DIYdiy projects

diy project: letterpress block wallhanging

by Grace Bonney

before we get started with today’s diy project from lauren and derek (which will go up at 1:30), i had to add this wonderful project submitted by andy beers (you may remember his incredible sneak peek from last month). andy created this incredible letterpress block wallhanging in his office using blocks he found at a fleamarket (andy shares tips for finding blocks after the jump). the result is a really fantastic art piece that serves double duty as decoration and a way to mitigate the incredibly high ceilings in his office. for directions and more photos click here or just click “read more” below. thanks, andy!

[looking for more diy projects? check out the d*s diy archives right here or a similar wall installation right here with keys]



Andy’s Details:

We recently put up a new installation in the office composed of vintage French letterpress blocks. Jessica collected the blocks at a flea market in France, but you can find sets of old blocks online for incredibly reasonable prices. Try searching “wood blocks” in the Printing and Graphic Arts section of Ebay. There are also some Etsy sellers that post letterpress blocks from time to time. Make sure to stock up on enough blocks for the size of hanging you’d like to create. Ours is about 11′ by 7′, and we used 150 blocks.

The layout for the blocks was arranged to mitigate our very high (12′) ceilings, and to interact with the strong shadows that are cast throughout the day from the large wall of windows that front our office. I love how it turned out- it’s very topographical in person, with the different heights of the blocks reading in relief.

Installation was a snap- we arranged the blocks on the floor for general shape and density, and then transferred the blocks to the wall using double-sided foam tape. (like this)

The tape adheres to wall surfaces brilliantly. The porosity of the wood, however, allows the tape to sometimes fail on the block side of the connection. Either plan to have a few letters fall from time to time, or help the tape with some permanent adhesive on the wood side.

We also hid the acronym for our business, JHID, and our office-mates, Yianni Doulis Architecture Studio, inside the body of the shape. It was a fun, quick, simple project that would be great to try at home.


Suggested For You


  • I have a few letterpress blocks used to print movie posters. I believe it would be a great collection to this idea. I would like to sell if anyone is interested:
    Dick Tracy (made in the 40’s) –
    2-3/4″ x 6-7/8″
    Captain Marvel(made in the 40s) -2-3/4″ x 6-7/8″
    Batman movie (made in the 70’s)-5-3/4″ x 6-7/8″

    • Hi Dan,

      I saw your comment from March 2, 2009 saying you had letterpress blocks of Dick Tracy, Captain Marvel, and Batman you were interested in selling. Guessing you don’t have them anymore, but if you do, could you shoot me an email? Or if you have any movie advertisement letterpress blocks?



  • Working as a designer for an old newspaper/printer, we have many sets of blocks from years ago that collect dust in the basement. Being too sentimental to let them go, but long since moved to the digital age, this would be the perfect way to appreciate them yet not have to part with them. I do think that I would use Command Strips though so as not to damage the blocks themselves.

  • To preserve the original letterpress blocks, but still be able to sell letterpress blocks as wall decoration, one could make use of a laser-cutter / etching machine. they’d lack the authenticity of course…

  • Chris,
    That’s a pretty general statement – that the Great American Way is forging ahead without heeding the criticisms you may encounter.

    You’re implying the most criticisms are accurate and should be heeded. I agree that design needs to go beyond the visual, but this isn’t really design since it’s not for a customer nor is is it solving a problem. Art yes, design no.

  • I have enjoyed reading all the comments. I am a letterpress printer and I love wood type! I want to say is that this wall hanging is beautiful Jessica. On another note. It is very hard as a letterpress printer to find complete sets of wood type! When buying or selling wood type for decoration please understand that it is NOT ok to break up sets!! I also have to say that it is nice that non letterpress printers do love wood type for its beauty, but this does also drive up our cost to be able to buy them.

  • Well, I have a large box of lovely type, blocks with signatures on them and advertising blocks. I will be willing to SELL them to the lovers of the print process here, since the lovers of the print process are so worried. I have not molested them in any way. They are just sitting there. Just kidding. I see your point, printers.

  • Janet, I’d be interested in seeing your type for purchase. Is there a way you could send me photos? My husband and I run a letterpress co., and we appreciate that you are willing to give yours up, so they can be used in the way they were intended.

    And to all the commenters above, who are pissy about the sad letterpressers . . . please understand that full sets of type are indeed becoming harder to find, and when we do find them, they are too $$$ to afford, so breaking them up for decorative purposes makes our job so much more difficult. Take an honorable part in helping the art of letterpress printing to continue, and not become a relic of the past. Amen.

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