During the closing weeks of 2015 during some idle web-browsing, I stumbled across an 1867 Albion hand press for sale, made by the well-known London press manufacturer Harrild and Sons. The press was located just over 200 miles away in Fleetwood, Lancashire and had been under the ownership of long-standing family-owned company Ashton Printers since 1877. After a long working life that included the printing posters advertising the procession to celebrate the opening of the Fleetwood Dock, the press was finally retired in 1990, restored, and proudly put on display in the company's back office.
I was after a press with a reasonable bed size for printing letterpress books and linocut images, and with its demy-folio bed size (18 inch by 12 inch), this press fitted the bill perfectly, and judging by the photographs seemed to be very well looked-after too.
After contacting Ashton Printers and agreeing a price, the next task was to get it dismantled and transported down to Bristol. Enter Albion expert and all-round nice bloke, Giles Hovendon of JMR press, based north of Fleetwood at Kendal in the Lake District. Giles and the press arrived at the studio in January, on what appeared to be a week-long whistle-stop tour of southern England delivering and fixing assorted presses.
Following a couple of hours work carefully re-assembling and setting-up the press, the first successful test print was taken.
All that was required now was for the tympan frame to be dressed and the frisket to be attached. Eventually, during late April, after much reading-up and purchasing some buckram bookcloth and bookbinders glue, I made a first attempt at dressing the tympan.
This was a bit of a messy and untidy undertaking to start with, but once I have worked-out a technique for keeping the dampened backcloth taut whilst applying the glue and tucking the edge strips under the tympan frame, things neatened-up a bit, with the inner tympan frame looking a lot neater than the outer one, which I had attempted first.
Once the tympan was fitted back onto the press bed hinges and packed with layers of card and newspaper sheets, a number of test prints were taken and more newspaper added until the pull and pressure were just right.
Finally the frisket was attached to one end of the dressed tympan and lengths of elastic braid were cut to length, fitted to the frisket frame and stapled together. The last step is very important as the taut braids ensure that the printed sheets are lifted clear of the type or image plate as the tympan, holding the printed paper is lifted from the press bed. The Albion press was once again ready for creating new work.