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Wood Type Printing Demo


Dennis Ichiyama at the San Francisco Center for the Book. (Photo courtesy of SFCB)

Several Vandercook presses were rolling out impressions of 50-line wood type, each inked with its own vibrant color, as I entered the San Francisco Center for the Book. Because of the informality of the presentation, I was able to ask questions about the materials used in the demonstration. I learned that Dennis Ichiyama brought wood type from his personal collection. The final broadsides were printed on Crane’s Lettra 110 lb. Pearl White 13 × 19″ paper. The ink was oil-based and because the paper was uncoated, the copies could be stacked without smudging immediately after going through the rollers.

Ichiyama’s skills were evident in his mixing of the inks, precision placement of the type, and orchestrating of his volunteers: SFCB instructors Lisa Rappoport, Mary Laird and studio manager Chad Johnson, who were manning the presses. In all, five colors were used and applied in a specific order to achieve the desired result. The broadside’s message combined APHA and FDH. Rotate the broadside and it reads from all sides “Paper on the Press.”

Seeing the colorful letterforms, smelling the ink, listening to the strange sound of bacon frying, as the ink moved across the rollers, and touching the soft rag sheet, I was made keenly aware of my sense of sight, smell, hearing, and touch while observing this antiquated but still much loved method of print.

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