Are Letterpress Notepads Practical?

Hello all,
I have a client wanting 1-color notepads (nothing flashy, just bound with padding compound on kraft board backing).
After spending a bit of time researching how other shops might be handling pricing on letterpress paper pads with not much success, I thought I’d ask my favorite community:

Do you offer letterpress printed notepads to clients? Or do you find letterpress printing isn’t financially practical for most clients for something as consumable as notepad paper? Is this something you usually only print on an auto-fed press?

Running the numbers for printing 5.5” x 8.5” 2-up on hand-fed C&Ps, using French’s 70# text weight is coming to .45 cents per sheet at 1,000 quantity.

Is this just a case of the old guilt I used to feel as a new printer for charging premium prices for the premium service of letterpress printing?


Log in to reply   7 replies so far

Running note pads on a hand-fed C&Ps is ok, if the press run is under 500 sheets.

We are about to embark on some note pads, but we will print the inner sheets offset and the covers letterpress foil and screen printing.

Scratch pads are what I do most of the time, for friends and family.51/2 x 81/2 - 20# White Bond - Printed in a single color. Most are given away as gifts. Presswork is done on a 6 x 10 Kelsey and all type is handset. Have printed a few orders for others that gave them as gifts. Charged them $20.00 for 250 shts. (5-pads) Nothing fancy here, just good old letterpress. I’am still just kissing the paper. I do this as a hobby now, no overhead, just enjoy the process and having some fun.

You need to price the job to guarantee you a fair return on your investment of time. I suspect your customer would balk at a 100-sheet notepad at $4.50 each. With automated feed equipment, you could run the 1000 sheets in about 30 minutes, lessening your labor investment, making the price significantly lower.

If the paper is a big part of the price, you could do as mrgrrenjeans has done, and run on a very inexpensive stock, further reducing the cost per pad. If, however, the customer is using these notepads for handwritten notes to their clients or customers, perhaps they are willing to spend the $$$ to purchase nicer paper.

One of the shops I worked for would print notepads in the trim of other jobs which did not cut well out of the parent sheet, thus printing at the same time as another job, and taking advantage of the trim waste. This is not always a possibility, but they did manage to do it quite often, distributing the pads as a gift to the customer.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

I just did a run, one client, every 2 months. All have the same Form. Ruled Form (Ludlow), printed on the windmill on
80# Bond, 500 pads, 1 inch thick, jobs runs and is done in 2/3 ‘s of a day with other stuff thrown in.

You have to keep it affordable to your client, at the same time, make a Profit -not money, Profit, there is a difference in Business!!!
I would farm the printing out to somebody who can print automated, than you both make Profit and you have a Friend .

I offer this info as an observer of the process. At Printers’ Hall we print thousands of note pads during the Old Threshers Reunion (5-days) each year. I am not directly involved, but here is what I do know.

We start with 11 x 17 sheets and run them through a Hickock Ruling Machine to ad the blue lines for the lower part of the final padded sheets. Those sheets are then cut in half 8.5 x 11. Those sheets are then imprinted in a Heidelberg Windmill with two distinct cuts of old agriculture/general interest cuts.

Those sheets are then slip-sheeted with chipboard and put into a large padding press/cabinet and the padding compound is applied. They are then cut in half to a final finished size of 5.5 x 8.5. We are constantly changing images and ink colors throughout the day.

We sell them about as fast as we can make them! 50-cents per pad. We do get the 60# paper donated to us and all the money collected goes back into the museum.

It does raise money to support us but most importanly it demonstrates some of the many facets of letterpress printing for visitors to the reunion. We also add a little tag line that says they were printed at Printers’ Hall.

We also print an 8 to 10-page newspaper during the reunion and I usually am busy demonstrating poster printing on the handpresses and an old Vandercook.


It’s all about the end-use in this case. I’m gathering that they want you to print their logo (or something) on each page, rather than creating a ruled notepad with their branding on the cover?

I know many companies that would not mind at all paying $4.50 for a 100-sheet pad if, as jhenry notes, they’re doing it to have (essentially) stationery for writing notes to clients. Compare to a custom stationery run rather than a reporter’s notebook. They’re getting customized notecards at 45 cents a pop, which is great. You could even upsell by steering them toward a thicker/higher end paper (80# cover?) for added value.

Also, with a little research… Vistaprint charges $5 a pop for “customized notepads” of only 50 sheets and that’s about as cheap/mass production as it gets. $4.50 is a total bargain regardless of print method.