Posts tagged vintage finds
Newbies Around the Shop

We've added some new "friends" to the shop recently, and are excited to show them off!

Jules of Stern & Faye recently sold the print farm and held an estate sale to share the pieces that wouldn't fit in her new studio with the letterpress community. While it was really sad to be visiting the farm for the last time, we were also really excited to buy a full cabinet of beautiful type and a slant-top work surface (among other goodies). You really can't beat a letterpress estate sale!


We're been busy reorganizing the shop and babying our new type, but we're working on a full catalog of print samples to show you - check back in for updates!


We recently drove by Alafair Antique & Estate Co. in SODO (always a fun spot to drop by on the way to the paper store) and picked up this charming metal cabinet for our print shop tools. It was another bittersweet purchase - Alafair has lost their lease, and will be closing soon. If you haven't ever stopped by their unique store, now's the time. Everything is 40-50% off!


The cabinet was originally dark brown (as you can see inside the door), but was painted a pastel pink at some point in its life. It's grimy and chipped, so it needs some love - but I can't decide whether or not to keep the pink. The knobs and tapered legs are so sweet and feminine, the pink kind of works. I'm a sucker for anything with wheels - you can use it anywhere!


While in Port Townsend for our anniversary trip, one of the little boutiques was selling some of their fixtures. We were really excited when we saw this quirky shelf for $15! It's perfect for our craft show display. It's a little bit shaky at the moment, but with some tweaking and paint, it will be ready to go! We'll be debuting it soon for the holiday show circuit! (Be prepared for a fun before & after reveal!)

Our 3rd Anniversary Printing Press

Last month, Brad and I took a weekend trip to the Olympic Peninsula for our 3rd Anniversary. We had an amazing, restful adventure.

In our opinion, that's the best kind - a little bit of both! We rode the ferry, stayed in a castle, did a cider tasting, made sun prints, ate lots of delicious food, walked on the beach, and did some shopping.

On our return home, we stopped at an antique store in Bremerton before we got back on the ferry. While browsing, we found this little treasure! We don't usually do large anniversary gifts, but instead save our pennies to shop together on our anniversary trips. It's pretty fitting that we'd find and buy a tiny new printing press on our weekend away. It's something we'll always have around to remember our amazing third year!


The press was packed in an ancient looking wood box, like it was sold as a "kit" - with a tiny brayer, a font of type, tweezers, and tiny sheets of paper. I've searched the Briar Press online museum, but can't find exactly which press this one is. It's similar to a few of the small hand inking lever presses, but i'd love to know exactly which company and model it is if anyone knows.

The whole thing is really unusual - the press uses type that isn't the traditional "type high," which makes it pretty impractical in a print shop. This teeny tiny press is even smaller than our little Sigwalt Annabelle - when something is that tiny and cute, how could we resist?

Family Estate Sale Day

My mom's birthday was this month, and her requests for birthday activities were estate sales and dinner. (Can't go wrong!)

It was our first estate sale day with the whole family together, and it was a major success! We found tons of fun things, including this 100+ year old desk that we're in the process of refinishing.

Among many other things (most of which have gone right into little still lifes around our home and studio), we brought home this United Airlines ad from 1975. It's a goofy caricature of life on the West coast, and we love it! It may end up getting framed and hung at home. We've got a mid-century modern meets wild west theme going on right now, and this will fit in perfectly.

Linoleum isn't just for floors.

Recently my "picker" parents and lil' sis found these vintage Speedball linoleum tools at an estate sale. There's nothing better than antiques that are unused and still 100% useful!

I chose linoleum cut as the production method for my Cosmic Sans piece. The letterpress printer side of me was excited to use a handmade method for the entirety of my piece. I sketched it out on paper, then onto the linoleum block, and got to carving!


My letter is M for McNally and also Meteor! I was inspired by traditional engravings of meteor showers like this one. Growing up, I remember many nights laying on a lawn chair in the front yard with my parents, watching the shooting stars. They were such mysterious nights - being little and outside during hours I'd never seen before. I was always half excited and half terrified. Nighttime was magical when I was a child. I think that's why I still love space - it's mysterious and exciting and scary. It's something we can't know completely. I love that.


Want to see the finished piece? Come to our Cosmic Sans opening! This will be one of 26 never-before-seen space & sci-fi inspired art prints. Each will be sold via silent auction to benefit 826 Seattle, inspiring kids to learn and write.

Photos by Jenny Linquist.

Vintage Finds: My Bike

Summer has slowly made its way to Seattle, and for the first time since I was little, the warm weather means bike rides!

A couple months ago (when spring was here and we were eagerly awaiting summer), we found the sweetest blue bike in the basement of an estate sale in our neighborhood. I had an instant crush on this bike. It's everything a bike should be! We initially walked away from the house (we certainly hadn't budgeted to get me a bike, nor did we bring enough cash), but I was really sad to leave it behind. I just kept thinking about the two of us riding bikes all summer...and it was too sweet a thought to give up! Brad (who loves me a ton) negotiated the seller down to a somewhat manageable price, and we took my new/old bike home!


She's a bright blue 1973 Schwinn Speedster, made originally for boys. (But an adult woman is the size of a medium boy, right? Whatever.) She got chrome fenders, all original parts (minus one nut that we replaced), and a lot of style. We've had a ton of fun so far, going on bike adventures in our neighborhood and riding to the farmer's market to fill my basket (it's brand new, so not in the photos) with fresh fruit & veggies. I love every season in Seattle, but with a bike and some sunshine... summer really can't be beat.


Our good friend Josh did this linoleum carving awhile back, and we've been so crazy busy that it hadn't gotten printed. But once my bike obsession kicked in, it was certainly time to drop everything and make this fun bike print! The carving is all Josh, the tag line is all Brad, and when it was time for me to print it, I color matched the ink to my bike!


Want to celebrate a summer of cycling in your home? Our new bike print is available on our Etsy store. Bike photos from my Instagram stream, the only way I'm documenting life at the moment.

Constellation Collections: Oil Cans

Oil cans come in a million shapes and sizes. And we're apparently trying to collect them all - one can at a time. They have such personality, I can't help picking them up when we find a good one.

Plus, they're useful. Yes, there is oil in these oil cans! Isn't the little red one cute? (No - I haven't named them. Yet.) Additionally, when you use them, you can pretend to be Dorothy helping the Tin Man. Oil can!

The Book of American Types

A few weeks ago, we went to an estate sale that listed a printing press among the items for sale (jackpot!). We didn't come home with the press (it was a Chandler & Price 8x12 just like ours, and in a basement), but we did find some really great printer's items to bring home.

Our favorite find of the trip was this Book of American Types from 1941 by the American Type Founders. This book was used to market and sell lead type to the printers of America. The American Type Founders (often shortened to ATF) was established in 1892 by the merger of 23 type foundries, representing about 85% of all type manufactured in the United States. ATF was the dominant American manufacturer of metal type from its creation in 1892 until at least the 1940s, and continued to be influential into the 1960s.


The ATF Seattle branch is listed in the back of the book as "Western Ave. & Columbia." I totally geeked out when I read that line. Our studio is in a building on Western Avenue between Yesler & Columbia streets - so the Seattle ATF office was right next door! I love we are in such a historic neighborhood.


Here is some info from the foreward: How to keep specimen books up to date is a problem that has beset type founder since the inception of their art. Popular taste may decree one design obsolete at the same time it is creating a vogue for another not yet cut, and the very format of specimen books develops with the needs of a constantly developing industry...


...Thus we quote the 1882 specimen book of Bruce's New York Type Foundry to say that "In this New Edition of our Specimen Book we show only Fonts of Printing Types, rejecting from it all that are too antiquated for the present taste." Thus, too, newer faces are shown in a supplement which is a more modern in conception and, we hope, more convenient in use...


...Through all these changes in taste, however, one factor continues constant- the quality of ATF type. No matter what the face it reproduces, nor how it is shown, traditionally high standards of workmanship and materials assure its right to be called "the best in any case."


The last page of the book gives the following info about it's creation: This type specimen book was printed on No. 2 Kelly Presses equipped with ATF Non-Offset Guns...two of many pieces of Equipment developed for the graphic arts industries by American Type Founders, Elizabeth New Jersey.


Here's some more copy from the book's interior: Foundry type- precision cast and hand set for perfect spacing- adds the distinguishing touch of artistry which gives a printed piece the appeal on which success often depends. Measured in terms of reader-interest, economy often results from the wise selection of an ATF foundry-cast type face for body copy as well as display.


We'll be moving soon to a larger studio (still in Pioneer Square - I swear, more details are coming soon), and one of the things we really excited about is having more space for type cases. We can't wait to expand our collection of vintage type & imagery. Too bad we can't cruise over to the ATF store and pick some up!

Vintage Finds: Monopoly!

A few weeks ago, we picked up this amazing vintage Monopoly game at an estate sale. We didn't know much about it at the time, but we knew it was cool!

According to Hasbro, Monopoly was invented in 1934, when a man named Charles B. Darrow showed what he called the Monopoly game to the executives at Parker Brothers. At the time, Parker Brothers rejected the game due to "52 design errors." Undaunted, Darrow and a friend (who was a printer!) sold 5,000 handmade sets of the Monopoly game to a Philadelphia department store. As demand for the game grew, Darrow couldn't keep up with all the orders and came back to talk to Parker Brothers again. This time, they accepted. In its first year (1935) the Monopoly game was the best-selling game in America. Over its 76 year history, an estimated 500 million people have played Monopoly!


After doing some research, we've discovered that this particular Monopoly set was being produced from 1936-1939, and was the first version of the "Popular Edition." (Find out how we established that info here.) It's in great shape for being 72+ years old!


It's all there... game board, 2 sets of instructions, chance and community chest cards, the deeds to properties, lots of the iconic Monopoly money, 2 sets of dice, metal play pieces (the thimble, top hat, shoe, battleship, car, handbag, and 2 irons!), and wooden houses & hotels with "Grand Hotel" engraved on them.


It's amazing to think about how many generations of families have played Monopoly using this set.


We were really impressed by how tangible everything in the set is - the game pieces are metal, the houses and hotels are made of wood. The craftsmanship isn't what we're used to from board games today. What's especially exciting (for me in particular) is knowing that the cards and money were produced using the same kind of printing presses that we use! Our 1921 Chandler & Price press would have been only around 15 years old when this set was produced! And it's so interesting to realize how little Monopoly has changed in design since 1936 - goes to show you that good design is timeless!


There's something special about Monopoly. Everyone plays it as a kid. And even though few games are actually finished, we keep playing. It's nostalgic for us - and it's been nostalgic for a lot of people, for a very long time.

This vintage monopoly set has been sold.

Meet the Presses: Annabelle

Annabelle is a Chicago Printing Press No. 11, made by the Sigwalt Company in the late 1800’s & early 1900’s. These presses were built on exactly the same principals as the large presses of the same era that we use to produce all of our products - this one is just miniaturized!

(For example: our Chandler & Price press weighs 1,200 pounds, and this press weighs 8 pounds!) This particular style of press was often used by schools, offices, pharmacists, churches and hobbyists in the way a label maker or desktop computer would be used today. This size & style of press originally sold for $12.00, complete with type, ink, rollers, tweezers, paper, and more!


In case you didn't catch it the first time - this press is tiny! The photo above shows one of our business cards held in her grippers.


Our little Sigwalt was found in an antique store in Selma, North Carolina. Selma is a very small town (Wikipedia lists their population as just over 7,000), which most people probably don't get a chance to stop at. My parents & sister recently took a road trip through the south, and stopped in at Selma's antique stores. While they were there, they found lots of letterpress goodies - wonderful printer's blocks, and this beauty of a press.


My sister (who is 11 and awesome) named her Annabelle, and she made the long trek from Florida in a box my dad custom made for her.


Side Note: My family and I have always been close, but since Brad and I moved to Seattle, we've lived really far away. It can be so hard sometimes, living 3,000 miles from the people we love. We love our city, our friends here, and the life that we've built - but there's nothing like family. My parents have owned their own business for 25 years, and they are such a big part of why I wanted to start Constellation. The do it yourself spirit - the sense of integrity in business - the never give up work ethic - I learned these things from them. In the last few years, it has been such a joy to share all i've learned about letterpress with my family. They have been amazing - supporting us in every way possible as we pursue Constellation. And they've learned a lot too - which they've practically put to use in searching out and finding printer's blocks for us - and now, a press! We really can never thank them enough.


Our new addition made her debut at our Urban Craft Uprising booth. It was the perfect tool to show everyone who stopped by how the printing process works on a small scale. It was such a joy to see kids' eyes light up when they saw her work! We have lots of tiny prints planned for our new friend, which we'll share with you soon!


For more information about Sigwalt presses, you can read the original instruction manual for the Chicago presses online (which is where I got a lot of additional info about this particular press). A great article on the Sigwalt company history can be found here.

Vintage Finds: Games!

We like games, and we're not ashamed to admit it. (We either never grew up or we're old before our time!)

We picked up several games at a garage sale recently for a dollar apiece. Surprisingly, all the pieces are there (or so we think). We've yet to play them, but are excited to give them a try!

Pit is a card game based on agricultural stock trading.

Pit is a card game based on agricultural stock trading.


This is Everybody's Picture Puzzle. The image is "Romantic Venice." (This isn't a garage sale find, but arrived with the Brownie from Michigan.)

Vintage Finds: Brownie Hawkeye

We were pleased to find this little beauty our our doorstep a few weeks ago from Brad's grandparents' home in Michigan. It's in great shape and came complete with flash, bulbs, and manual. (And believe it or not, they had two! We are honored to have been given one.)

Fun branding for the "Midget Flasholder."

Fun branding for the "Midget Flasholder."


The viewfinder is a crazy contraption. You don't put your eye right up to, but look through from about a foot away. It's amazing how clear the image looks!


The graphic design for the manual is stellar. Simple shapes, bright colors, and good type never go out of style.

Vintage Finds: Eyeglass Frames

These fabulous eyeglass frames came in the mail from Brad's grandparents' home in Michigan. His grandmother likely wore them in the 50's.

I'm not nearly hipster enough to wear them, but they are so charming and have won a place in our home. I really like things that are instant collections - perhaps i'll frame them in a column like this and enjoy them on the wall.

We've got a soft spot for all things vintage. We've been searching and collecting more and more lately, and we've decided to share our finds with you! This "Vintage Finds" series will feature photos and info on the best things we pick up.

These are a few of our favorite resources online and in Seattle:

Garage sales & estate sales are one of our favorite Saturday morning dates. We use and craigslist to find options, and we typically pick the ones that list antiques or vintage items. We don't buy a lot of furniture (we're currently in a tiny apartment and a tiny studio), but pick up a lot of small items for props & inspiration.

Antique stores are hit or miss. Our favorites tend to have lots of paper goods and low prices. Two of the best are near our studio in Pioneer Square: Seattle Antiques Market is huge, is always getting new things in, and has great prices. Fairlook Antiques has more paper and photos than you can possible look through in one visit.

Salvage shops are fun for big pieces. We're strapped for space, so we don't tend to buy a lot at them. However, they're super fun for inspiration and you can find some really unusual items if you're willing to keep coming back. The two we have in Seattle (that I know of) are Earthwise and Second Use, and they're both great.

If you've got favorite spots, let us know! We're always looking for new ideas.

Also, if you're looking for a specific vintage item, let us know! We're considering adding some vintage items to our etsy store & physical store and would be happy to keep an eye out for what you're after.

Lastly: If you haven't already, make sure to check out American Pickers. It is so fun to see the places they visit and the things they find. It totally inspires us to get out and "pick" as well.