Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hot on the press: Am/R

One of the joys of my job as RUSA’s newsletter editor is working with our printer, Carl Derreth, at Litho Printing in Raleigh, N.C. I recently showed up to watch Carl run the November issue of American Randonneur. That's me on the press.

First stop: Carl’s front office. These two cool cats are in charge of op-purr-ations.

As I head to the production area, I stop by Karmen’s office. He is the fellow who does pre-press on American Randonneur, making sure our pictures look nice and crisp, like an autumn apple. A big rock fan, Karmen has band posters from the 60s all over his walls.

Back in the press room, I find Carl by the Heidelberg offset press. If you’re curious about offset printing, here’s an article that explains how it works.

In this Digital Age, it’s comforting to see a machine that looks like a tank-sized relic from the Industrial Revolution. All gears and levers and chains -- hey that sounds familiar. No wonder I find it comforting.

A born tinkerer, Carl does most of his own maintenance and repair work. He is quite possibly a mechanical genius. Here, he gets a little help from an assistant, Cat #3.

Carl has already finished Signature 3 of the 64-page issue. Each signature contains 8 pages printed on one large sheet of paper. Another 8 pages are printed on the back. The sheet is eventually folded, trimmed and assembled into our letter-sized newsletter.

Here’s one of the sheets that Carl pulled off the press to check for alignment and ink density. Click on it for a sneak preview of pages in the November issue.

To run the next set of pages, Carl inserts an aluminum printing plate in the Heidelberg press. If you look closely, you can see images on the plate.

Now to the video clips.

After inserting the plate, Carl makes a few final adjustments of water and inkflow before firing up the press.

Here, he checks the alignment between the front and the back pages. You'll see 8 pages on the front of the sheet and 8 on the back.

In the clip above, he checks the ink density.

Here's the page he just checked.

Oops. As the press gets up to speed, it pulls two sheets at once and trips itself off. The video above gives you a good look at the press from back to front.

These little suction cups lift the blank pages one at a time to prevent double sheets from being pulled through the press. But they're not fool-proof, as you just saw.

In the video above, Carl fixes the jam and runs another test sheet through.

Here's the sheet from start to finish through the printer. The "PBP 07" page is visible as the sheets begin to stack up.

Assembly and trimming of the pages take place on another machine. I'll save that for another day.

1 comment:

Lloyd said...

Thanks for the post Mike. I too am fascinated by those old Heidleberg presses. I also appreciate all the work that goes into a printed publication.