These are my ruminations on life, design, and the pursuit of happiness…

How Type is Cast

We stopped by the International Printing Museum this weekend, for my daughter to do some Gutenberg research for a history report. While we were there, Museum Director Mark Barbour demonstrated the historical process for casting type.

First a punch is created out of steel using files, gravers, and counter punches. After the shape of the punch is satisfactory, it gets hardened and tempered over fire.

Then a matrix is made by striking the punch into a softer metal (Typically Copper).

A hand mold is used for casting, which consists of 2 parts.

When fitted together, there is a cavity

to hold the matrix.

The mold is filled from the top side with hot type metal. This is an alloy of Lead, Tin, and Antimony, which has a melting point of 550ยบ.

Type metal hardens very quickly. A good caster made about 2 letters a minute.

When the newly cast type is removed from the mold, it has a V shaped shank that needs to be removed. (You can see it here at the back of the casting)

After the shank was removed, the back end was filed smooth.

Gutenberg was not the first to create movable-type, (it was first was created in China around 1040 A.D. during the Song Dynasty by Bi Sheng.) Nor was he the first to cast metal type, (that honor belongs to Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty (around 1230).) However, Gutenberg was the first to create a workable system of moveable type, through precision manufacturing of interchangeable parts.

The type Gutenberg used to print his bible had an overall height variation of only 1/100th of an inch. This amazing feat of manufacturing was 300 years before the start of the Industrial Revolution, and 450 years before the manufacturing of Henry Ford!

Color Wheel Challenge!

Inspired by this super happy color wheel created by friend and former student of mine, Andrea Ueda, a few of us thought it might be fun to have a color wheel challenge.

The rules are simple. Create a color wheel. Any medium. Be creative. All primary, secondary, and tertiary colors should be present.
(Yellow, yellow-orange, orange, red-orange, red, red-violet, violet, blue-violet, blue, blue-green, green, yellow-green.)

Why? Because we like you, & we like color too. Post your images to my wall: and I will cross post it here.
When? I’m giving you until March 15th people. Get going, I can’t wait to see what you do!

Printing with kids

This is a super fun reduction printing project I did with my son Theo’s 4th grade class.

All you need is a foam sheet,
(I cut the bottoms out of foam trays from Smart & Final)
A brayer,
And yellow, red, and blue water-soluble inks.

You start by simply drawing the outline of the image you want on the foam, pressing hard enough so it indents, but not so hard it tears. (I gave the students a little cut off strip to practice on, to see what it felt like.) then the adults came around with the yellow ink, and rolled it on. (It would have been nice to have the kids do this, but we only had 2 hours, and 35 kids, so we had to be speedy.) As soon as they turned the inky side down to the paper, I had them trace around the bottom edge of the tray with a pencil, so they could register the later colors. Then they carefully pushed the back side of the plate down with the heel of their palm to transfer the image.

Here is a yellow print:

Students were asked to print each color twice on the same paper.

After printing the yellow, they cleaned off their plate at the sink. Then they added more detail to their fish, or to the background. Whatever was drawn now, would stay yellow in the final print. (This was a bit confusing for them, because they knew they were printing red next.)

Printing the red ink:

After the plate was cleaned again, the final details were drawn, and the blue ink was printed. Here is my son printing blue:

I think the best part of this project was hearing all the “Oohs” and “Aahs” when the kids made their prints. Also, the prints weren’t always inked or transferred the same, and the variation in color I found wonderful.

Here are Theo’s prints:
And a couple of the others:

I feel so blessed that my son has an awesome teacher who appreciates art and ASKED ME to spend my volunteer time teaching printing projects. She is truly amazing in many ways, you’ll see what I mean if you check out her blog.

This was a great way to play with reduction printing, I will definitely be doing more prints like this at home.
If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear about it!