Letterpress positivity

I don’t know where to post this, but oh well

When I first started out on this site it was great and a lot of people were very helpful, but I been getting hammered on here with belittling comments just for asking a question. There are more good people on right than bad, but the bad is really bad. Everyone had to start somewhere in life, and I guess there are always be haters, and sad people telling you, you will never make it because you’re a graphic designer, your a women, your black, and people can really fear that because I still see letterpress as a older white man skill, I understand there may be some that feel there is a cast system and that you must be born into this field. And that even though they learned how to letterpress, there is no way you can learn it for some reason. Had a nice men tell me that he met many people like me who have tried and failed and I guess somehow he knew me well enough to say that. He also told me that he was afraid I would get hurt, I’m sure because I’m a women.

There is room here for all of us. With all these smart phones and ipads around there is fewer and fewer young people who wake up saying they want to go back in time and learn to letterpress. It’s just doesn’t happen. So there is a risk of this lifestyle dying out if we don’t learn to set our pride aside and just help each other.

To the newbies in the letterpress life like me, I would be careful getting advice from some of the lonely haters on here, because they will talk you right out of you achieving your dream. I would rather try and fail and live with that than not try at all. For those who have seen my company facebook site and seen the way I look, I always get hell for that, it’s easy for many people to assume you can’t do anything. but I’m a fighter, and you have to be
also. I was told I would never graduate from high school, and I did. I was told I would never go to college, and I did and finished, I was told I would never be a model and I was for years. I was told I would never learn screen printing and I did.
I was told I would never learn about wood working and i did and I’m building my own trade show set…by hand.

As corny as it sounds I think God wanted me to learn how to letterpress. It came to me and it wouldn’t go away. I love the art, the craft, the long hours, the problem solving the failures and the great rewards. I’m going to be a part of a few and that is pretty cool. I found a Windmill for sale 5 miles down the street for my house, which never happens. I had to go with my gut and jump on it, no time for over thinking or for neh-sayers. Right after that I came on Briar Press and found a tutor right away and got all my parts asap. I rewired my house, but I had to sit on my hands because it’s in my garage and it was way too cold, but now it’s spring and this is going to be the most important spring and summer of my life…of my life. Once I learn letterpress it’s going to be right up there with graduating college.

There are going to be some people on here that will give you 100 reasons why something won’t work for you. There will be people on here, if your a women, who will make it seem like because you can bear children that somehow that makes you incapable of…well doing anything. Keep in mind that anytime you don’t fit the mold of what use to be, some people will be mean and even fear you. I personally have never seen a black women who did letterpress. I tried and I can’t find her, so this is a huge door for me to open and I hope to inspire women and women of color to love the art of letterpress as much as I do.

There is no letterpress gene. No one is born knowing how to letterpress, so it can be learn. It will be hard, and scary, but if you stick to it will be the best thing ever. Some people came from a long line of it, some people learned it early, some people learned it late, some people went to school for it, some people self taught, Don’t let anyone tell you there is only one road. There is one road the Heaven, but not letterpress.

Feel free to share how you started

Good Luck And God Bless!
Keep Pressin’ On

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Yes, I agree. Everyone here should be really, really nice and oh so positive and tell the newbies whatever the hell it is they want to hear (not to be confused with what they need to learn).

I have no clue where you are getting the idea that gender had anything to do with the debate that took place in your recent thread.

It seems to me that if anything, there are more women with presses churning out great work, than there are dudes doing the same.

My journey of printing with type and plates started right here, by restoring a press sold to me by a member who responded to my ISO ad. Another generous member offered to let me try my hand at printing on his treadle C&P, which I gladly accepted, along with some sage safety advice. I’ve since gotten plenty of ink on my hands and a few presses in my posession (4 at the moment, two of which are in the process of being restored).

Letterpress is not learned over night, it takes years. I always wanted to be a printer, no one in my family was a printer. For my 13th birthday my grandfather bought me a 3x5 Kelsey, that started my journey into letterpress, it was 1963. Still have that 3x5 but there are about 18 other presses also. When i was in high school my little cellar shop was getting busy, my mother who never worked anywhere, back then most moms stayed at home, she asked if she could work with me so i helped teach her what i knew, then we both worked the shop together for the next 25 years. My mom could set type with the best of them, most of all she loved to hand feed the 10x15 c&p, we had one set up to print prayer cards, we did a huge business with them, my sister ran our ludlow part-time for 5 or so years, when my mom passed the last thing we printed on her press was her prayer cards. We did a lot of printing for other printers in the area, we took small jobs no one wanted to do and make a living from it. Now i’m almost retired but moved my letterpress operation back to my garage at home and still print almost daily, i run two windmills and a 12x18 kluge but still play with my table top presses a lot. No one wants to see anyone get hurt, i think that is what people are trying to say here, these machines can and will hurt or cripple you if you are not careful. Your windmill is a great press and capable of doing some fine work, but those arms have put many dents in heads that looked to closely, and i’ve seen hands crushed by the gripper. The bad thing about the windmill is it only runs forward, if you get caught in the press you are in trouble. You can back it up, but it takes a little effort, and can’t be done if you are caught in it. The trouble with running machines is no matter how many years you run them one careless moment and you can be hurt, my mom crushed two fingers just a couple of years before she passed, and recently i made a stupid mistake that almost cost me my thumb. I looked at your facebook and think you do some wonderful things, that message in a bottle i loved. I’m glad you found someone near you to help teach you, i’ll help you all i can, but printing is problem solving, it seems like different things come up all the time, i’ve been at it for 51 years and i still have someone i call all the time for advice (thanks Greg). Hope you make out with this adventure, i wish you good luck. Dick G.


Nothing like the facts. I teach over a hundred students a year, maybe a dozen of them are of the male gender. And of all of these students, maybe three dozen are “white.” And, yeah, there are other black women (and men) printing via letterpress.

If cococotton prefer the exclusive critique of women she should post on Ladies of Letterpress :—) But if she really hates (enjoys) the comments of the “older white male skill” set, she should go over to Letpress for a real thrill. Now that is good ole boy. Briar is more this weird generational rivalry (though not actually on the part of the old farts; they don’t care how old or young you are).

Geez,if you don’t want folks who have been through it all to respond and would prefer to hear from folks who really have no clue, just include that notice in your posting.


I give a few one on one lessons out of my garage shop, a few years ago i had a woman come for a lesson, when she left my wife commented how pretty she was, i said i didn’t notice, she nearly blew up, i told her there was no right answer i could have given her, i think it was a trick question?? Like Gerald said mostly young women are getting into letterpress, i only give two or three lessons a year, in the last 8 or so years i think i’ve only had one or two men come by.

I happy to hear there are more women getting in letterpress or already in it.

When I said I felt like I was being attacked because I’m a women on here is statements like

” I worry for you well being because you sound like you may hurt yourself.”

” Being a graphic designer want help you. I would be more impress if you worked machinery or fixed a tracker. You have to be good with your hands.”

” it seems like you are not ready and I you will be like a student on the first day of school, not prepare. You haven’t done any of the steps to ready yourself at all.”

I mean really what student shows you for any school completely prepare for anything. I just like if I was a man they would of statement it different of not at all.

But like I said I have to block that out and keep moving forward.

Any more stories?

I do want to here advice from the vets. There a plenty, plenty of vets so are willing to teach the next. But the bullies are going to be the ones that will fight you every step of the way. And it’s easy to put the focus on those then those was really want to help.

But the people who come on here in a bad mood should just log off and have a beer first and let their bad day go before they start posting.

Everyone on this site should remember to take what is typed with a grain of salt….about the size of a deer lick (a chunk of salt about one square foot for those of you who have never seen one)….or a chillax pill…is that like a really cold ex-lax pill? Some people are easily offended….it doesn’t mean that the person who wrote the post meant to thumb their nose at you. I’ve never been able to read body language through my computer monitor, but I can imagine the eye rolling and beverages that get spit out on the monitors of people reading my posts. Maybe if you could think of us old-timers as a grandmother/father. We can be stubborn & set in our ways, but there is usually a good reason for it. Whippersnappers back in the day got spanked, their mouths washed out with soap, or knuckles slapped with a splintered ruler…they call that child abuse today (so is duct taping an unruly child to the floor). I still cringe when curse words are spoken.

Cococotton, good luck with your new printing press. Happy printing!

cococotton very few people make any real money doing letterpress printing so many have lots of time to post crap. I

I’m reminded of the old adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

@cococotton Not sure how you were able to draw a gender biased conclusion from my statements which you have also heavily editorialized.

I based my conclusions about your lack of advance preparation from some of your past posts such as the one asking about Boxcar base size and if a chase was required when using one. If you had spent any time at all doing research regarding Boxcar bases you would have realized that the answer to these questions are all on Boxcar’s site or obvious if you understood the mechnics of the Heidleberg 10 x 15.

My intentions were well placed, and I certainly never questioned your integrity, desire or ability - much less your gendor or race. I just pointed out that someone with the skill set you claim to possess should be able to easily build a foundation of prerequsists better than what it appears you have done to date. This in turn would better prepare you for one on one instruction, and also facilitate your ability to articulate issues that arise within a forum setting.

Anyway, I hope you find sucess in your new venture.


You may not have meant it that way, but you don’t know me well enough to say anything outside of telling me what dies to use. You may not know how you come off, but your condescending attitude sucks. You may talk to your wife that way or even your clients. But you helped me with nothing so I owe you nothing. I’ll just over it, but I don’t think you are a good person. More like a cancer tumor on a good site. This is beyond letterpress it’s about basic human skills and how you talk to the public. I’m not impressed. I’m 33 and a grown women. So please check your life, reflect and improve accordingly.

@cococotton sorry that you feel that way.

Unfortunately, you are the one who has mounted personal attacks that are truly unwarranted.

My life is very good thank you, I check it daily.

Boys and Girls
(or men and women if boys and girls is offensive)
Please behave yourselves
This is a forum for printing stuff
If you wish to criticize one another, please do so in private emails
I believe in free speech, but please consider that you are broadcasting to many who enjoy this forum for printing stuff

not criticism

A good way to deal with disruptive posters is to ignore them, in the hopes they will find someone on another site that will be willing to engage them.

Yep, I took the bait… hook, line and sinker.

Sorry folks.

Back to production….

Spellcheck or basic grammer usage anyone? I’m not an experienced printer, but I am appalled at the really poor grammer/spelling by people of either gender whose 1st language is apparently English. I am an English major first, Library Science master’s second, hobby printing third.

Forgive me, everyone. Perhaps the poster who has no grammer/spelling sense is using Spellcheck only and not a dictionary. I wonder who will proofread for her/him?

cococotton: you need to take a step back and really think about about what was said on your other threads, and what you are saying here. What I am reading from you in this thread takes you right to the level of the offenders you are criticizing. There is a diplomatic way to post a rebuttal and you went completely overboard in your post here to rontxhou. Attacking someone in that way is uncalled for and grounds for removal (but, fortunately for you, I am not the site owner or moderator).

If you have felt attacked, lashing back does not solve the issue and takes a thread completely off subject.

You never gave user Theo a chance to defend or explain his/her first comment in your “dies” thread. You went straight in to attack mode. I agree that the comment was a bit odd, but your handling of it was way off base.

I too have seen a bit of rudeness to others here, and addressed it, but calmly and diplomatically.

If you expect to get any further help here, I suggest you check your attitude at the home page first.

I will agree that there are a lot of negative comments made to newbies. When I was beginning I was VERY reluctant to ask questions because discussions sometimes diverge into the asker’s vocabulary choices or ignorance. I had a tendency to just use the search function. Usually it worked, and I found dozens of threads on every topic. So I spend hours/weeks reading instead of posting. It seemed to be just a site culture thing that I got used to. It is worth remembering that the institutional knowledge on this site is far and beyond anything you will ever find anywhere else. So you should probably be respectful (even if your responders don’t have that courtesy).
Also, good for you for being a black woman entering the letterpress world. We need more people like you. But, as a woman, I haven’t ever felt any gender inequality here. And I have to agree with rontxhou, am not sure what that has to do with gender….

I’m curious as to why newbies think that if you ask a stupid question you should be exempt from criticism? And why, if you get a response that falls short of pat-you-on-the-head-and-send-you-on-your-way, that the big bad old guy printers are being mean to little wookums?

I went to work at a large offset shop at the beginning of my career, feeding (that means I was in charge of getting the large sheets of paper through the press) on a 50” two-color Harris offset press, loading 10,000 lbs of paper by hand each night. I was hired knowing full well that the feeder who had been there before me had jogged the tip of his middle finger in between the massive cylinders, and by pulling his arm back had pulled the tip of his finger off. A few years earlier, a janitor with developmental difficulties pointed at a sheet inside the delivery while the press was running, and the grippers grabbed his arm between the two bones of his forearm. The pressman was able to stop the press, but he had to be cut off of the gripper bar with a torch. Or the fellow in an adjoining city who, while walking on the catwalk between the running cylinders on the same kind of press, got the bottom of his pants leg caught on the blanket ratchet while the press was running at full speed, and ran his leg into the press, losing it at the hip.

We, as veteran printers, all have horror stories to tell, and when a person with nothing but good intentions buys a complicated press like a Heidelberg windmill expecting to toss off some fancy printing with a handful of one-hour lessons, our red-flags go up immediately. It doesn’t take a complicated press to cripple you. It takes arrogance and inattention, it takes lack of knowledge and lack of caution, and it takes just a moment of working in a situation where the operator is distracted to cause grievous injury. If you don’t know how to maintain your machine parts can literally fly off of the machine. This happened to a veteran printer I know, one of the best, the bolt holding the single roller on his C&P failed sending the roller airborne, narrowly missing his head.

So when you ask a stupid question; when you paint your press to match your fingernail polish, or give it a cute name, fully expect that you will get some shit. If you go to school unprepared you will have to suffer the consequences, but outside of a paper-cut and a little embarrassment I think you might recover. If you go to your job unprepared you won’t have the job very long. If you are unprepared in a printshop you can cause damage to yourself and the machinery. If you post here acting like a total idiot, expect to be treated as such. If you can’t be bothered to do your homework, and hope that someone will be nice enough to give you the answer so you don’t have to, expect some crap. If you think that attacking the crabby old guys will make you a better printer, think again. If you think that you are re-inventing an obsolete craft by throwing out 570 years of printing history and doing “something that’s never been done”, forget it - it’s been done.

When veteran printers give you advice you might actually try listening to them, rather than getting upset that the answer you are getting might not be the answer you want. I personally don’t care if you respect me or not, but you should respect my 40 years of experience.

Paul, i still respect you. well said.

@dickg. Thanks, I appreciate it.

@Devils Tail Press

Wait a hot second. Pressman don’t name their presses?! No Dandy Vandy? My dreams are crushed. *scratches out “Chewie” for name of paper cutter*

Hey, at least I wasn’t planning on painting it Barbie Pink! ;)

All kidding aside, I agree with Dick, well said.

Heidi, Shotzi and John

I would like to write loads , but calling someone more like a cancerous tumour on a website deserves a public apology, when you have earlier professed your beliefs in a beneficial God.
Especially when people will have known of others who have suffered.

Sometimes I’m wondering if it’s still worth being member of this forum – so many Newbies who want all the answers served on a dish of silver, so many harsh comments if you don’t give the answer they wish to hear or you ask them to use the inside of their head themselves. But it’s a great forum with so many helpful and knowledgeable members always willing to help – especially if you have done your homework.
Letterpress printing is a trade, a craft, like other crafts like blacksmiths, woodworkers etc. etc. Letterpress is a trade, a craft, based on more than 500 hundreds years of experience. It takes time to learn letterpress properly. In the old days it was a bit easier than today with the opportunity to become an apprentice as typesetter or printer with several years of education – practically in a print shop and theoretically on schools. Today you have to figure everything out yourself. Don’t expect to be an expert over a summer.
As other crafts, if you want to be a good craftsman, you have to use the inside of your head – otherwise you will never be good. If you can’t figure the things out, or at least understand them, you will never be able to get all the way. Letterpress printing is mostly trouble sorting and you have to learn it. You have to learn to figure out the problems yourself, or if you are coming to the point where you need to get some help then you have to understand your problem before asking.
Letterpress printing is communication. Like all other trades and crafts it has its own language. If you want to learn from and communicate with other letterpress printers you have to learn the language - otherwise you will not be able to ask the right questions or understand the answers.
Because there will be situations, there will be many of them, where you can’t figure the tings out yourself and you have to ask someone with a bit more experience than yourself.
Letterpress is also respect – for the equipment and the skilled persons there have been involved in the craft for decades. Respect for the equipment because: Adana’s aren’t made for die cutting, deep impression or poster printing with 40-line wood types; Heidelberg OHT are not the best presses for the beginner but professional presses made for professional long runs and to be operated by professional printers; it might be a little difficult to print on a 900gsm stock on a cylinder proof press; 150 years old Victorian metal types aren’t made for deep impression etc. etc. But also because the wrong press in the hands of the wrong person will hurt or be hurt. Respect for the skilled and knowledgeable persons with a lifetime in the craft, who are offering a lot of their time sharing their knowledge to the new era of letterpress printing – an era without possibilities to learn the craft as in the old days. If you don’t respect their knowledge you will risk that they will stop sharing and you will miss a great source of information’s.
So, if you ask a silly question without doing your homework first and a skilled typesetter or printer calls you an idiot or a fool - be happy, I bet it isn’t personally, and see it as a hint to go back and use the inside of your head, make some investigation, take some classes, get a local mentor, read some books and trouble sorting so you will learn something and be able to ask some real qualified questions worth offering time on and answering. Then a lot of people will stand on their heads here helping you.
There is no easy way to learn letterpress!
All the best & Gott grüß die Kunst

Vettelove, i don’t name my presses, but when things aren’t going well i call them some names i can’t say here or anywhere else. I have seen quite a few people name their presses, even their cars, i don’t get it but i guess to each their own, presses already have names Heidleburg, Golding, C&P, and so on. Jens, love your posts, love your pictures you post, good job.

Well said Jens.

Brilliant Jens, your comment!

Thanks :-)
Gott grüß die Kunst

Ditto gentlemen …

To answer the question that started all of this…there simply isn’t a really obvious consumer friendly resource for buying dies because it’s more of a business-to-business thing. As I’m sure many printers on this site know, most of the people supplying for such professional work are used to dealing with companies who have been doing it for generations…and/or simply haven’t figured out how to design a contemporary and efficient website yet! Being a beginner myself, it’s always funny to order things and get invoiced instead of just entering my credit card info.

In any case and that being said, this company just popped up with a self-promotional post on LinkedIn’s letterpress discussion page:



Looks like as good as any place to start.

I think the issue isn’t that the new folks aren’t getting the answers that they want but more so they’re getting information delivered in a manner which belittles them. Yes, yes, everyone should do their research but if you’ve ever worked retail I think you’ll agree that being informed is the exception and not the norm.

None of us want to see letterpress die out so it would seem to me the best course of action would be to find a way to stress safety and pass along lessons in a manner that doesn’t belittle those who may be interested, but misguided. Insults and sarcasm are not going to spur anyone to learn nor are they going to encourage further community engagement or inquiry.

Maybe we can all agree to be a bit more magnanimous? It’s going to benefit everyone in the long run.

I’ve occasionally gotten some good information from this site. Usually the most valuable help comes through other relationships, usually off of the forum.

Unfortunately, the current state/vibe of this site is what you get when you let older, cranky people on the internet.

We deal with it, but yeah, it’s sucky.

Another facet that should be articulated is the difference between letterpress printing strictly as as a historical blue collar industry, and the letterpress renaissance as an aesthetic movement within the overall printing industry. I’ve noticed that members of one camp aren’t always very gracious with the other. My guess is that they don’t completely understand or respect each other, and the experience they are each drawing from. If both were willing to work together and challenge their assumptions, both would benefit and enjoy their work much more.

It’s mostly that the one doesn’t respect the other.

Younger folks do respect the older folks, to the point that they come to them (here) and ask for advice.

Then they get bitched at for their new fangled polymer plates and harmful deep impression.

Type was thrown out by the dumpster load in the late 70’s than I entered the Trade. I have printed books from handset type, than got a Monotype plant, moved to a different country altogether and now print from polymer plate and last year added a massive Ludlow collection, so there will be printing from Lead again.
All that is not the issue I believe - the problem arises than people with questions and no knowledge are patronized that only a Mag or copper plate gives deep impression, the value and uses of the different type of presses are distorted and we forget that even we have been once green behind our ears. In this time of instant gratification, patience is on a short fuse. This - our Craft takes years to get it right, there is no glory here - it’s a hard business if you want to make a living in it. Let’s strive to be civil, if you have an argument with somebody, take it off to an private exchange. If you have a private exchange and it get’s heated, don’t run back to the Forum to repeat it all and proof a non existing point.

Let’s talk printing here, not letterpressing, Typography - the proper way of setting type and designing for a plate.


Another important element to discussion seems to have gone the way of the linotype - humility.

But on either side, there should be no surprise. The older more experienced set speak parentally, whereas the younger upstarts naturally question what they see as worn out practices and traditions and are trying new things. Thats the facts of life.

Those who are active participants in the new letterpress movement are using traditional methods and equipment to produce new and fresh results. These results have revived the industry and gave it a future, thank goodness - its how I feed my family. And yes, some inexperienced operators might damage equipment or themselves, but inexperienced operators damaging things is an issue that is certainly not new. Its safe to say that everyone on this post has damaged something in their career, myself included.

Letterpress printing has always been about thinking outside the box and problem solving, and in the current letterpress movement, there are new problems to solve, and we can all participate and work together for the cause.

yes thats a point but some of our more common smashes came from things like six sheet pick up because the wrapper glue has stuck a wedge of stock into a big thick lump of material which when it passed through the press caused a horrible smash , Now they want to know how to do that on purpose without busting a crank on a machine thats two hundred years old or made of modern lighter materials !
I do recognise that the worst damage cropping up here is from transport damage , i have dropped one machine ,it was after it was back on the ground and it came off the rolling feet ,only dropped six inches but it may as well have been six foot !
We can sit and laugh quietly at the sometimes ridiculous questions but we cant ignore crass stupidity , or can we?

I don’t see any instances that use of photopolymer is belittled on this site, in fact there are many more discussions that are concerned with the sourcing, set-up, and usage of photopolymer plates than there are for any hand-set types. I find it amusing that there is the attempt to separate letterpress into “old school” and “new school” rather than realizing that it has been a continuous movement since the beginning of printing. The “worn out” practices referenced above are the best practices this field had to offer, and eschewing those practices are not a sign of a revitalized industry, but are instead a sign of an industry (cottage or otherwise) in distress. The “new letterpress movement” is only trying to shout out to the rest of the printing industry, to say “hey, were still here.” With letterpress far below 10% of the overall industry I would posit that the industry is not listening.

Common sense should follow that since, within the industry, presses were developed specifically for die-cutting, foil-stamping, and embossing, presses that were strong and more massively built, that perhaps trying to die-cut on an aluminum Adana, or a Kelsey, or even a Craftsman or a Pilot might not be the best thing to do. But, still the questions keep coming. The same goes for deep impression. So many of the presses favored by the “new breed”, Golding Pearls, table-top presses in general, and small floor platens were not made to take that king of abuse - and yes I mean abuse. These machines were not designed for that much impression, and when they break (and they will) the parts or replacements are not available, and competent machinists to affect repairs are scarce as well.

We are assured that folks who print with deep impression would never use wood or metal types, only photopolymer plates, but I don’t find that to be the case when I look at work posted online. If someone is drawn to that effect and only has the resource of wood and metal type, then the type will be damaged irreversibly. We all know it happens, but the advocates of the “new letterpress movement” choose to turn their heads, where us “cranky old guys” point it out as an improper use of tools and materials.

I’m sad when I look online and see finished projects that look like a first make-ready, sad that rules of printing that were developed over 500 years are ignored, and that the current fad of sloppy printing is touted as the way letterpress was meant to be. I’m glad that the old-timers I learned from are not around to see how far their craft has fallen. If letterpress is about problem solving then why create problems where none existed?

I find myself in the rare position of being someone who learned printing as a trade. When I was hired into a union shop 40 years ago I understood that I was learning a trade that had a long and continuous history. I was also told then that letterpress was obsolete by people who had transitioned from letterpress to offset within the industry. We called them ‘thirty year men’, and they were respected because they were good at what they did. I worked as a pressman, and if my work wasn’t the best I could do, and comparable to the the rest of the work that issued from the shop then I was called out, not the other way around.

I find it sadly amusing some of that the younger printers on the site think that they know their craft better than printers who started in the field before they were even born. I find it even sadder that when we offer advice with the best of intentions there is always someone here that will try to diminish the advice by asserting that, by doing printing the way we were taught by truly talented printers we are the ones who didn’t care and allowed it to fall into some sort of disrepute. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We were and are the printers that managed to save enough of it so that you have type and machines to play with. Without us and our knowledge that links us back a generation or two or three there would be less of it than there already is. We have been told in so many ways that you don’t need us, that we have just been holding back progress, but the reality is that without us you wouldn’t know what you know now, and you wouldn’t have the resources available that you do.


Paul, I’m sorry the letterpress biz has become such a negative experience for you. I’ve spent my life in the industry as well and its a uniquely positive experience for me.

@Bill Paul and I have disagreed in the past regarding the “state” of letterpress. He has some very valid points that we should all acknowledge and address such as supply chain. Some of us have carved out a nice living within, but again Paul is probably accurate in that those business models have limited scale.

However, what cannot be debated is the valuable resource that Paul brings to the “party”. I have learned that he along with individuals like Gerald Lange, Peter Luckhurst and countless others need to be respected and given ample consideration.

I am sure you have more history in the letterpress business than I have. This is a side gig for me as I am a semi-retired Information Technology guy that is pursing this purely because I love the machinery and it has helped to expand an already successful and existing business that my wife had started. That being said, your perspective might be quite different, but I am guessing that you probably agree with the need to preserve the collective knowledge of folks like yourself and Paul. We will most likely never experience the vibrant business some of the elders have, but we can leverage their skill to make our “niche” businesses more profitable and long lived.

Bill, I think you misinterpret my words. Printing and letterpress in particular is my life’s passion, something I have always loved doing (except for running A.B.Dicks with a chute delivery). Like any printer I have had bad experiences with clients, but nothing that makes me down on the process itself. Where I have a problem is with beginning printers who like to tell me that I’m old, so I don’t know what I’m talking about, or that I’m too set in my ways so I should loosen up and print shitty like they do. Sorry, pal, I learned years ago that there is a right way to do things, and a wrong way, and I’ll gladly hold up any of my work against any of the stuff that is churned out today. Because I am vocal in my opinions, and do not back down from bullying does not mean I have a negative view of letterpress. It means I have a negative view of stupidity, which is something of which we all should be more critical.

But thanks for trying to get in my head.

Hi Paul

I haven’t forgotten about you, just a bit backed up here.

You mention the “new letterpress movement.” And it is somewhat generational. Seems to be a twenty first century thing and is across the board in the various crafts. Populism combined with future shock. Lots of stuff written about this phenomenon.

I suppose the good news is that generations change (though folks hair styles and music interests do persist for some very long time) and movements are not known to be long-lived. Blips in the continuum.

Anybody notice that traditional Sentence Case seems to have made a comeback on the internet in recent years (excluding mobile devices of course).


Hi Gerald.

Hope your talk went well. I just read a nice essay on Saul Marks by Lawrence Powell, and thought of you. Remember the grid and confetti movement that was so popular about the time Madonna, mullets and fern bars came on the scene?


Hey, dont get me wrong guys, I never suggested that its ok to not respect anything or anyone. My view and passion is just the opposite.

I don’t have as much time to come on here as others, but when I do, I very much enjoy all of your wisdom and perspectives. It’s in my nature to try to assess big picture situations and try to articulate them. My place (and personal perspective) in the letterpress world is unique whereas I guess I am still considered the younger generation, but began at age 13 with a formal training and apprenticeship, which puts me at 23 years on press. My job is to not only print, but help other shops meet their business or production goals, which allows me to rub shoulders with some of the most popular and influential letterpress shops and individuals of the current era. But I do that while using and respecting the culture and history that it deserves, not to mention making it all happen with another 79 year old letterpressman. The difference between the old and new school is something that is manifested daily in my shop and is very obvious to me.

We work amicably with shops and printers of all generations, which is why I’m passionate about bridging the gap with respect and humility from both sides. When a younger upstart says “your too old” and doesn’t respect wisdom from an experienced letterpressman, thats obviously wrong and shortsighted. But when a more experienced businessman says “We were and are the printers that managed to save enough of it so that you have type and machines to play with” or “without us you wouldn’t know what you know now” albeit true, are abrasive and wont foster good communication. I think we can all do better.

I teach (or try to teach) young people printmaking, 25 years now,and in recent years find that many just want instant answers and solutions: is that due to the current educational systems, just to pass exams or just handle information, or just the current state of the world with current instantclick gratification technologies kapow hit the gamebox button and get 10 zillion rewards and extra weapons? I see research folders that appear to be just collections of photocopies or printed out answers from internet searches, it is just presenting information.For most of us I am sure hard won knowledge is the most treasured.
To be informed is not the same necessarily as knowing:different perspectives.
The difficult thing is trying to show/ teach getting some to understand “how to learn how to learn”, (for example , showing to students compositional analysis of Samuel Palmers 1860’s etchings-students know these are composed somehow, and when they see how, then they can apply it so it is relevant today and hopefully the spark is lit) and apply and learn from practical experience. Briar and other websites, youtube etc etc present information and knowledge, again, is the difficulty getting across to anyone “how to learn how to learn” from all this amazing stuff.
And yup I am learning /attempting to learn more and teach letterpress myself from a very basic background of seeing and reading and giving it a go, so hopefully I understand from a beginners perspective what they are facing,and with help from the museum and friends where I volunteer and places like Briar press, and lots more background work including listening and thinking, doing sufficient that I can hopefully open up this marvellous world to students, who bless them find dissing back type tedious(so do I when they leave it for me) and prefer sometimes polymer which has got its edge for text and image and preferable for heavy embossing(and I don’t have to diss that back). The ones who stick with letterpress love it, buying hand platens etc.
So-rhetorical question-should the young be only seen but not heard, and the elders heard but not seen? “course not! It’s the discourse that keeps it going, otherwise it ain”t half lonely treadling away on a press or doing 14000 die cut envelopes on a night shift on a Heidelberg or totally putting together 75000 A5 20page booklets in the backend of nowhere in the UK(hope it went ok Peter).
Aptitude-attitude-only one letter difference,they may be related but not mean the same kind of thing……….and thanks Briar for all I am still learning from contributors here. Including not to disrespect contributors.

Hi Paul

Remainder sent out today.

Things got reconfigured. I give a demo and talk on photopolymer (and the digital thing) in a few weeks and the Saul Marks lecture was pushed back to next year, far as I can tell from the admins, who seem to be scrambling about. The PP thing will include Marks, of course. Lordy, if only digital photopolymer would have ultimately been concerned about typography. Everything today is atypographic. I failed.


No Gerald, you didn’t fail. The fact that a process is not used to it’s highest calling is not the failure of the those who developed it. Those who fault Nobel for the development of dynamite because it led to the development of high explosive war munition miss the point that it is the market/user who can elevate an idea, or throw it down to it’s most base use.

Someday, I suspect you may receive much more reverence—sadly that will only be through the lens of history, so no accolades (or money!) in the interim.

So, we print on!