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Bremner Press In York, UK

Started by Dan Williams, March 03, 2007, 10:49:45 PM

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Dan Williams

I would hate to see that large flat bed press get broken up.
As much as I like Linotypes, I have more affection for these big letterpresses than anything else.
I think they are still quite useful and economic, and have utility. Diecut, print, art; there are so many plausible uses. The big handfeds are friendly and easy to use.
But, they are also extremely vulnerable because of their sheer size, weight and difficulty in rigging and moving. Practically no large handfed letterpresses have been built in the past seventy five years, and frankly they are becoming rare and historic, in my view.
A good investment for one with the means.


rag451

Shall we hop across the pond real quick, Dan? It'd be a shame for the linos, Heidelberg, and flat-bed to go to the heap. It's profoundly disturbing to realize how many shops and owners have faced similar circumstances. Even my local paper that dissolved in '85 after 90 years in business faced similar circumstances. Their 00 Miehle press, which had sat in the same building since '35, had to be moved out, and I believe it ended up in the dump. (Pictures below) Hope someone can step in and take it all or distribute with it as necessary.





Robert Griffith
Robert Griffith
Burleson, Texas
www.burlesonlinotype.com
www.burlesonhistory.com

Dan Williams

Indeed, Robert. The loss of that Burleson press causes my concern. Thankfully in the Houston museum we have a very fine example of a handfed Cranston. Unfortunately the inking system was lost during some long-past administration.
The resources necessary to save a large press are not insignificant. A linotype can be rigged and moved with some individual effort, but trying to move and store even a moderate sized flatbed is close to Herculean.
I think it would be outstanding if interested parties could come together on restorative projects of this type, such as what we are doing with the Burleson linotype (AND coincidently, what has been proposed for the Cossar flatbed/webfeed). Collective efforts are always going to bring greater resources to bear.


Dan Williams

B R E M N E R, by the way. Hate to misspell like that.  :P

Dave Hughes

Corrected it Dan! I did notice the error, but thought I'd run with it if it wasn't bothering anyone else  ::)
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rag451

Rather strange and uninformed questions...

What were the largest hand-fed or flat bed presses similar to the Bremner or Burleson presses? How did these compare, in scale and function with the presses utilized in, say, the New York Times or other large papers at the turn of the [last] century? If totally different, then how did the larger presses in the major newspapers come to be and when were they automated?

Robert Griffith
http://www.burlesonheritage.org
Robert Griffith
Burleson, Texas
www.burlesonlinotype.com
www.burlesonhistory.com

intertypeman

Where's the start of this story? The topic seems to begin in the middle and looks like there's more to it before this thread or topic appeared here. If this is a rare machine in York, UK, has anyone told the National Printing Heritage Trust about it? Their correspondent for finding new homes for rare museum-quality items is Tony Smith. Don't have his contact details with me, but if he isn't already on our contact list, an email via the NPHT website contact box should reach him ok. Tony


Dave Hughes

Tony, it's a follow-on from this article:

http://www.metaltype.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,115.0.html

There's a link on there to the advertisement and photos.
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intertypeman

I can't see that "Bremner Press" clearly in the piccies, but if it was made in Otley, is it actually a Wharfedale that I'm looking at?

Has the equipment now all gone, or is anything left to be disposed of?

Tony

Dave Hughes

Unfortunately it's now all gone - Ken had to get the builders in. Think the press got scrapped!
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Dan Williams

Hate to hear that.
Honestly its beginning to sound like Architectural preservation here in the USA.
By the time anyone hears about some old structure of significance, its been long since hauled down and condos or parking lot put up.


intertypeman

I dunno what the position is in the USA, but here in the UK the distances are much less. It sounds like we need to get some keen volunteers organised into a UK emergency letterpress rescue squad - maybe several in different areas if the idea takes off - with machinery moving equipment and covered storage in one or more safe locations, so that we can respond with alacrity and move threatened letterpress stuff out BEFORE the cutting torches arrive, instead of bemoaning the loss of irreplaceable equipment when it's too late. Once it's stored safely it shouldn't be a problem to find a new home for it at leisure.       Tony

Dave Hughes

Sounds like a good idea Tony - any volunteers?

I think all that got rescued from McWhan's was the wooden poster type.
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Dan Williams

Its an epic project if you ask me.
Three problems that must be dealt with, aside from having sufficient volunteers:
1. How to move the equipment
2. What to use to move the equipment
3. Where to keep the equipment
Also consider insurance.
Regarding item #3, I imagine that much of Great Britain is high rent. This could really complicate the storage, and open up possibility of a new problem #4: who pays the rent? Also consider what to use to move the thing. I doubt if the per capita English population has as many 3/4 ton trucks as we do in Texas. And it must have a competent hitch to accomodate a sufficiently heavy trailer for the job.
But to be realistic, for really heavy presses I suppose a tilt truck is least expensive option. Safest bet is to hire a mover, and if so that really boils down to economics.

intertypeman

Hi Dan - Like a number of others in the UK, I have been saving threatened letterpress equipment on a personal basis for nearly 20 years, but I don't have the resources on my own to do what needs to be done. An emergency rescue squad needs to be organised by building up local or area groups of between two/three and a half dozen people, who are orientated towards machinery preservation, restoration and engineering rather than the routine operation of printing equipment. Just one successful group would be enough get the ball rolling though.

Tabletop machines are simple to move, and many treadle platens can be stripped down to move them if an on-pallet move is not practical. The Arab platen was normally supplied as a flat pack with assembly instructions, and (Alan?) at York says that he can get one fully stripped down ready to move - or erected and running again - in under 2 hours. I have stripped and moved an Arab myself from the attic of a college at Cambridge to my machinery store in Kent using just my own labour - I am 64 and decidely unfit - assisted by a 75-years-old Granny (she made the tea, took an intelligent interest and held things for me) in the van-bodied version of a small English car. Once it is stripped down there is only one inconveniently heavy lump on an Arab. This can be walked on its legs and manoeuvred, but is too heavy for a Grandad like me to lift. Other platens may not be quite so conveniently and thoughtfully designed though. The overall weight of the Arab was too much for my small van to handle in one trip, so we had to make two - on the 2nd of which we were nearly arrested by police as terrorists carrying bomb-making equipmen!

I have also moved an Intertype C4 the same way which could not be got out of its former home without stripping it down to its component parts, though I did have to hire a hand pallet truck and a larger van with a tail lift to move the heavy cast square base unit. Similarly, I have moved a Thompson Auto-Platen myself, using boards and rollers, out of a very difficult location on a steep slope across several gardens to where it could be eased onto a trailer to move it. That required ropes, winches and a couple of beefy volunteers with bars to keep it under control.

Machinery moving is a fruitful source of accidents, and intelligent participators, systematic training in safe working practices, attention to detail, and the habit of addressing accidents BEFORE they happen rather than when it is too late is imperative. The same principle applies to moving machinery that I was taught as a trainee London bus driver: Go down a hill in the same gear that you would use to drive up it, and leave the brakes alone except to check your speed at intervals if your engine and gears are not holding you back adequately. If you have to use your brakes to assist the braking power of the engine, use the handbrake only - so that if you need the foobrake to make an emergency stop, you have it available, and it is not overheated and suffering brake fade. The same principle applies to driving railway trains. It is relatively simple to persuade a piece of heavy machinery to stay where it is, but once it has got on the move your only safe course may well be to jump clear. The first priority must therefore be to ensure that it only wants to move when, where and as you want it to, and NEVER take chances.

The knowledge, expertise and equipment already exists for moving historic printing machinery safely, whether intact or stripped down. Jeremy Winkworth and others on the Briar Press yellow pages have built up considerable expertise which can be called on if a commercial machinery mover can be justified. The fact that at present we are not organised to undertake printing machinery rescue in the UK on a voluntary basis does not mean that the expertise and equipment does not exist, only that letterpress has not until now been perceived by the rest of the heritage machinery preservation community as being part of their world, and very largely because successive Presidents of the British Printing Society over the past 25 years have consistently displayed all the vision and outlook of frogs who live in a well - and have given a superb performance as people who can't see beyond the ends of their noses, who emulate the ostrich by keeping their heads firmly thrust into the sand, or who have their heads firmly stuck up their equine quadrupeds.

They appear to know everything there is to know about how to run the Executive Council of BPS, but absolutely zilch about how to run a national printing society that those who print will want to join, and that those who have joined will want to stay in once they have experienced the reality that lies behind the claim "we are THE British Printing Society". As a result, nearly five thousand of the members with the most "Get Up And Go" have got up and gone in the past 25 years - overall we've lost 5 members for every 3 we've recruited in that time - while successive Chief Executives - we call them Presidents - have done little more than slap each other on the back at each and every Society AGM, and tell each other what a wonderful job they're doing.

With regard to its surviving machinery, letterpress is now in the same state as "those dirty smelly old steam trains" were in the UK almost 50 years ago. Obsolete, unwanted and hopelessly uneconomic to operate, they had no real future. I was one of a small handful of people with a vision for the future, who serendipity put in the right place at the right time with the right ideas to germinate a seed which has grown amazingly since then - and what has been done for steam in those 50 years - the production lines are turning out new ones right now on a limited batch scale - can equally well be done for UK letterpress from here on in if we can simply elect a BPS President who has vision, imagination and a clear sense of purpose and direction - and who knows from experience that miracles are attainable - in place of a deadly succession of Society Presidents who only know how to administer a national printing society into its grave.   

As to your final point, it is amazing the way that if you knock boldly and lean on them firmly, doors will open for you. On a purely commercial basis it would probably make much more sense to be setting up small batch production of iron hand presses for carefully controlled sale on eBay than to use the same space for rescue and storage of threatened letterpress machines for which there is no immediate commercial market, but one has only to look at the amazing number of "preserved" steam railways in the UK, and realise that these exist - and have financed their own purchase by mortgages - despite the immense potential development value of their sites under our UK zoning laws as prime industral estate or residential redevelopment sites, to realise that it is serendipity that controls the opportunities that make themselves available. As an instance, just one chap with good enough eyesight to see into the future bought a derelict farm near me, rents the land out to other farmers, and has the otherwise redundant barns packed full of traction engines and steam stationary engines in "as found" condition which he has sought out and acquired at local scrap metal prices from the furthest reaches of South America, Africa and wherever else in the world they are to be found, and brought them back and stored them. No-one is making them any more, and there is a constant demand for them for restoration projects, either as-is or fully restored, and he's made so much money doing it that he's had to set up a charity to pay the profits to that he doesn't need, so that the Government can't steal it all from him to pay for the nuclear toys  that they delight in owning.

Tony

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