Lines to type cast fresh all in one line from matrixes collected either by hand or in a keyboarding line casting machine. The line is a solid slug of typemetal that is easy to handle and popular amongst hot foilers as loose type is tricky when hot. When printing or foiling onto flat surfaces it can last for thousands of impressions, when foiling onto softer materials or using it for deep impression printing the type will wear out. Corections are not practical and replacing a whole line is pretty simple. The Ludlow machines are used usually for larger type faces such as for headlines in printing and for foiling names on diaries while the Intertype and Linotype machines would be used for smaller text in Letterpress work, business cards, letterheads and so on.
- Calrose Typesetters Ludlow, Intertype – 011-402-7511 info calrose co za NOT Casting at this time
- Contact us for a list of Ludlow operators who may be prepared to do the occasional outside job
Etched metal plates or (printing/embossing) dies
These are typically made of zinc or magnesium. They are covered with a photo resist, then exposed to ultra violet light under a film negative (generated at the plate makers usually from emailed PDF files), the resist is developed and the plate is then chemically etched. Any spots are routered out and then the plate is cut to size and you get to stick it to a suitable base to raise it to type-high. The plates are generally available in two thicknesses. The thinner one is convenient for letterpress printing and foiling onto paper, it holds the fine edge detail a bit better as the etch cycle is shorter and is a bit cheaper, the thicker deep relief plates are used for deep impression on letterpress or embossing and hot foiling onto soft materials like leather.
- Murtans Doug- 011-493-4978
- Kiley Baker Gavin- 011-433-5600
- Stirling Process Engraving Grant – 0860-784-754
- Cabana Enterprises Trevor – Jhb Supplies Mounting tapes for plates 011 849 9219
Processed polymer or Flexo plates
These are made of various polymers or similar stuff, backed by a plastic film or a metal sheet. They are exposed to ultraviolet light under a film negative (generated at the plate makers usually from emailed PDF files) which causes the exposed bits to harden (crosslinking or similar chemical processes), then developed by washing out the soft parts and post exposed to fully harden them. Any spots can be removed with a blade after you have proofed the plate. You use double sided tape to mount them to a metal (preferably) or wooden base. Metal backed plates can be mounted on a magnetic base.
- Kiley Baker Gavin – 011-433-5600
- PolyFlex Bevan – KZN, Jhb 011-794-3626
- Designo Graphics -
- Repro Graphics -
- Cabana Enterprises Trevor – Jhb Supplies Mounting tapes for plates 011 849 9219
Letterpress the traditional way. The type was hand set in a composing stick from a type case (printers trays in the popular jargon) and then set up in a galley (tray) with leading between the lines if required until the job was ready for imposing, sometimes proofs are pulled from the job still in the galley to make corrections. A font of type is sorts of one type style in one size and they are usually sold with a common fonting arangement which contains more of the popular letters as per the local language. A font of type may weigh in between 4 and 7 kg and you might fit 2 of these into a regular California Job Case that had the lowercase and UPPERCASE letters in one case.
- Calrose Typesetters Monotype, no longer available– 011-402-7511 info calrose co za
Hand made and cotton rich papers are traditional for Letterpress work but most papers can be printed on. If you want to go for the deep impression work then the bulkier papers are needed, for fine detail a smooth surface is recomended. When printing wood or lino-cuts with large solid areas dampening of the paper is a common practice to allow the ink to achieve even coverage, some machine made papers that are plied or coated do not take to this too well.
- Paper Cafe retail outlet for Paper Smith & Son, stocks Cranes Crest– 011-880-6707
- Paper Junxion retail outlet for Antalis paper division – 011-688-6000
- Paper World Bedfordview, mail order speciality paper
- Paper 4 HumanKind Pretoria, hand made cotton paper contact Ms Kt Passetti – 084 4638108
- 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
- Carol Payne imports Japanese papers – carolpa vpm co za
- Peters Papers – Johannesburg
- Herbert Evans art papers – 011-614-0000
- Scrapbooking shops have all sorts of embelishments many in acid free paper
- CNA, PNA &c. - consumer stationery, some decent papers amongst the others
- Still looking
Inks, plates and solvents
There are rather less letterpress ink suppliers these days that 40 years ago. However for black, red and the Pantone primaries there are options that allow for experimentation. For colour play small tubes of artists oil colours can be fun, using them for printing is possible if the extra carrier (oil) is taken into consideration. Remember for hobby use the amounts used are minimal so always buy the smallest amount you can, the chance of saving by buying in bulk will only be realised years down the line when you have used up your fists purchase.
Making polymer plates yourself may be asking for extra work and usually the setup costs and money spent on experimentation will take a long time to be repaid unless you have a large book project lined up or have the time and space to set up exposure and washout units/facilities.
Basic solvents are available at hardware stores, some better than others. Look after your skin and health, manage the amount of time you handle solvents or use gloves and adequate ventilation, if you ever feel light headed you know there is a problem. Some gloves will work with some solvents but not with others, industrial gloves are usually too thick for anything but roller cleaning work. Latex and plastic gloves are great for setting up and mixing ink but are attacked by solvents. Some alternatives to petroleum distillates that are reputed to be more eco-friendly do exist but may have other drawbacks. Benzine is volatile and effective for small cleanups (wiping down the tympan after printing on it), also similar is lighter fluid (Naphthalene) which is great for starting out as it comes in a handy can and a little goes a long way. Lacquer thinners works better for some jobs but can attack more rubbers and plastics so use with care. White Spirits or Paraffin are popular for roller cleaning but take a little while to dry, wiping the Paraffin off with a bit of Benzine at the end can eliminate the drying time and lets you clean easier with the less volatile solvent.
- Van Son Inks & Graphic – Jhb, Crown Mines, Tough Tex inks – 011-830-0411
- Continental Inks – Jhb – 011-622-2818
- Select Inks – Owen, Cape Town, Jhb, KZN, UV cure Letterpress Inks – 021-557-8237
- Coates Brothers – Cape Town, Letterpress inks – 021-590-5100
- Herbert Evans for Oil colour paints for test prints and colour experiments, palette knives, hand rollers, artists linoleum, cutters &c. – 011-614-0000
- Select Graphics aqueous washout plates – 011-907-4547
- Antalis solvent developed Cyrel plates – 011-688-6000
- Select Graphics – Cape Town & Jhb, Suppliers of Jet polymer plates and processing machines
- Cabana Enterprises Trevor – Jhb Supplies mounting tapes for plates 011 849 9219
- Triangle Solvents – Germinston, bulk solvents -011-873-0157
- Calrose Typesetters Full lengths cast in 2, 3, 6, 12pt thicknesses – 011-402-7511
Cutting and scoring dies
- Die Cut Johannesburg- also converting – 011-402-3653
- Murtans Charles, Johannesburg – also converting- 011-493-4978
- RQM Sam, Pretoria – 012-333-2747
- K-Systems Johannesburg – foils and foiling machines - 011-618-3304
You need to ask for inking rollers for letterpress use. The hardness specified should be 20-30 Shore-A and the rubber would typically be a vulcaniesd Buna-N type of rubber, others may work but silicone elastomer is not suitable. Casting your own rollers using gelatine/glycerine composition is an option if you want to be authentic old world. Basically a somewhat firm jelly mixture is cast around a prepared roller shaft, these rollers need looking after and have shorter lifetimes but are held in high regard by some and are affordable if you cast them yourself. Urethane can be used though they sometimes soften over time if there is a solvent incompatibility or curing issues during manufacture, the problems seldom occur these days.
- Rubber Industries recovering – 011-
- World Class Industrial Johannesburg – recovering and regrinding – 011-493-4700
- Rubber Engineering Ian Gordon, KZN – recovering and regrinding – 031-705-8482
- H & M Roller Technologies Annel, Vereeniging – recovering - 016-423-3733
There are a lot of books treating the topic of letterpress printing but most of them are out of print. Most of the modern ones are not all that practical but more artistic or focus on a modern niche. Many of the books are available from out of print book sellers and sometimes at local book sales and charity shops as well as rare book shops. Some out of copyright books are available for online browsing or downloading. There are a number of press user manuals scanned online as some good how to guides. We will add links to them as well.
We list some letterpress books here with reviews and links to online sellers where available
If you have not looked yet the Calrose and Kalle stock is mostly up for sale for a limited time. This includes a number of presses and much more.
There is no formal supply of new letterpress presses in Africa. In Europe there are a couple of manufacturers of proof presses and block printing presses but the price of them is rather too high to contemplate and shipping adds more to the mix. There are a number of people who have made their own and some of these feature on YouTube and personal blogs. Searching will find them until we have the time to list the links we have collected.
Sometimes used presses come up for sale. On the commercial side the most common are the Heidelberg Windmill Platen Presses, think of the ‘Beast’ in the movie ’7 pounds’. These are sadly more than an individual can usually justify in terms of price and shipping costs as well as the amount of space they require.
The Adana Table top presses are much more common with the 5×3 and 8×5 being the most popular. These can be found in the JunkMail or other classified papers every now and then. Word of mouth is a good way to start looking for a press. Antique markets and shops sometimes have a press for sale and the prices can be good, as the market size is small and the shop keepers often have no idea of what it is or what the true value might be here. Type cases (printers’ trays) can also be found in antique shops, don’t be tempted to pay to much unless you are in a hurry . Making a simple press using a box chase and a paper tympan and frisket with a wooden rolling pin for impression is also an acceptable way to experiment.
Cylinder presses are much rarer and also typically more than one might want to relocate for hobby use. For invitations and fine art work they are the most popular solution. The Vandercook press is the most popular in the USA but not as common in South Africa. Any cylinder press with a functional inking system deserves consideration.
Some galley type proofing presses are also an option but usually have rudimentary lock up facilities, no tympan or paper grippers and typically require hand inking. They are great for proofs, experiments, linocuts and woodcuts, affordable and often portable. Typympans and friskets are sometimes added to them by handy pressmen or women. These can be reasonably priced if the are to be found, they are rare as their utility ran out with the letterpress era as they would have seldom been used for making camera ready proofs of letterpress composition that was a popular process in the early offset litho days. They tend to be reasonably portable in a car requiring perhaps some dissasembly if they have a built in stand.
- Print Gate – Roodepoort, sometimes has a Heidelberg press on offer and spares
- Junk Mail sometimes has a press or two for sale as well
- Gumtree may also have presses for sale occasionally
An Adana 5×3 was offered for sale a month ago with various fonts and accessories in the Eastern Cape, contact the webmaster if you want to investigate it further. – This has been reserved and I will update or remove this notice when the transaction is over.
I was advised that there was a recently purchased Adana 8×5 available locally. It was imported from Caslon in the UK, a factory refurbished unit by the company that took over what was left of the Adana Stock, spares and the name when they closed down. Contact Letterpress-SA if you want to have further information.
Movers and Riggers
For anything but the desktop presses it is a good idea to get help in moving them. Often this will be obvious and the sheer mass of the equipment will dictate that a bunch of friends with no experience will be able to do little but move a big press around but not have any way of loading it onto suitable transport. Trucks with cranes are required if the equipment is not on street or loading dock level. Sometimes renovations have resulted in equipment being built in and threats of cutting torches can inspire radical dissasembly that otherwise would not be required. A flat bed car trailer or roll back car transporter can be an affordable solution but the danger is the angle at which the load has to be pulled up, much old machinery is top heavy and must be securely chained to a large skid to keep the center of mass over the base when winching it up. Where available a tail lift truck can be a great help. There are times equipment is to be had for the scrap metal price (ZAR 0.70-1.20/kg) and the real cost of aquisition becomes the cost of rigging and moving.
- Still looking for acomplished and vintage sensitive riggers and movers
If you are a local supplier and would like to be included in this august company please let us know your details and we will likely include you. Samples of your products or trial of your services will obviously incentivise me. Also please consider sponsoring this web site especially if you gain any business from this listing. The sponsorship received will be used to grow the site exposure and the incresed web presence will boost your rankings in any event. You will also be included in the sponsor rotator in the side bar as an added bonus and I will bump you up in your listing.