Small Affordable Letterpress Machine?

This fall, Lifestyle Crafts (a division of QuicKutz, which makes scrapbooking stuff) is due to come out with the “L” Letterpress system, a kit that you use with a tabletop die cutter/embosser like a Cuttlebug or QuicKutz’s Epic 6.  The starter kit will come with impression plates, paper, and some ink, and will retail for $69.99.  A kit including both the L pack and the Epic 6 will be available for $149.99.

At first glance, I was thrilled.  I’ve always wanted to try lettterpress printing, but the only way for me to do it is to spend $300 on classes at the Center for the Book in order to be able to rent time on their presses.  Something like the L would eliminate the travel, education and rent required to use a large press.

On the other hand, I remembered how excited I was to get a Gocco screen printer, which only works well for very specific projects (i.e. greeting cards).  The Gocco is also only compatible with its own proprietary supplies, which became a huge issue the last two times they were discontinued.  The L appears to have a very similar setup.  Only small paper can be rolled through the press, and I can’t find any indication of its compatibility with other manufacturers’ plates and inks, or information about printing on surfaces like cardboard.  One of the reasons I’ve never bought a tabletop die cutter like an Epic 6 is that it’s nearly impossible to make your own dies for it, but you can order custom letterpress plates fairly easily.  Though it’s much more competitively priced than the Gocco, I’m still going to wait for more information before I add the L/Epic 6 to my Christmas list.  Besides, there’s probably a way to hack something similar for a fraction of the cost.  Project, anyone?

Today I Made…

…these burning barn cards from the design of the barn swallow papercut I made last week.  I envision them being used as thank you cards, but I declined to put a message on the inside, the way I did with the bacon cards.  They’re way too versatile.  I’m thinking of including a small printout of suggested messages with each one, though, like “You’re a life saver” or “Thanks for always being there when I need you.  Happy Mother’s/Father’s/Valentine’s Day.”  I also think it would be funny to include some inappropriate ones, like “Wish you were here!” or “Congratulations on your new home!”

I printed them using my Gocco PG-5 (awesome tutorial by felt cafe here), and learned some very valuable lessons in the process.  Firstly, the Gocco does not do well with very fine lines (something I already knew) and doesn’t do well with large blocks of color (something I didn’t know).  Secondly, the Gocco is very specific about the photocopies it likes.  Copies that are too dark/dense leave burnt toner stuck to the screen, so the ink can’t get through.  I tried scraping it off carefully with an Xacto knife but it stretched the screen mesh, making the holes uneven.  Copies that are too light don’t burn all the way through and again, the ink can’t get through.  I used five screens and five sets of flash bulbs before I got a usable screen, and the barn and bucket still didn’t print very cleanly or evenly.  In the end what I had to do was draw over my entire design with the Gocco carbon pen and then burn that.  As a result my design wasn’t as sharp as the original.  Still, I got about 50 decent, saleable prints out of my 60 cards, so while it was an expensive series of lessons, at least I’ll recoup my costs. The not-so-perfect ones will go in the sale bin, which is always very popular at craft fairs.  Most people are just not as picky as I am, I guess.

Tomorrow we are going to an outdoor barbecue/crafting party to make giant muppet heads for Bay to Breakers.  I’m going as Beaker and A. is going as Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.  We’ve also got people for the entire Electric Mayhem band.  I’ve lived in San Francisco for seven years but have never gotten dressed up and walked in Bay to Breakers (though some of my meats have).  I’m literally packing a suitcase full of craft supplies and today I bought a ton of fake fur at Discount Fabrics.  I’m REALLY excited for tomorrow.  Soft sculpture engineering is my JAM.