The Winking Cat Cylinder / Etching Press

I got an e-mail the other day asking if I’d ever finished the Cylinder / Etching Press I was working on. I realized that I’d never posted pics and details like I’d promised, and hadn’t shared anything here for quite some time. So… I apologize on both counts. I certainly still hold all of you guys in high regard and didn’t intentionally ignore you all.

Anyway…. below are pics of the press. It’s nothing terribly fancy, but it prints a very nice image. It’s not very big…. only 13” wide. I could have built it much wider, but since it has to live in my very small studio, I decided that it should not be very large.

As you can see, it is based on Doug Forsythe’s plans but has been heavily modified.

The main structure is all oak, bolted together. The rollers are “Dave’s Special Hard Urethane Rollers” with 1” steel axles, as discussed earlier. The top roller bearings are 1” conveyor take-up bearings, and the bottom bearings are 4-bolt flanged 1” bearings. The bed is 1.25” Finnish Birch plywood, and the hand-wheel is an old valve wheel salvaged from a scrap yard.

You might be interested in the blanket-raising mechanism, which is a counterweighted device copied from a mid-1800’s press (The Perkins D) used in England to print postage stamps. It works like a charm, and really speeds up the process.

So how does it print? BEAUTIFULLY! The hard urethane rollers have just a tiny bit of give…. but not very much. For intaglio, I still have to use the blanket. PLUS, it is as smooth as silk.

I have two different beds for it, both 1.25” thick. One is for Intaglio, and is just flat. The other is for type high material such as metal type, woodcuts, wood type, and so forth. It has type-high rails and a removable gripper. I use the type-high bed for most of my work.

The idler trucks are caster wheels from Tractor Supply, held in place by threaded rods.

So…. how do the wooden frame and urethane rollers hold up? THAT was the big question when I was building the machine, and the main reason I waited to post any details. I wanted to be sure it wasn’t going to fail before I bragged about it. I’m happy to report that after two years of almost daily heavy usage, it is holding up beautifully. The rollers look as good as they did when I built it. The frame and bed show no signs of warping or the bolts trying to move around, even under very high intaglio pressures. As far as I can tell, the press will last longer than I will, and will still be printing many decades into the future.

What did it cost to build? Not including the “roller testing program” the press cost about $300, and the blanket / blanket lifting device cost about another $100. So… maybe $400 for the whole thing.

Now…. I do know that such a press might seem to be above the skill level of some folks. Maybe it is…. but then again, maybe it’s not. It WAS above my skill level when I started it, so I made a few mistakes along the way. BUT in the end I wound up with a very functional machine.

Anyway… that’s about it on the press. Hopefully it will serve to inspire others that they too can build a press, if they like building things.

aka Winking Cat Press

image: press 1 small.JPG

press 1 small.JPG

image: press 2 small.JPG

press 2 small.JPG

image: press 3 small.JPG

press 3 small.JPG

Log in to reply   3 replies so far

A fine looking press! And, having survived two years of use, obvious robustness shows. Well done. From Gummi Bear rollers to this latest device amply demonstrates your keen curiosity as to bresting challenge and getting things done. It’s a genuine pleasure to observe the traditional American streak of individualism is not dead. :o)

Winking Cat, you have gone from the scuba tank press,
to the Nautilus. Where did you find the flywheel?
best james

Forme…. thanks for the good words. Coming from someone of your experience, I take it as a high compliment indeed.

James… yes, it’s been a learning curve and a very interesting one at that. I still have the scuba tank press. It’s been lent out a few times, sold once, then re-inherited…. and it still prints great. Right now it’s on loan to a local community Art Studio…. where it’s doing it’s part to teach the basics of printmaking.

There is an interesting story about that flywheel: A few years ago on Christmas Day a tornado came through and tore up the local high school, which was built in the late 1800’s. That wheel was used to turn the main steam line valve… and thus turn the heat on or off in the entire school. While they were hauling off the debris, I spotted it in a scrappy’s truck… but he wouldn’t sell it to me. So I had to follow him back to the scrap yard, negotiate with the yard foreman….. and finally got it for the princely sum of $10!

Anyway… thanks for the thumbs-up.