Registration for Washington style press

My college just recently inherited a Washington style hand press from a local museum. I have been configuring and trying to set it up for a study that I am doing.

I am having difficulty figuring out the registration on press. Basically, when I tighten up the Boxcarpress base with the boxcar plate on top, one side somehow gets shifted upward, therefore causing one side to print heavier than the other. I know this is happening because the rails that I set in are somehow forcing ink to transfer on to the non-image area on the plate.

If anyone can recommend something to solve this issue, please let me know.

Dan Horowitz

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Hi Dan,
I’m not the best person to be answering handpress questions, but I think you could be dealing with a combination of problems.

If your Boxcar base is lifting when you tighten the quoins you have overtightened them. Is the plate centered under the platen? You talk about rails- do you mean you are inking with a hand roller and bearers? Are the bearers type high?

You should see if your school will spring for a copy of Printing on the Iron Handpress (Richard Gabriel Rummonds) or Printing with the Handpress (Lewis M. Allen).

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

AAAakkkk! What is the world coming to? Boxcar Bases and PP plates on a Washington Handpress! Oh the humanity!

OK… I’m back now. (just kidding…. I’ve been know to do far worse….)

About the register problem: I’ve run into this many times in the past with various type and bases. Wood blocks are notorious for doing that… and some metal bases are too.

If your base is lifting then either something is not square, such as your base or your quoins…… or something is not flat, and the base is rocking slightly as you print and working one end upward….. or you are not locking up well.

The first thing I’d do is make sure everything is flat. Place your base on the bed and see if it rocks in any way. If it does, then you need to find out why and correct it .

If it IS flat and stable, then look at the edges of the base carefully with a square. If the base edge is angled in the smallest way, one end will walk upward on you. Also look at your chase, or rails, or whatever you are locking-up against…. and your quoins. These too must be square or things will move around on you.

Next, try looseing your quoins a little bit. Sometimes if you overtighten things, you can cause flexing which results in things not being flat and square…. and thus causing the movement you are experiencing.

Finally, make sure that as much of the image area as possible is centered up under the screw. Unlike a jobber, a handpress doesn’t like uncentered type. If you MUST use type that is not centered , then place a few pieces of large type in the corners and then don’t ink them. They’ll help keep the platen from tipping…. which is another reason for bases moving.

Good luck….. and congrats on the Washington! It’s probably my most favorite press of all time!

Dan… it looks like great minds work alike! (or even not-so great ones!)

Thanks for the input…

The Arm NYC: Yes I am using the bearers and a hand rollers. Our curator on campus insists that the boxcar base + boxcar plate = type high. We also have both of the books you listed on campus as well.

winking cat press: I already made sure that everything is level. When everything was tightened, we also checked to see if it was still level, and it wasn’t. My initial thought was that one of the spacers or wood blocks are not quite square. I am going to look at all of the spacers that I am using and I will see if that fixes the problem. I might post a picture next week!

Dan Horowitz

Dan… that could be it. Unsquare furniture is a classic problem.

Dan Horowitz, please contact me regarding this press so I can update my records in the North American Hand Press Database. I need to know what college and what museum.

As regards the problem you describe, it depends on how you are locking up the Boxcar base. If in a chase, there may be something wrong with the chase or the quoins. If against a bar or something braced against the corner irons, its sides probably aren’t square. Try relaxing the quoins until the base is sitting flat on the bed and leave them that way while you try printing. Are you using impression bearers under the corners of the platen? You should have a type high block under each corner to level the platen — it will not level itself on a small forme. Are you inking with a hand brayer? You shouldn’t be getting ink on the shoulder or bottom of the plate unless it is a soft roller and very shallow etched plate. You probably need to use deep etched plates on the hand press. If the base is rising but the rails are not there is probably a squareness issue with one of them.

AdLibPress, below is the website that talks about our on-campus library/collection.

I would love to give you more information, but I have to consult a few more people and get more information for you.

It is located at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY if you were wondering. Below is the Washington press that we just got.

Dan Horowitz

image: 0128091144.jpg


I bet you could find a whole bunch of presses not on your list by viewing the Iron Handpress image group on Flickr.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Daniel, can you tell me how I would find contact information for the owners of the presses shown on the Flickr site? I looked at the site when you mentioned it before but I couldn’t see how to contact those who posted the pictures.

You can open a Flickr account for free, log in and then click on the name of the person that has posted the image. Then click Send Flickr Mail and send them a message.


Dear Dan H.:

You know what I’d do?

I’d try contacting the Ancient Wise Ones, the School of Printing instructors who specialized in letterpress—-one of these guys has got to be in the neighborhood. I presume that, today, they are all retired gentlemen of leisure. Ask Dave Pankow for ‘phone numbers for Prof. Herbert Johnson, Prof. Weigand, maybe Prof. Provan. If available, I’d bet that any of these guys would love to come and set you straight—-


Dave Lasko
Former Cary Fellow and
Work-Slave for Dave Pankow, ca. 1979

Great advice Dave. Unfortunately I believe that Prof. Weigand “The Indiana Kid” is now practicing in Printer’s Valhalla. I think I got that news within the past year or so.

I believe that Foolproof546 is refering to James Lamar Weygand who ran the Press of the Indiana Kid and printed some of the most clever but curmudgeonly books ever in existence. He died several years ago in his hometown of Nappanee, Indiana. I had the privilege of spending some time with him in 1995/96 while living in the area and own an number of his books ( he could get a lot out of a C&P 8”x12”). Quite a remarkable fellow.

The Professor Weigand referered to by Dave L. is Charles Weigand who was the letterpress instructor when I attended RIT. James Weygand is a totally different fellow. I know J.L. Weygand is gone, but not certain about Charles Weigand.

It is great to see some RIT graduates on I have been working with David Pankow since about November on my study. He has been helping me out in dealing with handpress research and loaning parts for the Washington press that we just inherited. I just finished up my Bachelor’s in Graphic Media (aka Print Media).

Just finishing up my study and working on campus at our Research Facility (PAL) till I find a job. The study has hit a road bump, but eventually when I start printing my study successfully, I can finish and move on to a full-time job.

Dan Horowitz

With the crossbars on the base it looks like the “Shniedenwend Printers Proof Press”.

I was thinking the same thing, but the lettering on the head, which I could not read in the photo, almost looks more like that of a Morgans & Wilcox. I think they made a similar smaller Washington, though I don’t have documentation. Is this in fact a Shniedewend Midget Reliance or a M&W? (I don’t think the wording is long enough to say “Printers Proof Press”.)

AdLibPress, it is a Morgans & Wilcox press.

image: mandw.jpg


Thanks, Daniel. Two or three additional bits of information would be very helpful — the museum from which it was donated, and the platen and bed dimensions. Also, the M&W.jpg image didn’t load, apparently — maybe you could just email that directly to me through the Briar Press email link?

Try uploading the file without the ampersand in the filename.


That should work.

See the Help section on “Why won’t my photos upload?” at .

I am consulting someone on campus now for more information. Till he gets back to me, here is the website with a short description of different kinds of presses that we do have on campus.

Dan Horowitz