First Press - Buying a Heidelberg Windmill

My husband and I own a small stationary business (mostly wedding related goods) but we’re looking to expand asap. This would be our first press. I have very limited knowledge but do enjoy a challenge and learning.

If we purchased it I’d be taking a few classes in the LA area (we’re in Central CA) to get accustomed to, well, everything.

Am I insane to consider this machine? Be honest.

I’d really hate to purchase a tabletop press only to find out that we need to upgrade within months/year. We currently produce around 10-20 large invitation suites a year with many more smaller “save the date” projects.

I’d like a C&P 10x15 but all the ones I have seen for sale are back east and I have no interested in making that trip.

Would I be better off buying a small Kelsey Letterpress Q 6X10 or buying the Heidelberg Windmill 10 X 15, 220 single phase?

The Kelsey is $900, the Windmill is $1500 (I’ve put in an offer of $1200). I’ve been told that the Heidelberg Windmill is sturdy and dependable and that the inking system is to be preferred.

The Windmill has a stone table (cleaned since pic) box of furniture, assorted dies, extra rollers, perf rules,misc supplies, and the original “owners manual.” The Kelsey has “13 fonts in antique wood cases, 3 chases, wood block assortment and more.” But it needs a new roller.

I’ve attached a few images of both.

I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, nor do I want to make an investment that cannot grow quickly with our business.


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I think there will certainly be more to learn with the windmill, but they’re nice machines. Part of this decision depends on how much you want to devote to being a printer. If the idea is just to have the capability to offer letterpress goods, there are plenty of vendors to work with.

Luckily in California, there are windmill teachers available. I would prefer to work with a floor model press, but then again, I count myself as a printer first and foremost, and a designer second.

James Beard
Vrooooom Press

Personally, I don’t think you’re insane to buy the press as it seems a reasonable price. However, you are insane if you are going to run it after a few classes. The learning curve is higher than that. What you should do is hire a pressperson who knows the press to run it for you while at the same time imparts the knowledge for you to eventually run it yourself.

Thanks for the info!

We live in the middle of nowhere so hiring a pressperson is not possible. I was hoping to do as James suggested and find a Windmill teacher in the LA area to learn from.

We don’t want a vendor eating into our profit margin and our goal is for my husband to quit his current job and for us to print full time. I’ve always had a love of presses and I’m a control freak so it only seams logical to do my own work. We’re both willing to devote the time to learning as long as it isn’t a time/money/energy pit in the sense that it’s going to take too much to get us up and running without any feasible results. We don’t expect to be producing prints right away but I don’t want it to take years to learn the basics of this machine either.

Well at least you’re not going into it blind. I wish you good luck and success.

Perhaps you should try and find a knowledgeable person to take a look at the windmill before you buy it. The purchase price plus moving costs plus the cost of classes might not be the entire cost if it needs parts, maintenance, etc.

Do you have a paper cutter which is big enough to cut paper in the basic sizes you get from a paper company? If you are going to do enough printing to keep the press busy, it’s mighty handy to have one.

’ Afternoon -
Regarding your post to Briar Press:
I thought I’d extend an invitation to visit a Mano Press. (The shop is in Hayward, California - an easy drive from central California) We are a complete full service letterpress shop, with many presses including a Heidelberg 10x15. I’d be happy to spend an afternoon or so with you folks to demonstrate this wonderfully precise press.
Best, A.D.Stump

Remember the windmill was designed for long runs.
I operated them for over 50 years in a commercial printers and regularly produced 25,999 impressions per day off each machine. The set=up time fot small runs far outways the running time.
The Kelsey would probably be more cost effective
You do not mention any chases with the windmill; it’s no use without at least two.
Yhe inking may be superior om the windmill, but do you relly need it for your class of work?

I would concur with Mr. Bennett’s suggestion that the Windmill is a long run press. Unless you are running a lot of common size-common color jobs (business cards, envelopes, etc.) changing setups/feeder etc can be a bother and make something like a C&P a pleasant alternative. Still, for $1200 (figure $2000 delivered and running (rigging, electric service, drip pan, etc) it’s not too bad a deal.

If nothing else, go to the Boxcar Press site and download the operators manual and study it vigorously, as it will give you an idea of what you will be in for. It’s a great press, but will definitely require your utmost attention and respect to run. Good Luck!

Bern is right, these presses are made for long runs. I specialize in short runs, i don’t get more than 7 or 8000 impressions a day off each of my windmills. even on long runs i only run my presses on a slow speed, about 1500 impressions an hour, if you have problems and have to get a windmill repaired it can cost a lot, by running slower i feel there is less problems. If you are planning to do this full time any table top or c&p that you have to hand feed will soon become a chore to print on. Good Luck Dick G.

I’d say find a C&P floor model to start on. Certainly there are some available in California—have you tried Hicks Brothers in San Francisco?

Hope that helps,

Where in California? I’m in Viasala, how far are you? I have both Windmills and C&P’s Carl.

I cannot thank all of you enough for all your information and ideas! This is the best forum I have ever been on.

I think Geoffrey said what concerns me most: I don’t have someone knowledgeable to take a look at the Windmill b/f I purchase it plus, I know something with a motor/more parts = more maintenance. I’d prefer something more simplistic (especially to start!)

A.D.Stump - Thank you so much for you invitation! I would love to come. Hayward is about 5 hrs from us. We’re just on the edge of Kern County. Disneyland still considers our zipcode to be in So. Cal.

Bern Bennett, mikefrommontana, dickg - “The set=up time fot small runs far outways the running time.” I can’t get this out of my head. I think you’re right. I downloaded the manual an hr our two before Mikes post and it scared me straight I think. I suppose full time for a wedding stationer is different than full time for a business printer. A typical order for us would be 100-150 5x7 invitations (two color will probably be our most popular), and the same amount of response cards, enclosures, and envelopes. So, I think what Mike said will probably be true: “changing setups/feeder can be a bother.”

dicharry- Thanks for the lead. I had not found that site! The do have what I want in stock, both a C&P 8x12 and the 12x18! They seem to be a little pricey. Is $1800 and $2200 too much for these machines?

Carl- I think you’re the closest to me! We’re in Tehachapi (Bear Valley Springs to be precise) about 2 hrs from you! Looking to sell any of your C&P’s? :D If not, can we hang out with you like groupies for an afternoon? I’d love to see everything in action!

So, taking everything everyone has said into account, I think it’s best if I hold out for the C&P I really want. I’d prefer old style but I’ll take what I get. I’ve never been so happy to be disappointed. You have all been so kind and helpful. You made my week.

Now I just need to find one that isn’t 2000 miles away. Do you think 8x12 is an adequate size or should I look at the 12x18?



The prices might be a little higher at Hicks Brothers, but they’ll treat you right and you’ll know that your press doesn’t have wavy rails or other problems that could be very expensive (if not impossible) to repair. They’ll also have new rollers and trucks on the press—that alone would cost you $300 or more.

Hope that helps,

And I think the 8x12 would be fine (at least for some time), but if you have the space for a 12x18 then that would obviously provide more flexibility in terms of print size.


That makes perfect sense Brad. Plus they have financing which makes me happy.

What would you say is the max printable area on an 8x12? I have a feeling the 12x18 is probably more machine than we need but we can always sell and upgrade that is, if I can let go of my first press!


Thank you for the link to Hicks Brothers. That’s the first vendor someone has listed that is out west. Do you know of any othe resources out west? Thanks in advance.


The Windmill I was looking at is in Vegas. If you want I’ll email you the link.


Come and visit. I do have a 10x15 c&p and a 10x15 Heidelberg for sale. I you come for a visit I would be happy to show you the ins and outs of letterpress printing. Some weedend would be best for me. The windmill is not hooked up and i have never run it. The c&p is running and is in use. I run a small letterpress trade shop in town. I foil stamp on 2 Klugies, number and print on 4 Miehles v50x’s And die cut on a 13x18 windmill. have other c&p that I do small jobs on….. the list is endless, 559 730-1596 cell. Carl.

Thanks Whitney, but a Windmill is too much press for me at this time. I’m still learn too. It’s exciting to see how many people are getting into this art.

I’ve printed some 7x10 jobs on my 8x12 OS but that’s my limit, I’ve tried pushing it further but the image started to fade. If you have the space and can get a larger size I’d say go for it! No matter what you get start with a treadle and please, please, PLEASE get some instruction before operating - platen presses can and will bite given the opportunity. Best of luck and have fun!


Steve Nartowicz

Paper Stone Printing
Steve Nartowicz
P.O. Box 137
Chesterfield MA 01012

Buy the Heidelberg Windmill. As time goes on you will find that you came out ahead. There is always the job, that needs a great running the impress is perfect and the Heidelberg Windmill will do the job.

I started with a 8x12 c&p, then a 10x15, Now i have a 12x18 , the larger press can print much more things, it carries ink better than the smaller presses and has much more impressional strength. I still use my 10x15 but the 12x18 is my favorite. Steve is right the 8x12 can do fine work but most presses don’t like to print more than 2/3 of the chase size. Good Luck Dick G. ps, hey Steve, if i climb on top of the snow pile in my driveway i can see your house from here, hope winter has gone easy on you.

We have a Heidelberg, but print all of our wedding work on our Vandercooks. A Heidelberg seems like such overkill for printing anything under a couple hundred. Getting ready to print will take significantly more time than the actual printing. Also with a Heidelberg it is difficult to avoid wasting paper because of its speed and with our wedding work the cost of good paper adds up in a hurry.

I think you’d be better off spending more money for a Vandercook which is typically a great press for printing up to 150 or 200 in an edition although we’ve done much higher numbers at times.

Definition of STATIONERY: materials (a paper, pens, and ink) for writing or typing
Definition of STATIONARY: fixed in a station, course, or mode

Dick, are you sure it’s my house? We’re pretty buried here, all you can see is the chimney! On top of that we’ve got 18-24” coming tomorrow! I’ll snowshoe up on my roof tomorrow and give you a wave! Stay warm!

Windmill! Of course. No question about it. When you’re broke and the local digital shop needs 5,000 door hangers die cut, you’re gonna be happy you have it….

…not that it has happened to me yet. But when it does, I’M READY.

Stanislaus Pekala:

Definition of NITPICKER: One who is concerned with or finds fault with insignificant details.

Definition of GRAMMAR-NAZI: A captious individual who cannot resist the urge to correct a spelling and/or grammar mistake even in informal settings. After pointing out the linguistic shortcomings in others, a Grammar Nazi feels a strange sense of twisted and unconstructive intelligentsia delight.

In reality, they are making someone else feel bad for no reason and unintentionally implying that their “superior” grammar skills are all they have to show for a wasted liberal arts education.


oh snap!

Definition of STATIONERY: materials (a paper, pens, and ink) for writing or typing
Definition of STATIONARY: fixed in a station, course, or mode”

Well, I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon, or why would they be buying such a heavy press?

I just do not understand what everyone talking about the long time to set up a Heidelberg Windmill. I have printed on both the Heidelberg Windmill and Vandercook and C&P 10x15 presses for years. If you use the same starting point on all presses and adjust you lock up (type or engraving) to the starting point, set up is the same.

I offer classes on The Windmill. 27 years Exp. I have two. I Print 6 tons of paper on the one every year. I run these presses more than any other. They are the best production press for letterpress for any qty. Any shop that has one never goes hungry. Vandercooks were mainly meant for proofs or an occasional poster job, not production. You’ll cut your production costs more than half with a windmill. You will have more time to devote elsewhere. I can teach you how to use, as little as one sheet of paper and your set up time to almost nothing.
Remember to “Kiss Print” don’t create braille or any evidence on the reverse side of sheet.
When in doubt ask a Journeyman Letterpress Printer (JLP)

‘Stationary’ used in place of ‘stationery’ is hardly insignificant. I don’t need a liberal arts education, as I’ve learned from dad: “Never have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.” ‘Nuff said!