Bringing the Past to the Present
The inspiration for this Letterpress Proofing Press is the original Line-o-scribe 1422, historically used by grocery stores and theaters to make their own 14″ x 22″ posters. While many of those presses are still around, finding one that’s available for sale and in working condition is rare.
Like many of the products on this site, this Letterpress Proofing Press began as a custom order for a customer. While researching and developing this product, I learned about a whole community of people desiring to pursue letterpress using equipment similar to this. It fit well with my passion for building quality, modern versions of tried-and-true equipment at an affordable price.
If you want to start printing soon, using a letterpress with no breakable parts, nothing to maintain, and at a price that’s fair, then this press is for you. As with all my equipment, orders for custom sizes are always welcomed. This size should be suitable for most needs. The actual inside dimensions of the printing area are 14.5″ x 22.5″.
Portable and Aesthetically Pleasing
This letterpress proofing press is modular and comes apart easily, making UPS shipping and transport simple and relatively inexpensive compared to a costly trucking company. It’s portable, too, meaning two people can easily move it from one part of the studio to another. At the same time, it’s heavy enough to keep from sliding around on your bench. Non-skid rubber feet also insure it won’t move.
It’s built from hardwood and Baltic birch plywood with a Formica-covered 1.5″ thick MDF platen. It is a satisfying and attractive piece of equipment to use. Since I am a cabinetmaker, I build this as a fine piece of woodworking, not as an industrial piece of machinery. Who says printing equipment has to be dull grey or black, heavy-duty, cast iron? Like the book-binding equipment I build, I take pride in the overall look of the piece, not just the function of it.
Visit the letterpress proofing press photo gallery page for expanded views.
This short video shows how easy it is to put together.
Pressure and Lockup
Lockup is the same as any proofing-type press, except a pressure bar can be inserted at 1/2″ intervals to eliminate the need for lots of furniture. Depending on your composition, you may still need some furniture to finish your lockup. To get you started, I provide a 9″ x 12″ maple chase for smaller lockups and three sets of tapered wedges instead of quoins. Also provided is a non-metallic base for photopolymer printing plates.
This is a “gravity-based” press, where the weight of the cylinder creates the pressure instead of a “pinch-based” press where pressure is created by pinching the cylinder and the platen together. The cylinder has a professionally machined, very smooth surface, and weighs approximately 50 lbs.
Whether this amount of weight will make a satisfactory print depends on many factors, including how much type the cylinder contacts at one time. As demonstrated in the first (top) video on this page, if more weight is necessary, press down on the handles as you draw the cylinder across your lay-up, which provides approximately 50 lbs. of additional pressure, depending on how tall and strong you are. This is a satisfying experience where you’ll feel like you are a part of the printing process, instead of the press doing all the work.
As with any non-pressure type press, this is not an exact science. Each print might be a slight bit different, depending on how uniformly the type is inked, how evenly the handles are pushed down on each pass, and how much pressure is applied during the whole print.
The carriage runs on file drawer guides which require no lubrication and the cylinder rotates on heavy duty, maintenance-free bearings.
Type-High Doesn’t Matter
“Type-high” means nothing to this press, as it adjusts from approximately 13/16″ to about 2″. This opens up a wide range of uses and makes the press more flexible for different mediums and type sources than just whatever will fit under a type-high cylinder.
Too Good to be True?
I don’t think so. Experienced printing professionals for whom I’ve demonstrated this press believe it is a solid design and a fully functioning proofing press.
Every piece of equipment, no matter how sophisticated, has limitations. This press will probably not do perfect deep embossing. The amount of uniform pressure required is not possible with any gravity based press.
As with any printing press, large entirely-inked areas are always a problem, making it difficult to consistently pull totally flawless prints with no skips. Again, this is a function of paper, ink, and packing. Pressure is also part of the equation, and you may not be able give enough pressure to these large inked areas. This also may apply to linoleum-cut prints.
Even if you have little or no experience with letterpress as I did, with some practice, I am confident that you will be able to produce decent-looking prints.
Purchase the Letterpress Proofing Press – $740
Details for purchasing the letterpress proofing press are available at the purchase page. Would you like your own customized version? Send me a message on the contact page and let me know how I can help.
Note: This product is a build-to-order purchase, unless one is in stock when you are ready to buy. I make these one at a time.
Download the Letterpress Proofing Press Guide
I’ve also prepared a PDF document for download that provides additional detail about the letterpress proofing press.