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Graphics Grab Bag – goings on around the printing traps.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018
By Patrick Howard

Welcome to the latest issue of Graphics Grab Bag, a weekly record of engagements and observations from an observer curious about the printing industry here and around the world.

Luke Newbold shows how ‘skiver’ leather is used.

In an age when records are digitalised at a great rate, this week I took to the road less travelled and collected bound volumes of Print21 magazine up to the year 2017. The latest additions, Number 15 & 16 in the series, were produced, as were all the previous ones, by Newbold and Collins, Bookbinders, Chullora, NSW.

In a modern business park in a cluttered workshop, surrounded by hundreds of rolls of buckram and binding leather, Luke Newbold is carrying on the family business started by his father David, preserving the skills and craft knowledge of a trade no longer taught, even by TAFE. From the moment you enter the workshop you’re assailed by redolent smells of glue and old books. It’s like stepping back in time to learn from a master about the operation of blocking presses, how to use gold leaf and varnish, repair paper in decaying bibles and match the embossed spine labels with thin ‘skiver’ leather.

Most of the bookbinding trade is from people wanting to restore and preserve the libraries of previous generations; Grandmother’s handwritten recipes, improving books won as prizes at school annotated by the headmaster, diaries and family histories. Business also comes from law firms looking for impressive volumes of The Law Report to decorate barrister’s chambers. Council records figure too, their leather covers fraying and tattered, at risk of disintegrating. Then there are the family bibles, easily the most common volumes in need of restoration.

It’s a glimpse into a time when print was rare and valued; it does the heart good.

Luke Newbold with his Easter Show ribbons.

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Luke Newbold is a master bookbinder, a craftsman taught by his dad who was recognised as one of the best in the trade. David Newbold was a long-term judge of the bookbinding competition at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. As such, father and son agreed that young Luke would not enter to avoid perceptions of bias.

That’s changed this year now his father has passed on. For the first time in his 15 years at the tools Luke entered two volumes for competition and came away with two ribbons: one Third Prize and one Highly Commended.

Philosophically he accepts with good grace being beaten by John Turner, the president of the Bookbinding Craft in NSW and by Ted Chapman, his old TAFE teacher. You can’t say fairer than that.

But now he’s got the taste, he’s determined to go back again.

I’ll keep a close eye on next year’s results.

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It’s not widely known but I am the proud possessor of a t-shirt bearing the image of Stephen Hawking, the great theoretical physicist and author of A Brief History of Time. It was one of the first printed by a Ricoh Ri100 in the company’s showroom at North Ryde. Marvellously quick and simple. I thank Henrik Kraszewski and Dean Edelman for the demo loot.

So why do I mention this now? Kayell is a Ricoh channel partner and has a demonstration model at its North Sydney offices. It’s produced a fascinating business model for any printer looking at buying the direct-to-garment printer.

From $2.50 a print selling 10 t-shirts per day equates to $23,000 per year after all costs, or 10 x polo shirts for $42,000. It reinforces something I’ve always believed, that printing is the manufacturing industry with perhaps the lowest barrier to entry.

According to Andreas Johanson, sales director, Kayell, the printer has a street price around $8000, which includes the heat press. The really simple to operate press prints A4 images on white and he reckons it’s a no brainer. He’s got a great speil for printers supplying tattoo parlours.

Now there’s an idea.

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Mind you, when it comes to low entry barriers, 3D printing is hard to beat. A quick search on Google shows that a basic desktop printer goes from $200 -$900 with a do-it-yourself 3D kit costing $200 -$600 and an advanced desktop printer at $1200 – $4000.

I suppose the problem is that it takes forever, the results are so dodgy and you can’t expect to sell the output. Besides, it’s not really printing, is it?

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One week to go to International Print Day and it’s good to see at least one local organisation is organising an event. The LIA in Queensland is inviting industry professionals to come together on Wednesday 17 October at 5.00 pm to mark the occasion.

Printers are urged to bring along print samples that demonstrate the value of printing. A showcase will highlight the best of local printing production.

Drinks and nibbles are provided, of course and importantly it gives everyone a chance to catch-up and network with industry colleagues.

It’s on at Ricoh’s offices, 450 Thompson Street, Bowen Hills.

RSVP by Friday is essential as numbers are limited.

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And finally…

“Do you want to hear a good Batman impression?” asked my mate Dave.

“Go on then,” I said.

“NOT THE KRYPTONITE!” he screamed.

“That’s Superman,” I said.

“Thanks, I’ve been practising.”.

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