As I was growing up I went through phases of getting fascinated with printing, and had a Salter printing set as a Christmas present and a couple of sets of ‘John Bull’ printing outfits bought from a jumble sale that I used to make various little projects. I also had out of the local library a 1960s American book ‘Printing as a Hobby’ that taught me plenty about how someone could print at home.
Fast forward about 25 years, and other than the odd thought I had pretty much forgotten about letterpress until I came across a large box of Adana type and accessories in the scrapyard. This was too good an opportunity to pass over, so I bought the boxful for about £20 and proceeded to experiment with it at home.
Adana Parts as Found
The box contained plenty of type, a few frames, composing stick, rules and other odds and ends, so other than the ink and a brayer (roller), enough to get me started. My initial experiments involved tinkering and using the back of a spoon to press down, and I was successful in making a batch of Christmas cards.
After this initial foray I started to get a bit more interested and so started looking around for other materials. This led to various searching on ebay and a trip to Shropshire one evening to collect a purchase and view a collection. I arrived in a small village outside Telford where someone had relatively recently moved into a new house which turned out to be the old printers shop. Buried in the shed and greenhouse at the end of the garden was loads of old printing materials, which had presumably been there since the building was converted into a house in the 1980s.
The main attraction was a cabinet full of wood type, around 14 founts of letters and numbers, and with the exception of one half alphabet, all in usable quantities, I negotiated on this, and whilst I had to pay real money for it, the price was far better than I would have had to pay for individual founts, and I got the case and drawers containing the type too. We then went on to other items and I came back with several chases, lots of aluminium spacing material, pointy fingers, rules and other picture blocks.
The whole collection was covered in many years of grime, so I spent a several evenings having a thorough clean of all the type and a further week or so of evenings restoring the drawers and the cabinet the printer had built to house them.
As I don’t (yet!) have a press suitable to work with the wood type, I have been using them to hand print. The setup includes using a large cast iron chase into which the type is set, sat upon a chipboard backboard. I use a planer I made myself from some beech salvaged from a sofa to set type to the correct height. Inking is by hand with a brayer (roller) and pressure applied using a hand block made from a scrap piece of polyethylene with rounded over edges.
Adana HS2 Restoration
After purchasing the wood type, I came a cross an unloved Adana HS2 press and a load of type on ebay. The press was complete, apart from rollers but was in a poor state. I dismantled and cleaned the press of rust by soaking parts in citric acid solution and re-assembled, oiling and greasing as necessary over the course of a few evenings. New rollers were purchased and the press was back in action This gave me a working press for a very reasonable prices. This press has made producing longer runs of prints much easier, although the print size is fairly limited.
Adana HS 2 Press in Use & Printed Tags