Frederick A. Draper
While much has been written upon this important subject, and many books are available for those who desire to make a study of it, yet it is the belief of the writer that these books are designed for those who are persuing their work in fully equipped printing establishments. It is thought therefore, that this series of articles, prepared especially for those totally unacquainted with the work and lacking the guidance of experienced workman close at hand, will be found interesting and valuable, especially to those who desire to begin in a small way, extending their field of work as experience is acquired. For this reason, special prominence will be given to the many small economies which, in a small shop, are both desirable and necessary for the production of work at a profit, and without heavy expense for materials.
To the one making a start with a shop of his own, the question of an outfit is a most important one, for unless a well filled pocket book can be drawn upon, the expense for bare necessities will seem comparatively large, and the range of available work, extremly limited. For this reason, it might be well to give attention to the various kinds of work which are within the capacity of a small shop, and to the ways, in which a small beginning can be built up without excessive cost. Most careful thought must be given to selecting the necessary type and materials, so that -everything obtained shall be usable to the fullest extent. The catalogs of the large dealers in printers' supplies are so attractive that the novice will succumb to the alluring inducements of new and attractive faces of type, labor saving machines, etc., and soon find himself stocked with much unproductive equipment, which more care and thought would have avoided.
Keeping this in mind, the first consideration is the fields of profitable work open to a beginner with a small shop; the requirements of the amateur who would print a small paper "for fun," will also receive attention. It hardly needs mention that the printing business as with any-other, requires a location where the desired number of customers can be secured, the ability to secure them depending upon the personal popularity, financial and mechanical skill of the printer, and capacity of the shop. Assuming that these are sufficiently promising to warrant a start, what shall be the lines of business to be solicited and for doing which the shop is equipped?
In answering this question it will be assumed that, on the score of expense, a special line of work is first to be undertaken, ways for subsequent development being given, and utilized as local conditions may warrant. Among the several lines included in these conditions, is that of visiting and business cards. Acceptable work of this kind can be done with a small assortment of type, a small press and few accessories; the profits average greater than in most lines, and business can be more easily obtained. This is especially true if the location is in a large city where conventions are numerous. A young amateur of the writer's acquaintance, makes a specialty of visiting the first sessions of conventions held in the city where he resides, interviewing the delegates, many of whom are unprovided with cards, and as quick delivery is promised receives numerous orders, at very profitable prices. With such orders, the style is nearly uniform and the work quickly done. A stock of blank cards of suitable size is kept on hand, and time is economized to the best advantage to turn out quickly the maximum amount of work. Should a reader not be so fortunately situated, a canvas among the professional and business men of any large town or city, will find many without cards, and willing to give an order to any bright young man who attractively presents his business. Closely associated with this line is that of admission tickets for entertainments, programes for same, and dance orders, invitations, milinery openings, postal card announcements, etc., which can be broadened to include bill and letter heads, statements, envelopes, blotters, etc. These lines are selected as the paper and card stock can be purchased of paper dealers cut to size, thus dispensing with the use of paper and card cutters, both expensive machines, the purchase of which is warranted only by a business exceeding the capacity of what is here termed a "small " shop.
We will now consider the appliances necessary to a proper production of the work above mentioned, giving first attention to the press, as the type, furniture, ornaments, etc., are in a measure selected to conform to the limitations of work which may be done upon the press. Good work demands a good press; a poor one means that the business is handicaped at the outset by difficulties which more than offset the saving in first cost, and limit both the capacity and quality of the work. On no account buy a small toy press, requiring short type.
In obtaining a press, the opportunities offered by dealers in second hand presses should not be overlooked, but the advice of an experienced pressman should be secured, if possible, when making the purchase of either an old or a new press, as there are many things entering into the design and operation much can only be learned by long experience, and the novice would be quite likely to select a press poorly suited to his needs. An advertisement in the nearest newspaper of large circulation will often bring a favorable offer from some one having a press for sale. Inquiries can also be made of employees in neighboring printing establishments. In purchasing a second hand press, the wear of shafts and bearings, should be carefully ascertained; if badly worn good work cannot be done upon it. If parts have been repaired, learn if sufficient strength has been secured by the repairs, so that an early break down is not probable. A broken part in a press materially reduces its selling value, even if the break has been well repaired.
If possible, secure a foot power press, the increased speed and convenience of operation, soon returning the extra cost over a hand lever press. With the former, a"throw off" is desirable, this being a lever for throwing off the platen, when desired, so that the type will not come in contact with it. This will be more fully explained when the subject of "Presswork " is reached. The hand lever press does not require a "throw off " the movement of the platen being controlled by the lever. While preference should be given to the foot power press, a wide variety of excellent work can be done with a hand lever press of good design. Whether foot or hand power, it should be self-inking, as hand inking presses require considerable care and skill to secure a proper inking of the type, as well as more time for the work; two operations, that of inking and feeding the paper, being necessary for each impression. For plain card work a hand inking press will answer, but the beginner will find it a difficult matter to do acceptable work with it.
The size is also important. Presses are designated by the size of the chase, the iron frame which holds the type. Even if only card work is to be done, a chase 5 x 8 inches, inside measurement, is desirable, as 3-4 inch each way is necessary for the " lock up," that is, the fastening quoins, usually metal, holding the type firmly in the chase. A press with a chase 6 x 9 inches costs but little more than the other and will print full size letter heads. Other desirable sizes are 6 x 10 and 7 x 11 inches, the greater capacity being desirable if within the means of the reader. The design and construction of the many good presses sold by dealers will not here be touched upon, these being matters about which the purchaser should consult with an experienced friend. Most printers will gladly give reliable advice upon this subject to a worthy inquirer.
A desirable feature found on most presses now manufactured is that of the regulation of the platen by means of impression screws. Without such screws the "make ready," or preparation of the platen to obtain an even ink impression, is entirely secured by " overlaying" or "under laying," the former being the addition or removal of varying thickness of paper to the platen, and the latter, the addition of paper or thin cardboard strips to such cuts and worn type as may be necessary to raise them to a level with the rest of the type. This work is still necessary, even with a platen fitted with impression screws, as these screws should be adjusted only when absolutely required by extra thin or thick stock, or large uneven "cuts," this being the general term for designating electrotypes, process plates, etc.