Heidelberg KORD

I have access to a Heidelberg KORD cylinder press in running condition. It says “Offset or Letterpress” on the side of the machine but it doesn’t seem like it’s used much for letterpress. All I see and read about are Windmills.

Any reason why it couldn’t be a good letterpress machine?

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oops, my mistake

Could it say ‘letter set’ ?
It seems to me I remember hearing about that short lived process.
It used a thin flexible relief plate that mounted on the plate cylinder.
Maybe some other old timer can elaborate
I think it would be impossible to use conventional type on a K press
Press on
James McGraw

Yes, the KORD was capable of printing from a shallow relief plate which transferred the image to the offset blanket prior to the paper. As James M. indicates, that process was generally termed “Letterset”.

I ran a KORD press for a few years around 1980.

John Henry

Ah yes you are correct sklyou, it does say “letter set”. I would only use polymer plates with it (but steel-backed perhaps?). We taped an adhesive-backed polymer plate to the cylinder and made a blind impression as a test. Seemed to work fine.

In theory you could use this press, once you found out the correct plate height. However, there is probably a minimum sheet size which can be fed through the press, and this may be bigger than you want to print. Also, it is a sophistocated machine with a lot of inking rollers and probably 4 form rollers (typical of offset presses), and if you ever had to replace the rollers, it would be VERY expensive. Also, it would take a lot of ink just to ink up the press.

The plates would have to be “right reading” because the press prints them onto a rubber blanket and then transfers the images to the paper from the blanket.

Since the plate doesn’t contact the paper, there is no way you could make any kind of impression, let alone a deep impression.

I found a diagram of the roller train of a KORD in Google images, and there are 16 rollers in the inking system. There are more rollers in the dampening system, but you wouldn’t need those unless you were going to print by offset lithography.

I count nine inking rollers. Just did a pricing exercise and that works out to be about $2,000 for a set.


the K series offset presses were designed based on the k series printing (letterpress) presses. It was easier for operators to learn offset when many controls and features were the same. I have a KSBA that I use for diecutting, embossing, perf, crease and (letterpress) printing. The KORD is a very good solid offset press considered obsolete but if you get one in good shape it will do great work.

A quick tutorial: A KORD has a plate cylinder, a blanket cylinder and an impression cylinder. A thin photopolymer plate can be wrapped around the plate cylinder, the image transfers to the blanket and is transferred to the sheet as it passes between the blanket and impression cylinders.
NO IMPRESSION IS VISIBLE IN THE SHEET when it comes off a rubber blanket. And so there will be no customers in today’s market who can’t tell a kiss-impression from a laser print. The advantage of using letterset in its day was that the dampening system of the offset press was not used, eliminating other lithographic problems—toning, tinting, scum—from the run.
On smaller offset duplicators they sometimes swapped plate and blanket positions for a different form of dry offset. Maybe that would allow some measure of visible impression, but without the localized packing of a true letterpress cylinder press, whether flatbed or full rotary. Heidelberg made all these forms of press.

I stand corrected, andykeck. I counted the metal rollers as well as the rubber rollers, which of course I should not have.

Thanks so much for your valuable input! I knew this was the right place to get some quick answers—you’ve all been extremely informative.

Silly question, but would it be possible to mount a conventional metal plate on the plate cylinder of a KORD, Then mount your photopolymer to the blanket cylinder for direct printing?

Not sure if inking photopolymer from a plate instead of rollers would cause and “grief”.

I have heard of people doing something like this with a Multigraph press- though I doubt it would work very well.
I recall as follows:
mount blanket to ‘plate’ cylinder; mount photopolymer plate to ‘blanket’ cylinder; ink up blanket solid, transfers ink directly to photopolymer plate. Photopolymer plate inked up travels around to transfer ink to paper on paper cylinder.

You’d be better off just getting a heidelberg cylinder designed for letterpress with an inker. They’re not plentiful but they come up from time to time.

Yeah that’s what I’d like. Over 21x28 is even more rare (unless I want to ship from Europe) A KOR might be an interesting option though. I could use the polymer plate on the plate cylinder to print halftones, then on the blanket cylinder to print direct.

Frankly, the letterpress plate option is just… Not interesting. Get the dampening system in order and get some offset plates made and just work that press as an offset press.

Why anyone would bother to spend expensive fees on relief plates for a machine like this, when offset plates are cheap as chips by comparison, is beyond me.


Better off buying this press, getting some rollers for it, and going to town with a plate/base. Use your money wisely.

Water, ink and myself have never gotten along well… then again, back when I was running offset it was old Molleton systems on small duplicators, with a gas heater blowing against the wall behind the press.

One of the major things to consider if thinking about using polymer plates in place of a litho plate is the cylinder undercut, bearing in mind that a standard aluminum plate is only 3 thouthick. I have used steel backed polymers on large format Heidelberg presses B1 size but they could accommodate multimetal plates for long runs.

Newspapers are printed dry offset -that means instead of Lea Forms half round and place on the impression cylinder it is a polymerplate with a .30 relief which prints against a blanket which prints the paper.

Frank hemmings, multimetal plates means plates made from different metals, don;t think that is what you intended to impress

Frank is correct, bi-metal and tri-metal litho plates were used for long runs on large offset presses. I’d tell more, but it is off topic of letterpress.

John Henry

Sorry did not not explain myself very well . The reason for mentioning multi metal plates was because they were thicker than standard litho plates implying that the cylinder undercut was greater and therefore would take a polymer plate. Thinking back to the 70’s the Kord64 that I worked on the odd ocassion had interchangeable plate shells but cannot recall if the undercuts changed, only the plate clamping to my recollection.