Friday, April 26, 2013

SEA CHANGE: Printing the Xeric, Day 12 + 13

Day 12, Thursday April 25th

Otherwise known as, "getting in the car and driving to Richfield"-day.

It was the first real beautiful day in Minneapolis - filthily sunny as evidenced by that picture and actually becoming warm. A real goddamn relief. A day that never dips below forty degrees means my window for working is expanded to whenever - which, at the beginning of April was about five hours long from noon to five in the afternoon, when the garage was warm enough not to freeze ink to the rollers. Not that I managed to avoid disaster or rookie screw-ups to print for more than four hours at that point (or still).

I'd just started shoveling some breakfast into my mouth at the Seward Co-op when I'd gotten a call from Claude, a pressman I'd heard lauded as a pretty darn good guy and a reliable source for parts. The day previous Zak (and sometimes-Krakken Floss) had come by to help me fix up the idiot mistake I'd made on the press and made a call to Claude about a new part.

That part? A latch pawl. Sonorous name, I know. An inch or so long, but yet another crucial linchpin to my sanity.

What did I do, you ask? My problem this time was not that I'd misaligned my feed, or needed some WD-40, or had flipped some lever I was unaware of its mechanism, but made a real idiot mistake. I'd started running the press on a really, really, really simple plate. Two words, mostly white plate. Very little ink needed. Should have been a snap. I inked up on low, left the fountain wide open, and got the feed lined up. Fed beautifully on the make-ready and switched to the good stock - and almost immediately it started scumming up bad in the middle. I was perplexed and, as I turned down the ink and wiped off the plate and the blanket before going again, increasingly enraged as the problem kept returning again and again.

Well, what I did was forget to engage the top fountain roller, which distributes fountain solution on the top oscillating ink roller and the back of the plate cylinder before it hits the rubber blanket. So absolutely nothing was washing the ink off the blank parts of the plate, and ink was accumulating and transferring to my stock. Simple. Had I simply looked up half an inch to where the fountain sat, just slightly above my nose, I'd have knocked it left into place with the heel of my palm, as I've done hundreds of times before, and I'd be done with this book at this very moment (possibly). Definitely wouldn't be out another couple hundred bucks.

As it happened, I instead assumed it was my ink fountain, which I'd loosened on plates past, which were full of lots of dark gray and black, to make sure enough could pass through. I took my screwdriver and tightened that inkwell as hard as I could against the ink roller. AS HARD AS I COULD.

Told you. Stupid.

The machine kept chugging away. Maisie didn't know any better to stop, but then I also cranked the ink up off of zero - at this point I STILL might have saved myself pain and sorrow - but nope. At which point the mechanism which automatically turns the ink roller in the well reached down, settled into the teeth of a gear, and tried to CRANK it back up. That moving part hit an unmovable object, and that energy had to go somewhere. The latch pawl caught, the solid-metal lever assembly it sat within warped to the right and up to try and relieve the pressure, but not enough. The latch pawl bent, fractured, and part of it flew, one assumes, right over my oblivious head and to the floor in what was probably a few seconds. And I missed all of it. I was soon bent over in tears and fury, bereft of another day of work. Three days of work, as it turned out to be.

Hard to see, I know, but the straight bar between those two gears holds the latch pawl. The latch pawl reaches back and rests on the smaller, left gear and uses downward pressure from a spring to catch the teeth - which is turned by the gear on the right to move the ink roller to the left. You can see it's not flush.

The new lever assembly - I really don't know that's the proper term, but that's sort of what Claude referred to it as - is the one on the left. The one I warped is on the right.

The story of Thursday is that I received a call from Claude at 9am, offering me a new latch pawl he'd found in his menagerie of AB Dick parts. I'd ordered one from Illinois on rush (in the desperate hope to get  printing in the next few days. As Amaya can tell you, I do weird things when I really need to work but I can't, like look for Japanese dinosaur dating sims for the iPad). The price on that one, minus the exorbitant shipping, was $99.90. Claude offered me one for $10, with the addendum, "I've got nine more of them!"

I ended up driving to Richfield, the first time, that morning to pick up that latch pawl. I got back to the garage and installed it, but still the ink roller and the mechanisms wouldn't run normally. It did, for a minute! Ian had been home early on lunch break and he'd come out to help me remove the old latch pawl, and for a second, she rotated, but soon lost tension and started sliding uselessly over the teeth again. I then thought it was the spring (I still hadn't figured out what the fuck had happened on Tuesday at this point). So I tried to wrestle it back into fighting shape - with absolutely no idea what that was, mind you - with two pliers and just my plucky, angry resolve.

The one I attempted to "fix" is the left. What that spring should look is the one on the right.

Had another crisis of faith in Amaya's living room, in the middle of which she pointed out, "Well, do you wish you didn't have the press?" And I immediately said, small but true, "No." She continued to say that, and with extreme accuracy, that had I not elected to print this book myself and shipped it off to a publisher, I would be in the same damn pits about how I should be trying to print it myself.

I then figured out my lever assembly was bent and surmised the real events of Tuesday. Called Claude back and described my problem - a second later he hummed and said, "Yeah, I've got that. Another $10 bucks." I told him, "I'm willing to pay anything at this point to get this machine back in running order." And again, into the car I clamored and rushed out into 35W in the thick of the rush-hour clog. I got to Claude's and he showed me around the garage a bit and explained he had an enormous stockpile of AB Dick parts that were too numerous to ever sell, so he felt no need to rake me over the coals for a latch pawl at a nine-time mark up. I wrote him a check for ten bucks and he graciously offered me a new spring for it and an old catalog of parts, which I was so happy to accept.

He also kept assuring me that part was often broken off, but I still have a hard time seeing how I didn't make a really dumb mistake that Tuesday afternoon. Now you all have to read this horribly long blog post instead of looking at a picture of me holding a printed book up. Bleh.

Claude was great. Gracious and patient and really willing to help me out. Because I also left my folder, holding my replacement-computer iPad and the comic I'd been working on since March, sitting in a patch of sun on his garage desk. I of course didn't realize this until safely navigating rush hour back to Seward. And for the third time, called Claude and clamored into that damn car and back into rush hour.

Also lost the ring clamps on that bar that connects the gear to the lever assembly as well, and mechanically-clever Ian improvised some for me. And figured out that damn spring and how to enact tension on the thing, which I'm sure I would still be wrangling with stupidly. 

"Same day service" is the damn truth. I'd still be grounded without Claude, which is good, because the back up plan I'd had for the book - Zak, also having graciously offered me to use his press to finish my plates if need be, called to let me know that his press had also gotten fucked up. He wished me luck with Maisie, now that I'd fixed it back up, and hoped everything would go well. I said, "Well, it kind of has to now..."

Day 13, Friday April 26th

The Day of No Fucking Crying

Got into the garage, after breakfasting in the Co-op again, around 9:30. Jogged and sorted paper to the new Ink Panthers episode, put them into the boxes from whence they came and labeled them. Finished around 11:30 - ran to shove some pasta into my mouth, having planned to print for as long as physically possible. Maisie was feeding without problems and the ink fountain was back in running order. Cranked some Arcade Fire and went to it.

The paper for the remaining odd plates - five of them, needing varying amounts of paper run through.

Ran the odds and was finished with half the book at roughly 1:30, 2. Plowed through onto the evens, or the back sides of these sheets, and did 4, 6, and 8 before I did something screwy to the feed side and started getting dog-earred sheets and interrupted feeding of sheets. Something was wrong with how I'd set the vaccuum settings, the buckle - something. Because it stopped feeding. And, in my attempt to fix it, around 4 or so, I'd thrown a sheet up into the ink rollers and it was pulped-up to shit. Quit for the minute, went to eat dinner, and came back at 5:15, ready to go again.

Still ran into the same feeding problem, but I was not going to stop. I'd already screwed up one perfectly good plate - and, considering I only have three extra blank ones left at this point, I wasn't going to quit in the middle of another one. Printed through the feeding problem, lost a couple sheets, dog-earred a bunch, but the ink/fountain balance was pretty goddamn beautiful. Also got image-quality loss from the accumulation of anti-offset powder on the rubber blanket from the previously printed sheets going through. But, at this point, I want books that are imperfect but exist, rather than the dream of a better-looking book. A really tough pill for my overwhelming perfectionist-streak to swallow, but...

You can't build a couch out of a blanket draped over a stack of dreams. And you don't have to check a dream with Canadian customs.

Printed 12, 14, 16, 18, before it hit 9:00 PM and a nine-hour run of printing. I seriously debated putting on plate 20, but I knew if I did I would have to commit to finishing it, no matter how badly things went. Or how long.

But my favorite Yo La Tengo record (and one of my favorites, period) Painful came on, and, taking the cue from the drowsy echo of "Big Day Coming," decided to put everything to bed.

I'm keeping that crumpled old Kinko's sleeve just for this, Sally.

A really gorgeous Minneapolis night. Nothing quite like it, especially with the products of a solid day's work covering all the flat surfaces.

A sheet that, having gotten stuck to the rubber blanket while I was crap-shooting the feed problem, that instead of flying up into the rollers or going flat-footed into the pile of good sheets, flew cleanly out back between the rubber blanket and plate cylinder like a paper airplane and straight into my open hand.

Tried to write this post last night around 11:30, but couldn't focus. Howl and I equally ready to conk out.

Until Monday.

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