Equipment
                in use at Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop
The Excelsior Press

Blog - 2020

A somewhat frequent update of events at
- and new links for the web site of -
the old Excelsior Press Museum Print shop
in Frenchtown, NJ

Dickinson Press and maker
Press made for Apple TV's Emily Dickinson Series
click image for close up - * about the press
images with blue borders can be clicked to open a larger version with more detail.

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New Blog for 2020

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April 8, 2020 -

Sorry to have fallen so far behind with this blog. It's been a very busy time... Lots to add to the 2019 blog as well as lots to add to this 2020 blog...

So. Where's Alan? At home like most of us. Covid-19 free (tested last week)  and recovering from a few "minor" medical issues which have basically kept me off the press and out of the shop pretty much since the middle of January.

Briefly, I had an anuerysm repaired in January and, although the surgery went well and was 100% successful, it took a while to recover. Months - far too many months. Not fun. I've been grumpy - and I don't like to be grumpy...

And now that I am pretty well recovered - still weak and on shortened days  - resting a lot - a LOT, but I guess I've had little choice.... But, now that that adventure is pretty much behind me, I have just begun three weeks of daily radiation treatments to get rid of this annoying little spot of cancer that was discovered on my lung.

Yeah, can you beat it? One thing after another. Hopefully it will end in 3 weeks and I can continue on my planned journey to reach the ripe old age of 97 - as my Dad's cousin Gosta did in Sweden. I was there for his birthday in June of 2016 and realized that "yeah! We have the genes!" - I sure hope so, 'cuz I want to be 97, too. And that's only 27 years from now.

I turned 70 in December and figured that now I really am an old man. That's okay. I like being old - and I want to get older - much older.

Not here this week. I will be going to the VA hospital daily for the next three weeks, taking care of some issues whose time has come. Accordingly, I will be offline and unavailable for the rest of the week. When I get back to work - or at stolen moments in the evenings, I'll begin filling in some of the events as 2019 ended and then will continue to update  this new 2020 blog...


In the meantime, please bear with me and my abbreviated schedule. For those of you waiting for something from me, please continue to be patient and understand that I have been moving slowly lately - even more slowly than usual - and, if possible, even further behind with projects than I usually am. But when I do get back to work, I will be focused on catching up with still more delayed projects and will get you the parts or supplies - or restored press - or printing job - that you have been waiting for.

But I am kind of tired and not quite ready to hang out the "open" sign just yet, so keep an eye on the blog for updates.

- Alan





Friday, Jan 24 -
Still recovering at home - not enough strength and energy to work in the shop, but enough to begin catching up with book keeping and other computer work...

I finally uploaded the short video of Frank Sattler from NMIH demonstrating use of a clutch drive an old 10x15 C&P at the Lynn-Heidelberg-Historical Society location in Ontelaunee Park, New Tripoli, PA. Video is listed on our Videos page. Here's a shortcut - Youtube Video of Frank Sattler and the clutch-driven C&P


About the Press:

The press in the photo above is a prop - made by the gentleman on the right (that's me in the baggy pants to the left).

Campbell Country PressThis press represents the press that would have been used to print a large daily paper around 1850. Behind this press is another. In fact, through "movie magic", this press and the partial press behind it were made to appear to be part of a row of 6 similar presses. Pretty neat. I was there as a consultant/advisor to the crew and to teach actors how to act like printers.

The Campbell Country Press that inspired this prop - >

More -
Newspaper & Book Presses of the 19th Century


What's particularly interesting  - to me, at least - about this press and its operation is that way back in 1970, while serving in Vietnam, I managed to get back to Saigon for a few days between missions in the jungle and found a newspaper that was using a nearly identical press - to print a weekly newspaper.  When I advised these tv folks about how this press worked - and how the pressman and sheet feeder performed their tasks for the camera, my advice was based upon actually having seen a press just like this in practical use - printing a weekly newspaper - in Saigon, Vietnam in 1970. I didn't learn about it from a book. I saw it in real-life operation printing a newspaper in 1970. I thought that was pretty cool...


April 13

Beginning my second week of radiation to get rid of this pesky cancer. It's going well. Gonna do an evaluation with the doctors today. Let's see how it looks....

April 29
- morning

Last day of radiation treatments
at the VA Hospital in East Orange, NJ. Treatments have gone well. Now we wait and see how successful they have been.

---- April 29 - evening

Well, it's over. at least for now... Today, I graduated from my 3-week course in being a good radiation therapy patient. No more appointments scheduled at the VA - at least for now. But I am elated. This is the first time that I have not been a patient since January, and it sure as hell feels good. No more excuses. Now, instead of being a patient with daily appointments scheduled to cure what ails me, I am simply a tired old man. Still technically a cancer patient, but for now, at least, we're back to "monitoring", not treating any ailments.

And, although recovery from the surgey in January is pretty much complete, I no longer have to worry about that aneurysm bursting and killing me in ten minutes. Sure am glad to have that behind me.

And I feel fine - still need to build up the strength in my legs, but I feel fine, no longer worried about putting together a will and listing which press goes to which friend. Now I am back on track to live to be 97 - as my Dad's cousin Gosta did in Sweden...

Time to get back to work and celebrate life!

The VA care, btw was excellent - no question that I was well cared-for. And those radiation techs were great to work with. They even played music in the lab - my choice. It was nice to listen to Bob Dylan while I lay there for a 20 minute dose of radiation. Even with all of the C-19 security - and boy, do they mean it. You can't even get into the building without masks and gloves and a 20-question inquiry as to my health. I am pleased to have had the care from our VA staff at the medical center in East Orange, NJ

- and all paid for by the VA because I was heavily exposed to Agent Orange in the jungles of Vietnam when I was a kid - 50 years ago - and then developed cancer forty years later as a result...

April 30 -

And, now, back to our regularly scheduled programming - things about print shops, presses and printing....

Frank Sattler (from NMIH) & I visited Willis Heckman's print shop in Allentown on Saturday. Willis was a union printer for many years and had set up a shop in his garage. He passed away in December and his family asked me to find homes for his equipment - which includes a full Monotype setup! Keyboards and caster - and a ton o' fonts!
http://excelsiorpress.org/_printing.presses.for.sale.or.rescue/SalGhazi/SalG-Allentown.html

It looks like the entire collection will be going to the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethehem, PA - and Frank Sattler (who repaired a Linotype a few years ago) is all excited about tackling a Monotype caster next!

Alan printing on C&PA few years ago. I participated in their exhibit Hot Off the Press: Printing and Papermaking May 2018 October 2018 - and made a whole lot of new friends.

Not only were the staff a joy to work with, but the visitors to our exhibit were wonderful as well. Some grew up doing letterpress work - or had fathers - and grandfathers - and mothers and grandmothers "who had a press like that" - or took classes in printing while young students - or who simply came to see the exhibit because they heard about it - some driving in hundreds of miles to visit us at work. Even Frank Romano came down from The Printing Museum in Boston to meet us and visit for the day.

It was great - and one of the most popular exhibit they had ever put on display there. Alas, it was only for six months and then the space we used had to be used for the next temporary exhibit. There was no room - at that time - to make this a permanent exhibit. But their interest did not dimish and, if things work out, there may soon be space to set up a full-time, working exhibit - including a working Linotype, an eventually working Monotype caster and a 30-foot long working model of a paper-making machine, plus of course, all of the various items that would have been found in a hot-metal letterpress shop of the early 20th century. My old Wooden Common Press may join their display as well; we'll see.


Thursday - May 14
Jack
                    Dold's Baltimore #10
Received a nice photo via  text
from Jack Doldshowing his Baltimore #9 now with gold detail repainted on his press which is now mounted on a nice base.
 
Jack visited back in September of 2017 and we set up his press and installed a newly-cast roller for his little press. Now it's all painted up, with a proper id plate and has a a nice base to sit on....

Well, done, Jack. It's good to see that you are enjoying your little 100 year-old printing press...



Friday, May 15
Spring Time -

Time to make som
e room...

I've been really cluttered in the shop for well over a year now. First it was just more type and presses coming into the shop - purchases and donations, mostly. And then I cluttered the shop with even more presses set up for demo or training and/or repair. And then I installed a wood stove for heat and, to make space around it, I just rolled all of the stuff out of the way and stuck it in the corners.

And there was all the work involved in the "big gig" for Apple TV . And after that I was done, there were four months of being a patient at the VA hospital, repairing an Aortic Aneurysm followed by over a month's recovery and then three weeks of radiation therapy to kill of a small spot of cancer that was in my chest. So I just kept putting things down anywhere and moving things around - just to make space that I could walk through the shop, not to mention doing any real work... It was a rough few months - even with out C-19. (tested negative, so far) But now I am trying to get back to work and really, really need to make some space so that I can get to the type cabinets and the old hand-fed C&P and get these presses fixed and ready for waiting buyers and make up new parts and supplies kits for patiently waiting customers.

I needed to move some of this stuff out of the shop and make more space to work in. But where? I did have some open space in front of the garage door, and the "Press Tent" I had set up last fall to house Fieldston School's 10x15 worked out quite well, so I decided to follow the same procedure to make room for this stuff so that I could get back to work in the shop. "Temporary Storage" until I either move the stuff into a shed or over to the barn - or until I get the planned addition - or the big barn - built.

So, I finally have made some space - not much, only 64 square feet, hardly more than an outdoor closet, but I have begun moving 64 sq feet of carts and mobile shelving out of the cluttered print shop and work shop. It's not enough space, but it will do for now.

Assembly went slowly (I am still not as strong as I once was), but with frequent breaks and many bottles of water, and the supervision of our family's Sharpei, I finally got it all together.

New Storage Tent New Storage Tent
New Storage Tent New Storage Tent
New Storage Tent



and it appears that Mr. Bo Jangles (the Sharpei) approves....

The tent filled up real fast,
but now I can move around
in the shop and get some work done....

- and boy, do I need to!


Saturday, May 16

Trailer
                    loaded with press and casterThree weeks ago, I received a call from Sal Ghazi. His father-in-law had passed away recently and the house was being sold - soon. Only problem was that "Pops" had set up a print shop in his garage and basement... and the equipment had to go. I already have too much stuff in my shop and far too much over in the barn, so I contacted my friends at NMIH to see if they were interested. I knew they were planning on adding a permanent printing exhibit and I knew that Frank liked figuring out and operating old machines.

Well, they had also received a call from Sal and they were interested. Frank Sattler & I began making plans. First, we visited the house and evaluated the collection. There was a Heidelberg Windmill in the garage and an bunch of type in cases and galleys - and a big cutter - in the basement.

That was nice, but then... then we saw the Monotype Keyboards and Caster. and all of the supplies and spare parts. Wow! What a find! Frank had already repaired a Linotype that had been donated to them - and used in the temporary exhibit I helped them with a few years ago, and he was ready to tackle the set up and maintenance of the Monotype Caster, then learn to use the machine.

So, we all met up at Sal's house Satuday morning. Frank had put together quite a team of volunteers and they all went to work hauling the type out of the basement while Frank and Jeff disassembled the cutter, then hauled it, heavy piece by heavy piece up the stairs, through the house and to the waiting truck.  Five more volunteers hauled the 300 galleys of type and 25 cases of type, plus all the parts for the Monotype up those narrow stairs. By 5 pm, we were done and loaded and on the way to the museum's warehouse - and Frank's own little warehouse print shop - which is getting much larger now...


June 9 - Announcement - & Apology

Well, it's been a month since the end of the cancer radiation treatments, and the lingering fatigue after-effect is still lingering. I had hoped to fool myself and everyone who'd inquired about work and keep getting things done - just by scheduling my work with plenty of time to rest in between promises.

Well, it hasn't worked so far. I'm just too bushed - too often - to get a dang thing done. And, worse than that, it affects even non-physical work like here on the computer. In short order, I'll even tire of just this little bit of writing.

So, my point is that I have to call a temporary halt to sales from our Fundraising Page or the (unfinished) "Things we make here" page. I haven't made a darned thing in months! And although nearly every day, I plan to do something, it rarely happens. It was like this during the cold of winter - I'd come into the shop in the morning, all ready to work. Then I'd build a nice fire in the wood stove and warm up the shop. But, by the time that the shop was warm enough to work in, I had decided that it was time to go back into the house and rest on the couch.

In fact, that's what I'm about to do now.

As soon as I can get back to work, I will - and will happily announce it here on the blog, but the simple fact is that for now - and possibly for the next few months, I will be "temporarily retired" and the shop will be effectively closed to any new work, sales or projects.

Let's see how long it takes to get over this. As soon as I do, I will post an update.

- Tired ol Al


Thursday, June 18

Good news - Just got the report from Tuesday's Bone Scan & CT Scan - all cancerous areas are smaller than last scans. No need for any further treatment - just more follow-ups and scans to monitor progress. I am still on my way to my goal of living to 97!

And, more than that, I feel as though a major load has been lifted. I no longer feel the burden of "what if?". Frankly, I was a bit concerned about my future - and the future of the Excelsior Press. But now we know - and it's good news. Cancer can be beaten - or at least controlled - when it is found early enough and treated.

Doctor W. did say that the fatigue would persist - both from the quarterly Prostate Cancer treatment, as well as residual effects of the recent radiation treatments. But, frankly, I feel energized and enthused and am hoping that I will become more productive in coming weeks. Let's sure hope so! I will have to be careful about taking on too much, but I plan to pace myself and get things done - slowly, perhaps, but reliably.

It seems that the more active I am, the more active I can be. The doctor prescribes "Good food, rest and exercise" - and believe me, I am getting them all. Things are looking up!


July 15 - RIP Louie The Coin

My friend Rick in Georgia called me the other day to pass on the news of my friend's passing.... He saw it in the NY Times...

My friend Louis- Louis Colavecchio -  has passed away - at 78, after recently being released from prison (again) for Counterfeiting. Ah, my friend Louis - aka "Louie The Coin"... a truly original character in my life....

Louie The Coin - May he rest in peace - not to be forgotten..

Read our story....


Wed July 22

Well, my anticipation of last June was disappointingly inaccurate. I am still tired and weak and not getting a damned thing done.
But I did have another follow-up with my oncologist and he confirmed that the more recent PET scan finally cleared me of any cancer in my chest. Now the only cancer we have to worry about is that pesky prostate cancer from my exposure to agent orange in Vietnam - but it is still well under control. So, I guess it's fair to say that after the most recent round of radiation treatments, I am finally cancer-free - for now, at least. I am feeling stronger, but my energy is being used to focus on long-neglected projects around the house and property. I'm still not back to working in the shop - but getting closer every day.

Tune in again for updates.



August 8 - Well, finally some good news!

I am feeling great  - and have been for more than a week now. I do hesitate to sound too positive, since I've been through these cycles a few times over the past 8 months, but this week, I feel great!

I even had the strength and stamina to work over in the old barn today - for three hours! Pushing and pulling dollies and presses and stacks of type cases around as easily (well, almost as easily) as I ever had. Keep your fingers crossed, but so far, the prognosis is good - very good. I can walk all around the yard and was even able to climb down the bank by the stream to get a bucket of water during the recent 3-day power outage after the hurricane took down a big tree down the road and we got kicked off the grid for a few days.  (more about that in a new essay I'll link to soon)

We did well, btw without JCP&L electricity. We made our own - with that handy little 3.000 watt gas-powered generator that I've been using to power the 220v Heidelberg - until I can raise the $3,000 it will take to get 100-amp service to the shop. Right now, I only have 15 amps of 110v - but the Heidelberg requires 220v - and this little generator has been handling that well for years.

And this week, it kept the refrigerator running for 3 days and gave us power to charge our phones and laptops and tablets.

We cooked on the barbecue grill and used some great little LED battery powered lanterns for plenty of light.

Of course, I couldn't work in the shop - it stayed dark until yesterday. And I'm not doing much of anything besides email and bookkeeping in here - too busy with chores and projects around the house and land - things I'd had to neglect pretty much since I began my bout with head & neck cancer nearly three years ago.

And then I got old - turned 70 in December. There were certainly some dark days since January, but things are really looking up now. Let's see how long it will last... ;)



September 1 -

Open
                  Space in the barnBack to work, indeed. Feeling fine - and getting things done. The other day I finished up a big project - making space to store Paul's Monotype Casters until Ludwig's truck arrives from California to take them to their new home.

This section was cluttered with a LOT of stuff until I began re-arranging everything to make some open space. At times it seemed unlikely that I could do it, but now it's a reality.

Soon Ryan will bring the machines to my barn and I will tuck them into this open space. It sure feels good - not only to have gotten this done, but to have had the strength and stamina to do it. Four months ago, it seemed impossible,  but I guess I really am getting my strength back - and this progress proves it...

And, now that this project is completed - for now (until Ryan brings the machines over to be stored in this spot), I will be returning to the print shop to begin this season's run of the Dog License Receipt forms that I have been printing every autumn for the last 45 years -  for over 100 small towns in New Jersey. We used to do upwards of 300 orders a year - before computers took over the job for the larger municipalities. So now, it's a much smaller job, but still fun to run...

And, as soon as they are into production, I will be fabricating some roller bearers for a 7x11 Pearl and an Excelsior Chase-Base for the smaller 5x8 Pearl - and filling some other supplies orders for my very patient clients...
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