Number 68, March 1972
Page 1

by John S. Carroll

FROM conversations I have had with amateur printers, one thing stands out clearly: all of them know what makeready is. Trouble is, they are in the position of that old spiritual – “Everyone talkin’ ‘bout Heaven ain’t goin’ there.” They talk learnedly about makeready; they even hold forth on how makeready makes it easier to pull the handle on the press, how it wears type less, and how it makes it possible to run less ink. But when you see their printing – well, they “just didn’t have time” to do a makeready. Or “it’s too much trouble.” Or whatever excuse. Anyway, they toss in three more sheets of packing, add another slather of ink and away they go.

Well, you don’t have to convince the professional printer that all this “work” – cutting of tissue overlays, making an impression on the platen, pulling several progressive proofs and gradually building up a proper makeready – is necessary. You see old-time commercial printers doing it as a matter of routine on every job, even an envelope corner or a business card.

Amateurs cannot believe it is necessary because they think that type is absolutely uniform in height and, more important, they are convinced the bed and platen of the press are absolutely flat. If the type form is reasonably so, they can’t see the need for all that building up of low spots.

Any time you have a press that dates before 1900, you can pretty well be sure that neither the platen nor the bed is really flat and level. Wear and tear do not have much to do with it; even in 75 years it would be pretty hard to wear a cast iron bed plate very much. What most people do not know is that cast iron warps, just like wood warps, though from different causes.

I have had a press, only a few years old, where the bed plate was actually dish-shaped – it was low in the middle by as much as 1/64”, which is a lot. You can’t say Kelsey’s workmanship is bad, because it isn’t. These beds are planed on a regular planing machine which generates a flat surface (it couldn’t make a dish if it wanted to).

What happens is this: they first make an iron casting, which is made in a mold of wet sand. As the iron is poured into the mold it chills as it hits the wet sand, thus forming a hard skin on the casting, composed of chilled iron and melted sand. The inner part of the metal solidifies last and there is a noticeable amount of shrinkage that occurs, which pulls the hardened outer skin inward. The whole casting is now in a state of strain and a first-class machine shop knows that this is not to be handled right away, so they toss the castings in the back yard and let them age for a while.

Six months would be a good aging period, but generally they are brought in within a couple of weeks and machined to size. In machining, the outer hard skin is removed, and this partly relieves the strain. The part is now nice and flat, so it is assembled on the press, given a coat of gray paint and shipped out. Meanwhile, the inner layers of metal, with the skin removed, start to expand and soon your castings have warped out of shape. They twist, turn, become dish-shaped or whatever. Anyway, they are no longer flat.

In making real precision machinery – tool-room lathes and the like – they age the castings for a month or more, then do a rough machining. They toss them back into the yard again to age another six months with the strains relieved and the skin off. Finally they bring them back and do the final machining and then you can be certain the piece is stabilized and will not warp or twist. But they didn’t know this back in 1890 and even today the economics of the matter dictate that this aging process can only be used on machinery where precision is essential.

One more point: a machined bed will not be accurate to much better than .002” or .003” unless it is ground or hand-scraped, which is expensive. This is not generally done on printing presses – at least, not on the relatively inexpensive ones.

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So, we think of type being .9185” high – look at that, four decimal places! But the bed of the press may be off as much as .003” one way or the other – or both at different places! That super-precise figure of type-high is utterly meaningless when we go to print with it. The most we can say is that the type form is, at best, between .915” and .923” high, and that means a correction of .006” – the thickness of a thin sheet of paper or two or three tissues.

This means you do exactly what Ralph Polk directs in his book Elementary Platen Presswork, you start with a minimum of packing so only the high spots of the type form are hitting the paper. Then you build up low areas until they are the same height – one, two, three layers of tissue.

This will be fascinating because you will find that if you do it this way, instead of just adding another sheet or two of packing – you will find that you are not hitting the paper anywhere near as hard. This is best demonstrated with a hand press, where you find to your great surprise you can print a full form without breaking your arm pulling the handle.

Only after you have the whole form built up – and incidentally, while doing this you have only half the normal amount of ink on the press so you can really see the low spots – then you put the whole shebang under the tympan and pull an impression on a sheet of paper you are going to print. At this point it should be gray and uniformly spotty – the key word is uniformly. Now, only now, you can add one more sheet of thin paper to the packing to get the type to bite into the paper the least bit. And, finally, a smidgen more ink (but still less than you are used to using) and you are ready to go.

Now, if you are ready to do this, you need not worry about type wearing out, because with proper makeready there is much less wear on type. Also, you can get good work from type most amateurs would consider worn out.

Avoid bond paper and the very stiff inks needed to print on it. Bond paper is intended for writing and typewriting, not for printing. Offset printing is the only way to print on bond papers. One a good book paper (Warren’s Old Style or equivalent) you can print with just about any job black ink and have no trouble at all. You can even print on it with news black if you add a bit of drier – it’ll be smudgy because the paper absorbs news inks and spread, but it’ll look respectable. Right now, I use the wrong ink but get good results. Roberts Light Speed Halftone Black, a bit soft but good on a hand press. Main thing, it dries well.

One final point: if you do a proper makeready, you run much less ink and the net result is no set-off!

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Amending Some Thoughts
by Harold Segal

There was a day when it was very easy to change the constitution of the National Amateur Press Association. In 1932 there were 63 proposals on the ballot! A late amendment would allow only ten weeks from publication date in the March National Amateur to mailing of absentee ballots. This precluded any debate. Many frivolous and hair-brained proposals were made – and printed at the association’s expense – only to succumb at the convention’s moment of truth; many serious and worthy proposals were voted upon either by mail ballot or at the convention by members who were not fully aware of the ramifications, and possibly their vote was swayed more by the reputation and personality of its sponsors than by the merits of the amendment.

This situation needed changing. There had to be more open discussion in our papers, more time to analyze the proposals and to understand why these changes were desirable.

In 1964 we changed the procedure. At convention an amendment committee would hear all the proposals. This committee, supposedly to be composed of ex-presidents and judges, was to weigh all the suggestions, listen to the discussion, and then decide which suggestions should be given amendment status and placed on the ballot the following year. In its original intent, this “graybeard” committee could summarily decide, with or without open discussion.

However, the reason for the year’s delay was to give the membership enough time to give vent to their opinions and to help them decide on the amendment’s desirability.

With some degree of disappointment, it must be noted that papers published since the Marietta convention have just about ignored the issues which we will be asked to vote upon in just a few months.

Amendment 1 alters the entry dates for our laureate competitions. Instead of the administrative year, all entries will be submitted between January 1 and March 15 of items published in the previous calendar year. This allows the recorder more time to gather entries, forward them to the president, who submits them to the laureate judges for unhurried consideration. Presently only six weeks are allowed for clerical work, transmission and judging. Much of the judging is done by college people and this task falls upon them as they are busily winding up their school year.

CAMPANE endorses Amendment 1 and urges its passage.

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Amendment 2 exempts life members from activity requirements when they hold office. Hopefully, we should be in a position where life members, having completed their tours of duty, shouldn’t be asked to serve further – we should have more than enough qualified newer and eager members. Ideally, all officers should be active – if only to set an example for the membership. Realistically, some of them are so weighed down with official duties they haven’t time to write or publish.

We must take the realistic approach here, hence our endorsement of Amendment 2.

Amendment 2 is the result of many years of varying interpretations of conflicting portions of the constitution. According to Article VI, life members are exempt from activity requirements. Yet in Article VIII, failure to publish or contribute to an amateur paper quarterly may constitute reason for removal at the president’s discretion.

Until 1963 presidents had interpreted this ambiguity to the benefit of the inactive life member. Reports in the National Amateur were generously allowed as “activity.” That year, President Rolfe Castleman removed Executive Judges Verle Heljeson and Robert Dunlap and Recruiting Chairman Roy Lindberg from office. For conscientious Verle Heljeson this was a traumatic experience from which he has never fully recovered. He suggested Amendment 2 to the constitution committee at Marietta last year.

There were claims that these officers were removed for other reasons: one for instituting a ruling, two for their roles in making a controversial decision. The removal order, retroactively dated, nullifying the ruling, gave some basis to this charge.

But the best place to start is the beginning, which brings us to the floor of the Newark ‘62 convention. On the final day, under new business, Heljeson stated that certain matters came up repetitively but were never settled. One was: “Is material published in the National Amateur and The Fossil eligible for laureate awards?” As usual, the question went unanswered.

As this story continues, the dates are most important. We will try to set it down chronologically. Draw your own conclusions.

In the September 1962 NA, Castleman, in his first presidential message emphasized publishing activity and officers’ activity. In the June ‘63 NA quarterly message (apparently written before his action ousting the three officers), Rolfe said, “Early in our administration we threatened the removal of officers who failed to publish. As the year progressed we did not follow up our threats. Most officers fulfilled their duties well whether they maintained an active publishing schedule or not. We did not risk replacing a good officer with another, who might prove to be more inactive than the board member we would remove.”

In a memo dated July 31, 1962, Castleman declared The Fossil and the National Amateur were amateur papers. This, in effect, meant material therein could be entered in laureate competition.

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In October, Roy Lindberg protested to the executive judges (Heljeson, Dunlap, and Louise Lincoln) about the eligibility of material in The Fossil for NAPA laureates. On April 13, 1963, the judges unanimously ruled that such material was not eligible; a lengthy report details the discussion and conclusions.

President Castleman, on May 16, advised Executive Judges Heljeson and Dunlap and Recruiting Chairman Lindberg they were “removed from office as of April 1, 1963,” citing the Article VI, Section 1, activity clause. This could, conceivably, nullify the April 13 decision.

Protests were immediately registered with the lone remaining judge, Louise Lincoln, who, on May 25, said, “I fail to see where the constitution give the president any right to make the removal of officers retroactive…. It is my opinion Heljeson and Dunlap were still official judges at the time the decision in regard to The Fossil was made. Therefore the decision should stand as rendered.”

According to the June ‘63 National Amateur, “President Castleman amended his previous denial of the judges’ decision stating, ‘The president has no authority over the decisions of the executive judges or to make retroactive appointments or removals.’ He set a new removal date of May 16. He also stated he would respect and carry out the April 21 decision of the executive judges.”

Later at the Cleveland convention, Heljeson said he felt that the removal of the two judges was an “act of anger and vengeance,” because he did not approve of their decision. Heljeson and Dunlap claimed as life members they were exempt from the activity requirements.

Edward H. Cole (“Mr. Fossil”) was drawn to the convention by this furor. He made a motion saying it was the sense of the convention that the two judges had been legally removed. The motion passed. Mr. Cole also moved that the April 21 decision of the judges be approved. It passed, unanimously.

The most active local group at this time is the Virginia Amateur Printers Association and they have taken a giant step to make their activity contagious. They have proposed a slate of officers for the NAPA.

In recent years we have been neglecting this important facet of the hobby. Elections have loomed suddenly and the members with mail ballots can do nothing but scratch their heads and mumble in frustrated disbelief. Everyone, unfortunately, is not able to attend the convention every year. The active absentee, who has every right to be a participant, should have some choice in electing officers.

At conventions things usually have a way of falling into place. In the few years just gone by, there have been occasions when there were not candidates for any particular office on July 1. But come adjournment sine die and all posts are filled. But it hasn’t always been easy.

We have now a good group of active members, many with experience, showing constant improvement and style. Others are coming along, abandoning reprinting of tired epigrams for original items of substance and instead of showing how many fonts they have are now showing they know how to use them.

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But back to VAPA…. We heartily endorse their entry into the NAPA political arena. We’d like to see similar activity from the West Coast. And from the Rocky Mountain area. And from wherever else two or more amateurs get together to print.

We have now reached a point in NAPA’s stumble through its first century where we might consider the lengthening of our administrative terms. An official just barely grasps the reins of office, learns – some trials, some errors – what he is expected to know, and then it’s time to relinquish it.

Are we getting mileage out of our executives keeping them in their offices for only one year? Are we being deprived of the benefit of their experience? Are they happy leaving the job just when they reach the point where they know what they are doing?

* * * *

In the past few years we were “conned” into writing articles for The National Amateur: “Planning a Convention” and “Everything You Wanted to Know About Editing, but Were Afraid to Ask.”

The convention planning article was a text-book-like presentation. It is not a perfect game plan on how to prepare for a convention, but it is the first time most of the particulars were recorded for the guidance of future convention chairmen. What surprises most of all was that there was not one suggestion or criticism. Wasn’t there something we overlooked?

This was in mind when we wrote the article on editing in the June ‘71 NA. Deliberate statements – some might consider them outrageous – were made in the hope that it might prod some discussion. Harold Segal would like to think so, but he is not the last word on editing. To think that certain particular remarks would go unchallenged is unbelievable – and terribly disappointing.

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CAMPANE is published in the interest of organized amateur journalism and the National Amateur Press Association by co-editors Hazel and Harold Segal, Margo Gardens, Bristol, Pa. 19007. Hand set in Baskerville types and 475 copies printed on 60-lb. offset stock on an 1890 7×11 Pearl treadle press.

Articles discussing associational problems, critiques or recollections and research in the history of the hobby are constantly sought and welcomed by the editors.

Rebuttals to articles in CAMPANE will be given prompt attention. We do not necessarily endorse remarks made in these pages by others than the editors, but we are not adverse to airing both sides of controversial issues.

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