Treadle on C&P is hard to use

Does anyone have any trouble with the ergonomics of using a treadle on a C&P?
I am 5’10” with fairly long legs and my top thigh hits the bottom of the tray as a I use the treadle.
So I try to compensate by moving my leg sorta sideways which makes it harder to pump the treadle as well as hurting my lower back.
I can’t seem to find the “rhythm” of this treadle and also am finding it quite difficult to continually pump the treadle (I end up sweating!).
Any thoughts?

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Has your press been lubricated recently? Suggest once a week at least - I use a mix of 30W oil and teflon lubricant.

Does your feed table have a shelf under it? You don’t seem tall enough to have you knee touch a regularly positioned feed table. Maybe I’m wrong.

Bill, thanks for the reminder! I probably should oil it up.

The feed table does not have a shelf underneath. I can’t be the tallest printer out there! :)

I am also wondering if I should stand higher or lower while operating the treadle. What kind of leverage do you need?
I feel that standing lower is tricky to feed the paper.

Is your press on 4” x 4”s or 4” x 6” runners or is it on the floor? If it is on the floor, that is the reason. I am 6’ and sometimes my thigh hits too. I have my press on 4” x 4” because my treadle hook is for a larger press and bottomed out with a 2” x 4”. The press we use at the college was extremely hard to treadle until we oiled all the main bearings. Then it was really easy and soft. You may be missing some oiling points.

My 8x12 is mounted on a 4x4 pallet (so I can move it around with a pallet jack when necessary). I made a small 4x4 platform pallet which slides into the front of the press pallet - giving me press-height footing. I’m 5’10”, and it works very well for me…

I’m a hair under 6’0” and have no trouble treadling my 8x12 OS that is on 2x4 skids. Don’t bang my knees on anything. I do hit my knee on the 10x15 NS at the university once in a while, especially if I forget to remove the drawer mounted under the delivery board. I stand on the floor.

If you’re having trouble feeding while standing on the floor, maybe you’re setting your form too low in the chase? I do get a back ache from treadling and feeding the press, but a short rest in the easy chair usually cures that. I’m a hobby printer with runs seldom exceeding 250 copies, so this isn’t really a problem. I spend way more time setting type and distributing forms than playing at the press.

Switching legs will help alleviate any discomfort. With a little practice you can do this on the fly without missing an impression. Until that skill is acquired, use the throwoff. You also get short breaks when you add ink or move a lift of the delivered prints to a drying rack.

You will get sweaty running a treadle at room temperature and I need a sweat band around my head to keep from dripping onto the finished prints. That’s part of why the print shop is in the basement…a bit cooler in the summer and a bit warmer than the garage in the winter. Even so it is sweaty work. It’s also a good workout. Embrace the sweat.

Haha, I am embracing the sweat! It’s good exercise. I think it needed some oil — that helped a bit. My press is on a pallet and I’m standing on a foot stool for leverage.

I bought the treadle from Hern Iron Works so it should be fitted to the NS Chandler&Price.

I am sore from yesterday’s run (printing run) so I guess I just gotta get used to it. Good to hear from others that it’s a sweaty, achy job (thought I was weak!)

swich legs or you will end up with one monster leg.

Hern’s treadle hooks are sometimes a bit rough on the inside where they make contact with the bend of the main shaft when they are new from the foundry. If yours isn’t smooth you might want to grind or file it down so it doesn’t grind into the shaft. It might be producing some extra friction.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

I am 6’4” (mostly legs) and we have a 10x15 C&P with Hern treadle on 4x4 skids. I DEFINITELY hit my thigh on the bottom of the table (no shelf) when we first reassembled the press. What I did was cut lifts to raise the table 1.5” out of some scrap wood. I tapered the wood at 45 degrees out from the size of the seats that the table is normally on (tapered toward the center and toward the operator) in order to give it a little wider of a base to rest and not have any corners to catch myself on.

Up on 4x4’s is pretty important. I’m 5’10” and that helps a lot. The other thing is I treadle with my toe rather than the arch of my foot. Once the press is running, just the toe of your foot is sufficient to keep it moving, and it moves your leg back to where it should be so that it doesn’t hit the feed table.

I put my 8x12 OS with a Hern treadle on 4x4s.

I also wear knee pads. It’s easy to miss a feed when you’re dancing around on one leg, holding your knee that you just whacked on that seemingly pointless piece that juts out each time the platen opens.

I believe you are referring to the rocker lock, which is not pointless at all. It’s a very elegant solution to the problem of frame flexibility at impression. Just at the moment of impression, the rocker lock locks the rocker (and thus the platen, which is bolted onto the rocker) in place and stiffens everything up while the pressure of impression is happening. If you think makeready is tough now, try doing it without a rocker lock.

If you’re dancing around holding onto your knee, make sure that left hand is used to throw off the impression before it grabs onto the knee. I’d use the same tactic for a misfeed.

I find the treadle much more comfortable when the press is directly on the floor. It brings the treadle quite near the ground at it’s lowest point. But I am too tall to feed comfortably at this height.

I think it’d make sense to have the treadle hook lengthened by any amount which you have added under the press feet. If it takes a 4x4 to bring the press to a comfortable height - add 4 inches* to the hook.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

* Just realized that a 4x4 in my shop measures 3 7/16. Better make sure you know exactly what is under your press before jumping to any conclusions!

And because the hook is only half way from the pivot to the treadle foot plate adding 4 inches to the hook will drop the foot plate nearly 8 inches — maybe not what you’d want.


A very good point! But it is definitely too high as it is when the press is on skids as thick as a 4x4. Maybe some adjustable treadle hooks would be helpful!


Someone needs to make a forged steel hook out of round rod threaded left and right hand for a turnbuckle in the middle with lock nuts. Infinitely adjustable to customize treadle height for anyone and any installation. Why didn’t George think of that?


That should do it!

The hook that came with my treadle from Hern has two bolt holes in it at varying heights. If the press is flush on the floor use the upper one, if it is up on 4x4’s, use the lower one. Keeps the treadle right on the floor (about 3/4” off the floor on the down stroke).

Arie: When you whack your kneecap on it, it is no longer called a “rocker lock”. It is called something unprintable, over and over again.