Showcard Press - sharing information

So I brought the showcard press home on Saturday and was surprisingly pleased to see what a find it truly was! After relentless searching the internet for information about these little flatbed presses without any luck I decided to jump in blindly.

Being at work I will just recap some of the highlights of the press until I can post a good photo and a link to close ups.

From what I know this press was used in a larger Sears or Montgomery Wards on the east coast. It is one of the larger Showcard presses I have seen. While you might consider it a table top model it is larger than the what I expected. The bed is scribed and numbered in 1 inch increments. With a total area of around 22 x 28 on the bed itself.

The roller is large and had an adjusting screw that gives you about 1/2 inch of adjustability. From type high to a 3/4 lino block is just the spin of a knob. The bearings underneath are large and have little to no slop as it rolls back and fourth. It also has a throw out of sorts that lifts the roller off of the paper so you do not get a double impression on the return trip.

One of the most difficult problems with a press of this nature is its ability to grip the paper to adjust registration. This press has a very effective paper gripper that is hooked to a bar on the base. If I get my form locked up and leveled every time I should not have a problem with the registration of 2 or 3 color art. This is very exciting to me because I can not yet afford a Vandercook and if I could I have no space to put it in without MAJOR reorganizing.

The showcard does pose some issues with traditional lock up but after testing this weekend I found that it requires fairly little pressure to hold in large lino cuts. I also have some large chases that I picked up a few years ago that have straight edges with no bevel. I can easily use these for text lock up and then place them on the press in the chase and lock that in to the form.

As to my question I posed earlier to the forum about needing a press blanket like an etching press would use I now know that I do not. Although I just might put a piece of packing over the paper if the impression is not doing what I would like on some projects.

The previous owner had some documentation that I will be putting on my website if she ever finds it that is supposed to give all of the technical data on this press.

The table that the press sits on has an inking plate attached to one end which makes it extremely convenient. I an going to time a few short runs on a 18 x 24 poster project to see if it will be economical to use the press to do band posters and other job work or if it will end up just being used to my in-house projects. Inking the form by hand will slow me down considerably.

The press also came with a small drying unit. 120Volt. I don’t know what use it will be but for the 1 off jobs that the department store did it would save them a boatload of drying time.

See it here.

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Last month I acquired a press which looks almost identical to yours, made by the Showcard Machine Co. Like you, I scoured the net for information but came up empty. Mine is in beautiful shape and I’m almost embarrassed to say what I paid for it… $80. It will print up to 30x45 inches and is absurdly heavy - in the neighborhood of 700-800 pounds. I spent a weekend mounting heavy duty casters under it so it can be wheeled out of the way and I can get the car in the garage again.

Mine was purchased new in 1978 and used to print signs at Purdue University until about a year ago, when everything went digital/inkjet. I plan to use it for large linocut/woodcut work. Test impressions have given good results using nothing more than 4-5 sheets of newsprint as a “blanket”.

I’d love to see any documentation that you locate for yours, especially a parts diagram.

In the late 1980’s, as computers were just starting to replace everything else here in Maine, I bought all the Showcard stuff that came up for sale in my area. I have 5 machines and about 30 fonts of Showcard type from 24 point to 7 inch. My largest model is the 22” X 28”. It has the factory stand and revolving ink plate with tripple inking rollers. I’ve never used the inking system because I never wanted to clean up that much ink. I have some Showcard catalogs and none of them have a parts breakdown. I don’t think the comapny ever thought you’d need parts. They are built like a rock. Also, to help you folks feel good about your purchase; I paid $1000.00 for mine at auction back in 1988.

Mike - wow that is a big Showcard! I thought mine was large! Do you have a pic? That would be great for large wood and lino cuts!

musikwerke - you don’t have a way of scanning the pages of one of the catalogs and emailing them to me do you? Also I would love to see this inking plate and rollers! Can you take a pic for me? I am very envious that you have them and never use them!

It’s Fancy - I do have a scanner and I’ll try to get a picture for you also. And for more about the inking system; the company that originally owned my machine paid over $300.00 for new rubber rollers just before they sold it. And that was in 1988 dollars. They’ve never seen ink or daylight. It should be in the hands of someone who would really use it but it seems that serious letterpress people that do large format work are anywhere but in Maine. Impressive website by the way. I envy you in that respect.

I put up a quick page for the press images I took right after I unloaded her. I have new ones with the press cleaned up that I will add to the page in the next few days. Hopefully I will find time to do a real web page for it.

Pulled a few prints on my press from a lino cut last night.
I decided to jump right in with a 19” x 24” poster. It took alot of ink and I did not use and drier for the prints so the ink still offsets a bit. But overall it will be really fun!


I am at a similar point , having acquired a Showcard press about two months ago. I have been carving a 18 x 24 woodblock and am days away from trying to pull my first proof. Mine is a 22 x 28 complete with a large inking surface. I would be very interested to see what material, if any, you turn up on this piece of equipment and what kind of prints you create with it. Later-kb

i was searching out info for my showcard presses back in 2002:, and, frustratingly, there was no info on these presses on briarpress at the time. NA Graphics had no info either, but it seemed like everybody and his mom had one. Seriously, they are everywhere- at schools, universities, old attics and garages all over the place. But, it seems like there is hardly any info or parts to be found.

In 2002, I specifically wanted to buy or recreate the inking mechanism/roller carriage because both of mine are the type with the spinning inking discs, but neither came with the rollers. It seemed like I’d have to fabricate my own, and it got put on a back burner. I would still love to get my hands on a set, because, as everyone knows, it does take quite a bit of time to hand ink a bunch of posters on these things (some or the posters here were printed on showcards: Our presses were flooded in Katrina a couple years ago and we had to sandblast them. Now the inking slabs don’t turn anymore, and they are quite a challenge to take apart- four of us pulling things apart here and there could never manage it. So, I’ve all but given up my dream of getting them fully functional with the inking mechanism again, but I would still very much love to find type rails and springs that fit my presses. That, and showcard type too.
As far as locking in our forms, we’ve had a lot of success using magnets. We have a few tall and thin showcard magnets that, when placed perpendicular to a piece of furniture, hold well for any number of pulls. Plus, because of the ruled grid on the bed, it’s easy to see if anything crawls over time.
One of our presses has a printing area of up to 14.5” x 44.5” (and is considered a “banner” model), the other has a printing area of up to 22.5” x 28”. I was able to track down some info from the manufacturer from another showcard press owner, but they were only diagrams of the most rudimentary instructions on how to squeeze ink from a tube, ink the type and put the paper in, etc., for non-printmakers.
So yeah, if anyone has 22.5” or 14.5” rails they don’t need, and clip springs too, let me know! If anyone knows how to unseat the bearings from underneath the ink well and detach the wheel, let me know that too. If anyone has a roller carriage they don’t want that fits either of these widths, let’s make a deal!
good luck all!

Hello Its Fancy,

I will be getting my very own Showcard this Friday and am in much the same boat. Would love a Vandercook, but finances and space kind of prohibit it at the meoment. Thanks for your info and photos - if you are able to scan your documentation could you send it my as well?

Next week I will be the proud owner of a printing press, finally. It is a Showcard, patent # 1910986. I am unsure of the actual printing area. However the full press length itself is iron cast 69” x 25 13/16”. It has one drum for printing and two smaller drums for inking (which are no longer there, the area to mount them is). There is a circular metal inking space on one half of the press and the printing area is on the other half. It used to have a foot pedal but no longer I am told. It rests on a stand 50 1/2” x 24 5/8”. I will be moving it next week and I am trying to get any information I can find about it. I am looking for instructions, the weight estimate (iron cast, looks heavy), any information about replacement parts and where to order ect. It is a beautiful press that needs a little clean-up. For the perfect price ($0), I had to grab it. I am incredibly excited and feel so proud knowing that it was about to be scrap metal. I have a picture I can post as well if that would help make it easier, just let me know. I am completely new at letterpress and I would be using it for woodcut, monoprint, and etching. So if anyone would be so kind and help with any information, I would be much obliged.

I also am joining the club of showcard press owners. Mine is a Showcard Machine Company made in Chicago model DFS 520. It also has 30 x 45 bed. I would appreciate any documentation you may have as well. I do not have much in the line of spacers etc and am looking for a quoin key. I have used the press a little so far and primarily for embossing with mixed media prints. I got it on ebay but fortunately was able to pick it up it was only about 400 miles away from our home. 75 bucks! Is there a way to tell when it was made?

image: showcarddata.jpg


image: showcard.jpg


I will hopefully be acquiring a showcard press shortly and have a few questions before I complete the transaction.

I have experience on a Vandercook Universal so I am wondering in what ways is the Showcard similar and dissimilar. The press I am getting in a little guy (press bed is around 14x22”) and from what I can tell, is in good shape. What I am wondering is how you lock up the form (someone mentioned magnets) and how you pull a print. (no crank like the Vandercooks that I can see).

Also, has anyone had to replace the roller? Just wondering what this might cost as it sounds like my press may need a new roller sooner than later.

Any info would be very helpful. Also, any suggestions as to what a respectable price range is for a press of the size I am looking at? (bed dimensions 14x22”, overall dimensions 18x44”)

chops - for that kind of press you just pull the roller across the form. For lock up I modified my base so I can use my quoins to lock in art and type.

The roller is for pressure only and if it is bad or tore up you will get uneven pressure.

I would not pay over $150 for a press that size unless you have a real need for it.

tpower - you have exactly what I have! But you got a sweet price on yours.

dnworst - good luck on finding info on the press! The most info that I came up with has been in a couple of threads on this site from people who have a showcard.

Follow the links in the above comments and you will at least be able see some of the different models that people have acquired.

For anyone interested my father bought a showcard new new 1961 (Model B 14”x22”) and has used it and kept it in mint condition. We have the original sales book, catalog and instructions. Even the original envelope it came in. He bought it new for $815.00. We also have the metal type rack and the 12 drawer cabinet. More than 3 font styles and dozens of lead die cuts. The total package was like $1400 in 1961! We might be interested in selling. For you all looking for instruction books and catalogs. I can copy them for you.

Hi everyone,
I’m new to the site and I got on because I have a 1976, 30 x 45 Showcard press in good condition. I have no idea what this is worth and it looks like quite a range from everyone’s posts. It’s got all it’s parts, plus magnets and a stand - even the original blue-print instructions. It hasn’t been used since I got it about 4 years ago, but before that it was still being used to make posters at a local sign company. It has some minimal rust, but easily cleaned up. I also have about 7 sets of lead type and maybe 3 sets of wood type as well. The type is lightly used from other examples I’ve seen. The wood type is stored in a nice set of flat files I’d be willing to sell with them.
I’ve got a few people interested. I’d like to sell this stuff, but I’d also like to get the appropriate value for it. Does anyone know how or where to find out what that is?

image: NewmanLogo.jpg


image: Showcard2.jpg


image: Showcard1.jpg


i own two showcards as well as a bunch of type and such that came with them. i would love to get my hands on any sort of manual.even a photocopied one.if you know where to get one or have any leads, please email me.
thanks so much

Hi- I have a 25x34 inch bed Showcard Press, rescued from the basement of an old Sears store’s in-house print department - the beautiful art deco building was going to be torn down.

I haven’t used it yet and am wondering if anyone has scanned info sheets on how the height adjustment screws on the roller work, of if someone can describe their use for me. I don’t want to hurt the press (though it looks absolutely indestructible. Thanks for any help!

I am setting up my newly acquired 30x45 inch printable showcard press tonight!

I have a whole lot of type and everything seems to be in super great shape. Anyone have tips on setting this thing up? I know it’s heavy (wow is it ever..)

Anyhow. Just thought I’d chime in and say, I am in the club.



Speaking of Line-O-Scribe showcard presses. Has anyone ran across one of this dimension? It’s 8’L and 31”W.

image: large line o scribe2.jpg

large line o scribe2.jpg

I recently acquired a 14” x 23” showcard press
PAT #1910986 from my father in law, his brother worked at a sears and got it when they were dumping press equpt. sadly he didn’t get any type… anyway it sat in a barn after that for years. I have completely torn it apart and resurfaced all every inch of it… However the roller bearings are shot. Does anyone have any ideas how i could get ahold of a new_used set (4)

do you know the price on it.i have the top piece and i will sail.

I recently acquired a Showcard Model B-Special. I’m still amazed at just how little information there seems to be online for these presses. Where are all the Showcard people?!

What kind of information are you looking for? The Showcard Machine Co. never published a manual on how to print. It’s a basic proof press and yours has the next-step-up feature of adjustable impression pressure. If all you have is the press and none of the specially slotted type, type mounting bars and spring clips you don’t have the complete Showcard system. If you do, it should be obvious as to how it all fits together.

I have it all, and lots of other type too. I know how to use the press, just like Vandercook owners know how to use a Vandercook press… but the nice Vandercook site is still a great resource. It’d be cool to have one that documented the many Showcard presses.

My father recently passed away. I found a tiny showcard press buried in a closet. The grid piece for the bed is about 14 x 12 or 10 x 14 inches. Someone on this string mentioned notched type? What is this?

I have never used a vandy or a proof press and have no idea how this works. Any help would be appreciated. Can you use wood type in here? Is there any documentation available?

Thanks! Lauri

I am in the process of scanning a manual. Here is a single page of general info that also came with the Showcard. I will try to post more in the manual section as I get it scanned and converted.


image: SCardInfobmp.png


Where is the manual section? I got my beautiful showcard press two days ago and I’m puzzled by a couple of things so I’m definitely in need of instructions…

thanks for scanning this!

Any updates on the scans?

just bumping this… would like to see some more pages from the manual.

also, any idea how to gauge the value of these presses?

Also in the Press manuals: parts, care, and instruction section of the Help pages.

Here are some essential pages from a Showcard manual. Most of the remaining pages are type samples. The file is too big to post on Briar Press.

You may have to copy and paste the url in your browser.

I have the same patent no. Showcard press as Its Fancy from the original post. However, my press does not have the roller adjustment knob at the top. In fact, my press looks exactly like the drawing on the manual included in some of these links…where it clearly does not have a manual. There must have been multiple model numbers from one patent? Anyhow, no roller adjustment has caused repeated frustration in getting a good print as I’m accustomed to printing with Vandercook SP15 and SP 40 models. Anyone have any suggestions? Is a Showcard press without roller adjustment a total loss? Thanks.

The poster press as in the diagram would have come with its own type which is slightly higher than .918”. Also the ink was thinner than conventional letterpress ink.
To print with normal wood type try putting some thin perspex on the bed under the type and/or use a blanket of several sheets of newsprint between your stock and the roller.

Thank you. Might I ask, what is perspex? Someone suggested using a felt blanket for packing…would that be overkill or cause any type of damage?

Perspex is a clear plastic which comes in different thicknesses, I keep some sheets around for adjusting the height on the bed when printing items below .918”.
Felt blanket will be ok for wood type.

Longday Press, thanks for posting those high res photos of the Showcard press manuals. Any chance you’d post the type pages? I have a smaller Showcard, the metal type rack, two drying racks and several trays of type (metal and wood).

I posted questions here on BP in 2008 and could not find anything at all on the press. Wow, we’ve come a long way.

Attached are pictures of me and the press.

image: Drying Rack.jpg

Drying Rack.jpg

image: Showcard Logo.jpg

Showcard Logo.jpg

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Printing -Front.jpg

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Showcard Registration.jpg

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David and Showcard.jpg

Hi, I achieved the 15″ x 23″ version (B-Model Special) on ebay. Now I am trying to find out the weight of the bed because I want to send it with UPS, which is limited to 70 kg (154 pounds). Does anybody have that press and can tell me the weight of the 2 parts (bed and roller) separately?

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I would love to get some magnets for holding type and furniture and that really neat drying rack shown above.

Magents can be bought from Letterpress Things in MA and I think from NA GRaphics in CO.

They are strong and do the job.


Thanks Rick

Just picked up a Showcard Signmaster. Have a lot of rust to remove, but was wondering if anyone knows where or how I might get the inking rollers some new rubber, or if there are any parts from other presses in production that might be close enough to swap in? The bed itself is 15”x30” and I imagine the rollers are similarly 15” wide. Any help would be super appreciated.

Call Ramco Roller in California, good people, there contact info is in the yellow pages on this site