Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Moving A Print Shop -- Oh, No!

Have you ever done something you hope you’ll never have to do again? Moving a print shop is like that. As my husband and I plan the cross-country move of our print shop from Missouri to Wisconsin, we are dreading it. Transporting a print shop is not for the faint of heart. It takes a sturdy soul to haul tons of metal type and cast iron machinery across the country.

Nineteen years ago my husband and I moved my father’s print shop from Wisconsin to St. Louis. Dad’s basement print shop was average in size, but jam-packed. Every nook and cranny held more boxes of stuff, especially type from the Duluth print shop Dad had bought out a decade ago. We hauled goodies out of that print shop until we were ready to drop.

It took two U-Haul trucks, both grossly overloaded, to handle all the type, machinery, paper, cuts, leads and slugs, and miscellaneous. On one of the runs we hit a torrential rainstorm, worrisome since the truck had been unevenly loaded and one side rode five inches below the other! Thankfully we made it safely, and to our great relief some printing friends showed up to help us unload the truck.

Getting the print shop installed in our basement took several weeks. The garage became our staging area. Each type case had to be hauled downstairs individually. The presses and cutter had been taken apart to make them easier to move, but were still unbelievable heavy. I remember dragging Chandler and Price press pieces down the basement steps. It was like hefting brontosaurus bones!

Gradually our St. Louis print shop assumed its current shape. But my husband and I never forgot the ordeal of moving. Over the past nineteen years, we’ve made conscious efforts to reduce the tonnage of the shop. At just about every printers’ gathering we’ve pushed out huge quantities of heavy types like Cheltenham Bold and Franklin Gothic, peddling them for little fonts of old display faces. We’ve sold paper piled high on hand trucks, excess leads, slugs and galleys, and small machinery. We’ve recycled junk type to our local area type founders. The 1100+ fonts we brought to St. Louis now number about 900. Still, there’s more than a ton of print shop to move. Good grief!

Now piles of type cases are stacking up in our garage as we prepare for the big move. Since we’re now nineteen years older, we’ll be hiring help. No sense throwing your back out and hardly being able to walk! But we’ll be doing some of the work ourselves, too. And the ever-useful garage is acting as our staging area again.

We are excited about our new Wisconsin printery, but will be ever so relieved once the heavy stuff has been hauled in and we’re settled again. Moving a print shop ― it’s certainly not for wimps!


  1. Moving a print shop is certainly not for whimps is an understatement. I don't envy what you have to move--just moving in general is a huge ordeal. Sending waves of love for a safe and easy journey.

  2. Moving a print shop FROM a basement is certainly not for wimps. Best of luck in getting everything relocated.

  3. Thank you for your good wishes, everyone -- we will need them as the multiple tons of our printshop are moved. No light undertaking! (unintentional pun)