Saturday, December 17, 2011

Adventures in Letterpress

I became fascinated with letterpress wood type long ago. Their beautiful end grain maple, color varieties, and different fonts were very intriguing to me as I appreciated their craftsmanship. I knew that I had to incorporate them into a design somehow, but first, I had to find some. And by some, I mean a lot. I began scavenging online for wood type and found myself a dominant place in the Ebay market.
During my research on letterpress wood type, I found a whole community dedicated to the preservation of wood type. As you know, each letterpress type is a piece of art in itself. I did not want to compromise or destroy the integrity of my new pieces in any way but had a desire to accentuate them into a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece of furniture. This is where my designer came in. I explained to her my desire to preserve these vintage, letterpress wood type, as well as, incorporating them into a design. Chelsea came back a few days later with an idea to display and preserve them in custom tables. Now, I won’t give you too much detail for obvious reasons but I was immediately on board. Preserving the wood type, check. Making a stunning piece of furniture, check. Custom furniture design and finishes, check check. Creation commenced.

Chelsea's creative process... 
My favorite part of this process was watching my designer, Chelsea; sit on the floor assembling what could possibly be the hardest puzzle ever. She had over a thousand different shapes and sizes of letters, a pre-determined sized tabletop, no room for error, and a ton of patience. Eight hours later, the tabletops were complete. Time was carefully spent to create the most aesthetically pleasing arrangement while not comprising the letterpress any way. They will not be glued, altered, or damaged in the process. As vintage letterpress type continues to appreciate, so will these pieces of furniture. After Chelsea finished the second table top, she wrote the following description to help us stay true to the original design. Check back to see how we execute...
Letter Press Display Tables - These tables are handmade to display sought after European antique letterpress type. The letterpress type maintains its integrity, while creating a one of a kind piece of furniture. The table showcases 125-135 antique letterpress type. The wood type has been hand arranged and contains various rare fonts and punctuation. They are not glued down or altered in any way. They can be taken out at any time for letterpress use upon removal of the glass top used to preserve the type and make the table functional. It has a hand forged steel base that has been given an antique patina to match any d├ęcor. The table legs are finished off with a hint of twice-laid industrial flooring from South America that has been reclaimed once again and given new life.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I will never do that again…

The box car
This is a classic example of a rarely found materials and lessons learned.  When I first discovered these in a salvage yard in South Dallas, I could not figure out what they were but they were captivating.  While speaking with the owner he explained they were panels from a dilapidated railroad box car.  How cool is that?  These things were a massive 2+ inches thick and 10+ feet long.  Each plank was about 18 inches wide and held together with steel dowels every few feet.  In fact, there was a lot of metal embedded in these, both by design, as well as foreign materials from being used over the years.  When I returned recently to purchase them… they were gone. 

I learned a lot from these though. Given the shape of the panels, I realized how few of them could be used in their current condition without re-work. I began thinking about ways I could machine them. Their scale, the embedded foreign materials, and the general condition of these panels helped create the requirements for my new studio equipment.  With no time to dwell on the loss, I quickly adverted my attention to finding similar materials and made a mental note to always have a truck on hand and a place to store stuff.