How to Create Your Own Money-Making Mint! Read how Black Daffodil Press is doing it right now… Part 1

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I had this crazy idea to design and print a bank note. How hard can it be?

Quite hard, actually.

I ain’t no numismatist but I have always liked printed ephemera and a bank note seemed like an honourable addition to the oeuvre of Black Daffodil Press. I have issued a competition around the design of the One-X note so will not be discussing it in any detail until I decide to close the competition, but in the meantime I can at least discuss the printing methods.

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Yet again, I would not necessarily recommend my own methods, but I tend to work very intuitively and sometimes just start doing things before I have sufficiently considered the practicalities of it.

The first unwise / wise move was to lay out the design with Keynote. Yes, that’s right, Apple’s Mac-only presentation software. Why do that?

I am fully aware that I would probably be better off using a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop but Keynote is actually very intuitive, responsive and has a number of features that allow you to produce high quality graphics very easily.

It also has some major disadvantages, the most grievous of which is lack of layer control, which makes complex, multi-layered graphics a challenge to work with. Whatever, I like Keynote and I use it a lot for simple editing of graphics and preparing online slides.

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Having installed a continuous ink supply system (CISS) in my A4 Epson Stylus Photo RX585 I decided do the printing on that. The CISS is demonstrably very cheap to run and I decided to print onto basic 80gsm inkjet paper which is satisfyingly crinkly once printed both sides. I debated about printing onto A6 paper which would only require me to trim one side, but this would require edge-to-edge printing which is significantly slower on the RX585, so I decided to print three per A4 and trim all sides. On standard quality this made printing very fast and the quality of the first batch was very good.

After my first batch of about 600 notes, I decided to print the same again so that I would have over 1,000 with some spares. Having not used the printer in-between for a few weeks after the first batch it needed more ink and head-cleaning, and the next few days could be described in two words: IN SANE. I’ll spare you the detail and all the swearing, suffice to say I used an alarming amount of ink on more head cleans than I care to remember. The ink is very cheap (from Coralgraph), less than £5 for a set of 6x100ml bottles, but what really drives me to distraction is the amount of time it takes and the knowledge that the printer will register a critical number of head cleans once it thinks the waste ink tank is getting full. Which it will be. Another thing that pushed me a little closer to the edge was that, despite cleaning all the pipes out with printer cleaning fluid (from Printhead Hospital), each time I reinstalled the CISS and flushed out the air gaps, different colours were not printing correctly. AAAAAAARGH!

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The ink tanks were full before I started and it was still not printing satisfactorily.

Again, I can’t really complain because it is printer-hacking, but it’s monumentally frustrating. The advantage of using domestic grade equipment is that it can be very cheap,  but the problem is that these things are not designed to be user-maintained and they either work or they don’t, and there’s not much you can do about it. (I have got the printer working since, but more about that in a later post).

Anyway, after an uncounted number of head cleans I decided to just go ahead and print another batch, complete with patches and smears. The overprints you see here are test sheets I printed and, quite perversely, I really like the spoils too, although I was trying to make them as perfectly as I could.

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Obverse and reverse of the New Bank of X One-X note, showing crop marks.

But here’s the crux. I had to keep reminding myself that it’s not real. It’s just a stunt. Actually it’s not JUST a stunt, it’s an exceptional stunt, but the reason for printing so many is to give it some physical presence, some inferred authenticity. Having decided to make a suitcase full, I liked the idea so much that nothing else would do, so I decided to just blunder ahead and print enough for my purpose regardless of the faults.

So, here is the stash. This was shown as part of Bloc Studios’ Spring Fete in Sheffield, UK.

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There is more to say about the printing but I think that’s enough for now. Part 2 soon…

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New publications available at Black Daffodil Press

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My popup shop, not fully popped up at Access Space, Sheffield, UK.

Phew! It’s been a busy few weeks, but highly productive, and I have a number of new publications both in print and online. Links & short descriptions on the “Publications” page (above).

Despite being a very simple format, the first issue of “Catalogue” has been a major headache to produce. I’ll write more about that later, but for now I’m just glad to get it out there. I started writing a catalogue of my work in single word-processing documents, in no particular order, just to make a start on it, and here is Issue 01, laid out to be reminiscent of the Exchange & Mart.

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After my launch event at Access Space, Sheffield, UK, I started to accumulate forthcoming events and I have created a traditionally-styled “What’s On” leaflet which will get filled as I go along. There will be a print version, occasionally, but please keep and eye on the online version which will be updated regularly.

I have made more Retrospective flyers and gathered them into packs and these can be viewed online, bought from my peripatetic pop-up shop, and eventually bought from my online shop, coming later this year. There are online versions, but the paper versions have extra bells and whistles.

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Why, oh why, oh why, oh why? DIY or Do I Dye? – more inkjet printer trials and tribulations

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An head-alignment test print from my Canon Pixma ix6550, but I’m not sure what those black blobs are for.

 or The pigmented black of middle-class Hell – Cantos V – VIII

After an unplanned hiatus, I’m back in the printing business. Strictly for the enthusiasts, here are some the details of my recent shenanigans, with more to follow.

Despite the problems I had with all my printers just before the Sheffield Zine Fest, it was a great success for me, although I was still assembling my stuff as the fair was opening. The only thing I failed to get done at all was issue 01 of “Catalogue”, a new multi-part publication from Black Daffodil Press, comprising the catalogue entries for my retrospective, and designed to be reminiscent of the Exchange & Mart, but more about that in a later post.

Canto V

Anyway, the Brother MFC-J6510DW had to go back to Amazon and they handled it all with no fuss. Mind you, I had tried absolutely everything I could to keep it running myself. I’ll not bore you with (much) detail about the decision-making, but after much deliberation I decided to replace it with a Canon Pixma ix6550, which cost more and is not an all-in-one. The only thing I will miss about the 6510 is the A3 scanner.

Whilst it seemed like a good thing to have a proper paper tray, the build quality on the 6510 was very plasticky and there was a lot of fiddling to be done to adjust the tray to and from A4 / A3. It survived the 3 month’s use I gave it, but with the amount of swapping I was doing, it was bound to fail sooner or later. Removable paper trays might seem better, and they probably are in high-volume environments using the same paper size, in practice slot-loading is much more convenient, faster and less prone to wear and tear, especially if you are doing a lot of two-sided printing. This problem was exacerbated by the 6510’s paper feed problems and the fact that I had to keep reloading the paper to print the other side because the duplex mode would not print borderless.

Why?

Canto VI

After a lot of googling and comparing reviews and running costs, the other printer I considered was the HP Officejet 7000, which is also a printer-only, but what swayed me in the end was the generally good reviews of the ix6550 and the low price of compatible cartridges. Both these printers also have continuous ink supply systems (CISS) available for them from third-party suppliers. The Canon cartridges seemed very small when I first installed them, but I am still using the included set and I have already done a lot of test printing. I’ll keep you informed on running costs.

I only got the ix6550 last week so I still have to get used to it, but already I have discovered some very strange features, conceived in the unknowable mind of a Japanese corporation.

The ix6550 is a five-ink printer: cyan, magenta, yellow, dye-black and pigment-black. The pigment black gives a much deeper BLACK than the dye black, and it’s there to print good quality text, but it looks a bit too black against the CMY when printing graphics. What’s more, when printing borderless it uses the dye black and when printing non-borderless it uses the pigment black, but with no warning and no discernible choice on the part of the user.

Why?

Canto VII

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Delivery driver: “Canon printer, eh? Epsoms are best, you know.”
Me: “Err… well….”
Delivery driver: “Full set of Epsom inks for six quid.”
Me: “Okay, thank you.”

Why?

Maybe he was trying to distract me from the damage to the box.

Canto VIII

The first thing I did, of course, is to print something I am familiar with in order to compare it with what I am used to, and immediately the colour looked wrong. Much as I am fully committed to the DIY spirit, I am also a finnicky visual artist and I notice such things. After numerous prints with a downloaded colour test chart, I could detect no difference when using the adjustment sliders in the Canon colour adjustment printer driver settings.

The driver software is far superior to the Brother software, and at least it has a good range of utility functions, but the colour adjustments that have no discernible effect.

Why?

Anyway, alternate fiddling with Apple’s ColorSync revealed a range of other Canon colour profiles which only make marginal difference. I have had a degree of success matching colour profiles and paper stocks, but this particular circle of Hell has not been fully traversed. Despite my moaning, the ix6550 looks very promising and I will post more about colour correction when I’ve corrected it.

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The rainbow-stained circles of middle-class Hell – Cantos I – IV

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Don’t try this at home.

Well, do, but at your own risk. No really, what I describe here will seriously invalidate your warranties.

Canto I

Having waxed lyrical about the pros of inkjet printers, my experience over the last two weeks has been a sobering reminder of the cons. The A3 duplex Brother MFC-J6510DW seemed fine at first, but I had growing problems with it feeding multiple pages and creating an unsatisfactory number of spoiled prints. The print count was only about 3.5k when it got to the stage where I couldn’t get a single full page from it without big gaps in the ink. Even immediately after a head-clean cycle.

No matter what I tried, nothing worked and I had to give up on it. Amazon were very accommodating, despite it being well after the 30 day return deadline, so it is going back. I’m more than a little disappointed because it showed great promise despite the print quality being only mediocre. That was fine for the purpose I bought it for, non-photo low-cost DIY print, but it just didn’t hold up.

The tri-lemma I have now is whether to get another one the same, or similar Brother printer, or to start from scratch with a different brand.

Canto II

No worries, in the meantime I can use my backup A3 printer. An old Epson Stylus 1160 that is at least 12 years old. It’s hardly been used for a number of years and I didn’t expect it to work reliably without a bit of attention. It doesn’t print borderless and it’s pretty slow, but at least I can print some copies of my “Catalogue” Issue 01, which does not require photo quality or edge-to-edge printing.

Unfortunately, I think I gave it a bit too much attention, and after multiple head-clean cycles it just stopped working altogether and is displaying a line of four flashing LEDs which, according to the service manual that I managed to find online, means it needs a proper service because it’s probably registered a critical number of head cleans. Doh!

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Debris from my unsuccessful attempts to resurrect my Epson Stylus Color 1160.

Now it’s just sitting there, flashing at me. So here’s the middle-class hell. I hate the thought of giving up on it, or just binning it, but it’s probably going to cost me £50-ish just to have it looked at, and it might not even be repairable. If it is fixable, it might cost me more than a brand new, superior replacement printer, and that just doesn’t seem right.

Maybe not so much a circle of hell, but purgatory at least.

Canto III

So, this left me with no working inkjet at all, as I had neglected buying spare cartridges for the A4 Epson Photo RX585. Anyway, this prompted me to finally get around to installing the continuous-ink-system (CIS / CISS) that I bought for it in August last year. The RX585 is truly photo-quality but I have hardly used it recently due to its running costs. Genuine Epson inks are eye-wateringly expensive, although excellent, and the third-party ones I had been using made it only tolerably economical.

However, things have moved on, and in the period when I was passing around the dark side of that particular moon, much cheaper options have appeared. I’m not sure how long these CIS systems for domestic printers have been around, but I only got wind of them last summer and took the plunge with one from Coralgraph.com for the meagre price of £26.47. It looks like a rebadged generic import and has a carelessly translated manual. Coralgraph include some extra documentation, written in much more competent English, and installation was trivial apart from one VERY IMPORTANT DETAIL (see below).

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The continuous-ink-system (CIS) from Coralgraph about to be installed in my Epson StylusPhoto RX585.

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Loadsa ink.

At the price, nothing within me expected it to actually work, and it didn’t. At least not at first. Maybe I skimmed the pidgin manual a bit too quickly, or maybe it just wasn’t mentioned there, but Coralgraph’s tech support got back to me very quickly and pointed me at this video which includes the VERY IMPORTANT DETAIL.

The thing I missed was the pushing the levers forward until they make a positive click, despite the cartridge feeling that it was already seated quite positively. When I re-installed it worked straight away and my initial tests are very favourable. The pipes had a lot of air in them on arrival, but a few head cleans visibly sucked this through. The system arrived full of ink and it all looks very promising and economical. The only real downside is that, after installation, the scanner lid does not close fully. Fortunately, the printer works with the scanner lid open and it can be fooled into thinking it is closed by pressing an easily identified switch.

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CIS successfully installed showing trailing ink pipes.

I’ll keep you posted as I print more with it.

Coralgraph also offer refillable chipped cartridges, if you don’t feel inclined to have tubes trailing from your printer, and vendors on Amazon offer very cheap compatible cartridges these days for many printers.
http://www.coralgraph.com/

Anyway, I’m back in business, at least up to A4 borderless & photo printing. A qualified redemption.

Canto IV

My next multi-lemma is which replacement A3 printer to go for. The ones I am considering are the Brother MFC-6510DW (again), the Brother MFC-6910DW (the same but a few bells and whistles including an additional paper tray), the Canon Pixma iX6550 and the HP OfficeJet 7000. All have much cheaper compatible cartridges available, and third-party CIS systems too.

More middle-class Hell to come…

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I see dead inkjets, all the time. (They don’t know they’re dead.)

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Bloody typical, I have a load of print to get ready for the Sheffield Zine Fest and my printer goes on the blink three days before. I hadn’t really left enough time anyway, and as usual I’m over-achieving, so the timing could not be worse.

Like I couldn’t see this coming.

I am a big fan of inkjet printers, but they need managing closely. It goes without saying that I’m using compatible cartridges as, even on the business-oriented Brother MFC-J6510DW that I bought for this very purpose, it’s too expensive to run (for my purposes) on original brand cartridges. Manufacturers are quite correct to say they don’t guarantee the quality or reliability when using third-party supplies, but in my experience it’s normally not a problem.

However, any printer that is used as much as I use mine will need some TLC now and then. I can’t deny that I have neglected the maintenance so far, mainly as it is fairly new, but it started printing badly in a way that was not soluble not matter how many times I ran the built-in cleaning routine. The printer can’t tell it’s not working correctly, it just goes about its business as usual, leaving ghostly blanks in your prints.

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Printhead Hospital to the rescue. I could have easily predicted this, of course, but a bit of panicky googling threw up a number of resources and articles on cleaning fluids, methods and suppliers. Having discovered a recipe including the no-brainer component isopropyl alcohol, it also included other words that I was not so enamoured of, including “ammonia” and “surfactant”.

I ain’t no chemist, and developing recipes involving deadly poisons is not my core activity, so I decided to go for a ready-made solution thanks to Printhead Hospital who offer a complete kit for flushing out a wide range of common inkjet printers, including the line-fed Brother of mine.

Like I’ve said before the 6510 is not fast, but it’s darned cheap to run on compatible cartridges, and this is the real pay-off. If you are only making small quantities of print, want to keep the cost down, and have the time, inkjets are unbeatable. But you must expect them to clog at some point.

In the old days, I printed thousands and thousands of prints on an Apple StyleWriter 2500, and I found that the printhead could be cleaned quite effectively by rubbing it with your finger, and using the widely available solvent commonly known as “tap water”. The line-fed 6510 is another matter because the printhead is fed by tubes running from static ink cartridges and is not accessible in the same way, so pumping solvent through the system is the only effective way of clearing any blockages.

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Delivery was prompt and it seems to have fixed the problem. There is an explanatory video online and the kit includes everything you need, including solvent, syringe, tube, gloves and blotting paper (top).
http://www.printheadhospital.co.uk/index.html

So, all being well I will get my printing done, and I’ll see you at Sheffield Zine Fest in Electric Works on Saturday 16th March 12-5pm.
http://sheffieldzinefest.wordpress.com/exhibitors/

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World (X) Book Day

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Did I mention it’s World (X) Book Day?
http://www.worldbookday.com/
Here is my current reading (some read, some partially read, some re-read and some untouched):

Straw Dogs” by John Gray.
Killing Time” by Simon Armitage.
The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss.
Swimmer” by Matt Black.
The Gutenberg Galaxy” by Marshall McLuhan.
The End of History and the Last Man” by Francis Fukuyama.
Gaia” by James Lovelock.
A Short History of Progress” by Ronald Wright.
Machine Mart Trade Catalogue Issue 50” by Machine Mart.
Oh yes, and
World X –A Speculative History – Version T-minus X” by Richard Bolam.

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Stack ‘em, pack ‘em and rack ‘em – multiples organisation and the joy of packs

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Various issues of fanzine / artzine “Ataglance” by M. A. Longbottom from the 1980s.

What goes around, comes around.

Eventually.

The late seventies / early eighties was a very formative time for me. I was born in 1964 and so was in my teens during the heady days of fanzines. I missed “Sniffin’ Glue” at the time and really didn’t have money to spend on such things at that time, but I did pick up various DIY publications here and there, including the famous “Flowmotion” and Mark Longbottom’s “Ataglance” (more of those two in a later post), and also The Bogely Factory’s “For All Round Entertainment” from about 1983, pictured here. The Bogely Factory / Ball were very productive although I think this is all I ever bought from them. It’s a hand-painted cassette tape of rather silly copyright violations and original material, accompanied by a tiny hand-coloured magazine, and all gathered together in a hand-stenciled fabric sleeve. Fabulous.

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“For All Round Entertainment” by Ball / The Bogely Factory circa 1983

The sound quality is not exactly HQ and the paper used is not acid-free archival, but there is something fundamentally satisfying about the physical immediacy of it and the ephemeral fragility of the construction. It seems to have survived ok for 30 years so far, and the only thing to fail is the masking tape holding it together, which turned to paper and dust many years ago. Somehow I never really got involved in any of this sort of thing at the time, much as I wanted to.

Thirty-five years pass….

And finally I got around to it. I’ve made multiples before, and prints and packages and various whatnots, but never before something that seems to have such a coherent life and can lead to a number of products / publications. I started making the Retrospective flyers last August with out any plan but the first eight or so just seemed to make themselves.

So here is my first pack of six retrospective flyers, with a few extra bits thrown in. The package includes Retrospective Issues 01 “Poster”, 02 “Beauty”, 03 ”ChipBoard™”, 04 “14 Stations”, 05 “HyperScape V”, 07 “Dance of Death”, a Stalky Ringbits beermat, a couple of business cards and a Factory X fridge magnet. All packaged together in a fetishy little grip-seal bag. Yum!

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“Retrospective” pack 01

Soon I will be selling these online for a small amount.

I have nearly finished the next six flyers, and there will be a second pack available soon with one of them hand-coloured. I have lots more material and there will be many more other publications from Black Daffodil Press around my Retrospective, and in various other media.

Stay tuned and get in touch if you want one…

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