Big Jump Press

The mistakes I made today

When printing a book, every day becomes about the colors that I churn out and the mistakes that hold me up. Today I devote an entry in the bloggity blog to the mistakes of the day.

Mistake number one: My first two press runs had gone swimmingly. I’d printed a glorious red color (see above) on two folios, and was so very pleased with them that I may have gotten a bit cocky. I cleaned the press for my next couple of runs, a light gray. I mixed my ink, inked the press, pulled some proofs, and even moved on to the edition before I realized that AARGH: I had not been meticulous enough when cleaning the red ink off of the rubber rollers. The residue of my red run had colored the light gray and turned it into a pink.

Whenever something like this happens, I embark on an agonizing decision making process. Do I care? Does it matter? Will anyone notice? Is it really all that bad if it is [insert mistake here: overinked, slightly crooked, the wrong color, misspelled]? The answer, horribly, should always be YES. YES I care. YES it matters. NO probably no one will ever notice. YES it is that bad if I lazily let [whatever stupid thing] stay just the way it is rather than correcting it. So I cleaned the press all over again, this time with religious zeal, and re-inked it. See below for a satisfying before and after. (Satisfying only if you notice the difference. Please notice.)

Having corrected that mistake, I sanctimoniously cruised through that run. When it was finished, I smoothly moved the plate into a new position to print this gray circle onto a new page. Everything was going well, the setup for the next run took all of ten minutes (to the uninitiated: ten minutes is like a fricking world record for setting up a run) and I was feeling like a genius. And then guess what happened? A mistake.

Mistake number two: Generally, when printing a run, you should be giving a close inspection to one sheet out of every five or ten. That way you will catch a mistake before you do too much damage. (A purist here might say that you should be giving a close inspection to every sheet. To them I say: shhhhhh! stop being such a purist.) Well, I wasn’t really checking that often, and it was the end of the day, and I was tired, and it was a light gray! So hard to see glaring errors when they are all printed in such a subtle, unobtrusive color. But then, horribly:

Can you see it? Can you see those speckles? Can you imagine what might have happened? Well, I can. On a Vandercook SP-15, the press I was using today, the rubber rollers have a tendency to loosen up and then descend. The rollers are simple and easy to adjust, but those yummy bakelite knobs (see below) inevitably relax and turn of their own accord, meaning that the rubber rollers (they look orange below) slowly lower during a press run until they are inking not only the relief surface on the plate, but also the low-lying, non-printing areas and even the base itself. The result? Speckles, over-inking, general sloppiness, and then agony when you realize what you have reaped with your laziness. In my case, about 25 wasted sheets. See below for yummy bakelite knobs.

Lucky for me I had some blank sheets handy, and so, while I wasted about £10 worth of paper, I did not have to give up on the run. Every day of printing, at least for me, can involve one or two problems like this. But I do not lose heart. Because slowly, slowly, this book is coming together. Below: my open flat file, revealing nine in-process folios.

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One comment on “The mistakes I made today

  1. Ellen Huntington Slade
    May 11, 2012

    I am learning so much about your process, and about your incredible dedication to what you do. And, as well, I read it all as a metaphor for what any of us who love what we do go through: speckles on pieces of paper that don’t belong? yummy bakelite knobs that we adore but frustrate us unless we know their idiosyncracies…? I see it all.

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This entry was posted on May 11, 2012 by in Letterpress, Work in progress.
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