Monday, January 7, 2008

Impulse buying on E-bay, or the story of how I came to own a 400+lb piece of cast iron located in Ohio

A good friend of mine who is also a great graphic designer introduced me to some of the most amazing examples of letterpress while she was hunting for invitations for an event. It was her love of the uniqueness of letterpress that prompted me to take a class on letterpress -- with the hopes that I would be able to make an awesome set of stationary as a wedding gift to her.

The class inspired a months long search for a table top press, many of which were out of my price range, too far away, or in questionable working order. Then one day I came across a beautiful antique standing press on E-bay that was reasonably priced and came with everything someone getting started would need -- granted it was a few hundred pounds heavier than I was bargaining for. Along with the press, I inherited cases of type, leads, some old printing blocks, a composing stone, new rollers, etc. In the 45 minutes left in the auction, I researched the press itself and tried to figure out how it would make it's way from Ohio to Manhattan.

A kind pickup-owning friend from work offered to make the road trip out to Ohio with me, so she, her Jack Russell terrier, and I set off to the Buckeye state. Unfortunately our grandiose plans of stopping at every mini golf course, outlet mall, cavern, and world's-largest-dinosaur-type monument were dashed by an unexpected spell of chilly weather. This trip became a journey from hot soup to hot soup. We were especially propelled by her family's "legend" of a restaurant named Pufferbelly's, which was supposed to have the best clam chowder in Ohio (& the world), at least back in 1989 when she visited at the age of 11. We never found Pufferbelly’s but we did sample all the hot soup Highway 80 has to offer.

Loading the letterpress into the pickup wasn’t terrible with all the high school-aged help provided to us. The previous owner even employed some of his boy scout-esque knot-tying skills in helping us secure the letterpress to the back of the pickup. (His knots sure beat those we tied that needed to be checked every 50 miles on the way out.) The ride back to NY was still slow; with all the weight we were cruising at least 6 inches closer to the road than on the way out. Unloading was another story – it took two physicists to figure out how to get it out of the truck. Let’s just say it involved balancing on the axle of a dolly and the scraping of metal.

I also found out that some of the cases of type had spilled in transit and the thousands of tiny sorts (or letters) within each drawer would need to be rearranged. I’m still saving that for a rainy day.

At this time, the press is safely within our apartment, with just a few minor adjustments to be made to get printing.

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