Moving the Press
When it came time to pick up our letterpress back in May 2009, we had no idea how to best move a letterpress over 500 kilometers to our studio. Hopefully some of our story will help others in the process of moving a 1500 lb letterpress, although in no way is our method the best, but we did get it home in one piece.
Our press lived in Cornwall, Ontario, down 13 wooden steps to the basement of a semi-retired pressman. Next to the washer and dryer, across from the sink and almost touching the boxes of old Sega Genesis games, our press was bolted to that floor for 35 years.
Seeing that there was no way to get the press out of the basement in one piece, we had to call on the help of Chantal’s brother, a mechanical engineer, to help us disassemble it as safely as possible. Our moving date was to be on a Saturday, so we headed over to disassemble the press on the Friday night.
It took about 3.5 hours of analyzing, thinking, unscrewing, holding really heavy pieces, labeling and filming every step of the way. By the end of the night the press was a selection of parts grouped together on the floor with detailed labels. There were really tricky parts due to the incredible weight of the larger sections but basic tools pretty much did the trick.
Moving Day – Cornwall, Ontario
The adventure continued the next day when the movers we’d scheduled to help us didn’t show up. Thankfully, we had a feeling this would happen and we called in some reinforcements. We found a jack-of-all-trades worker in the Cornwall classifieds willing to do odd jobs for any price, and a friend of Joel’s generously agreed to help (he didn’t really know what he was getting into, but none of us really did). In total there were 7 of us not quite sure exactly how to get the press out of the basement.
In addition to moving the letterpress, there were over 100 cases of type, one proofing press and paper supplies. We tackled that stuff first and it was long and difficult. A case of 72 point type is especially heavy when you have to haul it up the stairs and then up the truck’s slippery ramp (it was also raining that day). Our hired hand, Mike, didn’t seem to notice the weight and managed 4 or 5 type cases at a time.
Up the Stairs!
After moving everything out of the basement but the largest part of the press we started to brainstorm the best way to get it out of there. I wish I could tell you how heavy this part is. If the whole press, fully assembled, is 1500 lbs then this last piece must weigh 1000 pounds. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but that’s how heavy it felt, anyway.
Here’s what we did: We bought some plywood and bolted the press to that to serve as a base. Then we strapped the press to a heavy duty dolly using every kind of strap we could find. We used rope, we used bungee cords and we used ratchet straps.
We had four people with the press moving it up the narrow stairs. Two on the bottom pushing (scary position to be in), two on the top pulling. Then we looped more rope through the press to help pull the press up the stairs, kind of a last resort safety feature. There were three people at the top of the stairs pulling, so in total we had 7 people moving the press one step at a time.
To be honest, this wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. We went one step at a time and we were up the stairs in less than a minute. Our system of “1, 2, 3 PULL!” worked wonders. Sure a wooden step may have cracked loudly underfoot on the way up, but we managed.
Once we reached the top of the stairs we had to go down a few steps and then up the truck ramp. Instead of going down the steps, we removed the ramp from the truck and slowly rolled down with the press until we were in the driveway. After reattaching the ramp to the truck, we rolled it up with the press still strapped to the dolly and just like that we were done.
We secured everything in the truck so it wouldn’t move and then started our 7 hour drive back north to Sudbury.
Moving Day – Sudbury, Ontario
What is it with movers? For the second time in two days our scheduled movers didn’t show up. Maybe the responsibility of moving a 1500 lb letterpress scared them off. Luckily we didn’t have 13 steps to go up and only had a few steps to go down to get the press into the basement. Most of the difficulty on this day would be lugging all the type cases indoors.
We drove the truck into the backyard as closely as possible to the backdoor. Since the snow had only melted recently the ground was a bit soft and you could really see the truck leaning towards the side with the press. It was a bit scary. If we could have, it probably would have been a better idea to balance the weight better.
Again, we called on some friends to help with the heavy lifting and everything went smoothly. After driving approximately 1000 kilometers in three days and moving the press and all of those type cases twice, we were ready to start getting the press ready for printing.
Well, as soon as we could get Chantal’s brother to come up to Sudbury and reassemble it for us!