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Why I make spoke cards – and how!

June 26, 2013

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I recently reprinted “Deeper Than Mechanics Dare” spoke cards, and thought the process might be of interest. I started making the cards three years ago, in order to make the image, and message about group process, accessible and fun. Spoke cars are a celebration of the benefits of bicycles as much as they are a decoration of them, and their small and cheap nature lends toward sharing. Here’s a breakdown of how I create them.

I start on the computer, shrinking down a high-res version of my original design, and laying it out in a grid. The rest of the process is much more hands-on…


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With the digital file, I make a polymer plate from the image. In the past I’ve often made the plate myself, but this time I ordered it from Boxcar Press. I print the polymer plate on a Chandler press at Artists’ Image Resource, where I volunteer. The press is over 100 years old and was made in Cleveland, Ohio. I like to tell little kids this press was like the 3D printer of 1905.

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In order to print the image I mount it on a metal block which is a certain amount tall (in letterpress lingo,”type-high”), and lock in into the frame (the “chase”). Once I get going, turning the gigantic wheel on the press, the rollers ink thems
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elves, and the plate, so in theory all I have to do is keep putting paper in. But in reality, printing on this press requires a lot of micro-adjustments. I’m constantly problem-solving while printing, adding more pressure (“packing”) or adding more ink as necessary.
When the front is printed I need to wait until the oil-based ink is dry to print the back, repeating the process. Then, I cut all the cards on a paper-cutter, and laminate them one at a time on a business-card size lamination machine. Ta-da! It’s a durable, hand-made object that’s ready to ride wherever you do.

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One comment on “Why I make spoke cards – and how!”

for years the memory of the original poster size print i saw at a book fair stuck with me. I am now a mechanic and teacher at a bike shop and i was hoping to buy one to put up on the wall, especially since i started a women and gender non-conformist mechanics class. Do you have any of the larger prints lying around? It is so beautiful.

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