Other allied trades that support Letterpress

There are a lot of other trades, skills and crafts that share resources, techniques and materials with the Letterpress craft and they are included here both for interest as avenues to explore for inspiration, diversification and sources of material and equipment supply.

Paper making

Imported hand made paper can be expensive and having a local paper mill is a bonus.  While these papermills do not make paper specifically for letterpress printing they are local and some of their products can be used to add the handmade touch to a letterpress project.

  • Archival Paper @ UJ (University of Johannesburg), Doornfontein – Mandy, hand mould made cotton paper 082-321-4705 waterlily absamail co za
  • Handmade Paper Bryanston Organic Market, Mariette 082-565-3397 howzitvee gmail com

Hot foiling, Die cutting, Embossing

Foiling of napkins, labels, rosettes, business cards and other interesting things.  They make use of metal type and type slugs.  They sometimes make use of modified small or large platen presses that have heated chases and foil feed mechanisms fitted to replace the inking systems.

The die cutting trade often makes use of converted medium or large sized platen presses, basically they remove the inking systems and make the press accept metal packing and die cutting or scoring blocks.

Much marketing material is embossed to give it an obvious tactile surface, when done well it can look similar to an intaglio print from an engraving, often the raised surface on simple printing is achieved with ‘Verko’ thermographic powder that is dusted onto the wet ink and then re-flowed by passing through a heated tunnel. Embossing can be done on any sturdy letterpress machine and requires no inking  so can be done on simpler or modified presses.

  • Die Cut Johannesburg- die cutting, glueing – 011-402-3653
  • Murtans Doug, Johannesburg – die cutting, embossing, foiling- 011-493-4978
  • Afrocardz Nthabiseng, Pretoria – foiling, embossing and die cutting – 012-653-5211

Book Binding

They make use of metal type for foil blocking of covers.  They also sometimes make use of archival grade paper for repairs and generally have an interest in keeping older letterpress printed books in good condition.

  • Kyosti Bookbinders, Mara, Roodepooort 082-926-4526
  • Ashley’s Book Binders, Ashley, Johannesburg 073-346-6287
  • NR Book Binders Dion, Durban 031-305-1799 sales nrbookbinders co za
  • B.K. Bookbinders Keith, Durban – 031-312-2200 keith bkbookbinders co za
  • GraphiCraft Capetown – 021-465-7159 info graphicraft co za

Diary Suppliers

  • Still looking

Leather Goods Suppliers

  • Northampton Leather Supply Stanley, Johannesburg – custom leather folders – 011-618-2130
  • Vermont Leather Craft Ciaran, Randburg – leather binders – 011-792-7991 chynes vermont co za
  • Woodheads Capetown,  craft leather and tooling – 021-461-7185 info woodheads co za

Print making

There are many different ways of print making practiced today.  Before letterpress printing was developed in Germany and in the east it was preceded by relief printing off woodblocks, some of the work was of a very high standard and these skills were transferred into creating illustrations for letterpress printed works in time.  The illuminators from the time of the manuscripts eventually fell away as they could not work fast and cheaply enough to accommodate the speed of printing.  Various forms of Intaglio printing were practiced and still are, dry-point and hard and soft ground etchings with mezzotints and other techniques.  There are still used in various forms in fine art prints, some older map making traditions and also often in automated forms in printing of currency and other financial stocks and bonds, they are difficult to forge and confer security to the financial documents.  Intaglio printing also gives rise to an embossed end result due to the fact that the paper is pressed into the grooves of the paper to ‘fetch’ the ink with the use of high pressures, this is the opposite to Relief printing like wood-cuts, lino-cuts, wood engravings and traditional letterpress which results in a debossed finish if the impression is accidentally or deliberately made heavy.  Both result in a tactile surface that appeals to the modern market because it confers a sense of some work having being done to the paper and also because it is so rare with almost all modern printing being planographic and leaving a flat featureless surface.  The Lithography process was relatively recently invented and started out slowly while it was done with litho stones as the master and this mode is almost exclusively used by the art market, in time it was found that using suitably prepared (grained)  metal surfaces (litho plates) was possible and this and the offset technique revolutionised the whole printing industry and almost all high volume printing is done this way today.   Many of the other print making techniques make use of different types of presses due to the high pressures required for the processes but some of them can be made to work with letterpress though often more slowly and usually also requiring manual inking.  The inks used are also often formulated differently for the different applications and are not directly suited to letterpress often, with traditional hand made etchings it is common to mix the pigments into the carrier oils by hand, with wood block printing by hand in the eastern styles it is common to make use of water based pigments (not suited for metal letterpress type) that are brushed instead of rolled onto the relief block, typically mixed with rice paste or other binders, the printing is then often done by hand as well using a ‘baren‘ that allows for fine artistic control and makes the prints individual though in skilled hands they may all be corrected to a high degree resulting in prints of a high calibre.

Other details

Please do help the cause of letterpress printing by submitting any sources you may feel could do with inclusion in this South African directory.