Printing on letterpress equipment (lead type, polymer plates, and old cast iron printing presses) has seen a recent resurgence in the artist community.  The medium is challenging in its constraints when compared to graphic design on a computer, but the rewards are worth it.  Letterpress yields crisp, beautiful images and words on paper in a way that offset printing and computer printers don’t.  

To learn more about letterpress printing, we suggest the following sites:

Briar Press: a community of letterpress enthusiasts with discussion forums and classified ads.  This is where many beginners go to learn, and some experts stay to teach.  Like all online communities, there are strong opinions, but the owners of the site do a good job of keeping things in check when they try to spiral out of bounds...

Wikipedia: that great internet collaborative encyclopedia.  This is the entry for letterpress printing.

Five Roses Press: Dave maintains an excellent site here with lots of informative content on letterpress printing.

There are also a few mailing lists or groups that may interest you:

Polymer Plate Letterpress Yahoo Group: a yahoo group dedicated to polymer plate printing.

SF Letterpress Yahoo Group: group for printers in the San Francisco bay area, but populated with people around the globe.

Handpress Yahoo Group: a group of printers dedicated to printing on the iron handpress.

LetPress List Server: an email mailing list related to letterpress printing.

BookArts ListServ: the book_arts-l list, an email mailing list related to bookbinding.

Suppliers of letterpress equipment and type foundries that we personally recommend:

(Note that most but not all of these are bay area centric since I’m in San Francisco, but they all ship...)

Letterpress Supplies: 

NA Graphics: a supplier of equipment, ink, type, and more to the letterpress community.  Fritz Klinke is the proprietor.  I’ve never met him but I’ve talked to him several times on the phone. He is an oracle of letterpress information.

American Printing Equipment and Supply: another supplier of printing supplies and equipment for the letterpress community.  They have stuff like reglets, tympan, brayers, gauge pins, and the like.  Nice people, and a useful source.

Bay Press Services: a supplier to the printing trade in the bay area.  They have pretty much anything you could need in the way of inks, press washes, packing, etc... Very personable and helpful.

Letterpress Things: located across the country in Massachusetts, they are a valuable supplier of letterpress tools for the beginner and experienced printer alike.

Roller Recovering:

Advanced Roller: is a supplier of rubber ink rollers for the printing trade.  They can recover your existing rollers at a very reasonable rate, or they sell stock versions of new rollers for the C&P 8x12 or 10x15 press.  I use them exclusively now for roller supply and have had them recover rollers and hand brayers. Located in Corona, California, prices are more than reasonable.

Press Dealers:

Silverado Press: is the press of Glen Bauder, in Napa, CA.  Glen deals in used letterpress equipment and often has presses, type, cutters, and other equipment for sale.  Email him if you’re looking for a particular piece of equipment to see if he has it.

Prime, Inc: is the equipment business of Ted Salkin in Healdsburg, CA.  Ted deals in a variety of printing equipment and often has old letterpress equipment for sale.  If you’re looking for a particular piece of equipment or part, email him to see if he has it.

Hicks Brothers Printing Equipment: These guys are crazy and wonderful.  I refer to their shop as “the happiest place on earth” with no apologies to Disney.  They mostly sell commercially, but they also have stuff for us little letterpress guys.  If they’re open, stop by and check it out.  If you’re expecting clean, wide aisles, and carefully stocked inventory, you’re in for a bit of a surprise though...  Personally, I love it just the way it is, and hope they never change.

Type Foundries:

Skyline Type Foundry: A supplier of newly cast lead type.  A very talented guy, Sky casts on a restored Thompson caster and has great borders and type in small quantities at good prices.  He keeps a list of casting matrixes and will cast some custom work in the right quantities.  If you’re starting out with lead type, start here.

M&H Type Foundry: A supplier of newly cast lead type.  M&H is part of Arion Press, the successor to Grabhorn Press here in San Francisco.  They are located in the Presidio and sell metal type in any quantity.

The Bixler Press and Letterfoundry: Run by Michael and Winifred Bixler, a great place for metal type. They specialize in English Monotype faces.

Swamp Press: Ed Reyher, owner and operator.  Ed produces various type for sale.

Polymer Plates:

Logos Graphics: provides film and plate processing services to the letterpress hobbyist and is a full service printing shop for offset and letterpress printing. They’re really great people and their prices are more than fair.

Boxcar Press: a supplier of polymer plates and bases.

Crown Flexo: High quality plates created and delivered fast!

Ink Dealers:

Gans Ink: is a supplier of printing ink to the trade.  They produce one of the few true remaining letterpress inks.  Oil based and only available in 5# cans, call them and order Item #560, Letterpress Bond Black.

Great Western Ink: a supplier of offset inks on the west coast.  They have a “high tack black” which is cheap and efficient that works well for letterpress work.

Graphic Chemical: a supplier of inks, and brayers.  Somewhat more focused on Intaglio, lithography, engraving, and collotype, they also supply letterpress inks.  Look for the 1920 line on their web site as well as Albion Matte Black.  Albion Matte Black is specifically formulated for the iron handpress printer, and they also sell English brayers for hand inking. 

Hanco Ink: These guys make ink for the Lithography trade, but their Master Pallette is ideal for handpress printing. Most of these inks don’t have driers in them. You can add drier if you have it and know how to use it, or you can wait a few days longer for your prints to dry. I usually don’t add it, and wait instead. I use Hanco’s Crayon Black (BK-1015) as my preferred handpress black. It is stiff! You’ll need to work it with a knife before rolling it out, but you’ll get crisp printing when you use it. I pretty much print on dampened paper when using Hanco.

Ink In Tubes Guy: Dave Robison puts ink in tubes and sells, I have a lot of ink I’ve bought from him.

Paper Suppliers:

Kelly Paper: a paper supplier.  The local shop here in San Francisco at 10th and Howard is a great place to go for paper and envelopes.  They are suppliers to the printing trade.  They tend not to have art papers in stock, but do carry a lot of good paper for letterhead, good pre-creased stationary stock, envelopes, and card stock. They also do custom mix ink in 5# cans in their own color lab using either Van Son or Tokyo/Zipset, your choice!

Dick Blick: a major art supplies dealer with both a web presence and local stores.

Jerry’s Artarama: another supplier of letterpress papers to artists.

Letterpress Paper: a retail outlet for many of the papers available via wholesale from Legion Paper.

Mohawk Fine Paper: a supplier to the trade, excellent products.

Holyoke Paper: a supplier of fine letterpress papers.

Takach Paper: a branch of Takach Press, a maker of fine etching presses. They sell paper at or near wholesale prices. Limited selection, but great prices.

Reich Paper: a supplier of fine letterpress paper.  I’m particularly fond of their Savoy line, in both text and card weights.  I’ve used both extensively with great results. Try it as an alternative to Lettra.

Legion Paper: a wholesaler of fine papers, and the core supplier to several of the retailers above.  They only deal in wholesale in large quantities. They have a web overstock store on their site where they sell direct, sometimes you get lucky and get some nice papers there.

If you are interested in taking classes on letterpress printing or book binding, we recommend: 

San Francisco Center for the Book: A place to learn the book arts with wonderful instructors. (Full disclosure: I serve on the Board of Directors here.)

The Arm NYC: If you’re in Brooklyn, check out The Arm.

The Center for Book Arts: located in New York City.

Minnesota Center for Book Arts: located in Minneapolis, MN.

The Philobiblon List: A comprehensive and growing list of both university and community programs around the globe if you’re not in San Francisco.

Paper Cutter Sharpening:

Sartor Saw Works:  If you own a big professional paper cutter (not the shear kind you used in school, but a real guillotine) and need the blade sharpened, contact these guys.  No web site, but they’re located in San Francisco at 250 Bayshore, Blvd.  Phone is 415-282-6093.  Excellent, inexpensive, professional.

Printing and Book Arts Related Organizations:

Book Club of California: The oldest book club of California and a supporter of the book arts.

Fine Press Book Association: an association of printers, binders, and individuals dedicated to fine press books.

Printing History Association: The American Printing History Association is dedicated to researching printing history in the USA and has an annual conference.

The CODEX Foundation: exists to promote and preserve the art and craft of the book.  Founded by Peter Koch, it is the sponsor of a bi-annual bookfair and symposium.

The Amalgamated Printers’ Association: a group of hobbyists and some professionals, dedicated to letterpress printing.  There is a monthly bundle mailed out and members contribute 4 pieces a year (minimum) to the bundle.  I’m member #872.

The San Jose Printer’s Guild: a group of hobbyist printers that meet at San Jose’s History Park. They host the annual SF Bay Area Printer’s Fair & Wayzgoose. 

C.C. Stern Type Foundry: located in Portland, Oregon. A non-profit working museum of metal type and casting equipment founded in 2009.

The American Bookbinder’s Museum: Located in San Francisco, the museum is dedicated to the history of bookbinding and related equipment.

Other printers we know and admire:

in no particular order...

Green Chair Press: run by Susan Angebranndt.  Susan was my first letterpress instructor in my first class at the San Francisco Center for the book.  Her studio is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Alan Hillsheim Letterpress: Alan has been printing letterpress for clients for a number of years.  He also teaches classes at the San Francisco Center for the Book and does press repair work.

Havilah Press: run by Fred and Barbara Voltmer in Emeryville, California.  Fred supplied me with about a third of my metal type as well.  Fred is a recognized expert on the iron hand press and has a beautiful Columbian press.

Peter Koch, Printers: run by Peter Koch who is one of the luminaries of letterpress printing.  I purchased a run of ATF Garamond in a cabinet from Peter, and also a book he designed.  Peter Koch, Printers is located in Berkeley, California.

Arion Press: run by Andrew Hoyem and the successor to the famous fine printing house of Grabhorn Press.  Andrew is another one of the luminaries of the letterpress world and is known globally for the fine press editions printed at Arion Press.  Arion Press is located in San Francisco, California.

Littoral Press: run by Lisa Rappoport is located in Oakland California.  Lisa has been my instructor now for two course on platen press operation at the San Francisco Center for the Book.  She publishes a subscription of her work that includes the occasional item showing up in your mailbox.

Philoxenia Press: run by Norman McKnight in Berkeley, California. Norman prints on a Vandercook and a Pratt Albion, hand-inking on both. His specialty is hand-colored broadsides, as well as fine photography and other work. Norman also maintains a separate blog here.

The Aesthetic Union: run by James Tucker in San Francisco, California. James runs an impressive growing shop that is visitor friendly. It also has a gallery space. Worth checking out.

Long Day Press: run by Mike Day. Mike has been teaching print production and graphic design at Foothill College since 1996.

Liber Apertus Press: run by Matt Kelsey. A good source for printing related books and manuals.

Jubilation Press: run by Cathy DeForest in Ashland, Oregon. Cathy is a strategic advisor to the board of the San Francisco Center for the Book.

Quelquefois Press: run by Mary Laird in Berkeley, California. Mary is an instructor at the San Francisco Center for the Book.

The Prototype Press: run by David Johnston and Mark Sargianis in Oakland, California. 

Gazelle and Goat: letterpress studio run by Rhiannon Alpers. Rhiannon was my first book binding teacher at the San Francisco Center for the Book. She’s an amazing person.

© Alan W Dye, 2015