This weekend I decided to use the ludlow machine to cast simplistic, purely typographic business cards. I have been a docent at The International Printing Museum for about 3 years so its funny to say this is the first time I have letterpressed business cards for myself. I decided to use only the ludlow typograph to set my type partially to test myself, the machines restrictions and also to showcase a machine I feel is under appreciated and really completely unknown to just about anyone that is not a print maker.
This is a ludlow setting stick. It contains individual pieces of brass which have etched letters on one side to help you set your line and on the reverse side they have an engraved mold that will be used to cast with molten metal.
This is the underside of the casting stick pictured above so that you can see the mold that will be filled with liquid metal
The casting stick is inserted into the Ludlow Machine, a lever is pulled and the mold is filled with the molten metal, a cooling unit flash cools the metal so that within seconds of filling the mold a solid piece of metal called a slug is ready and ejects from the font of the machine onto the tray pictured above. Because these slugs are cast from a mold you are able to cast multiple slugs of the same line of type. This can be extremely helpful as it gives you backups in case something is damaged durring printing or lost.
This is a close up shot of the slug of metal with my name on it. The type is cast in reverse so that when it is inked and stamped onto paper it will be read right. The slug pictured above has frayed excess metal on the edges. This can happen when casting in large amounts and the heating and cooling units inside the machine come out of sync. This is easily scraped right off as the metal used is very malleable.
Once all my lines were cast I locked them up inside this rectangular metal frame called a chase. The chase allows you to "lock up" the materials you wish to print tight for use on a vertical press. "locking up" your printing material into a "form" is basically packing everything tightly so that nothing will shift while being printed.
Vertical form lockup of my business card.
Closer inspection of my cast lines of type. Each line of type is cast on its own slug, my four line business card resulted in 4 slugs of type and additionally I added 4 horizontal rules which were packed in the form as well.
This was just a transfer of ink from the proofed lockup to a clean roller.
This is a shot down the center of the Chandler and Price (C&P) press that I used to print my cards. On the left you can see the form locked into place and on the right, a sheet of paper clipped into place. These clips help you keep your cards in place and precisely lined up on every single print.
This is not what they mean by handing out business cards.
This is the C&P press that I used to print my cards. If you look closely you can see my form locked up in the chase on the press.
The finished product. I did half of my business cards "properly" and the other half I gave a deep emboss to. In the printing industry embossing the paper while printing is considered a flaw and a sign of a poor job. The idea with letterpress was originally to simply "kiss" the paper hard enough to fully transfer the ink but not so hard as to leave an impression. This impression is now considered some what of a badge, proof that your product was indeed created by letterpress and not by digital printing means.
This is just a short video of the C&P press running. The machine runs on momentum which you start by spinning the giant wheel on the side with you hand. One the wheel is spinning you continue the momentum with the Treadle (foot petal) on the bottom of the machine. The spinning wheel causes the rollers to roll across the ink plate on top, down the front and across the form, automatically inking for you. The tempen then drops down with your substrate on it and presses against the form. The metal disk on top then spins as the rollers come back up to the plate on top, this keeps an even consistency of ink as it wets the rollers and comes back down to re-ink the form for every consecutive print. (sorry for the quality of the video. I used my iphone to capture this and held it vertically, a horrible way to shoot video as it creates so much negative space)