Maximizing paper on a proof press

Hi everyone, just wondering what others do to get the most bang for their buck on a proof press with paper. I can get two full 5x7 cards out of a letter sized sheet on my platen press - 4 - A2 ( just shy with back cutting ) cards. Having recently acquired a proof press ( challenge M 15 ) I am finding this a very expensive way to print. Having to account for the gripper portion I can not devise a way to get same out of the same sized sheet.

Am I missing something or do people using hand fed platen presses just spend less on paper?

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Any Cylinder Press has a gripper edge otherwise it becomes tricky to hold on to the paper while printing.

How do you print full bleeds on the front and back of your cards without using either grippers or gauge pins, on the platen? The grippers on a cylinder proof press don’t take much paper, but you have to have them. Can you plan your jobs to leave 1/4 - 3/8 inch along one edge? I suspect like many printers you want the equipment to do more than it is intended to do. It may not work!


Sorry I did not mean the grippers themselves. I mean the portion of the paper that overlaps outside of the printable area. If I put the paper in the grippers with the adjustment knobs backed all the way off I have 16cm of paper outside the bed. I assume this is so that the grippers do not contact the plate and or type.

Sorry - 16 MM not cm

I guess what I am asking is what do people with this type of press ( challenge M15 or SP 15 ) do when printing a 5x7 piece of artwork?

Do you print on a full sized letter sheet and then turn to print the other side?
Do you print 2 up which doubles your plate cost?

Print the end furthest from the grippers then flip the paper and print the other end. That’s worked well for me.

yep, print and flip for me. Unless it’s a really long run then I’ll print 2 up on a plate. Just depends on the job.
Unless you’re working for free (don’t do that) half an inch all the way around isn’t much waste.

Re: Unless you’re working for free (don’t do that)

Argh! Now you tell me!

Hi everyone, I did the print and flip. Worked great, wow what a difference from the platen press.

In the trade this is called work-and-tumble, not print and flip.


I thought it was called work and whirled

I’ve heard “work-and-turn”…

Work-and-turn uses the same gripper edge, but the guide changes from side to side. On a platen press the guide might not change, but the registration has to be spot-on. This is the most common way of backing up a sheet.

Work-and-tumble (sometimes called work-and-flop) is when the guide stays the same, but the gripper is both the lead edge and the tail of the sheet.

Work-and-twist (also called work-and-whirl) is when a form has two parts, like a separate vertical, and a separate horizontal ruled form, and the sheet is turned 90 degrees so that one form overlays the other. The side guide stays the same.

On a platen press the edge of the sheet that is parallel to the longest chase measurement is considered the gripper-edge.

Printing on the tail of a sheet, especially on a hand-cranked proofing press, is problematic because if the front part of the sheet is not supported by type or some kind of frisket the sheet can sag, ruining registration on the back-end of the sheet. It is less of a problem with a small sheet of heavy stock, but the printer should be aware that this is a real problem, and the longer the sheet, the bigger problem it can become.


Thanks for the awesome lesson in terminology, Paul.

We “new kids” need to know our terms…


Good info Paul. Gonna push one of my my pet peeves. Many printers neglect to indicate gripper and guide when sending printed work out for finishing.

I always take a press sheet and mark the gripper edge with two Xs and an X at the side guide, marks roughly where head stops and side guide are located, and store it in the job file. I do this even when all the work is in-house, so there is no confusion during any delays. I also run a line down the tail of the stack after the blank stock is loaded into the feeder, making it obvious if a lift gets turned the wrong way.
Once I did a scoring run of a cover for a fine printer. They couldn’t remember what the guide edge was, guessed, got it wrong. They didn’t trim the stock consistantly either, so some sheets were lost as the type which should have been centered on the spine crept toward the crease because it was being fed to the wrong side guide. Even one point off is obvious on a 1/4” spine.

I usually mark the “guide corner” on a lift of paper by running a mark up on the side near the corner of the gripper side and the same up the side guide side. Of course you wouldn’t do that if the stock isn’t getting trimmed, but it sure is great when the time comes to run the stock into the folder.

I generally will run all the forms on one side of the sheets for a book and then turn them to run the back side forms so I can switch side guide sides only once and not have to remember which side I used when.

John Henry

Pro work habits parallel_imp and jhenry
Saves a lot of time and $ when grip and guides are marked. Sometimes rush jobs that are planned to be run overnight are put aside because they are not indicated.

Another “trick” is to put a rule at the side of the plate image where the edge of the paper should fall, and set the feeder so it just prints the rule bleeding off the edge. That way , on a long run you can very easily see that nothing has changed in the side guide setting or that the plate hasn’t slipped as long as you can see that short dark line at the edge of the sheets in the delivery pile. That only works, however if you are going to take a final trim after printing.

I worked in the summers, while teaching, in a printer’s bindery, and one day the boss came back and said a customer was waiting for a job which had been printed, but had not been cut yet. I was busy on another rush job, so the boss said he’d take care of it. He threw the lift of sheets into the cutter and lined everything up for the cut. He didn’t take a look under the top sheet, however, and the pressman had turned the top sheet 180 degrees from the rest of the stack. The blade came down and all he saw was red — as the blade had cut through the center of an illustration. It is always a good rule to flip through the lift and make certain that all the sheets are going the same direction before you cut.

Anyway, that rush job became a super-rush in the blink of an eye. It had to go two more times through the 2-color press.

John Henry

We used to put a nail into the form at the lay side of the sheet a couple of inch back from the grip . you tap it into the strip of furniture so that the nail is high enough to ink and print allow it to just bleed off the sheet . With polymers you just favour the image position to the grip and lay and just allow the edge of a trim mark to bleed a whisker .
Mike coway has a point , there is not much, more aggrovating ,than you cant locate the lay on a job at three in the morning . Work that has been tumbled in many cases without having been paralell trimmed prior to being printed should be marked ruined instead of tumbled !

When I worked offset the lead pressman would scribe a small semi-circle on the plate close to where the guide would fall. this would show up easily as the sheets stacked up, and any variation would be noticed immediately. This could easily be replicated in letterpress by setting a half-circle ornament at the edge of the sheet, again, this only works if the sheet is to be trimmed.


Same as but we put an arrowhead and wiped wax crayon into it .