One Tank Trip

One Tank Trip: Printing Press at Kutztown Folk Festival

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - About halfway in and around the corner look for this sign as it marks the spot where you'll find Alan Runfeldt who was lucky enough to find something he loved and turn it into a career.

"And lucky for me because now I'm a very busy guy fixing old printing presses that when I was a kid were considered scrap," he said.

Alan's dream was to publish a newspaper but the printing press he had was too small so he started printing cards and tickets...letterpress.

Seven years later, he still has his own print shop and this week you'll find him working on the two printing presses here at the Kutztown Folk Festival. A new tent this year, it's an offshoot of a current exhibit at the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem that tells the story of the printing press.

Alan and friend and fellow printer Barry Mueller work the booth and both fell in love with printing when they were just kids. Barry was 11 the first time he made a print, his brother owned a small print shop.

"It's very satisfying and still is and I think that's one of the lures of the craft that you are satisfied with what you produce," Mueller said.

At the folk festival, you can print your own souvenir, a Go Dutch coaster. See the words pressed on paper. Letterpress printing is the oldest form of printing. Known as relief printing, a raised image is inked and pressed onto paper. There's a beauty in the simplicity of it.

"Here I'll give you my card, you can feel it. If you rub your fingers across the letterpress printed piece you will feel the indentation where your letters were," Alan said.

Manpower makes these old presses work. The smaller of the two is a rare Daughaday table top press from 1874. The bigger one was built around 1914.. Barry says you can tell how old it is by the size of the wheel.

You have to feed the paper in manually, sheet by sheet so it's slow going. It's a business that for awhile had fallen out of favor, with people relying on computer generated print. Then, according to Alan, came Martha Stewart and a declaration that letterpress was the new engraving.

"Absolute resurgence. In fact, I tell my friends instead of being an old has-been printer, now i'm a guru," Alan said.

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