The Distillery launch and a letterpress course

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the launch of The Distillery letterpress studio as well as attend a letterpress course at the Penrith Museum of Printing.

It was a drizzly Thursday night but that didn’t stop the hoards of letterpress enthusiasts packing the studio of The Distillery at North Sydney. Here is a photo of the studio when things are a little quieter ;)

Image source

We were each personally greeted by Nathan at the door and his enthusiasm and excitement for letterpress was immediately apparent. After a few complimentary glasses of wine and some snacks (yay!) I explored the studio’s products displayed on the shelves downstairs.

The Distillery is lucky enough to have obtained a Heidelberg Windmill when a printing shop went into liquidation, one of the most sort after letterpress machines. We were given a demonstration by their printer Adam, who printed out copies of logos that participants had submitted.

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On our way out we were each thoughtfully given a goodie bag containing coasters, a notebook and a mini Heidelberg (nicknamed “Wolfgang Jr”) we could build out of cardboard!

I was really impressed with the level of professionalism and thought that went into this launch and I can’t wait to get them to print my business cards in the near future!

A few days later I took the nearly 2 hour journey out to The Penrith Museum of Printing (leaving the house at 8am on a Sunday morning seems barbaric!) but it was absolutely worth it. We started off with a tour of the different printers the museum currently houses.

But don’t worry I wouldn’t be learning on anything as huge (or potentially deadly!) as this.

This was my little letterpress! It is a tabletop Adana and very cute if you ask me.

We started off by selected a typeface we wanted to set our names in (I chose Perpetua) and then hunting for the letters to spell out our names – a rather tricky task. Look how many thousands of tiny letters there are for one typeface!

I eventually found all my letters and began setting my name. I unfortunately set it upside down (shh! I’m learning!) but the teacher fixed it up for me :)

Here is my name correctly set (the right way up this time!)

Can you imagine how long it must have taken someone to set all this type?! I have so much respect for old-school printers.

More beautiful type

Someone from a different course had made an amazing Z out of lots of little zs. Ooo how I would love a print of this!

Close up

Now on to printing our names with the Adana letterpress! First the teacher applied black ink.

A little goes a long way!

And then we pushed the lever up and down to spread the ink evenly on the disk with the rollers (please excuse my lack of technical mumbo-jumbo, I have promptly forgotten the exact names for each part!)


Our blocks were inserted into the letterpress and we did a test print on paper. We had to make necessary adjustments to ensure the ink was evenly spread but soon mine started looking pretty decent.

Finally we were ready to print our names on our certificate. Success!

It was certainly a lot of effort for what seems like a little pay off, but learning this old and time consuming process was very rewarding and gave me so much respect for printers. Can you even imagine printing a newspaper in this fashion?

I had a great time at the course and am hoping to purchase my own little tabletop letterpress in the near future.

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  • Reply casey October 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I did a print course at Heidelberg in syd. A lot of it bored me to tears but the interesting parts were very interesting haha.

    • Reply Swah October 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      Where abouts was this course?? At COFA? I am having a hard time finding many letterpress courses in Sydney…

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