What are Letterpress Drawers?

What are Letterpress Drawers?

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Exploring the Charm of Letterpress Drawers

If you're enchanted by the world of letterpress printing, you've likely come across a fascinating item known as a "letterpress drawer." These drawers hold a special place in the hearts of letterpress enthusiasts, collectors, and artists alike. In this article, we'll delve into the captivating world of letterpress drawers, exploring what they are and how they are used.

What is a Letterpress Drawer?

A letterpress drawer, also referred to as a typeset tray or printer's tray, is a wooden drawer originally designed to hold individual metal or wooden type blocks used in traditional letterpress printing. These drawers are usually rectangular in shape, featuring a grid-like layout of small compartments or "cubbies" that provide organized storage for each type block.

Letterpress drawers are often made of durable wood, such as oak or maple, with a sturdy construction designed to withstand the weight of the metal or wooden type pieces. The compartments in the drawer are typically arranged in a uniform pattern, allowing for easy categorization and access to the individual characters.

How is a Letterpress Drawer Used?

A letterpress drawer serves as a practical storage solution and an essential tool for letterpress printing enthusiasts. Here are some key aspects of how these drawers are used:

Organization and Storage

The main purpose of a letterpress drawer is to organize and store individual type blocks. Each compartment in the drawer is assigned to a specific character or typeface, allowing printers to quickly locate and access the desired type for composing their text. The orderly arrangement makes it easier to maintain a well-organized collection of type blocks.

Type Selection and Composition

When setting up a letterpress project, printers select the desired type blocks from the letterpress drawer to create words, sentences, or entire texts. By carefully choosing the appropriate characters and arranging them in a composing stick or chase, the printer can create visually appealing and typographically precise compositions.

Visual Inspiration and Display

Letterpress drawers hold a certain aesthetic charm that goes beyond their functional purpose. Many enthusiasts use these drawers as decorative pieces, showcasing their collection of type blocks or other small treasures. The organized compartments and the beautiful patina of the wood create a visually appealing display, adding a touch of nostalgia and craftsmanship to any space.

Artistic and Craft Projects

Letterpress drawers have found new life beyond traditional printing applications. Artists and crafters have repurposed these drawers for various creative projects. They serve as unique shadow boxes, curio displays, or even miniature storage units. The well-defined compartments offer endless possibilities for organizing and presenting small objects, creating captivating art installations or functional decor pieces.

Preserving a Craft and Legacy

Letterpress drawers not only hold the tangible artifacts of the letterpress printing era but also represent the craftsmanship, precision, and artistry of traditional printing methods. These drawers remind us of the beauty of physical type, the careful arrangement of characters, and the hands-on nature of letterpress printing. They preserve a rich history while continuing to inspire creativity and evoke a sense of nostalgia.

Whether you're a letterpress enthusiast, a collector, or a lover of vintage craftsmanship, the allure of a letterpress drawer is undeniable. It captures the essence of a bygone era and invites us to appreciate the art and meticulous detail of traditional letterpress printing.

So, next time you come across a letterpress drawer, take a moment to admire its structure and imagine the stories it holds. It's a testament to the enduring beauty of letterpress printing and the creative spirit of those who keep this craft alive.

Austin Terrill

Austin Terrill: Texas born, Berlin-based creative and print designer. Founder of Mint Letterpress and the Peppermint Brands family of companies. Former touring musician on the Van's Warped Tour. Passionate about music, photography, arts, and synthesizers. Family man with wife, two kids, and Havapoo, Paule.