Back in February, I got a phone call from a friend urging me to contact someone who was giving away three letterpresses. The presses were located in a burned out shell of a building that was formerly the Big Heart Times / Barnsdall Times. We talked with Louise Red Corn, the owner of the building and newspaper, and after a few phone calls and a slew of texts, she said she wanted to give them to us for The Workshop. On a snowy day, Thom and I took the beautiful drive to Barnsdall to see the presses and figure out some logistics of getting them to Tulsa. I took a million photos on the drive, but neglected to take many inside of the building because I was pretty anxious that the building was going to collapse on us or something. I haven’t spent a lot of time in buildings that have been destroyed by fire, so the idea of it made me pretty nervous. We met one of Louise’s friends at the building who just happens to specialize in moving oilfield equipment and he offered to help us get the presses to Tulsa.
It was almost a month before we were actually able to get the presses moved because the rainy weather made the building and surrounding lot swampy and to move something that is nearly 2000 pounds, it requires some solid ground. Finally, last weekend, we were able to get them to Tulsa. The husband and our friend Rhys drove to Barnsdall to assist Curtis, a godsend who had the equipment to move the presses, in loading them up and getting them onto the trailer for the drive to Tulsa. Thom texted me a few times throughout the morning, updating me on the progress. He sent one text that just said “So, yeah….” with a devastating photo of the Kluge press on it’s side from the pallet it was on crumbling.
I was pretty apprehensive about the Kluge because it’s so much bigger and I’m not as familiar with it as the Chandler & Price presses, so of the three presses to lose, this one was the one I was least attached to, but still…. So sad.
Fortunately, the other two presses loaded up just fine. I’d spent the day at the The Workshop preparing the space for them and waiting for our forklift rental to arrive. Here’s what it looked like when the presses arrived!
My dear friend Rachel Ann of OK Lovely came by to give us her advice on adding skids to the presses to make them easier to move in the future. I’m so grateful for this lady sharing her knowledge and helping us out so much with the move! She’s amazing! While they were chained to the forklift and hoisted in the air, we added skids using 4x4s and lag bolts and our awesome new friend Curtis drove them into our space on the forklift. Sadly, the Kluge was dropped off at the scrapyard because it was beyond repair.
So, now the two Chandler & Price presses are set in place for us to begin the cleaning and restoration process. We expect it to take about six months. For sitting idle and then being in a fire, they really aren’t in bad condition, they just need some baby-ing and care. Thom and I have been watching tons of videos, reading for hours on the best methods for cleaning and care, and are starting this week on oiling both presses.
There have been many little things that have happened that have made the process of acquiring the presses just so serendipitous that we have to share. We found out a year or so ago that the space that houses the Workshop used to be a printing studio… we learned that because a lady came in the shop and said she had just wanted to see what the space was because she grew up with her family running the printshop and she used to help her father set the type for the presses. Then, when Thom mentioned to our friend Rhys something about getting the presses, it turned out that they were THE presses that Rhys’ mother had grown up around. He brought his mom up to the shop the day after we moved the presses in to surprise her and it was a heartwarming moment for us all! In fact, I believe you’ll be able to read about it in the Big Heart Times someday soon because Louise met us there and interviewed her about her time and memories with the presses. Rhys also wrote a great post about that whole experience as well, which you can read here. There have been so many little coincidences regarding these presses that we just feel like they were meant to be with us. And we can’t wait to share them with Tulsa’s community of makers!
We’re planning to blog throughout the process and we’d love to show you the presses if you stop by the Workshop at Made!