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April 16, 2008 at 12:34 am

I’ve been printing a lot in the last couple of days. Most of what I was doing was of this nature:

Yes, this Black Cat job is over, despite the hassle that inevitably comes along with trying to print tiny, tiny little details at perfect resolution. I rushed it across town on my bike to Jim, he chopped the edges off the cards on his huge chopping machine (to make the blade come down you have to push two buttons at once, one with each hand, to make sure that you don’t chop a part of yourself off), then rushed it across town again to make it to the shipping company by 7pm. Done and done.

Can you see how tiny those tiny letters are? Smaller than a 16th of an inch. Yes, get out your rulers and look to see how small that is. It’s tiny! Such a thing should not rightfully be printable by screenprinting. Yet it happened, it’s done. Yikes.

(Note: I did not design the above material, it was designed by this fancy, fancy wedding-invitation designer. Their website is impressive, though the opening page is kind of disconcerting. The strange thing I constantly find myself remembering, while in the middle of printing these somewhat excruciatingly detailed and definitely high-luxury “unnecessary” objects, is that, despite whatever one might say about the convention of marriage and the ‘wedding industry’ in general — a wedding invitation is one of the few pieces of art or design that will actually have meaning for many people: personal, intimate, significant meaning. So — not completely unnecessary. . .)

[my printing studio. tool shelves and drawers near left. new printing table in the center, with Scøtt’s rolly cart in front to hold paper. right: homemade drying rack (the shelves pull out, it’s sweet), with light table on top (covered by black cloth & plywood). back: pile of junk. this is all in the former kitchen of an attic apartment: note corner of kitchen sink/counter at left]

So my friday-saturday-and-monday of printing a bunch of high-precision, long-hours print runs left me with some longstanding questions newly affirmed in my mind.

1) I need to not lock my knees when pulling a print. I kind of realized I was doing this, but now that I have finally built myself a new printing table (above) that is a) not wobbly and b) four inches higher than the old one (more-or-less the right height!), it has become imperative. In the middle of the first print run of the weekend (which was also the first on the new table) I tried to sit down to take a break, and yelled because I had totally strained my knees from not bending them forward with every pull… The rest of the weekend became a practice session for careful attention to non-locked-knees standing and print-pulling. A no-brainer — but it’s hard to change long-held physical habits…

2) I need to wear a respirator while printing. This should also be a no-brainer, I guess, but it took me a while. I’ve been noticing a weird itch in the back of my throat whenever I printed for a while now, and after I realized that I wasn’t just “starting to feel a sore throat coming on”, had begun to harbor (somewhat reluctantly) the idea that there was probably a connection.

The labels on the Speedball inks I use say they are non-toxic, so I had always thought that I must be wrong. However, yesterday, as I finished a five-hour, non-stop print run (pulling somewhere around 500 prints in that time!), my throat really hurt, and my lips felt tingly (and yes, I had the windows open, and no, I’m not licking the squeegee, or anything like that). Today, the croaky throat was still there, and by the afternoon, the tingly numbness in my lips had spread to the lower right side of my chin & face. BAD. ! ! ! So I looked up the MSDS.

It affirms the product’s supposed non-toxicity, and says this:

no respiratory protections required

but it also says this:

hazardous components: VOC (.71-1.66 lbs per gallon)

1 pound per gallon is about an eighth of a gallon, which seems to me to be quite a lot. I guess I am just the one-out-of-however-many people that has a bad reaction to it. My housemate B has an extra respirator that I can use, and he already has the Organics cartridges (in his puppetmaking, he uses a lot of terrible spray glue to stick terrible foam together — which is obviously toxic, in contrast to this stuff I have been using for years…).

So I will start using it tomorrow and see how it goes. I’m kind of hoping the weird numbness goes away first . . . It’s a depressing reminder of just how long it’s been since I’ve been to the dentist.

[. . . I set up the next print run tonight, so I can print tomorrow, since I still want to have the windows open, and tonight it’s too cold for that . . . ]


  1. i told someone the other day that i refuse to print lines thinner than the thickness of a penny.

    Comment by jacob — April 18, 2008 @ 1:42 am
  2. yeah, I should have set the limit years ago… but it’s this stubborn moment: “yeah, I can figure out how to print that! why shouldn’t I be able to print that?” which is the equivalent of tying yourself to the tree of woe.

    Comment by jean — April 29, 2008 @ 2:54 am
  3. […] the green cardstock = cutoffs from those wedding invitations I printed a while […]

    Pingback by Secret Door Projects » sucked in — July 17, 2008 @ 6:28 am

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