Letterpress Blueprints

Hello, and I hope someone can help. I was actually looking to find, actual, physical blueprints, from such models, as any letterpress out there.

Meaning I would like to find blueprints with sizes and dimensions of all working parts. The older probably the better for replicating, but again, any blueprint anyone can find that has dimensions on them, I would be very grateful.

What I have found thus far, is a good start, but now I would like the meat and potatoes. In my images you will see several examples of what I am after, I am just needing these, with dimensions, sizes, etc.

Hope you can help, and thanks!

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This is the attachment, sorry.

image: Automatic Double Inking A Vertical Press_Page_1.jpg

Automatic Double Inking A Vertical Press_Page_1.jpg

What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to use them to actually machine something? What you have posted above is simply an image from a patent application. The blueprints to these machines were likely not shared freely and most of them probably did not survive into the present day.

I believe Fritz Klinke at NA Graphics in Colorado has a significant collection of the original Vandercook blueprints. But keep in mind that Fritz also bought all of this as part of his business and, rightfully, isn’t giving them away or sharing the details. He uses these blueprints to machine much needed parts for Vandercook proof presses.

I hope this helps.


Most original blueprints for virtually 100% of our letterpress heritage is long gone. I have tried with Rouse composing sticks and Hammond Gliders as an example. But roughly 20,000 Vandercook prints do survive in my possession. But Brad is correct—they do not go out the door for general consumption for any reason. I share assembly prints that show how parts go together, but no machine prints that are dimensioned. We regularly have new parts made as demand makes it necessary. Some of the prints we use date to the 1920s up into the early 1970s. A few patterns for casting survived and we recently had the CS-23 Crescent cast in lost wax steel from the original pattern still at the same foundry Vandercook used. We have had stamping dies made for a couple of parts, like the LB-7 paper guide as an example.

Where will all this end up? Paul Moxon has now found in excess of 2,200 Vandercook presses still being used world-wide, so as long as there is demand, the parts will be available. Heidelberg still makes new letterpress press parts for both platens and cylinders and parts are available from other sources, but only as long as it is financially feasible. I stock Original Heidelberg parts that I purchase directly from Heidelberg. The crimping tool for C&P roller cores survived and I own the crimping tool for Kelsey roller cores as well. There is always backward engineering for replicating parts, and we have had to resort to that at times. The supply line for letterpress is thin and fragile and I can attest that it is a slow way to grow old and poor at the same time.


What are you up to? Tell us your project and we’ll probably be able to help you out.

By the way Jason, it’s ‘printing press’ and not ‘letterpress’. Letterpress is the technique.

The patent drawing shown appears to be for a press like the Miehle Vertical, but by the patent date, 1961, these presses were in eclipse, and production of new presses was sharply in decline. I saw new V-50s at Miehle during a plant tour in 1962, but there were only 2 on the erection floor. So this would be an after-market device if ever produced that would have been assigned to someone like Jack Beall who made and marketed a number of attachments and modified items for the Miehle Vertical including a skip impression device. And maybe drawings exist as the business continues, but as a part-time one today. And for clarification, the drawing shows a cross section as figure 2, and the other ones show the sequencing of how the part operates.

Fritz, yeah, I realized the plans I posted probably aren’t the best of representation, but that was probably the best representation to get my point across. But again, Fascinating information sir.

Its not surprising that proper engineering dimensioned drawings are not so easily found, if you remember how much design piracy occurred both ways across the Atlantic certainly from the 1840s onwards. Our old friend the Vertical Miehle, a superb US press despite its odd manner of working, was also built in the UK by our separate Linotype and Machinery Co at Altrincham, maybe under a proper license arrangement. On the other hand the very slightly different ‘British Vertical’, was very likely not. Theres also the slightly embarrasing War Booty theft of German designs, after WW1, and much better organised (the files are still closed by the way) after WW2. I believe
the Rotaprint small offset came to the UK that way, and also the UK built AutoVics. Quite apart from inks adhesives and so forth. As for piracy of typeface design
I won’t say a word.


You just replied to Fritz, but the elephant in the room is the unanswered question of just what you intend to do with the blueprints. Many of us are very curious and would probably be supportive.


This is a very interesting discussion. Using the old drawings to recreate some of the long out of production machines is not a bad idea. However, since most of the original drawings are long gone, and those that do exist are not publicly available, that idea is not immediately viable.

BUT there is another way to obtain machine drawings for presses: create them yourself. Quite a few years ago I seriously considered putting the Kelsey 5x8 back into production. Toward that end, I reverse-engineered an existing press and dimensioned all of the parts…. creating my own set of shop drawings. In the end, I decided that it was not economically feasible, and would be more trouble than it was worth. (It’s not the sort of thing one would do in a home shop.) So I dropped the project….But creating the shop drawings was not too difficult using AutoCad.

Small letterpresses are mechanically very simple, and the parts are rather straightforward. Making blueprints for one is not difficult, it’s just time consuming. The real problem is actually building the press itself. Castings and machine work are not cheap nowadays.

If I were going to put anything into production on a small scale nowadays, it would be Megill’s Gauge Pins, and maybe quoins. Those are what folks seem to need.

I think Fritz owns what remains of Kelsey and has foundry patterns, parts, etcetera.

Bar Plate has the high speed quoins. They’re expensive, but they should be.

The new McGills spring tongue gauge pins being sold by American are unfortunately quite bad. They’re dull where they should be sharp, and sharp where they touch your hands. I’m pretty sure they’re not hardened. Fritz can tell you about the insanity of making those things correctly. If I remember right, there is even a tumbler involved for de-burring.


Over here in the UK, a firm has been making quoin keys again for a few years now, and have just said they are about to start making composing sticks!! Haven’t any further detail yet as to style of stick

harrild…type magnets would be good too…recasting upper case bracket supports…..I could easily inagine a cabinet maker remaking old fashioned type cabinets….composing frames….easy to make old fadhioned galleys wood edging on sheet metal base… in a galley cabinet…..

Type magnets are still available… no need to start a production there. € 14.90

image: 61eeec56cc.jpg


Hate to show my ignorance, but is a type magnet?



PS: Everyone with a Vandercook should thank Fritz for being willing and able to manufacture parts. I can’t imagine how may vandercooks would sit idle for lack of a key part if Fritz didn’t make them.

They’re usually called galley magnets in the US, from their use in holding matter in place on steel galleys. But they have many uses around the shop.

They can also be found for sale here state side


Yes very handy….keep your eyes on them at all times, they grow legs very fast sometime!!!!

Someone asked about “type magnets”. Actually I have a few friends that fall into that category.

Thanks guys for links re magnets one is very good price except it is “over there”….over here are

should be okay…….?

Bare magnets aren’t normally used as galley magnets. All of mine have steel pieces are glued to the sides, generally with the foot of the magnet slightly raised, and the unit rests on the steel rather than the magnet. It may help with stability or removal or protection of older more fragile magnet composition.

We have made maybe 3000 galley magnets over the years that we list on our website. These are made as Eric describes with the 2 steel side plates. The long ago maker of these in the US was Foster, who is still in business, but they won’t do anything related to letterpress these days though they once made galleys, cabinets and a variety of printers equipment. .

On another note, I’m still hoping for a source of what I call “tie-up slugs”, 12 point slugs with a groove on one face for tie-up string, another rare-ish specialty item used for forme make-up. NA Graphics is apparently one potential source.