Local businesses join forces, using 3D printing to preserve artisan craft

Part time letterpress printer and Director of Cambridge University's Careers Service, Gordon Chesterman, has collaborated with local 3D printing bureau, Print My Part, to explore a new method of creating letterpress printing blocks: an approach using modern technology to support traditional printing methods.

From its invention in the 15th century through to the 20th century, letterpress printing was the only way of printing text, using hand-carved wood blocks for illustrations and larger letters. This traditional craft all but died out in the 1950s but, in recent years, we’re enjoying a resurgence in letterpress printing – the beauty and tactile qualities of fine printing are being appreciated by those bored with mass-produced, dull, computer-generated print. 

Today, Gordon uses old iron printing presses and type over 100 years old at his home-based printshop to create exquisite posters, stationery, invitations, poetry books and ephemera for a range of clients in Ely and further afield.

Gordon explained, “with wooden printing blocks dating back many years, some blocks become damaged and new printing blocks become hard to source. Or one is ‘out of sorts’ – a printer’s term for not having enough letters. As a result, I approached Print My Part with the task of recreating printing blocks using the 3D printing process”.

The collaboration has been extremely successful, resurrecting some blocks designed and cut over the last 150 years whilst offering customers the freedom to create completely unique and personal designs for print. As a result of the collaboration, Gordon is now working closely with Print My Part to complete further business of this nature.

Gordon said “At first I was hesitant, as after all, it is the unique, handcrafted element of letterpress printing which gives letterpress printing its appeal. Fortunately, I was able to work closely with Jack at Print My Part to ensure every unique identity and subtle qualities from the original block were maintained on the 3D printed blocks. The result is astonishing, offering a seamless replacement for the traditional printing blocks”.

 Jack at Print My Part said “We always welcome work from the local community and when Gordon got in touch with us, we couldn’t wait to give this a try. We hear lots of stories of new technology making old manufacturing methods redundant, however this is a great example of new technology supporting old technology to ensure the craft lives on”.

To find out more about the process, check out the instructional blog here.

If you would like a bespoke letterpress poster, you can get in touch with Gordon directly at chestermen@icloud.com or click here to see some examples of Gordon's work.

Print My Part is an exciting new start up 3D Printing Bureau Service based in North Cambridgeshire.

Print My Part aims to offer the ultimate 3D printing service, often turning models around within just 24 hours. Jack explains “rather than pricing jobs on part volume, we review every job individually. Not only does this result in lower prices, but it also allows us to offer a detailed review of every part we receive. This means we can offer complete transparency in both price and ‘printability’".

For more information please contact Jack at info@printmypart.co.uk or visit the website here.


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