Scanning Around with Gene: Paste-up Limericks

I’ve written many times about old-school paste-up techniques and I always get a flurry of requests for more of the same. But since I’m out of things to say about that era, I wrote a couple limericks (a favorite art form of mine) to accompany additional images I came cross recently.

With the exception of the first two images, which are of some friends and me doing paste-up in college, all images and pearls of wisdom are from the books Complete Guide to Pasteup by Walter B. Graham and Paste-Up for Graphic Arts Production by Kenneth F. Hird.

There once was an artist from Kent,
through the waxer his galley was sent.
“Oh damn,” he replied.
“I’ve waxed the wrong side.”
So back to the typesetter he went.

Typesetters were proud of their craft,
they could kern, spell, and set with great daft.*
But the Mac then arrived,
and few setters survived.
The rest simply got a big shaft.

In the darkroom a camera, it sat,
cranking out what we all called a “stat.”
We’d shoot many sizes,
to avoid those surprises,
when the client said “bigger than that.”

To pen a straight line is a trick,
and to miter a corner quite slick.
But the method du jour,
we all must concur,
is so easy with just that one click.

Whether Olfa or basic straight blades,
knives came in all sorts of styles and shades.
Which one should you choose?
No matter, you’ll lose,
and require that can of Band Aids.

Rapidographs called for great fussing,
and lots of hair pulling and mussing.
We’d tap the paper so light,
in hopes the pen would delight.
But the answer was “no,” so start cussing.

Rub-down letters we’d seek to forsake,
for they’d crack, peel, and otherwise flake.
But the worst thing indeed,
was when you gave them a read,
and discovered a spelling mistake.

Rubber cee’-ment can stick quite a lot,
when it’s brushed onto just the right spot.
But if the galley gets moved,
sometimes you’re behooved,
to pull it up like a long strand of snot.

Now it’s your turn. Submit your own printing limericks by clicking the Comments button below.

* Editor’s note: I assume this is an obscure paste-up term Gene dredged from the depth of his youth. Surely it’s not a mangling of “deft.” Surely not.

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Posted on: April 24, 2009

Gene Gable

Gene Gable has spent a lifetime in publishing, editing and the graphic arts and is currently a technology consultant and writer. After a decade in commercial typesetting and design services, he chronicled the desktop-publishing revolution from his post as publisher and president of Publish magazine. With nine international editions, Publish became the leading global resource on the use of digital technology for print and Web production. Gable served on the operational boards of International Data Group's PCWorld, The Web and PC Games magazines and was earlier publisher of Sporting Times magazine. During his tenure at Ziff-Davis Gable was on the executive team responsible for major business events such as Comdex, Networld+Interop and JavaOne. As president of Seybold Seminars and publisher of The Seybold Report, Gable managed a global slate of conferences, trade shows and other graphic-arts educational products. During his leadership Seybold events featured prominent speakers such as Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer, Christie Hefner, president of Playboy Enterprises, Bruce Chizen, CEO of Adobe Systems, and Daniel Carp, CEO of Eastman Kodak. Gable has spoken at events around the world and has written extensively on graphic design, intellectual-property rights, and publishing production in books and for magazines such as Print, U&lc, ID, Macworld, Graphic Exchange, AGI, and The Seybold Report. His clients have included A-list brands in technology and financial services. Gable's interest in graphic design history and letterpress printing resulted in his popular columns "Heavy Metal Madness" and "Scanning Around with Gene" here on CreativePro.com. Follow Gene on Twitter

27 Comments on Scanning Around with Gene: Paste-up Limericks

  1. As soon as I saw that hand-waxer, I knew my life wouuld flash before my eyes. Before I go out to get some vitamin C tablets, just wanted to say thanks for compiling all these old images from the good old days when this work was a collaboration between art directors, designers, air brush artists, typesetters, and paste-up pros! Now I do it all myself on a 5-year-old Powerbook!

  2. Oh yeah!!! I remember it well…all of it. And we still get to use the light table, rubber cement, X-Acto, and even the waxer occasionally! Life moves on, but it is great to have that solid foundation.

  3. You’ve done it again Gene,,,, Thanks a bunch. There are likely a lot of us out here,, I’ve still got the hand waxer in my studio cupboard along with my humidified Rapidograph desk set. (Why, I don’t have any idea.)

    Remember the horror of a fully clogged 3-000 and no chance to get it working? or that slight slip when cleaning one and a bent plunger wire??

    Gotta love those tape spools of border lines!!

    Thanks again!

  4. I recall, with intense concentration,
    That paste-ups were once my vocation.
    ‘Cause my head’s only filled
    With the brain cells I killed
    Using Bestine without ventilation.

    —Kathlyn Tenga-Gonzalez
    Quantum Corral Graphic Design

  5. Oh, Lord, what a flashback! I suddenly feel very old. I felt twinges in all my X-Acto and Ulano scars as I read this.

    I will share a limerick I used in my book “Real World Print Production,” to describe a bozo salesman who quoted a black-&-white job as a “2-color job.” True story. (I’m pretty sure he’s no longer in the industry…). To wit:

    There was a print salesman named Bob
    Who quoted a “two-color job.”
    But what was he thinkin’?
    There’s only black ink, and
    The paper. What a doorknob!

    I always enjoy “Scanning Around”– keep sharing!
    –Claudia McCue

  6. I had very minute exposure to paste up when I was in school. Being a very ‘messy’ artist (with paint everywhere, from spills on the carpet to the flowers I doodled with the extra paint on my arms, legs & clothes…), so I wasn’t very thrilled about the rubber cement I got on everything surrounding my work space.

    I even made the remark to my teacher that it seemed like a pointless waste of time since everything can be done with a click of the mouse on computers. His rebuttal was that he wanted to give us a type of history lesson, to have an appreciation of how things were done in the past and how easy we have it today. Showing us the ‘foundations’ of print design. I did learn the most about layout during this time.

    It does give me an appreciation of the leaps and bounds made in technology, considering the fast pace I must keep up today. Still, there was something more tangible to the literal hands-on experience of physically putting things together… a bigger sense of accomplishment and pride in the work.

    Thanks for sharing! And your limericks are very clever!

  7. I took years to become a designer;
    All those obstacles were too un-minor.
    But with today’s tools,
    All us old fools
    Can make layouts quicker and finer.

  8. Excellent — I had finally forgotten the hours of rubbing those letters and you come along and make my hands ache again just thinking about it. You’re responsible for my nightmares tonight.

    Billie Brown
    Drama Dog Design

  9. Anybody remember a Velox. That Guy on the Graphics Camera…One of my first jobs was making Veloxes On A Brown Camera, For a retail Advertising Chain in Miami, Fla.

    I too remember it well, My fingernails used to get full of wax!
    Ted
    TA Design & Art Direction

  10. OMG. This stuff was eerily familiar. Thanks for the transport back in time. SO are you in Kent, WA?

  11. Another good one, Gene! But you are making me feel so old.

  12. I’ve been doing this longer than you have, Gene!

    As far as this old broad can tell,
    The young’uns today just can’t spell.
    The checker in Word
    is clearly absurd,
    so I’ll remain employed. How swell!

  13. Thanks so much for this article. It brought back so many NOT SO FOND memories. But I can laugh about them today as I work my way through a long document on my Mac. But it kills me when my clients or people I am teaching complain that their computers do things to slowly. If only they had lived through this. Long live ruby lith!

    Jim

  14. What hath Gene “wrot” [sic]? Another bittersweet trip down memory lane, and some vicarious “dred.”

    I was never obliged to do much of this. How lucky I was!

  15. We recently had a contest in our department to see who had the most of old, long forgotten graphic tools still in his/her possession. I was able to eke out a victory with sheets of transfer lettering and a bestine dispenser. Not sure if it’s a good or sad thing to be declared the winner but I got a beer out of it.

  16. Lino Jr. set type like a fool
    Sixteen character read-out: great tool
    Size and leading were switches
    The blasted sons of b____s
    Eight feet of RC trash is not cool

  17. threw away my last hand waxer just the other day — trying to clean up the studios in the back of the building. Is there any use for hundreds of sheets of unused press-type? Also found two nearly full boxes of negative and positive stat paper. One box of Ortho film, never opened. The Stat camera long covered with dust and cobwebs. What can you do with a 400 lb., $5,000 copy camera… or dozens and dozens of 2-inch Typositor Font masters? (I was thinking about cool, retro lamp shades with the font films. What do you think?)

  18. Thanks for sharing all those wonderful memories of days gone by. My how we’ve grown.

  19. People ask me what my job is like mac’s or paste up your last poem sums it all up…I think I’ll cut this out and carry it around with…here this is what my job is like “its’s ok…with corrections”!

  20. My handbag of tools then: xacto blades, cork backed metal ruler, dividers, rapidograph pens. I could do anything with those.

  21. Once was a fellow named Fred,
    A newspaper hat on his head.
    “Paste-up’s just a fad”,
    he said to his dad,
    “I’d rather work with hot lead”

    Great article…lots of funny memories here…

  22. Thanks so much for this article. It brought back so many NOT SO FOND memories. But I can laugh about them today as I work my way through a long document on my Mac. But it kills me when my clients or people I am teaching complain that their computers do things to slowly. If only they had lived through this. Long live ruby lith!
    sesli sohbet sesli chat

  23. I had very minute exposure to paste up when I was in school. Being a very ‘messy’ artist (with paint everywhere, from spills on the carpet to the flowers I doodled with the extra paint on my arms, legs & clothes…), so I wasn’t very thrilled about the rubber cement I got on everything surrounding my work space.

    I even made the remark to my teacher that it seemed like a pointless waste of time since everything can be done with a click of the mouse on computers. His rebuttal was that he wanted to give us a type of history lesson, chat roulette to have an appreciation of how things were done in the past and how easy we have it today. Showing us the ‘foundations’ of print design. I did learn the most about layout during this time.

    It does give me an appreciation of the leaps and bounds made in technology, considering the fast pace I omegle sohbet must keep up today. Still, there was something more tangible to the literal hands-on experience of physically putting things together… a bigger sense of accomplishment and pride in the work.

    Thanks for sharing! And your limericks are very clever!

  24. Having come from a digital age and studied graphic design in college using mac computers, this is very interesting how things were done before computers. Looks difficult back then, I bet. I had no idea you could just cut between letters a little bit by paper and round them like an arch until you perfect it. The computer does it all for you under a minute. Thanks for sharing with us “digitalized” graphic designers!

  25. Any one have a copy of the “ok, with corrections” poem?

  26. Thanks for sharing!

  27. Oh goodness, I started under paste up and now reside in desktop land.

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