I believe that I’ve finally crossed the midlife threshold if my newfound love for vintage things is anything to go by. As a kid, nay, even as a young adult, the thought of willingly sacrificing my personal time to peruse the local antique shops and vintage markets would have been cause for concern, and nowadays I can’t get enough of it. An unexplored side-effect of COVID perhaps? Who knows. One thing’s for sure: It makes for some killer restoration projects!
Why a book press?
My hobbies are a bit like a wildfire, with one just continuously sparking the start of another. Now that I’ve really gotten into knife making and started producing some pieces that I’m totally in love with, I’m trying to optimize some of the more tedious and time-consuming parts of the trade. One such item is the fabrication of composite liners and scales. Up until now, this had me squashing my little wet epoxy blob between two 18mm MSF panels covered in cling wrap and fitting a collection of 4 F-clamps onto it while trying my very best not to move them from side to side and ruin the product in the process.
You might ask “But Martin, these things are a dime a dozen. Why don’t you just buy some?!” to which I say “Don’t come here with your entirely-reasonable shortcuts, damn you!” 😛 It’s handmade knifes. Hand-MADE, and by golly I will make every piece of it by hand!
My current method clearly leaves something to be desired though, and so the other day while perusing my local classifieds I came upon an old book press. My first thought was “This thing would make a great restoration project“. My second thought was “This thing could probably also make DIY-carta life a lot easier“.
Unfortunately, it was forty-seven billion Yen or something ridiculous that I could not justify, but the thought intrigued me nonetheless and I set a little reminder to keep an eye on those ads.
Fast forward a few weeks and lo and behold, a SEVERELY neglected one shows up for a mere couple of bucks, to which I promptly responded with a “Pick meeee!“
The Winning Bid
Ah, just look at her… Actually, don’t look at her. She’s a bit rough around the edges. But thankfully I have a can of WD40, a MAPP torch and a keen eye for potential.
First things first, the rust obviously had to go. And boy, were there loads of it. Rust upon rust. Rust as far as the eye could see, interrupted only by patches of 19-th century London’s finest lead-based paint. Initially I fully intended on using the rust converter I had in the garage but the combination of being in a hurry (never, ever a good thing) and not having 48 years to wait for oil-based paints to dry afterwards, I decided on a slightly more aggressive method: Ye Olde Angle Grinder with a Twisted Wire Brush! Huzzah!
Naturally, this would require me to actually be able to reach all of the rusted bits following a gruelling process of disassembly, as this thing was completely seized up when I collected it.
Once the metal lay bare as a newborn babe, it was onto the paint job. I started off with two layers of self-etching satin black, followed by a layer of acrylic high gloss clear. I wanted that deep lustre that was only afforded to the most discerning of 19th century postal workers. I also took the liberty of applying gold accents very sparingly, as to indicate “ye probably can’t afford this” rather than “the souls of the knights of the holy grail shall haunt thee for eternity“. Finally, any small iron fittings were “derustified” and then given a cold blue.
I jokingly told a friend in the hours leading up to the completion of the press that it was the nightmare that never ends. This was purely because I had SO little time to work on it between work and everything else that’s going on that it caused me to rush, and in rushing I made several costly mistakes that in the end marred what would otherwise have been a perfect specimen.
But thankfully, it survived, fully functional and ready to serve as my new knife making companion. That is, until I sell it to fund a leg vice!
Peace out homies!