Press Moving, Take Two

Last Friday, a moving company picked up Josephine (our C&P) at 619 and brought her to the new studio. We've now moved her twice, and it unfortunately (in my experience) it doesn't get easier.

I'd like to take a few moments to talk about moving a printing press. The first time around, I read everything I could find on the Briarpress discussion forums about moving a press. I wanted to find the step-by-step instruction manual on the easy and fun way to move a 1,200 lb. press. Unfortunately, that doesn't exist. Like most things in letterpress, everyone has their own theory, their own tried and true way, and their own 5,000 words to say on the subject. It was really overwhelming. I'd just spent a decent amount of money on this investment into our business, and it was important to me to do it "the right way."

We didn't have a ton of money to hire a company, so when we purchased the press, we moved it "ourselves." I put that in quotations because it really wasn't just us. It took several knowledgeable people, lots of brute strength, an expensive truck/trailer rental, and 5 hours to move her across town and into our space at 619. It was really important to have people around that knew what they were doing. Because, despite my do-it-yourself attitude and go-getter "spunk" - I can no more move a printing press by myself than fly to the moon. I can really really want to move a printing press - but it takes a lot more than that. 1,200 lbs. is a lot of weight. And last time around, I felt like I was carrying that weight around on my back - it was a lot of stress. Thankfully, it got done. No one got hurt, and the press made it in one piece. (The press hadn't been so lucky earlier in life - the previous owner of the press hired a moving company to transport the press from California to Seattle - and they dropped her off the truck. Several parts were damaged and repaired before and after we bought the press.) I walked away from the day of that first move with a healthy respect for the 1,200 lb. commitment we'd made.

This second time around we had the opportunity to hire "professional" movers (at the cost of the DOT as part of the relocation). In my mind, this meant a lot less stress. Unfortunately, that's not really how it turned out. This account is not meant to be a complaint, but a word of warning for others. Regardless of my repeated warnings, the moving company didn't take my old girl's 1,200 lbs. seriously. They arrived with 4 guys and a dolly - which worked fine for moving her out of 619 and to the new building. But at the base of the 14 stairs between the street level at the studio, there was a showdown. Josephine won the first round: the movers couldn't budge her up the first stair. (Here insert lots and lots of Sara stress.) A stair climbing hand truck was rented, which eventually worked. (After, of course, the movers watched a Youtube video on their phones to learn how to use the equipment.) The stair climber ended up being an effective way to move the press, but it took several movers holding up the downstairs side to keep her from falling back down the stairs. It was really touch and go for awhile, and I had to walk away down the block to diffuse my stress level. On a whole, the move was a success. The press was not irrevocably damaged (although the feed board did get snapped in half), and it's done now. She's in place. But it definitely could have gone the other way - and I'd suggest to others that they carefully vet their movers and inform them as best you can. This is not an everyday move, and the stakes are high.

Long story long: moving a printing press is hard. There is no easy way to do it. It should not be looked at lightly. Purchasing a press is often not a particularly expensive commitment - but it's quite a weight commitment. Choose your press and workspace carefully, and be ready sweat it out. As for us? We'll be at the current location for as long as we possibly can. First, because we love the new space. But also, because it's just too much work.

The lessons I've learned about stress from press moving could make up another epic blog post (or half a book!), so i'll leave it for another day. But it's definitely the kind of thing that makes you think about how small you are, and how much you need others.

On a lighter note, the moving company also picked up and delivered our new-to-us Paragon paper cutter. We found the paper cutter on a local Briarpress classified listing. (If you haven't checked out Briarpress, you definitely should. It's a great resource for all things letterpress, with classifieds, forums, photos, etc.) We went to see it a few weeks ago, paid for it, and negotiated with the moving company to move it on the same day as the press move. We really lucked out finding such a great cutter. It's been completely refurbished, is 100% rust free, sharp, and ready to go! Seeing its sexy self next to our press has inspired us to complete the restoration on her. (Glossy black, gold lettering - the whole nine yards.) By the way, the paper cutter is in need of a name - any ideas?

I'm happy to answer specific logistics questions about moving a press - comment your question and i'll answer as best I can. Also, check out the Briarpress discussion forums - there's tons of info and first hand accounts.