To Print or not to Print, that is the Question!

(if you you've got time to read all this, you can build your own press no problem!)

Once upon a time in the east there was a printmaker who woke up one day and found himself stripped of the ability to pull prints. Upon leaving Art Collage, he was divested of his etching press, acid trays studio etc. Now this is not an uncommon occurrence the world is full of printmakers who have all experienced this life altering event. When the bitter reality finally takes hold you are left with few options, you could buy a press, but you have to be rich, have you ever met a rich printmaker or should I say a live rich printmaker. Other options include stealing one, but they are very heavy and not that easy to run away with. The following is another option it is a true story too, you will have to take into account that the guy is getting on in years now, and he is recalling from memory the chain of events that guided him to his goal "Etching Press Ownership" . The solution to this age old problem is simple enough when you really think about it, but few have strangely enough. He asked me to leave his name out for fear of retribution from a nameless Nova Scotian Paper Mill. Enough said on with the story....


Upon leaving The Nova Scotia Collage of Art & Design, he found himself pressless, he tried as best he could to cope with this hopeless situation. He threw himself into his painting and it seamed to be working for him until one most unusual day. He was driving down the road he recalls when all of a sudden he was once again over come with the mad desire to pull a print. Apparently, the painting had just served to mask the problem and underneath this mask the printmaker in him was smoldering away until, on this day at this place on the highway it exploded into a full fledge artistic inferno. He pulled his car off the road and tried desperately to get a grip on things. After sitting there for what seemed like hours, but was actually about ten minutes, he glanced out the side window of the car and saw a sign that he felt must have been sent to him from a higher place. The sign read "Joseph Fritz Scrap Yard". Now this might not be interpreted as a message sent from up above to most people, but to this guy who was given a gift, at birth by the way, from his daddy "a mechanical mind", it was clearly a message sent to him from a higher place.

He got out of the car and walked toward the apparition, passed through the chain link gates down a small hill and there at the base of a mountain of twisted rusty scrap metal, he beheld what had been calling him. There gleaming ever so brightly in the midday sun was a six inch diameter twelve foot long chrome plated solid steel ""ROLLER!""

He knew now why his artistic inferno had burst into flames right in front of this holiest of places. Another hour would have seen this marvelous piece of precious metal hoisted onto a freight train and carted away never to be seen or heard from again. He rushed up the hill to the office to begin negotiations for this precious piece he knew time was of the essence if he was to save it and hoped that things would go smoothly. As luck would have it they sold everything by the pound, and before he knew it the piece was his.


After the acquisition he rushed back to guard his new found friend it was at this moment while he was admiring its roundness, smoothness and shininess, that it occurred to him this was just not going to fit in the back of his Volkswagen station wagon! Beside that who ever heard of a twelve foot wide etching press, it would be nice, but probably not that practical. He quickly glanced around the yard desperately looking for another sign there seemed to be an abundance of them that day. Sure enough there it was, in the far corner of the yard was a man with a cutting torch dismantling a rather large piece of machinery. He strolled over to where the man was and on the way pondered how he might convince the man to cut it into three foot sections. Once again he could have saved himself some trouble because this was the Maritimes and people here were programmed at birth to assist souls in need, and he definitely qualified for that. The roller was precision cut into three foot sections and carefully placed in the back of his Volts wagon. The wise scrap man pointed out that the load should be placed as far forward in front of the wheel well as we could and firmly anchored the cargo so it would not change position.


Armed with directions to a local machine shop and a need to get there as quickly as possible he set out. He needed to get axles welded in the ends of the rollers before the paper mill that had so thoughtlessly discarded this treasure realized what they had done and came searching to get it back. Everything was going great. The sky was bluer than he had ever seen it, the birds were singing sweeter than he had ever heard, life was good! Then it happened! While assenting a small incline in the road his precious cargo broke loose from its mooring and rolled to the back of his VW. Now if you have ever used a leaver to lift a heavy load you might guess what happened next. As the final roller passed over the rear wheel well the front tires of the VW lifted upward from the road taking with them the ability to steer. Remarkably, the car proceeded on down the road towards its destination, he decided to go with it everything else had gone so well that day, he felt he could do nothing wrong. Eventually, the car wheels made contact with the road when he started his decent down the other side of the hill. He got his axles welded in place got them home & hid them in a place where the Paper Mill guys would never find them.


That summer saw many a wonderful day spent rummaging through Joseph Fritz Scrap Yard and by summers end he had managed to find enough gears, Bearings & angle Iron to assemble the press he had been designing. He found a local Vocational School that took on the welding and assembling as a class project his only costs were the materials which he managed to find at the scrap yard. Before the snow flew that fall he had a marvelous Etching Press with a thirty eight by eighty inch press bed at a total cost to him of $200.00. The following years thirty six to be exact saw a lot of redesigning and the building of five more Etching Presses until he had perfected the building process to the point that most of the press could be built by himself with very few tools.


When computers began to work their way into the mainstream of our lives he found that the mechanical part of his brain also had a technology factor built in. He immediately recognized the potential that computers and the Internet had to assist him in getting his message out to the world. He set up a web site to help further his cause "to put an Etching Press in Every Studio of every Printmaker on earth" Now this might sound like a bit of a stretch but since its inception his plans have traveled to more than 38 different countries on planet earth and thousands of presses have been creatively built from them and the momentum is growing. So if you are a printmaker in need of a press you would be well served to check out his web site ,it could very well be a life changing decision!