David Wolfe

WORKSPACE-November + December 2009
Photograph by Meggan Gould

David Wolfe prints books, portfolios, and stationery by hand. His 2,000-square-foot studio, inside a former bakery on Pleasant Street, is filled with composition machines, paper cutters, racks of fonts, a Washington hand press, a Golding and Heidelberg letterpress, and two Vandercook proofing presses.


(floor) The whole place smells like oilbased inks. “People who are into letterpress printing walk in and say, ‘Oh, I love that smell,’” Wolfe says. “I’m in here all the time. I don’t smell anything.”

(press) Wolfe primarily prints on a Vandercook proof press. The machine was originally designed to print sample pages by hand before blocks of metal type were sent to mechanical presses for large runs, but he cranks out finished pieces on the Vandercook. “It’s a hand press,” he says. “I print one sheet at a time.

(book) Wolfe also makes woodcuts, and he has been looking at this book of title pages to find a suitable font to hand-cut for a poster publicizing an upcoming show at the Tides Institute with David Moses Bridges.

(workstation) The slant-top workstation allows a printer to stand and pull letters from trays without the heavy drawers falling over and scattering letters all over the floor. Each drawer, or job case, has 89 sections. The sections are organized by how often printers pulled certain letters. “You find these cases at lots of antique places,” Wolfe says. “Most people don’t use them for type. They fill them with tchotchkes.”

(catalogs) The wall has a type specimen sheet, an ink roller, a catalog of Wolfe’s woodblock type, a bed plate, prints, and composing sticks.

(frames) Wolfe keeps a bunch of fishing rods on top of these wooden, Japanesestyle screens. Every inch of his studio has something in it. “This kind of printing comes from the height of the mechanical age, when space was cheap. It was a very efficient system for its time. It just took up a lot of space. That’s why it looks so crowded in here. It’s a space-intensive system. Now, this whole print shop could come out of a laptop.”

61 Pleasant St. | Portland | 207.871.1488

Share The Inspiration