Help with New Vandercook #2 Proof Press

Hello Everyone,
I have just acquired a Vandercook #2 Proof Press that is in very good condition. I would like to begin experimenting with my press, however I don’t have very much experience or knowledge yet. Right now, I am trying to decide which materials I need to pack my roller (I am mainly looking on, but I’m getting very confused with all of the choices available (tympan, kimlon, makeready, japanese tissue, etc.) Which of these are necessary vs. which are optional/preferred for different outcomes? Any advice for beginners (just looking to experiment, not produce actual finished products yet, so nothing too expensive) would be greatly appreciated.

Also, I am having a hard time locating where on my press the undercut of the roller is marked, so if someone could help me with that too!

I just acquired a bunch of quoins and a nice set of furniture and have been experimenting with how to use those too. I am also beginning to create plates using an electro-ethcing technique and am just now purchasing a laminator to use with my PCB paper, but I am experiencing some difficulties with getting the green foil to adhere properly. I’m new to Briarpress, so any advice that anyone can give would be greatly appreciated, including linking to old posts and discussions

Thank you :)

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One of the Vandercook pros told me this about undercut: “Typically, the undercut is .040” or .070” (other amounts were custom factory orders). The number is stamped into the recess between cylnder bear and the cylinder face when the carriage is at the feed board. You may need to clean the area. just use a wire brush.”

For quick-and-dirty packing to get started, I cheated and just put an offset blanket under the tympan paper.

You’re in luck — there’s a Vandercook website ( maintained by Paul Moxon, who is a compendium of knowledge on the Vandy, and teaches use and maintenance seminars as well. You can date your press using the serial number found on a corner of the bed — just look it up on the website. You ought to register your press as well, as the register records the whereabouts of known Vandys still extant. The forum is a good way to share information, although much of the discussion has to do with the power presses.

Does your press have grippers, or is it the newer No. 2? My No. 2 dates to 1929. I use it occasionally but still need to adjust the timing, as the cylinder is not set up quite right — the folks who had it before me removed the cylinder to move the press and it’s still not in synch.

I’ve attached a few photos — there’s an offset blanket on the cylinder, and I shim up the form to print. One day I’ll fix it properly! You may notice that I’ve added some wood around the outside of the bed — this is to accomodate a 10 x 15 form which I proof and then move to a platen press for production.

Good luck, and keep us posted with results (photos of your No. 2 are always welcome here).

image: No. 2.jpg

No. 2.jpg

image: New No. 2.jpg

New No. 2.jpg

Here’s my No. 2 — (I still have the ink plate but took it off recently to sand the paint off the supports.)

image: No. 2 - 1929.jpg

No. 2 - 1929.jpg

If I can ask, what did you pay for the press? I’m selling a similar one right now and I’m trying to price it. Mine would need refinished and properly setup like your doing.


Hi Matt:

I saw your classified ad on Briar Press and was quite intrigued. I’ve only seen reference made to two or three No. 2 Vandys in the 5 or 6 years I’ve been on Briar Press.

To answer your question, my press was, incredibly, free to a good home — and located in my own town, no less!! It was an incredible find. It was used by a professor and printmaker at Indiana University who had retired, and it was taking up space in a garage.

I would suggest you advertise your proof press on along with Briar Press and see what the market will bear. I think it’s a great press if you don’t mind hand-inking or not having grippers, and it’s so much more substantial than a tabletop proof press. (It’s a coincidence that you and I both took the ink plate and supports off, too.)

If I did not already have one, I would be interested in yours, especially because you live in Illinois, right next door to Indiana. I think that proximity may have a lot to do with what you ultimately get for your press.

Best of luck, and keep us posted!

—David Smith,
The Armchair Detective
Amalgamated Printers’ Association #605.

@David - Thank you for the info! I’m checking out I also just dropped the price. I worked on a #2 in Chicago while in an art program during my undergrad 13+ years back. I really enjoyed the process of working with this press. Wish I had the time to get back into it, but kids, work, bicycles, and fishing take up my time now.

Thanks again!