Wednesday, 30 April 2014

My visit to...

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to visit one of the few remaining hot metal 'trade' typesetters that services the letterpress community. Based just outside Brighton, The Elrod Press was established in 1986 by Andy Taylor who has a wealth of experience as a compositor in Fleet Street, trade typesetters and publishing houses.

Andy has a number of typesetting and letterpress printing machines in his extremely well appointed garden workshop!

Intertype C4
In pride of place is the Intertype typesetter which is based on the Linotype system. The machine sets a whole line of text at a time, called a slug, making for easy handling and page make up. This particular Intertype is one of the last produced, so is equipped with the latest technology and has also been adapted to use US depth matrices meaning they can offer an even wider range of typefaces.

Intertype keyboard
...and here's the legend himself, Mr Andy Taylor, standing next to his Intertype. 
Below is a picture of the Ludlow Typograph, which casts a line of type from hand assembled matrices. A remarkable machine in remarkable condition.
Ludlow Typograph
Drawers of matrices for the Ludlow
..and below is the Elrod strip caster (after which The Elrod Press is named). This caster can manufacture leads, rules and spacing materials in any width from 1pt up to 36pt and any length up to 24 inches and he supplies many small/home letterpress printers with these sundry items as well as type. It's also worth noting that print finishers often don't know where to get spacing material - they often need the 2pt leads but this machine can make them - and do it economically.
Elrod Strip Caster
During my visit to The Elrod Press (yes that's me in the pic), Andy kindly gave me the opportunity to strike the keys and set my own lines of hot-metal on the Intertype, which after many goes, I finally managed to achieve three successful slugs.
One of the most remarkable things about this mechanically sophisticated machine is the way in which, after the casting, the matrices are returned to the channels in the magazine - I took this short video to show how accurately the machine works:

As well as the typesetting machines, The Elrod Press also has a selection of letterpress printing presses and undertakes commissions for customers.
Press hall at The Elrod Press

All in all it was a most enjoyable morning. A great experience and I'm most grateful to Andy for being so generous with his time and the several cups of tea - and for telling me the correct, Fleet Street, derivation of the expression 'winkle bag'!

If you have a need for hot metal typesetting (maybe you have a little Adana hand press?) and require hot metal setting or some sundries such as leads, rules and spacing materials, do get in touch with The Elrod Press.
Posted by Justin Hobson 30.04.2014

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