Letterpress + Offset/Laser

I have an oportunity to help my son with a presentation which includes large broadsides of civil war era songs. Some of these originals contain colorful and complex graphics which I am technically not capable of producing. But, is there any reason why I cannot print the poster using my Vandercook and then using another printing method for the complex color? The ediiton will be about 200 and if possible, couldn’t the right paper be found to laser print the color image or even print it via offset? Thanks, Neil

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At only 200 sheets, laser will probably be the cheaper method, unless the size is such that the laser machines won’t run the sheet. Most laser production printers are going to max out around 12” x 18” or 13” x 19”. Larger than that and you’ll probably have to go offset. I would also do the color printing first and then the letterpress printing second. Less chance of any texture from your impression jamming the machines, plus you can get them to run some extras for you in case you misprint on your end.

The other way around, you have to be the one providing the extras, even assuming the machines will run the pre-printed shells at all. Most shops will require at least 10% over for a run like that, or they won’t guarantee the final quantity. On a hand-fed and possibly hand-cranked machine like a Vandercook, that’s not an insignificant amount of extra labor.

Oh, and as to paper, I don’t know about any of the other, really fancy paper manufacturers, but I do know Crane sells laser-compatible text-weight papers; Crane’s Crest, & Crane’s Bond. Something like that would probably be a reasonably accurate compromise paper for a job like this.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

A huge help Michael and thanks. Neil

You should make sure of a couple compatibility things as far as possible offset printing goes-

That Guide and gripper (lay points) are compatible with your press/orientation of the sheet, and that they are providing you with the sheets un-cut. If it’s loose a floating text/not fine register job, this won’t matter as much, but realistically you’ll need to tell them how to park the image on the sheet so you can print it on your press. This means allowing for the same gripper tolerances and the same placement on the sheet as well as the guide orientation mentioned above.

It’s worth noting that most offset presses orient landscape, and most proof presses are designed to orient portrait- gripping the short edge of the sheet; they also have left hand side-guides. If you’re working with an offset printer who has a press that can set either direction, tell them the guide side.

If you’ll be working from the side of the sheet, not the gripper edge, as this is the case if the sheets are not small enough to fit across your cylinder in landscape format/same guides, you should have them very carefully square the piles up to a uniform dimension. Most offset printers will not bother doing this unless instructed to do so.

Be fastidious about these details, as if any fine register is required the job will need them to be assured!

Civil war era prints were often printed with black ink and colored by hand. You might consider engaging an artist to paint your images.

Thank you Haven and Sharecropper. The project has evolved a bit and there may not be any color illustrations but only some black and white images so that may make things a bit easier. In any, I continue to learn more than I set out to do and for that I am thankful to all. Neil