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Students unveil 100-Year-Old Platen Press Restoration in John Martinson Honors College Print Bay

For three mechanical engineering students in the John Martinson Honors College, Jarod Throckmorton (BSME 20, MSME 22), Ziyang Chen (BSME 23), and Jordan Doyle (BSME 25), the Platen Printing Press restoration project was an opportunity to not only use their engineering skills to make something functional again – much more than that, it was an opportunity to make it beautiful! To close out the Spring ’22 semester, the Honors College celebrated their work with a dedication of a final restored and fully functional 1920s Chandler & Price platen press.

Dr. J. Peter Moore supervised the restoration which began with a donation to the John Martinson Honors College in 2018 from Kari and Roger Hodgen. After reading a Journal & Courier article about the opening of the Print Bay run by Dr. Moore and the resurgence of letterpress printing on campus, the Hodgens offered the historic 1920’s Platen Press, in a state of disrepair, for use at the college in whatever capacity may be needed.

For three years, Honors College student Jarod Throckmorton led a restoration effort that involved a near-complete dismantling of the press. Throckmorton recruited two other Honors College students, Ziyang Chen and Jordan Doyle, to assist. The students stripped, painted, and reassembled the press to a beautiful restorative state, which occupies the STEAM Lab in the Honors College and Residences South building in what is now known as the Print Bay.

Dr. Moore was pleased to see how the students developed over the time it took to restore the press. “It presented the students with a number of learning opportunities. It broke them out of their digital bubble,” Moore said. “They were able to experiment, find problems, and try to solve them collaboratively without worrying about ruining the machine. Moore felt as though the students gained communication skills as they worked collaboratively on the project as well as creativity in problem-solving.

In addition, Dr. Moore is looking forward to the expansion this press will bring to the Print Bay. "We'll be able to do larger print runs, rather quickly. It's also just another piece of historic equipment with which to teach classes and workshops on media history,” says Dr. Moore. “My hope is that it will help establish the Print Bay as an exciting place for interdisciplinary creative research. A press like this is a point of convergence for so many fields of study.”

The Platen Printing Press floor model was the industry standard starting the mid-1800’s, eventually becoming motorized in the 1900’s. Even after more modern and automated printing presses took over the printing landscape in the mid to late 1900’s, the Platen Press remained the primary printing mechanism for hobbyists and letterpress print shops.

For these three students restoring the Platen Press in the Honors College Print Bay, it’s a labor of love and a work of art. The students contend if it is beautiful, it works better.

For more information on the Platen Press or the Print Bay in the John Martinson Honors College STEAM LAB, contact Dr. Moore:

Writer: Leslie Valiant