Monday, February 27, 2012

The Ural Sahara

f I had to buy a car today (and quite thankfully I don't) I'd get a used Landrover Defender 110.  The one with the full-size spare tire on the hood, the luggage rack on the roof, and the extra gas can on the rear door.  It has a diesel engine, solid metal doors, 4-wheel drive.  It's not comfy, it's not quiet, and it's not cheap, but it is so obscenely practical it might even make my parents proud.

Landrover Defender 110
It's rugged practicality that would look out-of-place and be utterly wasted in the city I live in.  Shame.  One day when I get out to the country I'd like to make this a reality.  The whole vehicle says "adventure".

In the meantime, I've been exploring the world of motorcycles - something infinitely more versatile here in New York.  In digging around, I came across the Ural Sahara, which is nothing short of the Landrover in motorcycle form!

Ural Sahara Motorcyle w/Sidecar
It looks to be a limited edition available in 2009.  British tan in color, it is a 750cc motorcycle complete with sidecar.  What's particularly interesting is that the sidecar wheel is also driven by the engine, making it a 2-wheel drive bike.  Yes, it has a full-size spare tire.  Yes, it has an external gas can, two in fact.  Yes it has a luggage rack.  It also comes with a army-style trowel attached to the cycle-facing side of the sidecar, so you can dig yourself out when the 2WD fails you in sand or snow.

If that weren't enough, it also has a first aid kit mounted in the rear (let's hope it stays intact if you get rear-ended) and a spotlight mounted on the sidecar.  While having a vintage style, there's plenty of power in the 40HP engine, and it has modern touches such as electric start and a front disc break.  Living up to it's style, it has a kick-start backup and is fueled by carburetor, which means the engine will still run in the event the battery dies.

Priced at about $15,500 it's a little on the expensive side.  Unfortunately for me, a sidecar adds much hassle in the city in terms of parking, not to mention the fact that none of my friends would ever get into a sidecar.  I'm hoping that's not a reflection of my driving.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

It's All About Letterpress

wise-ass may have once asked you, "What do you want, an engraved invitation?"  And the simple answer is no - no, you don't.  You want a letterpress invitation.  A debate continues to rage - mostly on wedding sites - on which is better, more formal, or more "proper."  Every so often, someone even brings up the dreaded thermography.  There's no gray area here as far as I'm concerned; letterpress is hands down the preferable printing method.

©2011 Angelique Felgentreff
Letterpress has been around since the 1400s when Gutenberg first established the printing press.  Raised type (wood or metal) is coated with ink and then pressed into the paper, oftentimes leaving an impression in the paper itself.  With the right sort of paper, one can "print" in letterpress without even using ink (called "blind embossing") which exudes a decidedly understated elegance.

Using a letterpress yourself takes some time and practice to gain proficiency - it's most certainly a craft unto itself.  There's lots of fun jargon - movable type, leading, chase, furniture, platen, etc.  The good news is that there's a lot of print shops around that are now offering courses and workshops in using a letterpress, so you can go and try it out and see if you like it.  If you don't, there's still a good number of printing companies that offer the service.  If you want something very specific, keep in mind that they will need to charge you to make a custom printing plate, which you can keep for use later.

The other option is engraving, also called "intaglio" where an image is engraved onto metal.  The engraved area is then filled with ink and pressed onto (not into) the paper.  When dry, the type feels raised on the paper, instead of pressed into it.  While it's certainly a step up from an email or bad handwriting, it's just not the same as letterpress by any stretch of the imagination.

©2011 Angelique Felgentreff
If you really get into the process, you can buy your own letterpress.  You don't need the full-on Heidelberg Windmill press to get started (although you'll probably want one).  Small hand presses can be purchased for around $1500.00.  Be sure to also have some cash on hand for the type, furniture, coppers, ink, paper, etc that you'll need to get started.  And be prepared for a bit of a mess!  A note:  The "Kelsey" brand presses are by far the most common on the market here in the US, but they don't have the best reputation for quality.  They're generally student presses, and a used one might have been abused.  Don Black in Canada wrote a little bit about choosing your first press that I'd highly recommend.

I attended a small workshop here in New York and found that I liked the process as much as the product.  If you like doing things with your hands, you should definitely give it a go.


Monday, February 6, 2012


ou know the saying.  "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."  Hogwash.  The practice of stores or websites listing the price as "Call" or "Inquire" or "Upon Request" is just about the dumbest practice on earth.  If your business wants my business, you'll need to tell me how much the item costs.  Dear retailers:  If I have to ask, I'll bloody buy it somewhere else.

I'm not sure where this coy business practice started.  Maybe it's supposed to take after cultures abroad where bargaining is part of the purchase process.  Here in the states, however, it comes across as a high form of douchebaggery.  From the consumer standpoint, it's as if the business might charge X for one customer and Y for another.  Or perhaps if they're having a difficult week, the price will be lower than if they have a good week.

One such site is Michael Bachmann Ltd.  I love his offerings a lot - some amazing stuff for sale.  Not a price anywhere.  You can email him.  The form is simple.  He's even prompt in replying.  But why won't he just post the fucking prices already?

If you run across this in a retail setting, be sure to register your dissatisfaction.  Ask how much something costs.  Then do it again.  And again.  And again....  Maybe they'll start to get the message.