Press for Educational Environment

Longtime lurker here, so first and foremost, thanks for being the resource that you all are!

I’m an educator at a university and director of a special collection devoted to poetry. Looking at a couple of presses available to us so that we might begin 1.) printing broadsides for visiting writers, 2.) forming a deeper curriculum for book arts and print culture, and 3.) developing our partnerships with student artists in other university divisions (art, design, classics).

One press is a C&P 8x10. The other: a Vandy #2 proof press. Both in good nick; C&P likely needs new rollers. My hunch says the Vandy is more versatile for printable area (broadsides) and for multi-disciplinary work (etching/woodblock/linocut). It’s downside I suppose would be the handbraying and setting pins accurately for paper placement (and making a lock-up bar perhaps).

Would the C&P handle broadsides or even small-format chapbooks decently in the event the Vandy doesn’t come through? The vandy also has the benefit of being 8 hours closer by truck (i.e., in town).

We’re not doing massive runs, so the C&P motor likely won’t come into play. Broadsides, posters, takeaways, and chaps would be name of the game. Student usability, safety, and approachability is also a factor.

I’ve run through many threads in the archive on actual printing area capacity and user experience. I myself had a wee bit of time on a Vandy #1. Just trying to run through both outcomes given the time and expense involved in the whole process. Any input is appreciated in advance!

Log in to reply   19 replies so far

I would suggest that for the kind of use you imagine, the C&P would not be appropriate - both for flexibility and for safety reasons. The Vandercook has the potential to run small editions as well as print almost anything that is or can be made type high. The C&P is not well suited to short runs or to material that is not type high, and setup and cleanup can be much more time-comsuming. Hand inking using a brayer and a piece of glass for rolling ink out is much more flexible for simple learning projects and makes possible multi-color prints in one pass with multiple brayers. Plus setup would not require the type or material to be firmly enough locked in a chase to be able to carry it to the press and install it there. If you want to teach the transfer of ink to paper the Vandercook seems to me much the more practical.


Hello, Petermc! This sounds like a very similar situation to the spaces I’ve built at two small liberal arts colleges in the US. We have two Vandercooks (a #3 and a #4), both of which I rescued and restored for pennies on the dollar. I’m happy to correspond via email, and can share experiences if it’s helpful, but my first bit of advice might be to consider first if the C&P would be approved for use in your context: my former institution had very strict environmental and safety regulations, and the administrator in charge of these decisions refused to approve an existing C&P for any use whatsoever—instructor or student. It was to remain strictly a show piece. This was despite a functioning campus woodshop close by, with all the usual bandsaws etc. But, we were approved for a Vandercook #1: hand-inking, no grippers. Rather than pins, I jury-rigged a hinged frisket (based on some Poco work people posted on Briar), and on the merits of our success with that model, built up a literary-print community and then acquired a Hoehner tabletop and other Vandercooks. Even with the #1, we did medium to small runs of broadsides and chapbooks, from 50 - 500 copies. Lots of work, but the students loved it. Now at my second college, I’ve done the same thing with a Vandercook #3 and #4. But with far fewer regulations. So my first question would be to your office of environmental and safety regulations (if you have one), and then also consider space and what you can add around either press—growth is always best! But given space, user-friendliness, speed of form-assembly, and options to work on the flat bed rather than a strict chase, I’d suggest the Vandercook over the C&P, especially in the student context.

Hope these thoughts help, and happy to correspond off the forum. I can be found at The Davidson College Letterpress Lab, here:

Good luck!

Let me be the contrarian here.

I prefer the C&P (treadle operated; not motorized) over a hand-inked Vandercook. I have both here at home and have set up a university program with both C&P presses and a Vandercook 325 (with an inking system). The only time the Vandercooks get used is for large posters.

Hand inking, in particular, is a skill that takes time to develop and easily leads to poor quality prints. Especially if there is a significant turn-over of printers. The C&P takes most inking challenges off the table, assuming rails aren’t badly worn or too much ink is placed on the press. Worn rails are common enough that there are ways to compensate with roller bearers.

The C&P is made specifically for short run jobs. Make-ready is easier on the C&P (though somewhat more necessary) than the Vandercook. And with careful design and planning fully capable of printing up to 12x18 sheets. C&P presses are more common and easier to fix/replace. Parts, etc. are cheaper. The only drawback I see is that they can be more dangerous without proper and detailed training.

Also the C&P can more easily print very small jobs, like business cards, bookmarks, post cards, etc.

Massive gratitude to each of you for your diverse input and insights here. This is exceedingly helpful– especially everyone’s experiences with safety and cleanup. Some of this may come down to cost of freight, with the C&P requiring freight from a greater distance of 500 miles or so. Not massive, but trying to get a quote for that.

I’ve digitally mocked up sample pages of what kinds of printable area an 8x10 could achieve (according to some broadsides I can confirm have been printed on either an 8x10 or an 8x12).

Versatility is where my one concern remains with the C&P: that the largest form we could set in an 8x10 and still maintain good impression would be what– 5”x7”? 4.5”x6.5” or so? I’d say these forms will likely be poems, but of course it’d be nice to be able to set works by our fiction and memoirist peers ;)

Thank you again for your generosity of wisdom in these above responses. Cant say it enough.

Some years ago I designed and built a tympan-and-frisket system for my Poco #0 proof press. It is made from readily available 1/8”x1” steel bars, arranged so the frisket fits inside the tympan frame. The tympan-and-frisket is hinged together and to the long side of a 10x15 C&P chase (which just fits on the 12x18 bed of the Poco) with loose-pin cabinet hinges, which makes dis-assembly simple. I covered the tympan with a fine-weave heat-shrink polyester fabric meant for “skinning” a balsawood model airplane, and for registration I added adhesive plastic guides called “Henry guides”. Using this set-up I printed several small booklet jobs as well as a 350-page book of 5.5x8.5” pages in an edition of 50 copies. The original tympan cover with the original Henry guides is still usable after more than 18,000 impressions. I would be happy to share photos and other info.



Before you consider purchasing any press for your university program, I suggest you contact the school authorities who are in charge of the insurance policies. Find out what may or may not be covered.

A Chandler & Price platen press is likely not a good fit for a school environment, and they have been banned from commercial use by OSHA.

Certain Vandercook presses may also be on an undesirable list for schools, as well.

Good luck with your graphics program.


Thank you all for these provisos. I’ve been in touch with our OSHA compliance folks– we’ll see what they say. I’m of a mind to pick up the Vandy #2 for myself even if they neg the compliance. The owner is asking 900 for it, with a case of furniture, some bits and bobs (quoins, keys, composing stick, etc) included I believe. He’d like to see it go to our community space, ideally. And I’d rather it serve a community too for that matter.

Fingers crossed.


A few things. Look at the work that is being done at Larkspur press, and know that all those books are printed on a C&P. Gray does admirable work, and has found a way to produce very affordable books of poetry using not too much in the way of equipment.

I agree with Arie that the C&P is the way to go, for it’s relative inexpensiveness, and ability to get very consistent inking. If possible, a proof press with an inking system is great, but it’s expensive.

I also agree with Michael’s comment, that you need to talk to your school about the equipment. Some equipment (like platen presses) are not able to be insured without some kind of safety setup. There is also the issue of weight, adequate ventilation, and access to water and washing stations.


I feel strongly that a floor model C&P (or any hand-fed press with a flywheel) is never appropriate for an educational environment or one where it will be run by an employee.


As a time served and trained letterpress printer, when training and teaching at print college we had both a clam shell platen and an art platen, but the important thing was they both had finger / hand guards that would trip the machine in the event that a student was a bit late taking a sheet in or out.
My suggestion would be to go for a Vandercook 3 or 4, well maintained they will only appreciate in value. As for being only suitable for posters, how wrong can you get ! They were the top machines for proofing both mono and 4 colour process. You can print smaller format sheets but if you double the sheet size you can print 2 to view either by double plates or print one image then turn the sheet for a second pass. Don’t forget position of the sheet in the lays is important to getting good register and a proper make ready can be achieved on the Vandercook.
Another press could be a vertical miehle which can be hand fed for small quantities, can print small sheets and has the feeder for longer runs, properly set up 4 colour is no problem.
Hope this helps from a letterpress printer in the UK still printing using a windmill

Reading with interest and feeling lucky to have been able to use a platen jobbing press of some kind while in high school! I imagine there’s hazard tape strung up around it now.

My windmill here in the UK was considered dangerous by the Health and Safety officer and the power supply was locked in off position when I was not in attendance. I may add it was a fully working and maintained 1962 platen. Now running in my garage.

Frank Hemmings. I would agree that a powered (motorized) platen press is undesirable for a educational setting. Treadle power is the way to go, with plenty of training and close supervision. No using the press if the student is unsupervised. That would be the same whether the press is a platen or cylinder or handpress.

I don’t personally think that using a treadle makes it safer. You could have a press like this with no treadle or motor and have students turn it over by hand, but the momentum of the flywheel when foot-treadled is still enough to mangle fingers or hands. I have photos of what this looks like. Trust me- you don’t want to see them.

When treadling, the printer has the added distraction of getting that timed correctly. There is more to get right than when running with a motor.

Bringing in unsafe equipment can jeopardize an entire printing program. It is better to get it right so you can keep it going!


DGM is right. No platens - powered or treadled. Agree that a treadle press is even more dangerous.



Treadling is much slower that most motors and, I believe, safer for that reason.

Yes, machines of all stripes come, inherently, with a measure of danger. You don’t see educational woodshops removing tablesaws and bandsaws, or metal shops removing welders.
Instead you train and supervise to insure safety. Same with the platen press.

Daniel gives sound advice.
I found on Dr. google ” In the US alone, over 65,000 people are victims of table saw accidents each year.”
Arie: all the good instructors and the industrial printing educational departments are gone . I interviewed a young pressman who didn’t know what fountains keys we for.

I have a lot of respect for you and the work you do. I would like to clarify a couple of points.

The tablesaws at colleges and many commercial operations have by now have been swapped for machines made by Sawstop. If the blade hits flesh it immediately explodes a module which stops the blade and drops it through the table. You can see it demonstrated here:

At Yale some years back, a young student with bright potential was killed after her hair was pulled into a lathe. The school was found liable.

These are not good examples in defense of using unsafe equipment.


The Sawstop is a game changer for shop safety. Back when I used to work out of Techshop in San Francisco they had one in the woodshop, and even with a solid training program to use their tools, and very strict guidelines on the use of pushsticks and jigs (if a staffmember saw you handfeed anything or another member called you out, you got maybe one warning before being banned), they had to replace the emergency cartridge on that machine multiple times during my time as a member. Each time would have been at least a few fingers lost to the shop-gods, if not a straight up fatality.