Handworks 2017 was a blur of faces, handshakes and hugs with people I haven’t seen in ages. It also was a chance to meet a new crop of hard-core woodworkers, people in their 20s who are determined and talented – it was unlike anything I’ve seen before at a woodworking show.
In the cacophony of questions, comments and criticism came an unfamiliar young voice that startled me.
“How is it that you see your anarchism as separating you from politics,” he said, “when what you do is so political?”
It’s the kind of question you expect in a 400-level PolySci class, not a barn. So I stopped and tried to answer the question. Note that I’m terrible in these situations (which is why I’d be a slip-and-fall lawyer at best). Eventually I said enough words that the questioner (mercifully) let me go.
The guy was Dan Clausen, who writes the Pequod Workshop blog and is a literature PhD candidate at the University of Nebraska. He’s a thoughtful guy I’ve been following for a while, and he is able to cut through a lot of the BS in hand-tool woodworking. Today the “Full Stop” quarterly republished one of his essays titled “The Anarchist in the Woodshop,” which you can read in full for free here.
It’s an essay about the things that we don’t say about our work here at Lost Art Press. It might alarm some and comfort others. But the bottom line is Dan is a pretty keen observer and got it right. Check it out.
Nick Offerman, actor, humorist and longtime woodworker whose most recent book, “Good Clean Fun,” was dubbed part memoir/part technical guide with “zen-like life lessons” by Esquire, recently read Nancy R. Hiller‘s “Making Things Work.” And loved it.
“These poignant, honest, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious but always masterful stories are so much more than woodworking anecdotes – they are nakedly human moments, rendered with the hard-won sagacity of the purist. A necessary read for any aspiring craftsperson, but just as requisite for the clientele. I can’t decide in what retail section this book should be displayed – fine woodworking? Sure, that’s easy, but the integrity of Ms. Hiller’s voice, the tenacity of her principles, and the respect with which she endows honest, hard work compel me to suggest instead the shelves of philosophy, self-help, etiquette or even religion, goddamnit.”
We rarely carry books from other publishers in our store – we’re picky. But Offerman’s review illustrates why this book was an easy addition to our collection.
Editor’s Note: Briony Morrow-Cribbs, who illustrated “The Anarchist’s Design Book,” has just completed a run of 50 letterpress prints on the evolution of the expansive bit for a client. As part of the process, she has 50 prints to sell. Read the story about the process below. Details on ordering the print are at the end. Briony does fantastic work, and we love this print (I have one in my office).
Last winter, when I completed the illustrations for “The Anarchist’s Design Book” by Lost Art Press, I was hopeful I would be invited to do similar illustration projects. While I love creating my own art — my growing menagerie of strange and beautiful beasts and botanicals — there is something extremely satisfying in rendering clean, precision-based objects. In making these illustrations, the emphasis shifts away from “what do I want to say” to “how do I best convey the purpose and physical aspects of this object?” So it was to my delight that Eric Brown of Dayton, Ohio contacted me last February about commissioning an illustration of a portion of his collection of expansive drill bits dating from 1852 to 1874.
If you are not familiar with expansive or expansion bits, they are specialized drill bits for cutting large holes in wood, which use a combination of a center pilot bit with an adjustable, sliding blade or cutter. In addition, there is a set screw that locks the cutter into a desired position. Made before the invention of power tools, expansive bits were originally to be used with a brace, or other hand drill.
Eric’s expansive drill bit collection consists of over 300 individual pieces and he has managed to find patent numbers, dates and other information about the bits. After some discussion, Eric and I decided to start with six of the oldest patented bits and include text about their patent numbers and creators.
Initially, Eric was interested in having an edition of prints made from a photopolymer etching plate. (Photopolymer etching was the process that I used for The Anarchist’s Design Book. If you’re interested in knowing how I made these images, you can watch this movie). However, after several test strips and a lot of fussing around with laminating plates and figuring out etching times, I decided that a more straightforward approach to creating a large image combining both text and illustrations would be to create a relief plate. (In relief printing — woodblocks, linoleum blocks, photopolymer relief plates etc. — the raised surfaces are inked and the incised or lower areas stay white. On the other hand, intaglio images — engravings, etchings, collographs etc. — are inked by filling in the recessed surfaces and wiping the surface clean). This decision to create a relief plate meant that I could easily combine my hand-drawn imagery and computer-generated text, and it also meant that the image could be printed on a Vandercook letterpress which would make printing an edition a much quicker endeavor than repeatedly hand-inking and wiping a plate in order to produce each print.
The process began with photographing Eric’s six drill bit pieces and compiling a full-sized image in Adobe Illustrator of all the bits and their accompanying text. After that, I printed out images of the bits that had been enlarged by 130% and created a stippled ink drawing on vellum, carefully rendering shadows, blemishes and stamped type.
Photograph of L.H. Gibbs expansion bit
Ink drawing of L.H. Gibbs expansion bit
Following the rendering of each image, I scanned the drawing back into the computer at a high resolution to create a bitmap image that I then moved into Adobe Illustrator in order to create a vector-based image.
Finally, when all of the drill bits were rendered, scanned and processed, I sent the full-size, completed vector digital file to Boxcar Press. Boxcar Press is a shop in central New York that sells letterpress materials and offers letterpress printing services, and also has the awesome ability to create letterpress relief plates from polymer material. The plate comes with a double-stick adhesive on the back that allows it to adhere to a thick base-plate that raises the relief plate until it’s perfectly type-high and ready to be printed on a letterpress.
Polymer relief plate ready to be inked and printed
For the first printing of the illustration, I used a makeshift base plate from a ¾” piece of MDF topped by an ⅛” sheet of acrylic. While I was able to produce enough prints for the initial edition, the instability of those two materials meant that the printing of the plate was inconsistent. After receiving a solid ⅞” aluminum base plate from my boyfriend for my birthday, the printing of the second edition suddenly became much easier.
Abe getting ready to print using the Vandercook press at The Putney School.
This print can be a great addition to any home or shop. You can order a print via this link.
Special thanks to my boyfriend, Abe Noe-Hays, for helping me to set up and print both editions of the image. While neither of us are expert letterpress printers, Abe’s mechanical aptitude made the job not only manageable but also enjoyable. Thank you, Abe!
Want to ruin a secular or religious day of observance? Have a sale to celebrate it.
At my last job, the Internet marketing lickspittles took every opportunity to inject commerce into something otherwise beautiful, grave or important. A few of their gems:
Don’t Let These Deals “Pass” You Over – Our Passover Sale!
Kiss These Deals – They’re Irish – St. Patty’s Day Sale!
TGIF – Our Good Friday Sale!
It’s Cinco de Deal-o!
Of course, all of these pale in comparison to department stores that have “white sales” on Martin Luther King Day. Think about that. Without any irony they’re selling white sheets on a day remembering a slain civil rights leader.
At Lost Art Press, we refuse to pair commercial activity to holidays, patriotism or national symbols. In fact, our only complaint about any of our suppliers is that the supplier for our hats puts an American flag on the back of the hat. I always cut it off when I see it.
Today is Memorial Day. Instead of shopping, I’m in the shop building a crate and thinking about my father, who served in Vietnam, and all my friends who served in the Gulf wars, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. I’m listening to some of the music my dad took with him to Vietnam for his TEAC reel-to-reel – Led Zeppelin IV and the Beatles white album – and hoping the (unlikely) day comes when war is obsolete.
We’ve just put up for sale the final 150 copies of “Roman Workbenches” in letterpress. This is the last time you’ll see them on our site. We’re not reprinting the letterpress book.
The book is available to both domestic and international customers.
What about the two missing lines? All the copies have been personally repaired by me or Megan Fitzpatrick. We glued in the two missing lines on paper left over from the press run.
For those of you who cannot afford the letterpress version, I am working on an expanded edition that we will print on our regular offset printing presses that should be released at the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018.