A big press restoration is now underway at the Red Onion

The press holding up the remains of the house

The press holding up the remains of the house

The latest project in the Red Onion’s restoration workshop is a 1902 old style Chandler & Price 10 x 15 platen press. The press was donated to the Red Onion last year by Betty Arnold and James Galloway, daughter and son of the late Sam Galloway, who lived and worked in this area for many years as a letterpress printer.

A 10 x 15 platen press is a big letterpress. The 10 x 15 refers to the area inside the square box, or “chase” as it’s called in the trade. The chase is where the printing plates and type fonts are locked in. The printing press actually weighs 1600 lbs. and is made of solid cast iron. Early last year, Hugh MacKay and I drove up to see the press in Summersville, Georgia and we saw how strong and massive the press was. It was sitting where it had been placed some 50 years ago, on the concrete floor of what was the front porch of James Galloway’s house where his Dad had operated it in his final days. Only the house was no more, and what was left of the roof had settled on the top of the press. The remains of a giant tree covered what was left of the building having toppled over during a thunderstorm years ago. Our job was to remove the press and bring it down to the shop in Kennesaw to restore it. To do that we had to tear down the roof using hammers and a crowbar to get it free, and then maneuver it onto a truck. Hugh MacKay, “Poppi” McClure and myself spent a good part of that day pulling the roof off board by board to get it free.

With the exception of the straight spoked flywheel, much of this is very similar.

With the exception of the straight spoked flywheel, much of this is very similar.

The press is special to our area and to the Red Onion. It was originally operated by Sam Galloway, who had a small grocery store, gas station and printshop on Old Highway 41, less than a block from where North Cobb High school stands today. Given it’s connection to the community and close proximity to the new North Cobb Library we hope to use the press to demonstrate the history of movable type, printing and publishing during the days of the industrial revolution, when model T Fords and horse drawn wagons shared the road.

But before we could start in on the press, we had a big freight scale to restore for the Acworth History Foundation. That project was completed late last year and soon the scale will be revealed in it’s new home in the Depot Museum in Acworth. For us the press restoration has now begun in earnest. The first step we took was to take careful close up photos and begin identifying the parts, including some that were no longer on the press, but important nevertheless. We had some information to go by. The press is very similar to the smaller Stilesboro press we restored and now have in operation the letterpress area in the shop. We also have a wealth of information on the internet and even a parts list for a later version of the same press. As we restore this press, we plan to photo document the whole process on our blog page and share it with our public. Below are photos from the first stage of the process: if you are in the area, stop by the Red Onion any Saturday, we’d love to show you our progress.

Coming Home: The Saga of the Peerless Press Delivery

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This Spring we had the pleasure of adding a motor and controller to a 1873 version Peerless Letterpress. The press which was in the shop temporarily after the owner, Bruce McDonald a long time Atlanta printer who got his start as a youth on the Peerless asked us to store his favorite press, while closing his commercial printing business. He also asked us to do some work on the press to power it. As a letterpress printer, Bruce does business as Thumbs Up Press in his basement shop since the 1950’s. We soon learned that adding the motor and controller an a few more enhancements was the easy part. Delivery was the challenge. This is the story of how we moved this solid floor model 19th Century machine into Bruce’s basement shop.

It started on a weekday afternoon, after several days of sunshine. We rented a small Penske truck with a powered liftgate and proceeded to the house. Traffic was moderate and we got there with plenty of daylight. All we had to do was drive the truck down the hill and back it up the hill on the lawn. After determining that too many trees would have to be sacrificed going down the more moderate hill, we opted to drive down the steeper hill.

I put it into gear and rolled down the hill, only to become stuck in a bog sinking the truck tires down to the hubcaps unable to go up or down. After much effort and the help of a late night tow from a monster truck dispatched by Penske, we unloaded the press in the driveway and decided to wait until the next dry cycle.

It became evident that we would have to make the descent down the lawn and into the backyard to the bottom of the hill with a light weight truck and trailer. At the bottom we would have to turn the truck and trailer towards the house, but backing up the trailer was not going to work on the wet grass. We would have to pull the 800 lb press on it’s pallet up to the back door by hand. The pallet would be heavy and the distance to move it was going to be substantial. During the week we worked on a plan to manage the move smarter. Instead of a big truck, we rented a small 4 x 8 yard trailer and bought several sheets of plywood. We also made a plywood ramp to pull the press up into the trailer and lower the press when we had to unload it. The solution was to put the plywood down and draw the pallet up the hill using an ATV power winch and deep cycle battery mounted on the pallet. A 5 ft steel pole was pounded in the ground at the top of the hill as an anchor and using a remote control pad, the winch was our salvation. The winch had 50 ft of cable and a 2500 lb pulling force, much more power than any of us! I also had the assistance of a very good natured neighbor, David Bird who also enjoyed the adventure. Between the three of us and the winch, delivery was successful!

"Friends of the GSO" enjoy an evening in the shop!

Last night the Red Onion Press hosted a reception for the Friends of the Georgia Symphony Orchestra. The evening began with a tour of the Historic Kennesaw Cemetery led by Adam and Lewis Bramlette of the Kennesaw City Cemetery Commission. Following that, the group came in to enjoy some wine and cheese and a premium printmaking and letterpress demonstration including custom print coasters for a musical crowd! If your group or organization would like to enjoy an educational and fascinating event blending handicraft, contemporary art and history contact the Red Onion Press. The shop is well suited for groups up to 25. We even offer a outdoor fire pit!




Nice testimonial from the North Bay Letterpress Artists!

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For the last year and a half, an important part of our operations has been the restoration of letterpress equipment for artists and letterpress printers in our area. It’s nice to know that the word about our service to the printmaking community is starting to get around!

Hi Clemens…

Your information is correct, it was delivered this morning to my shop and after some tinkering and sanding, it’s perforating like 1888 was yesterday.
I’m grateful for the careful way you packaged everything, even supplying me with those bolts for the deck.
We sat around at  lunch dreaming up perforation projects…like a love card perforate’d down the middle to use in case of break-up.

The thing that just blows me away is how well all those pins are cutting. I assumed I’d have to pull them out and try to repair or sharpen them.

Also nice is how the little chads drop neatly down like a shower of termite droppings. I had expected them to have clogged up by now.

I noticed a little support underneath for  a tray to catch them, and made a wood piece to fit. I saw your blog entry about the press going to our shop, and showed it around…we all were surprised at what a nice description you gave of our work out here….thanks!

So, an entirely successful move…and a delighted crew of printers eager to perforate something, anything!

best to you,

Eric Johnson, North Bay Letterpress Arts

Sebastopol, California

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Printmaker Jami Taback demonstrating the Rosback Perforator in Sebastopol California.

Connecting Printers Coast to Coast

The Rosback Perforator Press

The Rosback Perforator Press

Last year when we received an unusual donation of two unusual machines. Patented in 1888 these treadle operated presses had one function; making a series of tiny holes in paper like you would see in a page of postage stamps. Since we had no room for them we reached out online to see if anyone else in the printing and letterpress world might have an interest. After a few weeks, we were contacted by Eric Johnson, founder of the North Bay Letterpress Arts workshop who has been looking for just such a press for over 5 years. The treadle operated perforator is indeed a rare piece of equipment!

Farflungland stamp book

Farflungland stamp book

Eric’s search for the Rosback started when he received a gift of a ream of gummed back label sheets. He came up with the idea of designing and printing stamps for The imaginary Kingdom of Farflungland. These whimsical postage stamps pictured below were perforated using a modern steel rule which creates a series of dashes. Eric knew that the Rosback Perforator with it’s miniature holes would create a more authentic looking stamp.

The North Bay Letterpress Arts workshop is located in Sebastopol, California just north of San Francisco where they practice what they call the poetry of printing. It is also a non-profit workshop that produces both prints, posters and book arts. Much of their output, is poetry and there is a strong connection between the spoken word and printing by hand. You can visit their website at

https://www.northbayletterpressarts.org/

Farflungland stamps

Farflungland stamps

Note they also have a nice bookpress

Note they also have a nice bookpress

Hot off the Press, our first test print

Acquiring a full size swing arm press is the first step towards our goal of equipping the Red Onion to be able to produce full size pages for our book publication project. A Reliance press uses the same method of printing that was invented by Gutenberg in the 1400’s. The first book press was a wooden press, ours is metal and much heavier, but in every other respect it is the same. We plan to film each step of the process. Look for this episode soon!

Assembling the Reliance book press

Putting the parts together involved a certain amount of brainstorming, trial and error. Most of the press parts were in boxes, and none seemed to be missing. starting with the main frame we had to raise the base and press ram weighing at least 500 lbs. and attach them using a portable shop crane.

Open House at the Red Onion!

Celebrating our first year as an independent non-profit workshop, dedicated to printmaking and letterpress arts, the Red Onion Press Open House was well attended.

End of the Journey - the 2200 lb Reliance Press arrives

The Red Onion Press team finally delivers the Reliance Book Press just in time for the Open House and Unveiling! A thirty foot climb up a steep creek bed, a 4 foot wall and and a lawn made for a challenging effort.

The Reliance Press, one of the last of the big Washington Hand Presses that date back to the early 19th Century will now be reassembled and used as our primary book press as we launch our book publishing effort.