Gordan Press

While I have had and run numerous C&P presses over the years , I have never run a letterpress that doesn’t have a throw-off mechanism. I have recently been restoring a Gordan 12x18 press for a museum and it is about time to start putting some paper thru it. Could someone explain to me how to use the press without a throw-off?

I don’t know a lot of information about the press but I have included some photos of what I have done so far.


SERIAL # 200

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Serial Number.jpg

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I have a smaller floor model late 1800’s Curtis and Mitchell 6 x 9 treadle letterpress that does NOT have a throw-off lever. For my press, I think it is a result of this size press starting as a table-top press originally that was re-engineered and marketed on a cast iron table by the manufacturer with a fly wheel and treadle. When I am printing on this C&M press, I have to physically stop the fly wheel if I miss feeding my paper in order to avoid printing on the tympan paper. This means I can’t motorize the press. either.

I believe the only safe way to print with a press that does not have a throw-off is using a treadle to power it, as you can apply reverse using the treadle and stop the press before impression, and rock it with the treadle while you are correcting the mis-feed problem, and restart it with the treadle, without ever touching the flywheel, when you get the knack. I used to do that all the time with my 10x15 Nonpareil, even though it did have a throw-off — which was very awkward to use. Be aware that you can run the press pretty fast with a treadle but you can’t stop it the way I described when it’s running fast.


I have a Gordon Jobber circa 1863 and there is no throw-off. It is always on impression, which makes accurate feeding a requirement. I have gotten used to feeding it, and I lean into the flywheel if I miss a feed…probably not the safest thing but I haven’t hurt myself yet. Do not attempt to grab the spokes on the flywheel-even if you are going slow. That will definitely hurt you. The bigger nuisance for me is re-inking during longer runs and stopping the press to move lifts of printed stock. That’s when I really miss the throw-off.
Jim DiRisio
The Norlu Press
Fayetteville, NC