Now that we have the general setting of our Book Arts program figured out, we can move on to the really fun stuff: studio equipment and classes. Today’s post is on equipment, guided by the following questions: what specific equipment does a book arts program need? Are there types of equipment not commonly found in schools that could be used to broaden the program in interesting and valuable ways? (We are, after all, trying to build a new, distinct program.) And remember, in our perfect world, money is not a problem. But we will only ask for what we really need.

As mentioned in the last post, the Book Arts department would or could share a building with the Printmaking department. It makes sense to me to share, because there’s no need for multiple studios dedicated to one technique, and having everything in the same building will make the combination of techniques (which we want to encourage) much easier. So the Printmaking department would have its usual run of studios: intaglio/relief, litho, screenprinting, and digital. And what studios would Book Arts have? First a list:

Offset Lithography

Then some brief descriptions:

Letterpress: The letterpress studio would have all of the traditional components: 3 or so Vandercooks of a few different makes/sizes, a small proofing press, and one hand-fed platen press. It would have a generous selection of lead and wood type, and part of the budget set aside to replenish worn faces. There would be equipment for making photopolymer plates—a nice A2 size platemaker, and maybe even an Imagesetter for making film. The thing(s) that would make this letterpress studio a little different from the rest is the inclusion of some serious production presses: A Heidelberg “Windmill” Platen, and a Heidelberg Flatbed Cylinder. Why these presses? Because they change the terms of production for letterpress: suddenly it becomes reasonable to print an edition of 500 or 1000 or more of multiple colors and a fair amount of complexity. The problem (and an interesting pedagogical problem) with these presses is their complexity: you can’t really teach a class to use them efficiently and/or safely by giving one demo to a group of 10+ people. They require individual training and a lot of time on press to gain proficiency. They would perhaps come in later, as independent studies for advanced students (already the equipment shapes the program).

Bindery: All the standard bindery equipment: book presses, nipping presses, lying presses, etc. Tools for leather binding as well. A foil stamping machine and type for it. Generous table space. A small hand guillotine for trimming books, and a large (30” wide) electric guillotine for cutting paper. Board shears too.

Papermaking: One or two 1-2 pound Reina and/or Valley beaters. A hydraulic press, vats, and moulds large enough to comfortably accommodate 22” x 30” sheets. Vats and moulds for Japanese papermaking. A forced air drying system. Some brilliant solution for drying felts with ease. Drains in the floor (though we will teach the students to be neat).

Offset Lithography: This is equipment that I do not know at all. But I think it could be an exciting part of a program, for the same reasons that the production letterpresses would be. But offset is even faster, and it opens up possibilities for photographic work. 1 or 2 small, Heidelberg offset presses, and all of the darkroom equipment necessary for making plates. Maybe the offset studio would have its own guillotine. I’m not really sure what else an ideal offset studio would have—suggestions are welcome.

& of course suggestions are welcome for all of the other parts of this thought experiment as well.

To be continued…

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