Custom printed cards, leaflets, or invitations

Item Name & Description: I will pull up to 500 impressions of a design of the winner’s choice on a nineteenth century Chandler and Price hand-fed hand-set moveable type letterpress. I will pay for paper, ink, shop use fees, and shipping to anywhere the US Postal Service can deliver to, and am donating my time, skill, and training to print.

Starting Bid: $15


Have some FAQs:

What does hand-fed mean? What it says on the tin. My hand gently reaches in between two moving blocks of cast iron, which generate 40 tons of force on impact, to snatch away a printed sheet of paper and place the next sheet to be printed. Yes, it’s dangerous, no I have never had an accident in twelve years of operating the press, and yes I have insurance :)

What does hand-set mean? I select the type, letter by letter, from a giant tray containing thousands of pieces of type, to compose the text of your design.

What does moveable type mean? The words on the paper are produced by applying ink to individual blocks of lead, and then applying the inky type to the paper. In practical terms, this means you are limited to the fonts, sizes, and styles we have in the shop. We have at least a dozen fonts, including Typo Script, Wedding Text, Garamond, Caslon, News Gothic, Century Schoolbook, and Cloister, in a variety of sizes from 6pt to 24pt.

How big a card am I willing to make? That depends entirely on how high bidding goes.

Less than $25 — I will print one side of a standard business card, in one color.

$25-$50 — Two sides of a business card, or one side in two colors, or something A7 sized.

$50-75 — Three colors on a business card or one color/one side on a 5-baronial enclosure (roughly A6 size)

$75-125 — Four colors on a business card, two colors or two sides on a 5-baronial enclosure, or one color on a Lee or A5 or similar size.

Should bidding go above $125 the size and number of setups/colors I’m willing to do will increase. The largest size paper that will fit in the press is US letter size.

When will the job be finished? That depends in part on the size of the job. I’ve reserved the printing shop for Mar 2. If you have your design ready by then and it’s small enough to be printed in one day, I can mail it on Mar 4. If the job is big it might take several sessions to print; if you want a color of ink we don’t have in stock we’ll have to wait for it to arrive, etc etc. I pledge to stay in communication with the winner, give clear estimates of the schedule with reasons for any delays, and deliver the job within at worst six months of getting the final layout from the winner.

Wayaminnit. Why are you asking for a bigger donation for more colors? Because only one color can be printed at a time. (Yes, for the pedants in the room, there are exceptions to that, but that’s generally not what people mean when they ask for more than one color). For each color I need to set type, lock up type, ink the press, hand-feed 500 sheets of paper, and clean the press. That process takes anywhere from 2-12 hours, depending on how many letters need to be set, how sticky the ink is (varies by color), how cantankerous the font is (varies mostly by amount of wear on the font), and a zillion other variables.

What about pictures? You can have blocks of metal machined to produce the image you want. However, this is a time and money consuming process. I’m happy to refer you to a print shop that will machine your image (called a “cut” in print making parlance) for a fee, and wait to start your job until after I’ve received the cut from the machinist.

I do have a selection of wingdings you may choose from for your design.

Does my design have to all be in the same font? Nope! You can choose as many fonts, styles, and sizes as you like (within, of course, the limit of what I have available to work with).

These cards will NOT be embossed Some professional artisanal printing shops offer embossing — where the surface of the paper is crushed by the weight of the type. The shops that offer it are generally working with wood or copper type, or use custom engraved male and female dies to produce it. My shop uses lead type.

What are the properties of lead? Aside from causing brain damage and being a poor conductor of electricity, lead is also very very soft. Recall I said the press can generate up to 40 pounds of force? That much force can and will ruin the surface of the lead type, destroying it forever, if applied incorrectly.

More importantly, in the era before laser printing, embossed printing was seen as sloppy, lazy, or inexperienced pressmanship. Some people have the notion that embossed prints are more authentic or more classy than non-embossed prints. Those people are wrong: it’s not more authentic and it’s only classier if you are going for contemporary affectations.

Bidding opens on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time and closes Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. More Information.


  1. I wanted to get scans of jobs I’ve done in the past before I posted this, but there’s a blizzard going on in my town that’s going to prevent me from visiting the shop after work tonight. I’ll update with images as soon as I can.

  2. Congratulations Mara! Please email me at at gmail dot com to discuss your project!

  3. Since bidding was fast and furious for a while, the other bidders may contact me about a *small* print run (one 5-bar enclosure or smaller, one color) in exchange for a donation to con or bust, please do. I can’t promise to be able to start it until June, but if you’re willing to wait that long.

This is an archive view of Con or Bust's 2013-2016 auctions and posts. For the 2017 auction, to request assistance, and other current information, please see Con or Bust's main site.