6’ broadside

We have a high-end client that has approached us about trying to reproduce some historical posters with letterpress that are about 6 feet high x about 14 inches wide. We’ve not seen the original posters one of which may have been done around 1910 maybe as a lithograph. The pieces are all typography.

The question I have is, “How MIGHT you go about this in letterpress on a single sheet of paper?” I’m figuring we would have to buy a paper like Fabriano in rolls.

A second question might be does anyone know of a good paper for letterpress that comes in rolls.

I’ve attached an image taken very much to the side to at least give you an idea

We have a Vandercook SP-15, a Vandercook Universal III with automatic frisket, and two large iron handpresses. We also have one of those early Vandercook proofing presses with the kind of cylinder that is about 8” in diameter with the two handles to each side that might contribute in some way. We were wondering about putting polymerplate along a piece of plywood and print one color all at one time.

Or the other option seemed to be to run the paper through in sections (still keeping it all in one piece)

I have no idea how many they would want, but maybe something like 50 copies depending on how much they cost in the end.

One of the images we saw was two-color (image) and the other was one-color. The registration is not at all tight but the alignment would need to be fairly accurate.

image: 6-foot-poster.jpg


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Now don’t laugh, but letterpress printing has been done with a steam roller:



On the Vandercook you are limited by the diameter of the cylinder. Eventually the sheet is going to double back over on the gripper bar. A more simple cylinder press without a gripper bar would be a better option because you could just advance the sheet past the end of the bed, change the form and print again.

Or maybe you could rig up a spool at either end of your Washington hand press and do the same thing…

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Here are a couple more steamroller links. The print quality looks pretty good on the computer screen.



If you don’t come up with a workable plan, maybe, since your your client is high-end, they might want to look into having the prints done on a larger press than what you have. I don’t know much about big commercial presses, but here’s one that might take 6 feet:



Oh, that big Heidelberg won’t work. Here’s a closeup of the nameplate:



To obtain paper of suitable length, visit an architect, draughting, or cartographer shop. Such establishments have excellent selection from which to choose appropriate stock.
As to the printing, well, a handpress will do the job albeit with considerable fussing. A clamshell (C&P) will easily accommodate the paper, plus registration and alignment is assured.

I think your best bet is to use the Washington hand press. I doubt if a C&P would work since you’d have to run the 6 foot sheet vertically through it due to the side arms. A Poco proof press would work too (if you found a wide-enough one) and might be easier — no grippers and room for the sheet to hang out the ends. I’d set up the type if possible so you can ink both or several colors at once, and I’d rig a register guide on one edge to keep the sheet aligned. Should be fairly easy once you get all set up.

Can be done. But you might need to start out with a wider sheet to set up some kind of registration for the sections.

Luckily your image does not attempt to incorporate a continuous border around the edges. I actually printed a very large broadsheet (Though not anything like 72”!) by simply printing the upper half in one pass on a Poco proof press and then going back and printing the bottom half as a second run. I actually DID have a border going around the whole thing and it was time consuming and interesting to get the border to register and line-up. I only did a run of 25 as I recall.

One other option is to fold the sheet into sections and print on section at a time, keeping in mind that your stock is x-times thicker than normal and adjusting your packing accordingly. You will have a folded sheet, BUT it will all be done one one sheet of paper.

One additional comment. I once saw a heart-stopping poster in Hal Sterne’s print shop in his home in Cincinnati many years ago. It was behind glass in a very tall (at least 6’ as I recall) frame and was an amazing display of wood type faces. It was simply stunning!!!!! Upon closer inspection I could see that it was printed as three or four independent sheets that had been spliced together. It too had a wonderful continuous border around it that added to the illusion that it was one whole unit.

I have in one of my shops a precision ground cast iron plate
2 foot by 8 foot that was once used in a laser lab. This plate along with a Poco roller could be set up to print the whole poster at once, make ready would be hard because type would have to be shimmed individually. The different colors can be applied to the various areas with out too much difficulty. It is just a mater of time. How high end is the customer?

Why is it people pass comment without ever having done what has been so routinely done? Of course the paper must be fed vertically (it can also be fed transversely but requires manufacture of interesting platen extensions) which, particularly on a C&P, is of little consequence. Hasn’t anybody on this site ever printed ribbon from a roll? Or printed paper tape roll, toilet paper roll, T-shirt or towel? The clamshell-type press is a very versatile machine. Use some ingenuity and, foremost, don’t say it can’t be done just because you’ve not done it.

I know this isn’t a letterpress answer but, I once owned a lobby card for a movie theater. Gone with the Wind. It was about 36” x 60” on thick multiply board. Maybe a little bigger. It was screen printed in several colors. Late 50’s or early 60’s.

I have done very long posters on my Vandercook by folding, printing, refolding, printing, and refolding, printing, etc. It’s a lot of work figuring out spacing and page breaks, makeready is pretty tricky but the results are spectacular. I’ve used wrapping paper and butcher paper. Of course lots of work unrolling and cutting press size sheets.

I think you all have given me some ideas. I’ll start trying some of the various options today. I’ll take good photos so I can pass along anything that I learn.

Thanks for your contributions.

I have an 8 1/4 x 12 1/2 Golding Map Press. This was used to print large sheets in a drafting or map shop. The difference between the map press and the normal Golding is that the platen is stationary and the form comes down to it. This is a table top press.

I have seen long posters like that, printed on a platen press 22”x18” wide or so. The paper was folded into as many equal parts to about 17” for that press. Sort of a accordion construct where the various parts would be printed as tiles. It is just a big production and a barometer to ones patience. Cheers!

Ad Lib has a good idea… I actually just printed up some wrapping paper sheets with my a conglomeration of xmas cuts. i wasn’t worried about any sort of registration, and wanted a fair amount of overlap with the cuts, and I found the Poco I have worked really well for this!

The method I used was to wrap the wrapping paper sheet around the cylinder multiple times, turn the crank, unwrap and allow the ink to dry. then I just wrapped it around with the unprinted side wrapping up and ran it through again. I think each piece was about 3 feet x 14”. Just make sure to let ink dry thoroughly before you wrap it the second time or you will get an offset image on the reverse of your paper.

I suppose you could just let the printed end of the sheet hang loose out off the cylinder, past the bed if you wanted instead of wrapping it doubly around the cylinder.