Tag Archive for 'Heidelberg'

2011 Letterpress Printers Gift Guide

This is a post not for admirers of letterpress products, but for the folks actually doing letterpress printing. Crafting high quality work is all about the details. Sometimes the littlest things make a really big difference. The black arts ain’t always easy. In order to letterpress print professionally you need the right tools for the job. These are some of the things that we use daily in our shop. Individual items range in cost from $5 to $60. Granted, they are not items found in letterpress shops a hundred years ago, but that is a bonus you get for being a letterpress printer in the age of the glowing screen.


1. Schaedler Combo Ruler
This ruler is used across every step of production in our shop. It has really tiny increments. So small that you can measure the lines on your typical ruler. They have it all on this one ruler: points, picas, metric, standard and decimal inches.

2. Depth Ruler
This is the perfect tool to quickly square up your artwork to the press sheet. We don’t use them for increments. We use them as a tool to slide the gauge and compare side to side on a press sheet.

3. Digital Thickness Gauge
To adjust impression and do proper makeready you have to KNOW exactly what thickness you are putting in the press and adjust your packing accordingly. This is the tool to do just that. Find the overall thickness of materials in metric and decimal inches.

4. #99 Heidelberg GTO Suckers
These will change your life if you run Heidelberg letterpresses. They are specifically useful if you have ever struggled with warping, wavy cover stock or heavy board stock. The accordion body on these offer a little additional reach beyond the disc type suckers, without double sheeting. We use them on both Heidelberg Original Cylinders and Heidelberg Windmills.

5. Dogwood Coffee
Drinking on the job is almost a requirement in our shop. For consistently great coffee we love the micro-roasted batches from Dogwood Coffee. It’s a daily ritual from folks that embrace craft like we do. They have sweet little holiday brewing bundles available on their site.

6. Linen Tester Magnifier
See what is going on on your press sheet close up. You can then more quickly diagnose your print issues. Overinking, plate problem, impression, etc. We like the open body style of the folding linen tester magnifiers.

7. LED Magnetic Flex Light
Have a hard time seeing an enclosed part? Ever drop something inside a press. We have. This bright little light is perfectly small and has a magnetic base to keep your hands free.

8. Precision Oiler
We use a heavy weight press oil in this little guy to get a precision drop of oil right where it needs to go. Perfect for oiling the small parts around feeding and delivery, especially on Heidelberg Windmills.

9. Rosin Bag
Originally a product used to add gripping precision in many sports, this little bag works well to add some stick to the rails your roller trucks ride on. Gets rid of that pesky little ghosting start mark by slapping this sack on your rails a few time. This is an especially good tip for Heidelberg Windmills.


10. Super Soap
Sometimes is feels so good to be dirty. But to handle cotton paper you better get clean. This soap is easy on the hands and has a little sawdust grit for scrubbing action.

11. Teamster Shop Apron

This is one mother of an apron. This is an extra long apron that We love the split leg design that allows you to get up and down to worship your iron beast.

12. Pressroom Creed Poster

If you want your studio visitors to better understand your letterpress neurosis, hang this in your shop. (yes, this is a shameless promotion of our own product) It is a 13 x 20 sheet size, heavy 220lb cotton stock. “This is my printing press. There are many like it, but this one is mine…”




SXSW Squarespace Skull Cards

This is a letterpress card designed by Jessica Raley at Bantam Design for Squarespace. They are busy handing them out at SXSW Music Festival in Austin this weekend.

And they took some time to print, seven passes through the press to be exact. Due to the card volume, we printed them on  larger 13 x 20 press sheet 15up. They are printed on two paper stocks. Side one on Wausau Royal Complements Eclipse Black, printed with black, varnish, dark silver, light silver. Side two is Mohawk Via Scarlet Red printed with varnish, black and light silver. To hide impression show through we pasted them together after printing, adding thickness and rigidity with another 100lb cover sheet in the middle. The final three ply paper thickness is 280lbC. We trimmed the sheets down and edge colored them in a metallic silver.

Also check out the striking Squarespace business cards we’ve posted about previously.

The Beasts Are All Moved In

We are all moved in to our new subterranean space and feverishly printing projects with many talented designers. We look forward to getting back to blogging new work again soon.

Here’s how our press room is taking shape and some pics of the epic Heidelberg S Cylinder press installation. It was a little unnerving watching our “new” machine suspended mid air. The riggers used a big outdoor forklift to position the press and then four chain drops to lower it from the forks down a large hatch into the basement. It was then rolled into place and suspended again to slip an oil drip pan underneath. It is now glued to the floor and wired in. We are doing print testing to get it up and printing smoothly. This press will allow us to letterpress print LP jackets, pocket folders, and posters up to a 21 x 28 sheet format. We are excited to see what it will print first.

It is good to grow our shop a little bit even as other areas of the print industry are suffering. Magazines and newspapers are trying to figure out how to survive and adapt to the iPad publication model. Books are served up electronically. Large offset printing companies are cutting entire plants. Yet the tiny niche of letterpress printing is seemingly holding steady. We’ve built our reputation on unique custom letterpress work with demanding standards. It is interesting to stand here in a print shop at a historical time declared the “end of print” and see how craftsmanship still remains such a meaningful and critical part of print design.

Raising The Bar, Lowering The Shop

Studio On Fire is preparing for a massive move. We are moving to a much larger space in the basement of the same building in Northeast Minneapolis. We are adding several new beasts to our new space, just 20 feet down from our current second floor studio. Our 12 x 18 Gietz platen will finally be installed along with a Heidelberg 21 x 28 cylinder press with inking and a larger Polar paper cutter. These machines will enhance our current production space adding new large format letterpress capability.

Production work will continue during the move, but our office life will be turned on it’s ear. Our access to email and our ability to respond to estimate requests during the week of July 6-12th will be limited. We will begin responding to custom printing requests July 13th. If you need an estimate turned more quickly than this please let us know the timing need in your request. If you can get in touch with us this week – even better.

Away We Go – Lots Of Letterpress Ink

This invitation designed by the groom Tyler Thiessen at Neuhaus Design and illustrated by bride Jessie Turner makes their wedding invitation into a fresh art print. It is nice to see a wedding invitation that is illustration centric versus type heavy. They put all the text on the web. You can check out the couples wedding website here.

The illustration is simple with just a little overprinting of  bright red and light blue inks. Most of the artwork knocks out, requiring very tight register. (like the blue dotted lines on the hot air ballon.) It is printed on Crane Lettra Flo. White 110lbC The card is like a small poster and folds up to a 5.5 x 5.5 square.

We won’t mince words, this was a hard invitation to print with letterpress. Registration was tight, and the paper does stretch with heavy impression over a solid graphic area. Plus, large areas of solid color are not ideal for letterpress. Letterpress is definitely not like screen printing these kind of solid colors. Most letterpress equipment will not be able to handle this kind of press work. We printed this one on a Heidelberg Cylinder that has the impressional strength to lay down some pressure. Chances are if you send an invitation our way with a lot of ink going down you will get an email with our handy disclaimer that goes something like this. Once all this is understood we can move to press. And as you can see, we DO print areas of solid color and it can turn out very beautiful. Just realize there WILL be variation within the job that is inherent to printing this type of work with letterpress.

Letterpress Poster Edition for Thinktopia

Thinktopia®, an idea generation company for some of today’s leading brands, commissioned this striking poster from illustrator Federico Jordan. Federico explains “The skull reflects our existence and interior vision: our vanitas.” He created this image for Thinktopia that explores the Shakespearian Yorick, San Jerónimo and mesoamerican skull racks called Tzompantli. There is an article on the back of the poster from Patrick Hanlon at Thinktopia that speaks about branding. (This poster print will serve Thinktopia as a new business tool – a mailing to prospective clients) More companies could learn from this – send out something cool to start a good conversation. We would say that an illustrated letterpress print is guaranteed way to get someones attention.

The 18 x 23 size poster is printed letterpress in four colors on Crane Lettra Pearl White cotton stock in both 110 and 220lb thicknesses on our Heidelberg Cylinder – quite possibly one of the most difficult jobs run in our shop recently. It was difficult because of the amount large areas of solid color, the thickness and size of the stock, and the tight registration. There is no overprinting of any of the colors, so all four color plates lock into each other with little forgiveness for shifts in register created by sheet distortion. Sheet distortion is physical stretching of the paper created under heavy impression. Each pass through the press creates slightly more distortion. So by the time we got to color number four, there was some colorful language as well. The 110lb stock ran pretty well but the 220lb stock is a bear to auto feed – especially five passes through the press.




Soundset Letterpress Poster

The Sound Set event is an amazing line up of  hip hop happening this Sunday in the Twin Cities, put on by Rhymsayers Entertainment. We just killed this letterpress poster job, 1000 qty 3 color posters in just over a day. This is some fresh geometric pattern and color designed by Adam Garcia – work you should certainly check out further over at The Pressure. And be sure to get a poster if you go to the event.

This poster is on 100lb Poptone cover stock from French Paper. It is a 15.5 x 23 size with some big solids going down. With this much ink we have to run the powder spray pretty heavy so the ink doesn’t transfer to the backs of each other. That makes the inside of the press look like a powdered doughnut. The powder spray is actually just a corn starch and works well to avoid offsetting ink transfer. Sucks to clean the press afterward though.

We love doing posters, but be aware that the polymer plating for large sizes can be expensive for small runs. Just the plate cost alone will run about $200 per color. That kills the price for a run of 50 posters with polymer. But 500 to 1000 quantity- now we’re talking. That spreads the plating cost out over more pieces and makes it more reasonable get on press. Not that we aren’t happy to do small runs, but plate cost is what it is regardless of quantity.



Hello Letterpress Operator – Join Our Studio




Studio On Fire is hiring for a full time Letterpress Operator position becoming available soon. Another of our letterpress gurus is moving onward to grad school. This is a chance to join our unique letterpress team. Other than our insane focus on detail, we are a small and easy going team of designers and artists committed to excellence in print.

You must have BOTH of these TWO requirements for consideration:



We care about craft. If you are a crafts person that loves the challenge of highly demanding production projects, this is the job for you. Look through the posts on this blog to see the kind of custom work that is typical of our press room.

We offer attractive compensation, flexible full time hours and health benefits.

To apply, email a description of yourself.

If this is not you, please spread the word to anyone you might know matching this description.


NOTE: This is a post for experienced persons only. We are not hiring intern or entry level positions. Inquiries outside of the skill requirements of this post will not be contacted.

One Card For Three People

The esteemed fellows at Wilderness in Portland sent us an unusually simple business card for letterpress printing. Rather than load up the card with four telephone numbers, an email, a fax, a twitter, etc – they all simply share the same card. A nice solution for keeping cost down too. Wilderness is the new design trailhead of Aaron James Draplin, John Phemister and David Nakamoto. We can’t wait to see what they do next. Of course, simple design doesn’t always mean simple production. We printed these on 220lb Pearl White Lettra, 100% cotton. Flooding a dark color like this on letterpress is difficult to lay down and keep consistent over the course of the print run – especially on a stock that has some texture to the surface. When we print a solid like this, we generally go to our Paul Bunyan of Heidelberg Windmill presses – the 13 x 18. Even so, there is still a salty, weathered look to how a stock like this will take a solid coverage on letterpress. But we like it that way, it ain’t offset. _0000_wilderness_card

Atmosphere Letterpress Poster


Atmosphere is heading out for their When God Gives You Ugly tour. We just finished a special edition letterpress poster designed by Keith Wiliams. It features a “1950’s Diner Vampire Fight Scene” watercolor painting by Minneapolis native Michael Gaughan. (If you check out Michael’s website, be sure and see the collection of guitar sculptures. But don’t look to long or you might find the Fart Tube Air Matress) Posters will be available from Atmosphere while they tour and also for sale on the Rhymesayers site after the tour, if there are any left. So get out there and support these guys.

From a technical standpoint, this poster was a real challenge to plate and letterpress print. We took the original CMYK image of the watercolor painting and Continue reading ‘Atmosphere Letterpress Poster’

Four Friends Letterpress Business Cards – Pt 2



This is part two showing the production of business cards on our Heidelberg Windmill. Be sure and see Part 1 showing the finished cards.

We start with a high resolution film negative. The negative is used to expose the plastic plates. The plates are attached to an aluminum base and placed into the press. The press uses air suction to pick up a sheet of paper on the left side and deliver it into the press for printing. The printed sheets are automatically stacked in the delivery pile on the right side of Continue reading ‘Four Friends Letterpress Business Cards – Pt 2’

Smashing Alphabets Letterpress Poster

Coming soon to an alphabet near you is a typographic mash up. Once again Spunk Design Machine created a simply amazing poster, this time for Chank. Be sure and check him out as he tours the design community.

And getting smashed comes easy for paper on a letterpress. Hot off our big Heidelberg cylinder press, these are some stylin’ letterpress posters. Printed on a lighter weight 65lb Poptone Cover from French paper and letterpressed in two colors. I’d steal it.