Don Black Comes to Greyweathers

Don Black, on right, visiting Greyweathers Press.

There was a time, between the end of the letterpress era and the beginning of the digital age, when old press equipment could be acquired easily. Some of the veterans in the fine press game remember publishing and printing houses with letterpress equipment pushed to the back of the shop, and owners willing to give it away, so long as they didn’t have to move it. Now, most of the print shops are long-since cleaned out, although there are a few troves left, but you’d have to wait a long time to strike gold, and then there’s the question of repairing the equipment.

It is the very good fortune of letterpress printers in Canada, or North America for that matter, to have Don Black Linecasting in Toronto, Ontario. Don, his son Craig and wife Ruth have worked this business for years, selling letterpress and hot type equipment initially to the trade, and currently to specialty printers, artists and enthusiasts. Craig is a very capable mechanic, so when you buy a press from Don Black Linecasting, it actually works! (I say this because I bought my press “in working order” from another party ; far from it, it took me a few months and no small amount of McGyvering to get it to actual working order).

Anyway, Don and Ruth were in Ottawa this past weekend to visit family and help the a printer’s widow unload some equipment. He put the word out to the Ottawa Press Gang via Weathervane Press, and I’m proud to say a good representation of the OPG came out and made a dent in a pretty impressive array of heavy metal, including printing presses, type cabinets and trays of type, although two linotype machines, a small offset press and some other monster pieces of equipment may have to be sold as scrap, but who knows. Don brokered the deal, setting prices for stuff that people wanted, protecting the interests of the widow but making it attractive enough that people bought. Even I left with a couple of cases of riglets (thin strips of wood used to secure the forme on the press), and I went determined to be purely an observer.

This late pressman was something of a hoarder. All of the stuff was in a dark, dank basement subdivided with partitions and piles of things into tiny little work areas accessed by narrow corridors. The man had more interests than printing – there was even a metalworking lathe and other machinist equipment down there, electrical material and early computing components. Apparently an actual tonne of electric motors had been removed prior to our visit. The place was a shocking mess, but after the Press Gang’s foraging, there should be more room to move around and organize for further dispersal. It’s always kind of sobering to see inside the hoarding mentality. It always fills me with the urge to purge my own modest accumulations.

Don and Ruth stopped by the studio today on their way back to Toronto and stayed for a quick tour of the studio, and a coffee. We chatted about the business, some new exciting finds and how the trends are changing. He mention that Don Black Linecasting will be doing its own downsizing this fall, shrinking from from three massive warehouse bays down to just two. This means a big sale is coming, so keep an eye on their website: www.donblack.ca

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Explore posts in the same categories: Announcements, Letterpress printing, Printing Presses

One Comment on “Don Black Comes to Greyweathers”

  1. Chris Says:

    Great story Larry ….. btw the link to Don Black doesn’t work for me.


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