Blog

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  • Hamilton Open House

    Thanks to everyone who joined us for the Open House the museum held last month. It was a great day of printing posters, visiting with friends near and far, and seeing type cutting demonstrations on the pantograph.

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  • Giving New Life to an old Hamilton Drafting Table: Final Construction

    Follow along as guest blogger, Doug Murray, goes through the process of refurbishing an old Hamilton drafting table found in a barn! This is the final installment, so make sure you start at the beginning with his first post.

    The end of an era! I can’t believe it’s over. This desk started as a massive pile of flotsam and materialized into a serious labor of love. I had no idea how satisfying it could be to restore such an amazingly classic Hamilton drafting table.

    The initial phase of construction was the frame, which went together very smoothly. Long eight inch bolts ran through all the preset holes and mated up with their specific support posts and beams with half inch nuts. The frame was only seven pieces, but this was an excellent “footprint” to see where this large desk could actually fit. Moving around the frame was ideal. I was...

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  • Giving New Life to an old Hamilton Drafting Table: Sanding, Stain, and Finish

    Follow along as guest blogger, Doug Murray, goes through the process of refurbishing an old Hamilton drafting table found in a barn! This is part 4, so make sure you start at the beginning with his first post.

    Final Sanding, Stain Application and Protective Varnish Finish

    Well I’m in this project about a month already and I can kind of see the finish line. I have to remind myself, “Don’t get impatient! This is the point of the project where rushing will cost you greatly.”

    I’ll talk a little bit about my finishing process and then explain how the Hamilton desk was fine tuned. After all the repairs and sanding, it’s good to go over every piece with a fine grit sandpaper; 180 to 220 will do just fine. Then take a towel and give all the pieces a good rub to remove all particles and contaminants. Some people like to use a...

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  • Giving New Life to an old Hamilton Drafting Table: Repair Time!

    Follow along as guest blogger, Doug Murray, goes through the process of refurbishing an old Hamilton drafting table found in a barn! This is part 3, so make sure you start at the beginning with his first post.

    Well the good news about getting through major steps in a big project is the sense of accomplishment you feel when achieving goals. After section 2, I was very excited to be done with the varnish and stain removal. The bad news is that people sometimes apply dark stains when they are trying to hide blemishes. In the case of my Hamilton desk, this was an understatement.

    Removing the dark stain and varnish did reveal the beautiful bare oak grain. What it also exposed was 60 years of use, wear and tear and abuse. In some ways, when you are restoring classical pieces, it is good to leave the blemishes that show the pieces natural age. Leaving some wear and...

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  • Giving New Life to an old Hamilton Drafting Table: Stain and Varnish Removal

    Follow along as guest blogger, Doug Murray, goes through the process of refurbishing an old Hamilton drafting table found in a barn! This is part 2, so make sure you see his first post.

    Stain and varnish removal is no fun at all! When considering the scale of any project, this is probably the most labor intensive stage. My Hamilton desk is composed of 34 individual wood pieces. Unfortunately, the previous owner decided to apply a deep brown stain on top of the original faded varnish. They then applied several layers of a hi-gloss varnish. This created a nasty tar-like look. I’m sure when they completed the application, they were very disappointed with the results. The problem with staining and varnishing without properly preparing the surfaces is that the finished product will never look good.

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  • Giving New Life to an old Hamilton Drafting Table: The Beginning

    Follow along as guest blogger, Doug Murray, goes through the process of refurbishing an old Hamilton drafting table found in a barn!

    Oay, Here we go! I found this desk on Craigslist stuffed in the back of an old barn in Massachusetts. The project was massive from day 1. I somehow managed to stuff the entire collection of scraps and boards into my pick up and headed off down the road wondering how the hell I was going to fit this project in my studio!



    The good news is that everything fit in the studio, the bad news is, there's very little working space. When the previous owner declared the desktop to be 88 inches wide by 48, I laughed and figured he had messed up his measurement. My jaw dropped when I starting grasping the scale of the drawers, cabinets and that massive desktop. His math was accurate, much to my chagrin.

    When stepping out and committing to a restoration project on any piece, you should...

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  • Wood Type Archaeology: The Archaeological Experiment

    Part I: The Archaeological Experiment with the Border Stamping Machine

    For an industrial archaeologist, it is a rare privilege to be able to operate a piece of machinery from the industrial past, especially one as engaging as the die-stamping machine at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this machine was used in the manufacture of decorative wood type borders at the Hamilton Manufacturing Company. After months of preparatory work, and several trips to the museum to make drawings and test motors (see past blog posts: http://woodtype.org/posts/blog/27 & http://woodtype.org/posts/blog/35), I spent March 10-14 operating the die-stamping machine.

    I conducted the machine operations as an archaeological experiment for my thesis research in the Industrial Archaeology program at Michigan Technological...

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  • The Portland Project

    Good things take time. Back in September of 2011, my good friend and Hamilton Artistic Board member, Nick Sherman came to me with a proposal. Via email, he introduced me to his friend Jim Coudal of Field Notes with the idea of having us print a note book for them. I loved the idea but was daunted by the volume; possibly 15,000 to 18,000 covers run in 2 colors. Now, fall is when we intensely prepare for our annual Wayzgoose and there was no way we could get the run in by autumn's edition. Even so, the only large format press I had available for the run was a Vandercook 320 and cranking prints one at a time did not sound like a great idea. Since both Jim Coudal and I were so busy, we agreed to re-visit the project later.

    In April of 2014, the conversation began again after a chance meeting with Aaron Draplin in Minneapolis a few months earlier. He was extremely interested in the idea and his desire to support Hamilton was encouraging. We invited him to come and speak at the museum last summer and we...

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  • The Idea of Building 18 Display Cabinets

    How I found the museum

    I was looking at Wisconsin sites on the web and found one about interesting places to see around Manitowoc. I never heard of wood type and the history of that industry, so I looked at the Hamilton site and recorded the address. A year later I looked again and the museum was moving. They had work weekends where volunteers move and sort things. This would be a good way to learn what wood type is and why anyone would have such a museum.

    I drove up Friday and slept in the van in the parking lot. People showed up and I went in the museum. We got our work assignments to move cabinets from all over into the store area. I was having a lot of fun with pallet jacks and furniture dollies. We had lunch in Two Rivers at a street fest so I had a chance to look at the Hamilton factory.

    By Sunday when our job was finished, I knew Jim, the Director, Stephanie, Assistant Director and some volunteers. And I saw the entire museum space. They have an overhead crane in the...

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  • An Intern Update

    What a whirlwind these past few weeks have been! Before you know it, it will be spring. These past weeks we have been hard at work, bringing out type cases that had been in storage and cleaning them up for display. Hamilton has been blessed with a generous benefactor, who has created over a dozen of new type display cases. This wonderful gift will enable us to display more of the Grahm Lee collection than ever before.

    Upcoming in the Gallery, March 7th until April 30th, we will have the Russian Civil War Posters from the Cellini Collection. It will be a stunning exhibition, focusing on the posters from 1918-1923, with bold colors and amazing design. These beautiful originals are amazingly preserved, almost as if they just came off press and sat in a drawer waiting for this exhibit. Each of the posters are lithographs, a printing method in which an image is drawn with wax or grease on a smooth metal or stone surface and then treated with gum arabic and acid solution. To print the image, the...

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  • Wood Type Archaeology: Motive Power

    On my most recent trip to Two Rivers and the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum, I rigged up a one-horsepower electric motor to the die stamping machine the Hamilton Manufacturing Company used to make decorative wood type border during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I was hopeful this motor would be sufficient to power the machine through its stamping action. It takes a fair amount of force to drive a stamping die into end-grain maple blocks, and the smaller motor I had tried in early January was not up to the task.

    Motorizing the die stamping machinery is a vital precursor to the experimental work I am doing with the machine as part of my thesis research in the Industrial Archaeology program at Michigan Technological University. When the stamping machine was installed and in operation in the Hamilton Manufacturing Company’s type shop a century and more ago, it would have been in constant motion. The machine has no throw-off lever or clutch mechanism of...

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  • Meet the New Intern

    Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum is one of the finest gems in our community. Originally from the Manitowoc area, I always knew about the awesome things that Hamilton does. Little did I know that when I went to college, many other artists would know about them too! I am very privileged to be finishing up my last semester of college at UW - Stevens Point by performing a semester long internship with Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. I have visited many excellent museums, galleries and arts organizations but I chose to work with Hamilton this semester because of the incredible work they do, its delightful staff and the opportunity to stay close to home. During the next few months, I will be sharing some of the work we have been doing at Hamilton!

    During the past two weeks I was thrilled to get back on a printing press, and had some fun designing a new...

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  • In the Woodshop: Learning as we go along

    Mardell Doubek, David Carpenter, and I have now been working together since July to learn how to cut wood type on the pantograph. We started out with long grain scrap wood and have now “graduated” to end grain maple. The difference between the two woods is like night and day not only in appearance but in terms of cutting ease. It is now a pleasure, instead of a chore, to cut type.

    While we felt ready to cut the real stuff, we knew we had a limited stock of processed wood to go along with our amateur skills. For those reasons, we decided to start with ornaments in a variety of sizes and shapes. The ultimate goal was to have something to sell not only at the 2014 Wayzgoose but online and in the gift shop. (The ornaments are available for sale now in the store.)

    What quickly became apparent is that the act of cutting on the pantograph is just a small part of the entire wood type...

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  • Hamilton Holiday Gift Guide

    The best gifts for the graphic designers, printers, or history lovers in your life. Get your holiday treats here at Hamilton, just in time for Christmas!

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  • Meet a Volunteer: Bob Mueller

    Bob Mueller is one of the museum’s longest serving volunteers. He has been here since 1995 before the museum was even open! He began volunteering upon retirement from Hamilton’s and helped move, unpack and setup the museum at its original site in the factory complex on Jefferson Street. If you’re wondering about those early days and what it was like to help create a museum from scratch, he’s your guy!

    Bob is Wisconsin born and bred. He grew up in Fort Atkinson and Appleton, attended Marquette University, attended the seminary, and married soon thereafter. He joined the Navy in the late 1950’s and taught at the Naval Amphibious Base in San Diego. In 1963, when his military service was complete, a job in lab equipment sales was waiting for him at Hamilton’s. He eventually moved into project management and ended his career at Hamilton’s with a total of 34 years which includes a 2 year return to the job from 2003-2005.

    In Two Rivers, Bob and his first...

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  • Meet a Volunteer: Darlene Guehlstorf

    The museum is known and loved worldwide for its fabulous collections, hands-on studios and workshops, exceptional events, and stunning printmaking. But the day to day running of the museum - the giving of tours, manning of the front desk, housekeeping, and other mundane but necessary tasks– could not happen without a group of dedicated volunteers. This post is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting those volunteers, the unsung heroes, that help make the museum the magical place it has become.

    Darlene Guehlstorf has been volunteering at the museum since her retirement from Hamilton’s in 2001. She started out at the original museum on Jefferson Street where she performed many of the aforementioned tasks. Her specialty though was creating woodtype nameplates used by Hamilton office employees. She could often be found diligently staining and gluing right-reading woodtype at her huge work table while simultaneously keeping an eye on museum happenings.

    Darlene is a lifelong...

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  • Drawing a Machine

    Recently, I spent most of a week at Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum drawing a machine. An industrial manufacturing machine with a cast iron body and pair of heavy machined flywheels. When it was in active use in the Hamilton Manufacturing Co. factory, it was motivated by means of an overhead driveshaft, a leather belt, and a wooden three-speed pulley.

    The machine was used to make decorative wood type border pieces for embellishing posters and other large printed materials. In contrast to wood type letters, which Hamilton’s type cutters rendered in blocks of end-grain rock maple using air-driven, pantograph-mounted routers, wood type border was made using this machine — a reciprocating die press which impressed patterns into end-grain wood, leaving the printing surface in relief.

    The Hamilton Museum is fortunate that there are former Hamilton Manufacturing Co. employees still living who can share their firsthand knowledge of the...

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  • In the Woodshop: The Training has Begun

    Recently, Mardell Doubek – one of the last pantograph operators from the original Hamilton wood shop – in conjunction with the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum, was awarded a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board to participate in the Folk Arts Apprenticeship program. The purpose of the program is to help prevent native crafts from dying out by providing funding for the master craftsperson to train an apprentice. Mardell, as the mastercraftwoman, has accepted me as her apprentice. My goal is to learn as much as I can over the next year about the art and craft of cutting wood type with the ultimate goal of training a new batch of pantograph operators. Thus far, we’ve located scrap wood – don’t want to use the good stuff! - in the bowels of the museum storage area, sawed it down into 6, 12 and 18 line pieces, and have been practicing machine set-up – a very tedious, time-consuming process. One important by-product has been learning how to use the saws correctly. David...

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  • The Museum hosts the APA Wayzgoose

    The Amalgamated Printers’ Association will be holding their annual Wayzgoose at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum this year the weekend of June 19-21st, 2014 in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The APA consists of both professional and amateur letterpress printers, whose emphasis is on the exchange of members’ letterpress printing and information on sources of equipment and better printing practices. This Wayzgoose is a three-day affair and includes an auction, a flea market of printers’ treasures, tours of the museum, and workshops with great presenters like Rick von Holdt, Jessica Spring, Jen Farrell, Jim Horton, Scott Moore, Melinda Stockwell, and Brad Vetter (and more!). A major highlight of this gathering is visiting with other kindred spirits who love letterpress.

    Registration is now open to the public as well as APA members. Please use this site to find all the...

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  • Aaron Draplin to speak at our 1st Annual Shareholder's Meeting

    Hamilton Wood Type is proud to announce that designer Aaron Draplin will be featured as our keynote speaker for our 1st annual Shareholder's Meeting. On Saturday July 19 the museum will be open for hands-on printing sessions, hobnobbing with your fellow shareholders and Aaron's talk at 5pm. You must be a Charter Member to attend this event and you can register here.

    Why should you become a Charter Member? Because Hamilton Wood Type is a member-supported museum. The classes we offer and the merchandise we sell help make ends meet but it's our members who help the museum thrive. Our Charter Membership is a two-year membership that costs less than $5.00 per month over a two-year period. Please consider joining today.

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  • Neenah and Hamilton friends close in on $30,000 raised by The Beauty of Letterpress campaign

    Neenah Paper and The Beauty of Letterpress campaign are in their final push to raise $30,000 to help the museum get established in our new building. With only $600 remaining to go this is your chance to show some letterpress love and help Hamilton Wood Type. You can contribute here.

    The nearly $30,000 raised to support the Museum means many things. The first is a chance to protect the world's largest collection of type. The collection will not only be safe but on display with an opportunity to teach the methods that made Hamilton the nation's largest wood type maker. Additionally, the practice of making type will be reborn as we start up the original pantograph machines and bring in the retired type cutters to share their craft with new apprentices. Platen presses and show card presses will...

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  • Adventures in Brayer Calligraphy

    I was a bit reluctant to take up an inking roller to do some "roller calligraphy" last spring while on a tour through Europe with other type and printing geeks called Travels In Typography.

    Most of the calligraphy I've done was way back in college when I was studying graphic design, and very little since then. I'm just not that into it, which may seem strange coming from a type designer, but to me they are completely different things. Being good at one doesn't necessarily make you good at the other; sometimes quite the opposite, I think.

    Anyway, back to the tour. When we visited Mainz, Germany, home of Johannes Gutenberg, father of movable type, we had the pleasure of meeting Gundela Kleinholdermann, who is a volunteer at the Gutenberg Museum's Druckladen (print shop). Her specialty is what she calls roller calligraphy. Instead of the usual brush or pen, she uses inking rollers, the kind you use to ink a letterpress proofing press.

    Inking rollers come in all...

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  • Back to Blogging

    Now that the museum is open in the new location we have started to get back into our rhythms. Sometimes the pattern is lock-up, trip, print, while other times it flows with the coming and goings of visitors. We are happy to share what is happening at the museum, from exciting upcoming events to interesting finds as we catalog the collection. Thanks for following the museum!

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  • Help Hamilton Move: Unpacking in a New Location

    We are busy here at the new museum location.We are almost entirely out of the original location. It is strange and sad to see it so empty. However, the new location will allow us to expand in many ways. It doubles the amount of space the museum occupies, which means more of the collection will be on display, we will have dedicated residency studios, and we can develop a classroom and library. In May we will be preparing the space with new paint, new lights, and doing a few repairs. Then in June and July we hope to have many volunteers who will help us set up the new pressrooms, displays, and classrooms. We can't wait to reopen and start printing again.

    If you would like to help us unpack in our new location, at 1816 10th Street, Two Rivers, WI, please join us for one of our 'Move Events'. This is your chance to help re-open the new Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum. The museum is closed to the public for tours and general admittance, but you are welcome to join us as a volunteer as the...

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  • More Packing

    We have been busy packing since the beginning of the year. And now our first truck load has gone to the new location which is only 10 blocks away from the original location at 1816 10th Street, Two Rivers, Wisconsin! You can see how many of our Hamilton friends and family have helped up pack and get to our new home.

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