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October 27, 2016

We took a tour with the father-son duo behind Pennsylvania’s Corcoran Printing

Since we put so much thought into the materials we use to make our apparel and accessories, it just made sense to take the same approach for our catalog. So we tapped our PA neighbors, fourth-generation family owned and operated Corcoran Printing, to produce our latest lookbook on carefully sourced, 100% recycled paper. And since we’ve always been suckers for How It’s Made marathons, we decided to make the scenic drive to Corcoran’s headquarters in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on the fringes of the Pocono Mountains, to see how it’s done.

Bill Sr. and Bill Jr., the father-son duo who currently operate Corcoran, talked us through the printing process and how their family business has grown from a basement printing press to a full-fledged specialty printing operation.

How It All Started

The first Corcoran to take on a printing press was Bill Sr’s grandfather Patrick, a teacher by day and tinkerer by night. Fascinated by the printing press, Patrick convinced his school’s principal to invest in one for a trade-work class. They struck a deal: If Patrick footed the bill and then filled the class with 30 students, the school would reimburse him for his investment. He wound up getting his money back.

A father of six, Patrick decided to take on some printing jobs on the side to make some extra cash. His kids (and eventually, a young Bill Corcoran Sr) helped him churn out bingo sheets, business cards, and coffee bag labels in their Plains, PA basement. Patrick’s after-school gig eventually turned into a family business, with Bill Sr presently at the helm.

How It's Done

As purveyors of durable goods, we loved the fact that the Corcoran’s Heidelberg printing machines are built to last. The Corcoran’s still actually use the same vintage Heidelberg model that started the whole business, except they’ve retrofitted the machines to die-cut paper and stamp foil for specialty projects. For our catalog, they opt to use a four color sheet-fed Heidelberg press that can print up to 10,000 sheets per hour.

To printing novices like ourselves, the four color sheet-fed press was essentially the fanciest stamp we’ve ever seen. The machine is fed with four aluminum plates etched with our catalog artwork — one for each color in the CMYK printing process, Cyan, Maroon, Yellow, and Key (black). The Corcoran folks then carefully mix blue, red, yellow, and black inks, which are manually fed into an “ink fountain” that pours into each plate. Sheets of paper fly through the printer, each stamped four times by the CMYK plates, and come out the other side in full color.

Throughout the printing process, the machine operator pulls sheets from the top of the pile and checks the color to make sure it’s at the right density. If, say, the burnt orange leaves on a tree aren’t popping, he can adjust the color balance by manually taking down the amount of blue in the ink fountain.

Each sheet is then run through a series of machines: a folder, a stitcher (basically conveyor belt that stacks pages), and a knife trimmer, resulting in a complete catalog.

How We Get That Paper

Since we always opt for sustainable materials when possible, the Bills helped us source 100% post-consumer recycled paper, which is Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance Certified. Both organizations ensure that all products are sourced from forests that meet strict environmental and social standards. The Rainforest Alliance works in tropical forests to conserve wildlife and protect workers, their families, and local communities.



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