> I started college just when the Apple Macintosh was coming in as a viable tool for the print industry. A typical day’s study would have us getting familiar with the astonishing Mac II in the morning, and then handsetting metal type or gloriously tactile woodface in the afternoon. I’ve spent the last 20 years using Macs, but In a post-computer wasteland I could still set a galley and lock it into a Heidelberg ‘windmill’ platen, should the need arise.
Other than craft printers like the almighty Alan Kitching, it’s rare to see any sort of new analogue printing. Two of the last places to use woodface and moveable metal type were circus posters and, somewhat bizarrely, the signs for polling stations put up at election time. Recent sightings confirm that both of these have now entered the digital age.
Supping a pint of Cousin Jack on my last visit to Appledore’s Coach And Horses, my eye was drawn to Bideford rugby club’s fixture poster. To my delight I noticed that it was all set in metal – and at the top there in red – a woodface.
The advert up the side for Apex brought back memories of my first proper job. As a stopgap between further and higher education I worked as a ‘finished artist’ at a family owned printers in Bradford. Because I could draw, I often had to knock up just this type of illustration. My artwork would be made into letterpress plates and printed on Victorian machines in the basement. It was a dismal place to work. I stuck it out for 18 months before I announced that I was off back to college. The boss sacked me on the spot and he could have justifiably booted me out of the door, but he wished me well and gave me the equivalent of a week’s wages from his own pocket.
It’s still the worst job I’ve ever had. The reasons are very many, but one is the time the boss’s son came in and told us we couldn’t have an expected (and much needed) pay rise because he’d bought himself, his wife and his daughters new cars instead. Sorry, lads.