First Run Letterpress Traditions

I heard somewhere that there is a certain text traditionally printed on a new/newly acquired letterpress for luck. Any ideas what that text might be? Getting ready to christen my new Adana :)

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Amalgamated Printers Association asks for a Prop Card as your first contribution to the bundle. Otherwise I’m not familiar with such a tradition. See:


Congratulations on the new (to you) Adana. Historically, whenever I have put in a new press, I’ve printed the first impression with relevant information about the press itself. See for a series of photos of me and my friends installing a C&P 8x12 in my garage this summer. Scroll to the bottom of the thumbnails and you’ll see the first impression pulled on the press after cleaning/restoration/setup.

Of course after your first impressions, you’ll start fiddling with roller height, platen leveling, etc… to get it just perfect before going into regular printing service. I always capture that first impression off the press and put it in my printer’s log of work done as a memento.

Good Luck!


Alan— Great photos of the moving process! I’m about to embark on my second C&P move across states with a 10x15…

I’m interested in this photo: what did you use to ‘scrub’ the rust off the wheel? I have QUITE a bit on this new press…

Hi Evseidl,

I used an angle grinder with a wire brush cup on it. You can pick one up at home depot for about $50 and the wire brush cup is another $5 - $8. I would strongly suggest you have some experience with an angle grinder before using it on your press. You probably won’t damage the press (it is cast iron) but they are a powerful tool and can be dangerous in untrained hands. If you’re not comfortable operating one, see if one of your circle of friends has used one and is comfortable using one. It can take the rust of the flywheel, plate, bed, platen, and rails in about 15-20 minutes. Some people get nervous about using a wire brush on a press, but I’ve restored several with no issues.

Hi Alan,

That is a pretty incredible picture because you see the before and after in one image.

I’ve been operating my C&P 8x12 with a pretty rusty flywheel, but I would love it to look like that… wow. My dad has an angle grinder and said he would help me out… I just want to make sure I get the right wire brush attachment. Are there any details to pay attention to when picking it up, like courseness, etc? Also, do you use any lubricant during the process like WD40? Thanks,


Hi Emily,

Mike Parkinson took that photo, he’s responsible for the bulk of those photos on the press move day, which is a pretty valuable chronicle of the day. We print regularly together, usually most Wednesdays. We’re collaborating on a Christmas chapbook right now.

Regarding the wire brush cup, they basically sell one model at Home Depot or Lowes which has one grade of coarseness, the key is to the one with the correct size bolt hole to match the angle grinder (they’re sold in 1/2 and 5/8” pivot size I think…).

If you wear a dust mask, you don’t need to use WD-40, but it will leave the rust dust everywhere. If you spray down the surface first with WD-40, you’ll trap the rust dust somewhat, but will end up wiping a lot of surfaces because the oil/rust combination will be flipped around. In any case, probably use a few drop cloths around, to cover type cases, paper, etc… in your shop.

Let us know how it works out…


Regarding the first printing on a new press, I never heard of that. But then again, that may explain my luck.

Thanks, Alan, for the tips. You’ve instilled me with the confidence that I can do this… I’m going to tackle it this weekend and I’ll definitely post a picture if I’m successful. If I just make a huge mess, well…


I am currently doing a project on this, I would be interested in finding out what you found out yourself on this matter.