Printer keeps pressing on in the old-fashioned way

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am


The moment you step into the Happy Printing shop on Pok Man Street, you are transported back in time.

Four large hand-powered printing presses dominate the room with ink-soaked rags and towers of coloured paper filling the spaces in between.

The walls are filled with floor-to-ceiling shelves housing traditional letter punches, made from lead - the key components for the star of the shop, a Heidelberg Original press, known by printers as the 'Prince of Presses'.

The other star of the shop is owner Kwan Wing-cheuk, 69, who has been churning out receipts, invoices, letterheads and pamphlets for more than 35 years with the help of Ou San-ying, his 64-year-old wife.

'There are not many people that do this old-fashioned style of printing now,' Kwan said, standing among stacks of string-bound orders.

Kwan, who moved from Hoi Ping, Guangdong province, to Hong Kong when he was 16, bought the second-hand Heidelberg in 1977 for HK$30,000, the same price for a flat back then, and has been making his mark on the neighbourhood since.

But while he still uses the Heidelberg, the use of letter punches is fading fast. 'Before I would buy the new characters when I needed them for an order, but you can't buy these letter punches anymore,' he said. The last store in Central that sold the punches closed about four years ago.

Kwan used to spend about 90 minutes meticulously creating an order, piece by piece like a puzzle, using his collection of 3,000 commonly-used characters.

A letter punch that printed a pea-sized character used to cost HK50c while a fingernail-sized character cost HK$2. He now uses a plastic version of punches and the shop produces about 7,000 prints every day with an average of 12 new orders arriving every week.

'Although a lot of people use digital printing, many still use handwritten invoices,' Kwan said.

The veteran printer has no plans to retire yet. 'I want to keep going,' he said. 'I've done it for so long and I still love it.'