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Friday, June 13, 2008


When in York and again in a small museum somewhere along the way i came across a section on printing in the past and it brought back memories from 44 yrs ago. At the tender age of 16 i was an apprentice at a printers in NW London as a compositor and in the picture below you can see racks with the trays of typefaces , the second pic shows the tray, and my job was to compose using the stick shown in the 3rd picture .
Each letter would be placed in the composing stick and then pieces of lead strips of various thicknesses would space each line of type to make a business card or letterhead , wood strips would be placed each side of the composed typeface and then it was clamped in a metal frame using i believe quoins to hold it all in place.
The frame would fit into the printing press and i would on some machines feed paper or card by hand and print off perhaps 50/100 cards or letterheads. On longer print runs I would use an automatic machine , the name Heidelberg comes to mind but if any blog reader has any print memories let me know.
I enjoyed this life for 2 yrs but could not get used to being shut inside all day long and the rest of my working life was spent in jobs where I was out and about seeing different scenes and meeting people as in bus driving, milkman etc and finally 20 yrs working self employed driving a van doing 80/100 deliveries meeting people and taking a break as i wanted.
Maybe that`s what i like about life on a boat, new places, meeting people and not being in the same place day after day.
Anyway not anything to do with boating but as you good people have told me it`s my blog and so i thought i would share a reminder of my past.
A print shop display in a museum showing racks containing trays of typefaces of all sizes and styles and in the centre an old printing press,
Close up of the tray, this one is displayed wrong way round, the top edge would be closest to you when composing.
The comp stick as it was called.

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NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs