As some of you may be aware, there was a tragic accident a Yale University about a month ago in one of the science labs.
Since then Yale has been working very hard on developing rigid safety protocols for students. Since there are several letterpress print shops on campus that are maintained for student use they have been working to develop adaptations for presses to insure student safety.
I know that I have seen a safety device on C&P presses that engages a system to push your hands away from the bed of the press as the press closes. I have not been able to find anything about this on the web. Is anyone familiar with this or other safety devices that can be retro-fittied to a C& P and/or a Vandercook press?
Steve Varvaro

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Steve….. I hate to be a bringer of bad news, but operating a flywheel operated platen press, in particular a C&P, in a commercial setting in the United States is a violation of CFR 1910. I’m not sure if this would apply to students, but it would most certainly apply to any teachers unless the school is exempt from OSHA requirements.

If you do a search here on Briar Press, you’ll find a number of postings about attempts to render such a press “safe” according to OSHA standards. As far as I’m aware, it’s never been accomplished. I went round after round with that particular agency some years ago, and the concensus of opinion is that such a press cannot be rendered compliant to the laws, even with retrofit safety devices.

Now… the Vandercook may be different story…. but since I’ve not looked at decisions regarding that machine, I’m not sure.

a LOT of folks here at Briar Press, including myself, love our C&P presses and use them regularly. BUT the truth of the matter is that they do indeed bite, and can bite VERY hard. Us experienced letterpressmen understand that risk, and accept it as part of what we do…. and if we operate them commercially, we do so illegally. However, our understanding and acceptance of the risks for ourselves is not the same as allowing inexperienced people, especially students, to operate a potentially dangerous machine.

Yale is wise to examine the use of such presses by students. Before I’d even attempt to retrofit a C&P, I’d talk to a Safety Specialist, and/or an attorney familiar with liability laws. I hate to say it, but I’d almost guarantee you that they’ll advise you to not allow hte use of C&P’s in a school setting.

Winking cat, i remember the vo tec school i went to had to chain their c&p up so no one could use it, this happened i think in the late 1970’s. From what i understand if you are the owner of the company you can use the press but no employee can run a c&p. Dick G.

Dick…. you are only partially correct about owner/operators. The rule that was last told to me was is that an owner can run the machine IF it’s a sole proprietorship, and nobody else uses it….. but sometimes OSHA and the insurance guys will get all snippy if it’s even in a location where an employee COULD use it. If it’s any other form like a corporation, partnership, or non-profit then the person is technically an employee, and thus falls under OSHA’s perview and can’t be used at all.

The other problem with the C&P is liability insurance. I’ve had my insurance carrier tell me more than once that they will not cover any accidents on the C&P….. since it doesn’t meet OSHA guidelines.

This is all quite a problem for old Stevie from Yale… since i’m sure they enjoy their presses, and produce some great work. Hopefully, someone will come up with a system that does work, before the school admins force him to shut them all down. Even then, it will require an engineering certification before OSHA will accept it as safe. I’m not optimistic.

I wonder what OSHA has to say about the Windmill. I suppose there isn’t hand-feeding, but there aren’t safety devices on it, aside from the big logo plate.

This tragic incident was about a gal who was doing her senior project in the middle of the night working with a lathe. She had long hair and was all by herself. A lot of machines are dangerous. It’s the operator, not the machine for many accidents. Maybe Yale should buy some locks for their doors.

There is NO machine that will not hurt or kill you! The computer I use to type this answer is hard on a person eyes, but we still sit for hours looking into this computer screens to read text.

We should all just stop using everything, and just sit in our empty house, and wait for death.

Great idea Aaron, i’m in. On second thought your dead a long time, lets have fun and do what we like to do while we can. Dick G.

Dennis’ comments were correct. However, The issue is not about access, commercial use or OSHA. These presses are active and used under supervision of faculty advisors and skilled letterpress craftsman. However they still want to retro-fit some safety features. I know there is a device for the C&P that pushes your hand away as the press closes because I have seen it. Someone out there must be familiar with this device.
Steve V

I have seen this on some presses, it comes up between the delivery board and the platen, don’t know how it hooks up, someone has to have a picture of this. Dick G.

Basically it is a sheet of canvas on, I would guess, a spring roller like a window blind roller mounted under the front edge of the delivery table, with a “u-shaped” stiff wire through the top edge and actuated to rise up as the platen tilts to the printing position, thus preventing the printer’s hand from approaching the platen as the press is closing. I’ve never seen the actual mechanism. I don’t know if it was designed and made by C&P or an aftermarket company. I’m not even sure where you could find such a device now, though either Dave Churchman or Don Black would probably know.


Steve…. while I agree that with careful supervision, many of the dangers can be minimized, that still does not make it legal to keep them in operation.

We can debate the morality and philosophy of it until we are blue in the face, but that will not change the minds of our federal regulators…. I know, I’ve debated with them for years. BUT don’t just take my word for it…. call them on the telephone and ask for a courtesy inspection. They’ll be glad to tell you that the C&P’s cannot be rendered compliant…. after they take three months to look into the matter.

Steve, your comment “I know there is a device for the C&P that pushes your hand away as the press closes because I have seen it.” may or may not be correct. I’ve been around this stuff since the 1960’s and I’ve never seen a C&P device like that. I spent several years researching it in a vain effort to retrofit my own machines…. and found a lot of folks who think they may have seen one once, but didn’t know who made it…. or maybe it was for a Miehle or some other machine. They DID make such a device for Kluges for a short time, but they were ineffective and never met the CFR 1910 guidelines.

The long and short of it is that if you are allowing students to use the presses, you are most likely in violation of Federal Law…. and you most certainly are in violation if an employee runs one. If enough different people run those machines, then sooner or later one of them is going to get hurt….. and your school will be liable, no matter how much you’ve done in an effort to render them safe.

Winking, years ago i sold a 10x15 c&p to a company in Plymouth, MA, they printed coasters, i helped move the press and they gave me a tour of the shop. Theyused mostly 8x12 c&p’s, they had guards all over the place, you could hardly tell it was a c&p, every press had this bar that rose up when the platen started closing that was supposed to push your hand up away from the platen, there was a piece of cloth of some kind that was attached to the bar that rose up, they must have had 8 or 10 presses, maybe more. Even with all the safties about a year after my tour i heard someone got caught in one of the presses. Dick G.

I have seen several C&P presses with platen hand guards. They worked like a window shade in reverse. As the platen closed, the bar rose and connected to it was a window-shade like cloth which was intended to prevent the hands from moving ahead into the maw of the machine.

I saw one on which the cloth was so ragged that if anything, a hand could get caught under the bar as it retracted. I don’t think they were all that effective as a protective measure, but they did slow down my feeding considerably.

I was taught to stand erect at the press so that my hand would not reach into the press as it was closing.

Having seen some industrial accidents in my days, I would suggest only hand-operated presses be allowed in school letterpress shops. I operate a hand-fed platen press in my own shop, but I am very careful who is allowed to operate it, and only when I am standing close by.

J. Henry

The press in this video has the safety device you mention attached:

Nando…. yes, I have seen that particular device before, but it’s not an acceptable solution since it doesn’t prevent the most common type of accident on those machines.

If you look at it closely, you will see that it only guards against a hand getting caught between the feedboard and platen on the downstroke, but does nothing to prevent one’s hand from getting smashed when the platen closes…. which is the real danger.

Now… everybody… don’t get me wrong: I love my old presses, and will continue to operate mine until I die of old age. My ONLY point here is that with all of the litigation, nanny-state laws, and the total lack of self-responsibility that are the norm nowadays, it may not be wise or legal to allow students to operate them since they are not and can’t be rendered OSHA complaint. I don’t have any guards on my presses….. and don’t want them….. but when I get my finger bitten off, I’m not going to sue anybody.