City man keeps alive old-style, handset, letterpress printing method

Source: The Scranton Times Tribune

Technology races forward as gadgets get lighter and computers get faster.

It’s rare to find a machinist who enjoys laboring behind heavy equipment that harks back to the previous century.

But for Matthew Hiller, it’s all in a day’s work.

The Hill Section resident is the proprietor of Revival Letterpress, a printing business that produces custom-designed paper products including business cards, event invitations and posters, stationery, letterheads and notecards, among other items.

Mr. Hiller creates each order using a decidedly old-fashioned method using his two large printing presses that, combined, share more than 100 years of use and 2,300 pounds of metal, in a space at 334 Adams Ave. that he shares with GreenBeing offices and Crow Designs Studio.

“I like working with my hands. I like machines,” Mr. Hiller said. “I like something that exists, not just on a computer.”

Interest in design

6808209.JPGMr. Hiller, 32, a Lake Sheridan native, graduated from Lackawanna Trail High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications media with a religious studies minor from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

He always was interested in design, he said, and was employed in prepress operations for P.A. Hutchinson in Mayfield before he moved to England in 2007. While overseas, Mr. Hiller did graphic design work for a publishing company, and his interest in letterpress was piqued.

After returning to the States in late 2010, he got back into prepress and graphic design work at Spencer Printing in Honesdale. Mr. Hiller worked letterpress jobs as a sideline, buying his own press – an 800-pound Challenge Proof Press from the 1960s – in 2011. He kept the behemoth machine in his parents’ garage, and eventually went into business for himself after he added another press to his collection: a 1,500-pound 1949 Chandler & Price New Series 8X11.

Through solid word-of-mouth reviews and recommendations, Revival Letterpress officially took off in 2011. One of Mr. Hiller’s first major jobs was creating promotional materials for Electric City Tattoo Gallery’s annual tattoo convention in 2012, and thanks to a booth he staffed at the event, many artists hired him to design business cards for them, as well.

Each order begins with a client consultation, followed by a briefing at which Mr. Hiller presents ideas for the design either on his computer or with handset type. He shows proofs and discusses paper, ink and color options with the customer before a final look is achieved and the real work begins.

In his workspace, Mr. Hiller’s equipment includes 34 drawers of lead type pieces and 23 drawers of wood type pieces of 15 to 18 different type faces, which he arranges using a composing stick to spell out names, addresses, numbers and so forth.

6817666.jpgManual process

Letters are entered one at a time, upside down, from left to right. Mr. Hiller sets the lines of type in the chase, or the frame, fills out the remaining space with wooden “furniture” (blocky pieces that keep the letters and lines in place), and places the chase into the bed of the press. Gauge pins, which are like metal tabs, register the paper into place and ensure consistent feeding so that each sheet lands in the same place every time.

Next, Mr. Hiller spreads ink onto the ink disc, and as he pumps the machine to life with his feet, the paper is pressed to the form, giving impressions, and rollers pass over the color disc and spread the color into the impressions. Thirteen Pantone base colors can be mixed together to create 1,114 other hues, giving customers an incredible range of options.

 

 

Revival Letterpress creates orders for businesses and individuals locally and across the country, and the work is both manually and creatively fulfilling, Mr. Hiller said.

“I feel lucky being able to do this,” he explained. “It’s fun. It’s hard. But it beats punching a clock and it’s not overrun with technology.”

Clients are thrilled to run their hands over the finished product and recognize the time and effort that goes into their order.

“It’s about retaining the old style of printing,” Mr. Hiller said. “I think that’s why people care about it, too. It’s craftmanship.”

Contact the writer: pwilding@timesshamrock.com, @pwildingTT on Twitter

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Revival Letterpress

http://m.thetimes-tribune.com/lifestyles/city-man-keeps-alive-old-style-handset-letterpress-printing-method-in-downtown-scranton-1.1620069

Source: The Scranton Times Tribune

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