Unheated Garage- How to protect press?

I’m in Michigan and my press is in an unheated garage. I will eventually get a heater for when I’m working out there, but in the meantime, I’m looking for some tips to keep the press from sweating and rusting. I bought the press last winter, which was incredibly mild, so it wasn’t an issue then, but I’d like to be prepared this year. Aside from keeping the moving parts well-oiled, what can I do?


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Move to California.

Insulation and wallboard on the ceiling, walls and doors. Some type of heat source, just enough to keep the humidity down. When you print you will want it about 65 or so degrees. Make sure you warm things up a couple of hours before you want to print. I don’t know if it will help but perhaps a canvas drop cloth on top of the press when you are not using it. If you cannot get a small heater of some kind that you can leave on during the fluctuations then maybe a dehumidifyer.I live in northern Ohio so I see a lot of what you do. I hope this can help you.

I weathered two winters in Indiana, close to the Michigan border. The garage space I had was a two-car brick, and it was un-heatable after about December 15th. In the days leading up to that point I would have to run a kerosene jet heater for hours to be able to work for a few hours in the afternoon. The warm air hitting the cold metal of both presses and inside type cabinets caused them to sweat profusely, and it was terribly hard to heat the platen of my 10 x 15 enough to take ink. The only way to use and protect your equipment is to insulate, and keep a regular heat source going both night and day. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to move to California where winters are milder, but I still had to insulate my garage, and operate a regular heat source to take care of my equipment.


You could try what piano owners and other people with sensitive equipment do — add a little heat — throw a large sheet of poly over the press and put a low heat source, like a 60W light bulb, under the press inside the poly tent. The additional heat should keep the condensation at bay. When you’re going to print, warm the space up slowly, and you could put a small electric space heater under the poly to help warm the press up, being careful to keep it away from the rollers. The key is to not let the room temperature get too far ahead of the press.


I have my press, an 8x12 c&p, in an unheated garage for 4 years with nothing but a Fan to keep the air moving around the press and have had no problems. I do keep the ink disc and rollers in the house to protect them.

Thanks, all. I was planning on a drop cloth. I’m hoping to get the garage partially insulated, but not sure how effective it will be. With the layout and quality of the garage, It’s really cost prohibitive to heat it throughout a Michigan winter, even just a little.
I think the fan sounds like a good idea, as does the move to California. Until then, I’ll do what I can to keep it dry. I’m looking into getting a second hand furnace or natural gas wall mounted heater that I can turn on when needed (I do a run about once or twice a month).

If you use a gas or fuel heater remember that one of the combustion products is water vapor. You’d be better off with a surprisingly small amount of electric heating, as was suggested above with a light bulb. You don’t need to heat up the press or garage to room temperatures, unless you are using it. The rest of the time you only need to encourage any moisture that does condense out from the air to do so on something other than the press.

re heating space with electric lighting:

At one place I worked, a couple of incandescent electric lights (bulbs) were used to keep the inside of a machine warm and dry; but they were safely enclosed within the casing of the machine, which was used intermittently.

At another site of the same newspaper, a cupboard containing photoprocessing paper materials which could be combustible was fitted with a 40 watt fluorescent lamp (4 feet long tube) which gave out a gentle heat and no hot spots (repeat, no hot spots); but this was in airconditioned room in tropics, so different conditions to Michigan; but perhaps food for thought. The objective was to keep the paper dry, so that it would not buckle when taken to another part of the room where humidity could be different.

A sheet of poly sounds like it could be better than a (porous) drop sheet over a machine. Clear poly should show any condensation on the inside of the sheet? and allow you to take a glance at the machine from time to time, to check any visible condensation/rust.

Use water dispersent (WD40)?

It there a way of keeping the metal of the machine slightly warm? as with the incandescent electric lamp bulbs? From my high-school physics and stories from Canada, I would suggest having some kind of heat-conductor (a sheet of metal) chilled by outside exposure to weather, projecting inside so that this sheet of metal is the coldest part of the inside of the garage, so that humidity inside the garage condenses on this metal sheet; arrange something to catch the water which drips off. [We have problem with upside-down domestic refrigerators in humid conditions; that’s the fridges with the freezer behind the lower door, the “ordinary” section being the top. The problem is that the floor of the upper (cool, not freezing) compartment then becomes a cold part, and moisture collects on that floor, causing an annoying problem.]

We had snow this (2012) winter in Queensland, but not where I live, so I do not propose to carry out practical experiments.


I have always used 100W incandescent bulbs, placed near the ground, in my barn in the winter for the barn cats to gather around and stay warm. Don’t know how many of you have noticed, but those 100W bulbs are no longer allowed to be sold here in the US. Next year 75W will be banned. They will eventually work their way down until none are allowed anymore. All this regulation to force folks buy the energy efficient bulbs. Nice concept but those energy savers don’t produce the heat of the traditional bulbs. I’ve squirled-away hundreds of 100W bulbs so that I hopefully won’t run out in my lifetime.


Foolproof, really?
Glancing on line, I still see 300-watt incandescent for sale.
Or 165-watt floods, etc.


i heard the same thing, they want you to use those energy efficient bulbs, the regular old bulbs i heard will be hard to find.

Assuming (and it seems that you have) that you have a power source, quick simple fix follows, greenhouses were and still are heated with tiny, fully enclosed tubular steel heater usually available in 24, 36, 48inch lenghts at maybe 300, 500, watt, etc powerfactors. It doesnt come much more temperature fluctuation than that, In the greenhouse. 100% safe linked to 24 hour 7 days a week, time switch with built in or separate thermostat. 24/7 good for go, 24/7 snug and warm when Jack Frost is prowling or there is 2ft on the roof, and shut down when the thermometer hits the top, even if your in the Bahamas. Re light bulbs yes here in U K they are trying to phase out the old style, in favour of the energy savers, but it is well documented (and hotly denied) that a lot of these bulbs are/can give off harmful radiation. Our Press keep trying to warn, but nobody seems to take heed. Exactly the same as nobody thought that counter staff, were in danger of radiation from microwave ovens, until a few kidneys were harmed and we believe some of the first were in your Roadhouses and Diners. Possibly another debt of gratitude We owe You!!! NOW all microwaves come with large radiation warnings, we may yet be able to repay the debt,, by getting a ruling on energy saving bulbs.

I’m also in Michigan and tried to use my press in the garage. Too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. The working presses are all in the basement. There’s a handpress in the garage temporarily, but that too is headed for the basement.

I had a letterpress print shop in one stall of my garage in northeastern Wisconsin for about 15 years. It was walled off and had panelling on the inside of the studs on the 3 outside walls, and one layer of panelling on the inside wall (I didn’t have a garage door on that stall, only a man door). There was also panelling over 1 inch of styrofoam insulation on the ceiling as I recall, and second floor floorboards above that, on top of the ceiling joists. I had a big woodstove from a railroad station which heated the place up in about an hour (and it gets COLD in Wisconsin). I don’t remember having any problems with condensation except in the spring.

My advice would be not to worry about condensation until you have a problem, and then deal with the problem you have. One bout of condensation which you might have in the beginning is not going to do much damage. I think it might be a good idea to cover the press with a blanket because this will slow the change in temperature as the press heats and or cools. I question using plastic because moisture can’t go through it to get away from the press.

An alternative to incandescent light bulbs are the ceramic heaters used in reptile enclosures and incubators. They fit standard edison screw fittings and are available in 60, 80 and 100 watt. One of these heaters with a thermostat or timer system fitted in a crate made from insulated panels may solve the problem.

Re my post above…..one other comment about covering the press with anything which touches it…….what if the cover traps condensation and or gets wet…..then it might get water on the parts of the press which it touches.

Preston - they’re gradually banning the regular incandescents right now. They’ll get to the floodlights and other specialized bulbs soon enough. Just try to go and buy a regular 100W bulb in a store right now. Perhaps some of the on-line sources were smart enough to stock up before the ban went into effect starting this past January. I believe that 75W incandescents are going to go starting this coming January.

As an aside, the “foolproof” moniker is because I am the Foolproof Press, since I simply started as a fool with a proof press.

Still crazy (about letterpress) after all these years.


I second M Macdonald’s suggestion of a heater used for reptile enclosures and incubators. We have one that’s been in our turtle enclosure, in continuous operation, for 15 years. (These turtles will come to my funeral.)


Prior to World War II, I’m sure that many, many of our old presses were originally situated in small poorly insulated shops which were not heated continually, or perhaps during the week but not on weekends. And as we know, many of these presses which were in continuous use, have come through with little or no rust. What did those printers know that we have forgotten?

I think we should guard against the modern knee-jerk reaction of using electricity when it might not be necessary. A 50 watt heater uses 36 kilowatt-hours a month, with the associated cost and pollution it creates. Electricity should only be a last resort. I’m sure if we put enough brain power into it, we can come up with a better solution.

You are so right to point that out, Geoffrey. In addition to outliving us, those turtles are responsible for a good chunk of our power consumption.

I think the key phrase in your post is that the presses “were in continuous use.” Presses that are used every day won’t rust because they’re always being inked, cleaned, and lubed. Many of today’s presses have sat idle for years, and are not used on a daily basis. I know that with only me doing artsy things, I’ll spend a month designing something and one day actually printing.


Thank you for the kind words, Barbara.

How’s this for an idea which doesn’t require the use of electricity: with ”Butcher’s Wax,” wax all machined surfaces which are not routinely oiled, except the ink disc. This would include waxing the platen and bed. (This is not my idea; it has been discussed before on Briarpress).

All unmachined surfaces should be painted.

To protect the ink disc, cut a piece of plywood big enough to cover the ink disc, and glue or screw a couple of pieces of wood to one side of the plywood so you can ”hook” the plywood over the top of the ink disc to keep it from sliding off. The idea of the plywood is that air has to circulate across the ink disc in order to deposit moisture on it. The plywood will keep the air away, so the disc should stay dry.

Railway workes said, in the past, “Busy iron doesn’t rust.”


Ahh! I go out of town for work for a few days and come back to so many great suggestions! Thanks, everybody!