I said in my last post that I finally got to do some printing last week, but I didn't go into further detail. The reason being that Glendon and I were combining our resources and experimenting with using our powers for letterpress good, and I wanted to write it up in a separate post.
Glendon's department at school recently purchased a new laser cutter, and he’s one of the people testing it and figuring out not only how it works, but its utilities and limits. I mentioned that I had read a post on Briar Press where a printer discussed using a laser cutter to make type-high woodcuts. Serendipitously, Glendon was way ahead of me, and I was like “score! Wood type just for me!” We’ll see about that, but our first experiment was pretty promising.
Last week he finally got a chance to try it out and he chose one of the free, vectorized cuts from Briar Press and made a woodcut initial. He used 3/4” finished plywood, so that it had a very smooth face. We’re going to try cherry too, a la the Briar Press post, but plywood seems to be working fine. The laser cutter is a 75-watt Epilogue CO2 laser, which is probably overkill for this sort of engraving since Winking Cat Press seems to be doing just fine using a 40-watt.
There are still a few kinks to be worked out, number one being wood height. Like I said, Glendon only had 3/4” wood, so he had to build it up to type height with sheets of acrylic. This process took a while and in the end one corner was still a bit lower than the others. We ended up using a few sheets of regular 20 lb paper cut to size and strategically placed under the cut to even it out. That was pretty easy and not a big deal; however if anyone knows a good source for type-high wood, please share. I found one site, but those prices aren’t cheap. In the meantime, we’re going to try to work out a better system of building up the cuts. Perhaps we’ll try to find two pieces of wood that equal type high when put together. When I say we, I don’t actually mean me. But look! Isn’t that cool?
We had a couple other fixable problems: the wood either got dinged or had a knot in the middle of the A where the blank spot is. I can fix that with makeready, but it would be much easier to just avoid it in the future through better wood examination and care. And then Glendon forgot about the whole reverse printing thing and neglected to reverse the image before printing it with the laser cutter. I’m pretty sure he would have noticed this if we’d been printing pretty much any other letter besides A, but for testing purposes, who really cares?
We didn’t really try to get an impression or anything because we were printing on a hard coated paper, and just getting the block even was rather time consuming. Actually, I signed up for this letterpress swap thing but naturally left it till the last minute, so this new process is already proving pretty handy. I might try to get some impression with one of those cuts since I’m using 100% cotton paper, and we’ll see how it goes.
Anyway we had a really good time printing the cut and doing makeready and stuff. Glendon’s often around while I’m printing, but it was so great actually doing the whole thing together. For me, it was basically the best date ever. Glendon had fun too, but I don’t think letterpress printing is his new passion or anything. Hey, as long as he keeps on playing with printing cuts on the laser cutter, it still seems like a pretty good partnership.