In 2008, I started a little company named Brown Dog Paper, with the goal of creating witty, pretty greetings and prints on my newly acquired century-old Chandler & Price press. Since then, Brown Dog Paper has grown, welcomed more equipment into the family, and branched out into other products. Creating custom social stationery and teaching classes became a passion, and after moving shops in 2014, it felt like it was time to reinvent and “grow up” as a serious press shop.
During the move, the flywheel of that very same Chandler & Price press was broken. Cast iron is brittle, so this can happen fairly easily, but it broke my heart that I was responsible for damaging a press that had survived 100 years without injury. Being my very first press, I felt anxious about getting it repaired, and rightly so. See, there is a high concentration of carbon in cast iron, as much as 10 times the carbon content of tool steel. This makes cast iron incredibly sensitive to heat since it cannot bend or stretch and will instead crack to relieve heat stress. So repairing my press was going to be tricky. The process involved painstakingly heating the metal before welding and cooling it very slowly after welding to prevent the weld metal from shrinking and the surrounding cast iron from hardening too much or cracking. A great welder is worth every penny.
After the weld was complete, a fresh coat of black paint completely erased any visible damage, but that weld was now harder and stronger than the surrounding metal. That idea has stayed with me. Things, like people, can be damaged. But they can also be repaired, and they can come out stronger for the experience. I love printing and I love these old cast iron beauties, so you could say I have it in my heart. Iron Heart Press is all about recognizing the beauty of old, broken things and all of their potential to be made whole. And, of course, about printing rad shit.