Letters, in different typefaces and sizes, are represented as individual pieces. Each piece has to be arranged backward to create a word.

“So this looks like a ‘b’ but it’s actually a ‘d,’ so it prints mirrored and we have the typeset upside down, left to right,” said Maggie Thomas, one of the employees at the Iron Acorn Press.

This winter is Thomas’ third semester at BYU-Idaho majoring in humanities. She is originally from Sacramento, California but has loved Idaho since she was a child and spent her summers here.

The Printing Press

The Printing Press Photo credit: Victoria Skalec

One letter after another, Thomas carefully places the pieces upon the composing stick that has a typeset on the top and bottom to be able to transport the finished words from the galley to the press. Once a word is finished, a space is placed next to it that sits lower than the actual letters to make sure it does not print.

At the press, everything is flipped again meaning the word on the right will actually be printed on the left side. To make sure everything stays in place there are wooden pieces called “furniture” that keep everything tight but not pinched.

Ink Balls used to put the ink on the letters

Ink Balls used to put the ink on the letters Photo credit: Victoria Skalec

Once everything is in its place, Thomas uses a Brayer, a tool that came out a few years after the printing of the Book of Mormon. Originally, they used ink balls to distribute the ink evenly. The ink goes onto the arranged text and the canvas is lowered to a wheel, which is known as a “bed” under the press.

“(The last step is the actual pressing.) This function is like an elbow that straightens and pushes the inked letters onto the paper to make an impression,” Thomas said. “Which you can actually feel the impression.”

It takes about six to eight hours for the ink to fully dry.

The Printing Press

The Printing Press. Photo credit: Victoria Skalec

The press is a replica of the printing press invented by Peter Smith that originally printed the first edition of the Book of Mormon. Steve Pratt took apart the original press and made a cast from which three new presses were made. One of them is here at BYU-I, one in Palmyra, NY and in a museum in Alpine, Utah.

Students at BYU-I can visit and use the printing press. It is a service provided by the university free for all students.

“We print projects for classes on campus, FHE groups and for demonstration purposes,” Thomas said. “We also do student projects, so any student who wants to do a student project can come in and collaborate with us and we can help them print projects.”

Iron Acorn Press entrance sign

Iron Acorn Press entrance sign. Photo credit: Victoria Skalec

Thomas encourages all students to come visit the Iron Acorn Press.

“We get to play here,” Thomas said. “Where else on campus do you get to do this kind of thing? It’s a hands-on style of learning and you get to take home something physical that you can share and have a manifestation of what you learned.”

The Iron Acorn Press is located in the David O. McKay Library.