Castle Rock printing business is music to its owner’s earsIt was the sound that first attracted Scott Engen to letterpress printing. In a world filled with electronic beeps and whines and whirrs, he liked the locomotive chugga-chugga the big metal machines made while they worked.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
It was the sound that first attracted Scott Engen to letterpress printing. In a world filled with electronic beeps and whines and whirrs, he liked the locomotive chugga-chugga the big metal machines made while they worked.
Engen was living in Colorado at the time, having followed some friends from Minnesota to Denver. He was working in a print shop. The owner, who had hired Engen because another Minnesota native had turned out to be a hard worker, gave him a chance on the press.
“He gave me the opportunity to hang myself and the opportunity to prove what I could do,” Engen said.
The rope Engen’s boss gave him never went tight, and Engen continued to work with letterpress after he moved back to Minnesota. Since 2002, he has run The Letterpress Workshop from a garage he built specially for the business at his Castle Rock home. Before the move he operated from rented space in Northfield.
Engen runs several presses. He does printing, die cutting, embossing and foil stamping, mostly for other printers who don’t have letterpress capabilities. He uses the presses to cut envelopes for a customer who sells them online and to print greeting cards for another company. He makes a lot of pocket folders.
In some ways, walking into the Letterpress Workshop is like taking a step back in time. Some of the presses Engen runs date back to the mid-1950s. They’re large and metallic and made up of parts that whirr and spin. They move with a steady rhythm, parts swinging in and out or up and down to create the finished products.
The presses are less efficient than modern digital printing methods, but Engen likes the hands-on nature of the business. He has shelves full of dies he uses on a regular basis, but for embossing – pressing an image into a sheet of paper — he has to cut the stamp himself with an X-acto knife.
“It’s creative. It’s not all cut and dried,” he said.
It’s also coming back into style. At a time when digital technology makes it easier than ever to create and print slick images, people seem to be rediscovering the pleasure of letterpress printing on quality paper.
The letterpress images have a tactile quality other printing doesn’t, Engen said. Because the press pushes into the paper, there are ridges and valleys that feel good under the fingers.
Engen has a son who is studying art in college, and he and his friends are all getting interested in letterpress.
Letterpress work can stand out in a number of ways. Engen’s own business card is embossed and foil stamped and features a fold-out easel on the back that allows it to stand up.
“Letterpress is becoming more in vogue lately,” Engen said. “A lot of people want it for their wedding invitations.”
And, of course, there’s the sound. Engen’s workshop can get loud if he has several presses running at once, but he still enjoys noise. His son sometimes comes to do homework in the shop, and he’ll ask Engen if he has a job he can run while he works.
“There isn’t anything else like them,” Engen said.