Vandercook SP-15

Have been looking at your site for a few weeks trying to learn
a little about one of my Dad’s passions. Thought some of you may enjoy seeing some pictures and a quick video of this press that we have “un-buried” from storage in his shop. I helped him run about 500 prints in 1981 and after his death in 1985, we covered it up and it has been in a back room in the shop with a million other relics ever since. It was very interesting looking at the manuals and paperwork that were
with this press since 1965. Here’s a link to the video and photos.

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Wow.. in tip top shape.. And wow.. using the inflation calculator, that machine would have run $14,192.54 today right off the assembly line.

I will be traveling to Asheville this week. Don’t happen to be around the corner, do ya? I have yet to see one of the run in person.

Great photos btw. Thanks for sharing. This one is next on my list. I have a C&P that I rescued from the scrapyard and have just gotten it restored and ready to print. I hope to get a sp15 in the near future. Have some posters that I really would like to print. Must be some great memories working with your dad.

Make sure an post it here when you are ready to send it to a new home.

When you are ready I would like to put in a bid for my non-profit studio for writers and artist. We are hoping to obtain such a fine press at a more affordable price than what the current market is bringing these days. We will be working hard to provide the space.

The press is right outside Greensboro….about 3 hours or so from Asheville I’m afraid.
Not entirely sure yet about anything in regards to selling.
More research and thought needs to go into determining a value. I know I would love to see it used by creative and talented people.

I live in Graham and will be over Greensboro way today. I’d love to stop by to see your press. If that’s okay, email me at revryman AT gmail DOT com.

Well dealdesigns,

I know you will have lots of interest in this press. I hope that someone with talent ends up with it as well. I fear some of these get purchased by the high bidder but may not end up getting put to good use. Most artist aren’t able to keep up with the price of these now a days.

I am part of a printers guild and it is nice to see some of the members freely share there equipment. No one has an SP15 but they are getting dug up more and more. Great to see them back in use. They can sure make some amazing artwork. I have a poster from 1914 that I am aching to reproduce. It is a 4 color print and what I have just won’t cut it.

I am not from the area but if my travel to Asheville takes me by Greensboro I will shoot you a line but I hate to take up your time with entertaining me.

Do you have a poster by chance that you printed with your dad? That would sure be a keeper.

Just occurred to me, that if money is not a factor then you might find a printing museum or the like that could use in for teaching and instruction. Some are able to rent the machines in house and help support the museum as well. That is what they do here in Houston. Just a thought.

You could probably work it out where you still own the press and it is on permanent loan arrangement. I have a number to the director of the third largest printing museum in the world if you are hoping to see it put to use that way. She may know a great place that it could go.


Thanks for your interest Caleb but the press will be sold….we plan to use the money to finance repairs on my father’s shop. It would be nice for it to go to a school or similar institution however. And yes, we still have several hundred prints that were run on the press, all dated 1981 I believe.

It looks like a very nice press. You may be interested to know that the handle is currently installed backwards.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

The entire assembly on top was removed briefly years ago in order to move it into storage. It just needs to be removed again and lined up properly. I assume that is why the handle is in the wrong position.

This press had an interesting start in its life. It was loaned on 8-30-65 to Printing Arts Research Labs, Inc. of Santa Barbara, California for display at the NAPL (National Association of Printers and Lithographers) convention held at the Conrad-Hilton Hotel in Chicago and was returned to Vandercook on 10-1-65. It was promptly sold and shipped out on 10-5-65 to the Greensboro Printing Company, 2614 High Point Road, Greensboro, NC and the paper work was posted. This is what can be called a “loaded” press—it has everything including a gripper bar with 5 grippers and 4 sheet guides. It has a .918 bed. This is a highly desirable press and I’ll leave it at that.

How did you find all that out? Very cool indeed!

Thank you!


better come up with a figure. Looks like the doors will be knocked down for this one. :)

Fritz1 has secret sources. I think he even has the CAD drawings for that press, eh? :)

if i’m not mistaken Fritz bought the rights to Vandercook,

Fritz is the owner of NA Graphics, who in turn owns the Vandercook archives.. yeap, all Vandercook related, he’s the guy. And Paul Moxon, he recently published a book which is like the bible on Vandercooks. Both very great persons.

Fritz, thank you very much for that information. It is much appreciated.

CAD? What’s that?? Every bit and piece of the Vandercook archives resides on paper, Mylar, linen, or other blueprint reproducable drawings. This includes about 30,000 equipment cards carefully filed by press model, then by serial number. The drawings follow standard drafting/machine shop practices that have not changed much over the years, even into computer aided drafting. All the drawings are drawn by hand in either pencil or ink. We make photo copies or on the larger ones, have blueprints made at a shop in Durango. Some of the drawings are quite large, up to 8 feet long. There are also all the pattern drawings as well as fixture drawings. Some stuff has been lost since Illinois Tool Works sold Vandercook back in 1975, and much of the collection was in shambles when Hal Sterne bought it from Vandersons in 1993. To Hal’s credit, they organized and saved all the still extant paper work that now fills 19 file cabinets. We also have Hacker drawings primarily for the plate gauges and some drawings from Hamilton Manufacturing Co who was a subcontractor to Vandercook in the 1930s for feed tables and cabinets. The earliest drawings date to about 1915. Vandercook owners should sign up for the Vanderblog as I will occasionally post portions of assembly prints in response to questions.



I am generation X so I immediately think CAD drawings when I just mean the technical plans/drawings. Funny because I am actually doing some hand drawn technical drawings specifically for someone as we speak, just for the effect.


if you are trying to find a good home for it, that is someone who knows how to use it and will put it to good use. It seems like you might contact a place like Hatch Show Prints in Nashville, TN.

They have interns that might be moving on and up. They, I am sure, would love to have this press since it is right up their alley. They might likely be ready to invest the money since it is their career. Could do the press justice and get you some good cash. They wouldn’t be all that far from you since that does make a big difference in what price you ultimately get.

Fritz, a question for you….
You mentioned that my press has a .918 bed.
Is this a thicker bed than the standard models?
Also, upon inspection yesterday, this does indeed have the 5 grippers you mentioned! So cool to think this is indeed a special press. Thanks again for sharing your expertise.

.918 means your bed it type high. A good thing. Versatile.

To expand on what Mr. James said, Vandercooks were originally designed as proofing presses. That is, they were intended to be used to print a single copy on a large sheet with plenty of white space for editing markup. They were designed to have the set matter placed in the bed in a galley, so you didn’t have to worry about the type or slugs getting jumbled moving it off the galley and back onto it again afterward. This means the beds of most Vandercooks were made to be a bit deeper than a standard press’s bed to account for the thickness of the galley. Yours was specially built to have the bed at normal press depth so you don’t have to worry about putting a bed plate in to raise your set matter to type-height. Very desirable nowadays since most people are using Vandercooks as final print presses rather than proofers.

The .918 bed was the more common bed, not the .968 galley bed. A number of the presses were designed for locked up chases to be slid onto the bed for proofing. The SP-20 was intended primarily for that kind of use by newspapers. Several models were designed for short run work where advertisers may have wanted several hundred proofs to hand out to retail locations prior to publication, or reprints of articles appearing in magazines or newspapers. It’s not really possible to apply a general rule to the Vandercook presses as they were designed and made for multiple purposes depending on the time frame made and the model of press. The primary sales effort in the 1960s was for the conversion of standing type forms into negatives for use in offset. Publishers and printers had tens of thousands of standing forms that had to be converted. The other factor was that the majority of the type set for offset was still hot metal and proof presses were used for reproduction proofing work until hot metal phased out and for volume work that meant to about 1980-82. Newer type setting methods started killing hot metal by the late 60s, then the linecasting machines stopped being produced and the rush was on to get out of hot metal as fast as the newer methods proved satisfactory. There was no love affair with most printers with hot metal. The only trouble for Vandercook was that when these conversions had been accomplished, there was no further need for the presses and sales dropped like a rock so that by 1972, after ownership changed (1968) to Illinois Tool Works, Vandercook was showing a substantial loss and when the RO424 4-color offset proof press failed to sell in any significant quantity, the story was over and ITW set about shutting down production and sold the remains to what became Vandersons. And then I ended up with it in 1996—so from 250 employees in 1965 down to part-time for 3 people today.

When i entered the work force in the mid 1960’s there were quite a few vandercooks around, some of the larger type houses had rows of them, like fritz said most that i saw were not made for proofing galleys of type but for pulling repros, then as hot metal died out these presses were scrapped. I can’t remember what they cost new but i think they are selling now for more than they did when they were new, i’d bet there are a lot of printers that wish they held on to their vandys a little longer.

Thanks for all the info and the history lessons. All of your comments are appreciated.

Just added some more photos and another video to the photobucket gallery. We are going to list this for sale in the classifieds on this site. See the pics and video here:

This press is now listed for sale in the classifieds here.
Please feel free to contact me about it. I have not listed this
on ebay because I really want to get to know who winds up
with it.