The Designs of Humanity

Sometimes I think about who we are.

Type & Letterpress

Movable Type

A few years back when attending graphics classes at Walla Walla University, I happened to notice an old divided drawer of movable metal type from the age of manual typesetting. The type had no doubt been there for years, and looked to have seen little use. As I’m a bit of an enthusiast, I took note of the novelty at the time.

Now, years later, I’m back at my Alma Mater teaching graphics and web classes on a contract basis. My wife, knowing my love for all things printed, decided to follow the 1st-year paper theme when selecting my anniversary/Christmas gift, and bought me an Adana Eight-Five letterpress, shipped all the way from England. Needless to say, I was ecstatic!

I set about ordering some appropriately rubber-based ink, and then started hunting for plates, cleaning supplies, paper, and type. Upon asking the chair of the Technology department I found that the drawer of type I remembered was unclaimed, and was even left relatively undisturbed! I asked if I could have the drawer—if no one had any particular objections, and a couple emails later I found myself rushing to the lab to see what I could find. When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find not just a drawer of type, but a whole cabinet.

Movable Type Boxes

I thought it unwise (and impractical) to attempt to take several drawers of type home with me after class—especially since I only asked for one—so I looked through several of the drawers and found six smaller boxes of type, each containing 100 pieces. Figuring that this would be enough to keep me busy, I departed with a small handful of type rather than a truck load.

When I arrived home, my dear wife helped me painstakingly sort out two of the boxes that were in a very disorganized state. Now I have type ready for blocking to be used on my letterpress, and I can’t wait to make it happen. Stay tuned for more, as I’ll surely be writing about the results of my attempts.

Filed under: creativity, generosity, opportunity, printing, process, type, typesetting

The Last Bean

GrindingThis is how I make coffee. It’s a bit of a process, but I stand by my theory that humans need process for sanity. The first step is grinding. I take the Caffe Umbria Mezzanote blend beans (my personal favorite decaf), and pour about a half a cup to be ground via mortar and pestle. This particular mortar and pestle came from a little shop in Italy that my wife and I visited during our year learning Italian at Villa Aurora, Firenze. Oddly enough, we didn’t purchase this while there, but instead it was gifted to us by my mother, who ordered it overseas.

The Last Bean

The perfect grind is achieved when there is one last unbroken bean. I know this because no matter how hard I try there is always one last bean that taunts me by surfacing to the top of the grounds after I think I’m done. For some time my mind has struggled to accept how this bean inevitably escapes my grinding, but after several cups I’ve learned to accept it for the anomaly that it truly is and carry on. If you see two or three, keep grinding.

Into the PressNext the beans go into the press, and you pour the hot water in, ready to stir them so they don’t sit stagnantly. You can get your hot water from anywhere (Instahot is handy, but I use our tea kettle). Once in, stir the beans lightly, enough to allow each piece to get a good bath, but not so much that you kill the froth the beans’ odoriferous oils produces. SteepingI use a long silver spoon for this step, but you can use whatever you want. Just be gentle with the glass of your press. At this stage you have a decision to make about just how strong your coffee is. The length of time you let it steep is directly proportionate to the amount of chest hair you’ll grow, so just be aware. I let mine go for 3-5 minutes because, let’s face it, I could use some chest hair.

PouredNext, you push the plunger of the press down. This is a favorite step for me—perhaps because it means the coffee’s done, or maybe just because it’s fun to press it. After that, make sure the lid is open to pour, and fill up your favorite mug. Tree HuggerThe right mug can enhance the drinking experience. This time I chose one of my wife’s favorites, primarily because it was smaller, but also because I like the branding (sure, call me a brand-whore).

So that’s it. It’s a pretty simple process, but it’s one I’ve grown to love. I don’t even think I’d accept a lifetime supply of Starbucks VIA® Ready Brew (though I hear it’s quite good). I just couldn’t give up the appreciation this process instills.

Filed under: beans, coffee, drink, process