Heidleberg/Kluge -vs- Miehle/ATF

Being a novice, I enquire of more learned folks: why would anyone chose a “automated” platten press like a Heidleberg or Kluge over a cylinder press like a miehle or a little giant? wouldn’t the make ready on a platten be more burdensome? wouldn’t the impression pressure be greater on a cylinder?

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You could get a myriad of answers to your question regarding cylinder vs. platen press, and it could be a somewhat emotionally charged discussion as we all love our presses..

However, there are certain materials which do not feed easily on a small cylinder press (for instance heavy board materials which will not wrap around the cylinder). For these materials, the ability to feed flat to the platen makes it the tool of choice. A press with a larger diameter cylinder may handle these materials better.

Most commercial letterpress shops utilize both types of presses and jobs are chosen for each dependent on the nature of the job and the tasks to be performed.

The smaller cylinder presses like the Miehle Vertical and the Little Giant you mentioned were designed to directly compete with platen job presses, so will do similar types of work. Makeready certainly is not eliminated on a cylinder press, but it is reduced over that required for similar jobs on the platen press.

Complex diecutting forms are much easier to setup and makeready on a cylinder press as well.

I wouldn’t trade my cylinder press for a platen press, but I also would not wish to live without the platen press in my own shop.

I’m not as learned as some folks here but I’ll give my best shot.

First, I need to ask a question about the impression question. Is it important to you to learn the process of letterpress printing or choose a press that will get the greater impression?

The topic of deep impression can be marketed to a consumer has been around for a while, however, to learn to print first would be my first suggestion. You’ll find you can achieve a deep impression on those presses but that dependes on the how large the area your trying to punch into the paper.

Pulling a make ready from either press is pretty easy. However, on one of my Vandercook presses it’s much quicker. I say easy but that is determined by the pressman’s experience. There are a few printers “more learned” here that could pull a proof or make ready very quickly. Pulling a proof is not a burden, it’s the first step in setting up the press to print, make sure registration is correct, sheet is being pulled straight, no typos, ink consistency, etc….

Have you been looking for a press to purchase?

Casey McGarr
Inky Lips Letterpress
McKinney, TX

If a platen was better than a cylinder or vice versa one or the other would not exist. A v50 will run a larger sheet 14x20 compared to 13x18 on Heidelberg platen but 40 pt stock won’t go round the v50’s cylinder. If your numbering on a cylinder you have to make sure the plunger is hit after or at the same time as the digits but not on a platen. If you die cut on a cylinder you most often need to nick the die to keep the sheet intact on a platen you seldom need to nick the die. Foil stamping systems for platens are less expensive than cylinders.Cylinders are generally faster than platens for perf,crease and printing.On my Heid. KSBA when running pocket folders we leave out the head rule to keep the sheet intact then trim later with the paper cutter. I could go on for days the answer really is what do you want to do with a press then decide.

Very interesting - not the answers I expected….which is good…..means I’m learning.
The reason I ask is that I’m in the slow acquisition process - no rush to get a press, but I want to be prepared to jump when the right one presents itself. As a newcomer with a C&P OS 8x12, which I’m still restoring, I want to keep my eyes open for a complimentary press. I had thought that a Vandercook would be the logical choice, but I wanted to see if there was a great benefit to the speed which the automated presses would offer. And in considering that, I wanted to differentiate the styles.
I think one of my fears is that the automated presses (either style) would be too complex to operate or maintain. I’d hate to get a piece of machinery which I couldn’t maintain. At the same time, being someone willing to get his hands dirty and somewhat mechanically inclined, I had thought that I shouldn’t be concerned about the automation of the press, but rather the mechanism and action of each style.


If you’re restoring a press then you have first hand knowledge of how it works. I operate a Heidleberg Windmill and 3 Vandercooks. The Vandercooks allow me to print posters, and short run jobs. The Windmill which is an excellent platen press allows me to print larger quantities, smaller sizes with hairline registration. As was mentioned before your shop could contain a platen and flatbed. If you’re not intimidated by working on the presses and have help as shown here and other forums then you’ll be just fine.

Good Luck,

Thanks a lot Casey!