kelly (right), in the shop at Acorn Anchor Book Arts Studio.
The Chandler & Price cylinder press:
Both of these presses are pretty rare and are in great condition. Both will be restored and operational, vintage work horses for Oak Root Press. Here's the Intertype that was given to me but which I was unable to pick up in Port Ludlow due to time running out and the fork lift unable to dead lift it (5000 pounds):
The one that got away --- too heavy to lift. Linotypes are a big undertaking
Update. October 2008. My recent trip to Belgium, visiting printers and museums, is here: http://Alignment2012.com/Belgium2008.html
October 19, 2008. I finally brainstormed how to test the 220 circuit at my shop and get the Kelly powered up. Basically, I had to buy a three-prong heavy duty 220 volt plug, $17. The rest was surprisingly easy, and my delay in getting the Kelly started and tested can only be ascribed to a combination of fear and laziness. I had to set all the systems in place, and reconnect the belt to the vacuum pump, and then the circuit shut remianed closed until I hit the stop button. The vacuum / air is operational and strong. The next step see if I can get paper and delivery correctly. Then, I can set up a form and get the ink system tested. This 82-year-old press is going to be ready to do some posters.
October 20-22, 2008. Made progress setting grippers and figuring this beast out. Ran some paper through, but it tends to jam - need some fine tuning. I trust I can work the details out and have it operational very soon - just have so little time right now. Here's a little movie of the Style A Kelly press running (click on the image):
October 28, 2008. Update. I figured out the vacuum paper feed system adjustments. Also figured out the adjustments on the paper guides and grippers. And so, I was able to get a stack of 8 1/2 x 11 paper to feed and deliver all the way through. I'll be going to San Francisco for a conference this weekend and will visit M & H Type Foundry, and Arion Press. I plan on picking up a few fonts w/ italics and special characters. Then I'll be ready for some projects.
Update. November 7, 2008. Having learned more about the difference between monotype casting and linotype / intertype casting, I am leaning toward monotype, for three reasons. 1. The equipment is lighter than a linotype or intertype (1400 lbs vs close to 5000 lbs), and is not as space hogging or tall; 2. it casts with a harder metal and is thus more suited for quality printing; 3. it can be adapted to and driven by a computer. The latter possibility was illustrated for me when I visited Arion Press and the M & H type foundry in San Francisco last week (and was discussed by Patrick Goossens in Antwerp). They had a whole bank of Lanston-style monotype machines. The keyboard (on the left, below) is important to have.
Keyboard and monotype caster, from The Monotype System (1912)
Looks like I have a lead on a monotype with keyboard for sale in California. Might be able to pick up next March. The Book Arts studio will then have a type foundry (as originally planned), a 13 x 20 flatbed cylinder press, an 8 x 12 Chandler and Price, two hand cutters, and a C & P Pilot press. [Note: This monotype plan did not come to pass.]
Update September 2009. The writing of my book The 2012 Story has dominated my time since last December. The Lettersmith Type Foundry is on hold.
I recently acquired a Potter proof press, No. 2. It aparently came from Kansas City in 1975 to Boulder, Colorado, then to Lyons, and now to the Acorn Anchor Book Arts Studio in Fort Collins. Upon closer questioning it may have come from Kraus Typesetting in Independence Missouri. The badge indicates it is an earlier model as it was built by Wanner & Co. in Chicago, rather than Hacker as with later models:
It is unknown what the PE20 stands for. The serial number is found on the end of the gear track, No. 667. It is thus the earliest documented No. 2 press listed in the Vanderblog Potter proof press census: http://vandercookpress.info/vanderblog/potter/
The press is operational, and was painted red by the previous owners. It needs a brayer table, which I'll construct. I also plan on building a paper rack, which the No. 3's had: http://vandercookpress.info/potter.html. The catalog states that an inking system could be fitted to the number 2s, but it is unlikely that one can be found.
To me, proof presses are not only functional but also have asthetic appeal. Like the stylings of an automobile, a proof press ideally pleases the eye. The Hacker No. 4 proof press is to my eye the sleekest looking press:
The Potter proof press No. 3 is reminiscent of this design:
The ideal of a compact, high quality, totally hand powered cylinder printing machine:
March 2010. The restoration of the Potter proof press is coming along. I took it apart and cleaned it, and reassembled it. The throw off mechanism needs a little adjustment and a stripped bolt needs to be replaced. I'll design feedboards along the lines of the Potter no. 3 (see above) and an inking table. It will thus be a Potter proof press no. 2 1/2! Right now, the cylindewr crank and the bed moves smoothly, It's amazing how the parapmeters can be finely adjusted with the screw settings on the arms and elsewhere.
A Vintage Little Giant
Recently I stumbled across another acquistion. I found in Colorado Springs what appears to be an early Little Giant cylinder press. What interests me about this press is that it seems to represent a transitional design stage between the older Kelly style ATF cylinder press (1920s) and the later Little Giant models (1940s-50s) that are lower and longer in style. Compare the stout, round-corner cast iron frame in the pic below with that of the Kelly A (above). For all appearances, this Little Giant looks like a mini-Kelly A:
And the Kelly Style A automatic flatbed cylinder press itself was considered to be the "baby Kelly" --- a bit smaller and a little faster than the popular Kelly B model. This Little Giant was thus deemed irresistable and it was purchased for a reasonable price on March 12, 2010. I'm always interested in the stories behind the presses. It had been acquired with other hydraulic stamping equipment around 1999 by a man who runs a metal stamping operation in Colorado Springs. He said it came from an old print shop in downtown CoSprings that went back to the 1920s. The old printer was closing down his shop after some 60 years of operating it. I've sent out the question to the LetPress list and Briar Press discussion board, and very quickly got the specifics from David of Central Lithograph in Seattle:
Webendorfer built LG's:
# 1 9x12 1930-1935 # 2-283
# 2 10x15 1935-1937 # 1000-1146
# 3 11x17 2000-2074 # 2000-2074
Webenendorfer & ATF built LG's:
(ATF bought Webendorfer in 1938 to get into offset)
# 4 12x18 1937-1943 # 3000-6760
[Note: Youtube video of a LG 4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvtwusbHEf0) shows the press with Webendorfer/Mt Vernon, NY name plate.]
# 5 12x18 1947-1950 # 7001-8801
(Vickers Armstrong also built the LG 5's in England.)
# 6 12x18 1950-1953 # 9001-9954 ATF built
# 6 12x18 1952-1959 # 683-1403 (VA built I don't have the serial numbers from VA, this is from the ATF imports from the serial list.)
So, my #6656 was built in the final year of production, 1943. Some 3,760 presses of my type were built, beginning in 1937. It was probably made in the same factory in Elizabeth, N. J. that the Kelly presses were made. One wonders what motivated the design changes to the Kelly cylinder press and the rationale behind the emergence of the Little Giant series. They are more compact, efficient and versatile, capable of very high registration (some models were used by governments to print money), and may have been part of the recovery from the depression of the 1930s which affected the production of the Kelly series. The Kelly series seemed to expand into a larger press design ethos through the 1940s, with the big Kelly automatic 3. Perhaps the Little Giant series began as a scaled-down effort to have something simple to offer that addressed a low-cost smaller press need. Parallel_imp on Briar Press added:
"Webendorfer could have been influenced by Wm. Kellys flatbed cylinder. Kelly started working on the idea for ATF in 1911; Webendorfer went into business about 1912, but the first Little Giant was in 1928. A friend has one, which he described to me as 9x12, but I have another reference to it as 10x15. I think it was a Model 2 that Black Spot used to have, and it was a bit more developed press than the original model."
In this regard, I recall the LG I saw out in Port Ludlow, WA, when I picked up the Kelly and the C&P flatbed, which was positioned right next to the C&P (Steve H. offered this to me for free but it was a brutal day of moving machinery and I was beat). It is smaller and more basic than the no. 4. It may indeed be a no. 2 or perhaps even a "0":
(Not sure what happened to this press.) It has the same LG plate as my no.
4, with the Hercules giant lifting the bulky name "Little Giant."
This itself is rather odd, since information from David B. in Seattle indicates
that the pre-no. 4s (and perhaps some of the early 4s) were made by Webendorfer
(see the plate on Ross's press). Ross MacDonald, who has a no. 4 and encouraged
the people who posted the Youtube clip above to acquire one, wrote: "They
run great when you clean them up - I've printed broadsides that had a mix
of linocuts, large wood type, and 2 point type. For real - 2 point. Not many
presses could pull that off."
The restoration of this press will be pretty straightforward as it is is in very good condition. A form is still in place on the bed. Additional pics:
For a few more pics of the Little Giant no. 4, see http://Alignment2012.com/LittleGiant.html.
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