heavy stock on a Vandercook?

Hey all,
I’ve recently fully restored my #4 and ran a project using .040 recycled newspaper pressboard with .012 worth of packing/mylar on the cylinder. I have some even thicker pressboard i was contemplating putting through the machine but i obviously don’t want to hurt my new friend so i was gonna remove some packing material to compensate for the increase in thickness. So question(s): what’s the minimal amount of packing i can use on the cylinder in order to decrease the impression on thicker stocks? Similarly, and i know there’s varying opinion on this, what’s the maximum impression i can get on a vandercook? I’ve seen some heavy blind debossing done with these machines but i guess i’d like to know the limitations before i find out the hard way. I can already see some of you cringing.Ha!


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Heavy impression can be achieved, however, this could damage your press, wood and metal type. Over time if you only print in a single area it could have ill effects on the press bed (low spot).
Not sure you can put anything around that cylinder thicker than .040 that could be printed. You would take off the tympan since the paper is very thick.
Sounds like your really having to crank that handle to get the carriage across the form. The press is not set up to drive type/image deeply into the paper on a consistent basis without problems in the long term.

I once read that “hitting the paper with an overly deep impression was raping the paper.” If you hit the paper very deeply then the only thing people see is the impression and not the relationship between the paper and the printing. Which means that the paper and type/image work together.

Inky Lips Press

Hi Johnny,

I applaud you on the good care you intend to bestow upon your new press. I have a No. 4, and if yours is like mine it has an undercut of 0.040”. For a kiss impression, packing plus stock should amount to 0.043”. (I use a little spreadsheet to determine the total.) I’ve been told that you can go to 0.047” without stressing the press.

That said, I have to admit that I go up to 0.051” on thick (0.020”), dampened cotton stock. This drives the type or plate a maximum of 0.008” into the paper, which is less than halfway. This creates a slight deboss, enough to create that letterpress “wow” for the sensitive viewer but not enough to wow most bridal customers. When making the print, I feel very little if any resistance when the impression cylinder reaches the form. I think the softness of the dampened stock absorbs some of the pressure.

The problem with too much pressure on a reproduction proof press is that the bearings were not designed to handle pressure greater than that required to make a high-quality kiss impression on paper far thinner than my 0.020” paper and certainly your 0.040” pressboard. I’m always carefully checking my cleaning cloth when I wipe under the rails. If I ever were to see the tiniest speck of what I thought might be metal, I would immediately mend my evil ways.


Thanks guys for your input. I appreciate your patience. I guess my naive question is this: I want to run 50pt pressboard with a .040 undercut. In this case is packing necessary at all? I don’t want to stress the press with an extremely deep impression but i’m not sure if running it with little or no packing is a viable solution. Will the thickness of the stock absorb the impact that would normally be absorbed by the packed cylinder?