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Continuing to stick to the beauty of unevenness and leaving the printing culture to the future [Tsukiji Printing]

凹凸の美にこだわり続け活字文化を未来に残す[築地活字]

Manufacturing
Making things
Takumi landscape

The site of this issue
[Category] Type casting craftsman
[Takumi name] Tsukiji print Omatsu first line
[Place] Minami-ku, Yokohama

Carefully, carefully and with all your thoughts.
A corner that introduces manufacturing sites that make use of handicrafts.
This time, letterpress printing, which once supported Japanese printing culture
Introducing the world of. Even in the modern age of digitalization
To "Tsukiji print" which attracts support from many customers.

A worn-out wooden shelf called the "print room". There are more than 250,000 metal characters such as Chinese characters, Hiragana, and the alphabet. This is "Tsukiji Koji", which was founded in 1919 (Taisho 18). It is the type casting machine that makes a loud mechanical noise in the back of the store. The raw material (ingot) melted in a kettle with a temperature of 350 to 400 degrees flows into a concave master mold installed in advance in the casting machine, and appears as a convex type while being cooled by tap water. .. Mr. Omatsu, who has been working here as a foundry since 19 years old, is now 73 years old. Occasionally slide down the glasses and look into the magnifying glass to check the freshly made type. This polite and high-quality work, which has been going on for more than 50 years, still conveys the charm of letterpress to us.


Immediately from "Yoshinocho Station" on the Yokohama City Subway Blue Line. There is "Tsukiji print" along the Nakamura river that branches off from the Ooka river. When you open the door, you can hear the rattling noise of the machine and the unique smell of burning oil. The sound and smell are the type casting machines lined up in the back of the room, and Mr. Omatsu, a craftsman, keeps an eye on the movement of the machine.

This time, we had the opportunity to hear from Mr. Kiichi Hirako, who will take over the type casting and letterpress printing as the fifth generation of "Tsukiji type".


"There was an unforgettable word that my father used to say,'The letters in the old newspaper are less tiring than the letters in the current newspaper. It's printed from the unevenness of the letters in the typography. The subtle difference in color depth on the surface makes me rest my eyes. ”I am now strongly aware of that word. Therefore, in the modern society where digital printing is advancing, I dare to be“ heavy ”. I feel that it is our mission to send the craftsmanship of typographic printing to the world as an unmistakable real thing, "says Heiko.

With Mr. Heiko's guidance, I will show you various "tools" and "techniques" related to letterpress printing that have been alive for a long time.


This is the so-called "mother mold dance" that contains the "mother mold" that is an indispensable mold for making prints. When you open the drawer, the brass mother molds are lined up. It is said that "Tsukiji Koji" stores more than 250,000 character types, but now that there are no more craftsmen to make those mothers, what is stored here is called a very valuable "treasure". That's why.

A precious brass mother mold is also stored in this "mother mold safe".


When the raw material ingot melted by heat is poured into this concave part, it is created as a convex type.

Next, I showed you the so-called "type room", which contains the type created by the foundry craftsman, Mr. Omatsu.


Why are the shelves stored diagonally? When I asked Mr. Heiko, "The shelves with the type are stored diagonally as an earthquake countermeasure. The type is hard to pop out even in the event of an earthquake because it is designed in a very well-balanced state. It's a style that has been passed down from generation to generation. " In addition, there are various ways of arranging the type depending on the printing company, and here in "Tsukiji type", the type is arranged in the order of the encyclopedia.


This is the smallest 4-point type shelf among the types that match "Tsukiji type". I've lost the job of making such prints.

Next, I would like to take a look at the workplace of Mr. Omatsu, a craftsman who operates a type casting machine.


Bullion, which is the raw material for printing. The material is 83% lead, the rest is 15% antimony and 2% tin.

In the type casting machine, the kettle is heated to 350 to 400 degrees Celsius to melt the above-mentioned ingot and make it liquid.


The liquefied bullion is accumulated in the center.

Mr. Omatsu stands by the casting machine where the sweltering heat rises and continues to work while watching the state of the kettle for a long time.

Put the stick in the pot in which the bullion is melted, and check the "feel" such as the specific gravity of the material.


The bullion melted in the kettle is then poured into a concave master mold.


The bullion that flows into the concave mother mold is created as a convex type while being cooled by tap water (on the photo).


The detailed work of checking the completed small type with a magnifying glass continues. This small type is useless once it falls to the floor. This is because a small scratch can spoil the beauty of the type.


Since there is a danger of steam explosion due to contact with water, it is said that the Fire Service Act requires that an exhaust duct be installed above the casting machine.

And from here, Mr. Heiko will teach you the simple flow of letterpress printing. First, select the type in the "type room" according to the prepared manuscript, and put them in the "text selection box". After that, while adjusting the spacing between letters, I put it in a metal frame called "chase" to make a plate, but this is quite difficult. Not only handicrafts, but also craftsmanship called "connoisseurs", such as the exquisite use of space between letters and lines, is required.


Finally, attach the "chase" to the printing machine with rollers, set the ink and paper, and print → complete.

"Tsukiji type" also sells "type holders" that have been developed so that you can feel the beautiful type of letterpress printing more closely and use it for various purposes. “I want you to experience the joy of printing by yourself with this“ small tool ”,” says Heiko.

As an aside, I thought that the appeal of letterpress printing was the deep unevenness (the back side was bumpy) as if it was engraved on paper, but "It has been said that craftsmen who are too strong in letterpress printing are not good for a long time. The best part of my skill is how to express beautiful unevenness on the front side, not show through, and not change the expression of the paper on the back side. " I heard a lot of profound stories.


When I receive a letterpress business card at work, I inadvertently pick it up and stare at it. I found out the reason again today. It's a business card, but it's a small square paper that fits in the palm of your hand, and the craftsmanship and thoughts that have been passed down for a long time are engraved on it. How about incorporating letterpress printing into New Year's cards in the future, not to mention business cards? The person who picks it up is fascinated by the beauty of the letters and wants to gently touch it with their fingers ... Such a New Year's card.

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