by Norris Chambers

        This Old Timer first got interested in printing when he was an inquisitive kid. I got a little kit with rubber type and a type holder about the size of a big rubber stamp. The rubber type was set up in the grooves of the holder from right to left.  Then it was applied to a rubber stamp pad and slapped on the surface to be printed.  I printed about everything I knew with this little device and developed a real interest in printing. But I wasn=t completely satisfied with the quality. The letters were too dim and looked like a rubber stamp instead of printing.
        After considerable thought and a lot of analysis, I concluded that it must be the kind of ink I was using. This prompted me to go to the newspaper office and printing shop of a newspaper in the closest town. The editor was an ambitious young fellow named Jack Scott and he had a helper called Phil who did the actual printing in the back. They were glad to show me around.
        The small type setting in the newspaper and in advertising jobs was done on a big machine called a Linotype. It had a keyboard similar to a typewriter and when the keys were depressed, small molds were dropped into a receptacle at the front of the machine. When the line was complete, spaces were inserted by hand and a lever allowed melted lead to flow from a heated pot on the side of the machine into the receptacle. When it was opened, there was a flat slug of lead with the reversed letters from the molds spread across it. This was a line in the newspaper or print job and when combined with other lines and placed in a printing press produced a printed sheet.
        Phil showed me some large flat pans that he called galleys and some large iron frames that he called chases. One of them was lying in the pan and was full of the little slugs with the type facing up. He told me that they had a problem with type lice and before the chases could be put in the big press, the lice had to be removed. I listened attentively. He took a hand wrench of some sort and loosed some wedges at the side of the frame. He told me these were called quoins and they were used to hold the type tight in the chase. That sounded reasonable! Then he said that we would pour some water in the chase and drive the lice out of the type. He got a glass of water and poured it in the chase. He told me to get real close and look hard and I could see the lice get out. I did as instructed and he turned  quoins on two sides of the chase. When he did this the water squirted viciously out and into my face!  He thought that was funny. I
=m still trying to see the humor.
        Then they gave me a generous dab of red, black and blue printing inks. These were not a liquid, but were a thick paste. Jack told me that I would need a real flat surface, like a pane of glass, to roll the ink on and then I could ink my stamp on the glass and print it wherever I wished. He even gave me a little roller that they called a brayer. The process worked like a dream and I did some nice labeling with my little press. For the next several years I visited my printing friends every time we went to town. I later wrote
AChildren=s Bedtime Stories@ and Jack printed one every week for over two years.
        The magazines all had advertisements featuring a little printing press with a pull down handle and an assortment of different type styles. They said you could make money printing. I wanted one of these, but found that they wanted over a hundred dollars for the kit. I had to pass this deal because of financing problems.
      My big break came years later when I opened a radio repair shop in the small town of White Settlement. I had learned that handbills, known as dodgers or flyers, brought business to my shop. I wanted to print my own and was just waiting for the opportunity. The moment came when I saw an ad in the Fort Worth Shopper -
AKelsey hand operated printing press for sale $25.@  That was the baby that had been advertised all these years that I couldn=t afford. I made a quick call and a quick trip and came home with a Kelsey printing press with all accessories and the instruction book! At last I was a printer. I also found out that there were several shops in Fort Worth that would do machine type setting for printers at a reasonable price. I printed my first flyers on that little press. Soon I was setting type and doing cards and stationery and an occasional wedding invitation.
        Then someone told me that the man who owned the Village Theater on Cherry Lane had a big printing press for sale. He was glad to part with it for $75. He had a lot of type and a numbering machine that went with it. This was my first real printing press, complete with an electric motor. This really speeded up printing flyers. I could print two on a sheet of paper and then cut them. I made a clamp and used a sharp knife for a cutter. But again the weekly shopper came to my aid and I bought a real paper cutter that would cut 1000 sheets at one time just by pulling down a big lever. I printed and distributed 125,000 flyers for the radio and TV shop that first year. This brought me most of the repair business in the area.
        You would think that I would have been  satisfied. But I had dreams of an offset press that could print pictures and paste up copy without any typesetting. The shopper again found an old offset Multilith stored in a chicken house for only $300. I learned to use it from a book and enjoyed its high speed. I could print 6000 copies in an hour. I built a copying camera for making negatives that were needed for the printing plates from an old view camera that I found in a junk store. I later bought a larger one that would make a negative 12x18 inches in diameter. I finally had my own printing shop!  

        For years I printed mostly for my own use and did an occasional small job for a friend. When I retired from the bomber plant and closed my last TV repair shop, I started printing on a large scale. I bought a state of the art rubber stamp machine that made stamps from a negative and started making rubber stamps. A new hot stamping machine enabled me to print napkins and other novelties. I did computer art work and made  camera positives for T-shirts and cap screen printing  shops. After twenty years of full time printing I retired again and pursued other interests.  
    The moral of this story is this: when you want to do something, go ahead and do it , even if it takes you ten or twelve years to get started! And be sure you have FUN doing it.

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Copyright © 2007 Norris Chambers