My New Adana 8×5


My Adana 8x5

I am now the proud owner of an Adana 8×5. I bought it from The Old Printing Shop which is run by a father (Michael) and son (Daniel). They have a fantastic collection of old letterpress blocks and wooden type and both are very knowledgable and a pleasure to do business with. It was good to buy it from people with many years experience of printing.

Thankfully it is possible to download the Adana Eight Five Instruction Manual from the Briar Press website so I spent the morning reading it and cleaning and oiling my new pride and joy. It was pretty dirty but cleaned up really well and a good squirt of WD40 in the (12) oil holes certainly made it feel a lot smoother. One of the screws from the lay gauge is missing so I’ll have to try and sort that out. I gave the rollers a good wipe with white spirit and am storing them propped up on wooden blocks so they don’t become dented or flattened. My print room is in the conservatory which gets very cold in the winter and very sunny in the summer. Extremes of temperature and sunlight are bad for the rollers so they’ll be kept in the house when not in use.

I havent bought any type yet as I’m going to start off printing blocks and photopolymer or magnesium plates. It also means I need slightly less equipment for now. I have got a chase, furniture, quoins and key, so just need to get some ink, paper, a small roller, a plate glass slab (for inking up) and get some plates made up and I’ll be off!


Choosing your First Letterpress

Choosing a suitable press has been another steep learning curve for me and as presses for letterpress are no longer manufactured its not a simple matter to find one either. I want to progress my printing ideas on 2 ways, firstly smaller (notecard) size items and secondly larger (up to A3 size) posters/art, incorporating both linocut and wood/metal letterpress type and /or photopolymer/magnesium plates.

After much online research and chats with helpful printers it seems like the Adana 8×5 would be a great little first press. Good for multiple runs, self-inking, fairly easy to source, not to expensive and parts easily available, but it wont handle the larger scale stuff.

Adana 8x5

I also considered nipping and bookbinding presses, standing screw platen relief presses, floor-standing Model hand platens, cylinder galley proofing presses (Vandercook), table-top flat bed platen presses (Albion, Columbian) and even intaglio (etching) presses. For larger scale work trying to get the the plate ‘biting’ into the paper for a tactile impression needs the pressure capability of a bigger machine (like an old Albion ~ something my budget won’t stretch to even if I could find one). The Briar Press website discussion pages are a ‘fount’ (ha-ha) of printmaking knowledge and it has several threads on adapting an etching press (greater pressure using a roller) to print relief work (without damaging metal type or squashing plates), so this might be my solution.

So, for now I think I will be starting with the Adana. Small ads in the printmaking journals are good to watch, but you have to be quick. I have been outbid now on ebay a few times for an 8×5 but perhaps this has been fortuitous. Most of the ebay sellers are not printers and I have no real idea what condition the presses are in and whether they are in good working order. I feel I have enough to learn without adding refurbishing a press to my list of skills to be mastered! Caslon bought the rights to the Adana company in the 1980s and sell beautifully refurbished presses in perfect working order, however somewhat over my budget. So the search continues…

Typographical Christmas Cards

My son is trying to raise money for a school trip to Iceland so we decided to design, print and sell some Christmas cards (or rather, good ole mum had the idea, designed and made the cards and he pocketed the money)! Still it was a good exercise in typographical design. They were designed in Adobe Photoshop Elements and printed on my home computer printer and here they are! They were very popular.

Typography Christmas Cards

Typography Christmas Cards


Great Books for Letterpress Printers

Having no formal graphic design background I feel just a little daunted when I read the pedigree of people who have set up other great letterpress studios… after years of experience in graphic design, typesetting or printing plus degrees in related subjects. I have trained in Interior Design and had printmaking tuition and would consider my self a ‘design conscious’ person, nevertheless I thought I’d start reading up on the subject. I bought several books, all of which I would totally recommend for being informative, instructive, practical and inspiring on letterpress, typography and design principles. Here they are:

Printing for Pleasure by John Ryder

Reinventing Letterpress by Charlotte Rivers

Typography Workbook by Timothy Samara

The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams

Impressive: Printmaking, Letterpress & Graphic Design, published  by Gestalten

Hand Job: A Catalog of Type by Michael Perry

My letterpress journey begins…

So this is my first entry on my first ever blog and faced with the blank page I’m having a bit of a ‘Dear Diary’ flashback to my teenage years, but this time I hope that people are going to read it. I thought I’d document my letterpress journey right from the start (in fact I haven’t even got the press yet!) because ever since I took the decision to give letterpress a ‘go’ my head has been whirling with all sorts of new terminology and conundrums. I have been fervently researching the topic online and the learning is curve is nothing, if not steep! It’s amazing to think that only a few weeks ago I had never heard of founts, quoins, reglet, furniture (no, not tables and sofas) and a chase (as a noun, not a verb).

I have some printmaking experience with linocuts, monoprints and collographs but letterpress is a new adventure for me and something I hope to combine with these other forms of printmaking. I hope my blog will encourage other ‘newbies’ to share their passion, joy and frustration with letterpress, design and typography, so we can inspire and support each other and that some ‘old hands’ will remember what it was like to be starting out and offer advice and encouragement to us along the way.

There has been a huge resurgence in letterpress and typographical art (especially in home interiors) recently with typography popping up on everything from cushions to doormats. It has been hard to miss the renewed popularity of posters bearing the “Keep Calm & Carry On” motto, which once again has a certain resonance for many people leading busy and stressful lives. The fashion for these personal mantra and motto posters has elevated them almost to cliche status, a tongue in cheek proclamation of our view on the world for all to see and identify with. A shared joke on life. I love them!

Letterpress printed items are nostalgic, original and individual and personal. They take time and skill to produce and, for me, this quirky, old-fashioned, hand-made heritage is a large part of it’s appeal.  Yet today it has being given a new lease of life, embracing computerised graphic design (the very technology that led to its demise) to create new and exciting prints and I hope to be part of the next wave of creative letterpress printers, pushing it to new boundaries whilst respecting its heritage.