Furniture? Pls Help this Newbie!!!

This may sound like a stupid question, but I need some help. I recently went into my dad’s old offset print shop and found a Heidelberg 10x15 windmill. I know this can do letterpress. Since I googled letterpress, I found this amazing site (briar press) and Anyhow I am completely lost about “furniture”. Exactly what is it for? I’ve never been in the printing business so I have no clue. What kind of furniture will I need for the Heidelberg? What’s the difference between metal and wood and which one is commonly used. Too bad my dad has no idea about this machine and didn’t even remember it.

From research, it looks like I can get plates done from Boxcar. From there i’m guessing i need to stick the plates onto the furniture? Is this correct? Any place online I can read more about the Windmill and how it’s suppose to work? Let alone, what are keys? I am complete new to letterpress and just want to get an idea before even trying to turn on the machine again.

I appreciate everyone’s help and please excuse my newness.

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You should check out the glossary on this site. I’m just learning too and it has been invaluable.

If you plan to use a BoxCar Press Plate you are going to need something to mount the plate on- in that respect they sell a BoxCar press base- sturdy metal with gridlines for easy mounting of the plastic plate.

The base is held in place by the furniture (which is just another name for small pieces of wood cut to be less than the height of your impression).

It’s pretty logical in a sense- there is a space where you put the material that is going to be inked and impressed onto the paper- this is called the chase. Within the chase you would have your boxcar base. Boxcar Base is held in place by the furniture and quoins (pronounced coins) which are adjustable spacers which make sure all is nice and snug tight before the impression is made.

I work on a hand operated press but I think that the premises are the same. Good Luck the windmill is a great press from what I hear.

First there are a few books you could pick up and read. General Printing by Cleeton, Pitkin, and Cornwell. Also Gerald Lange’s book, “Printing Digital Type on the hand-operated flatbed cylinder press”, this is great information even for the Platen press.

You should call the Heidelberg Rep in your area and see if there are any press mechanics that can teach you to run the press or the press mechanic may know someone.

Look in your area for letterpress printers. The directory on this site is very helpful.

Ask your local college or art center if they teach a letterpress workshop.

The Heidelberg is a great press but before turning it on you should get instruction on basic letterpress techniques. Then graduate up to the great press you have.

Furniture is spacing material placed around the lines of type you’ve set to fill in the empty spaces in the chase of your press. Furniture is traditionally made from hardwood that’s oiled for stability, but is also available in metal and plastic at a higher price. You don’t need to have anything fancy for furniture but it must be cut exactly square.

check out the Heidelberg Manuals, download and read, a great place start.

Thanks for all the responses! I was about to give away the machine but now we might keep it. My dad has been out of the business for the past 10 years but we have all the stuff still in the warehouse. I was hoping to spend a couple of weekends playing with it. I have a lot to learn!

Updated. Give it away?? If you decide you don’t like the press, let me know. I’ll give you a couple of bucks for it. :)

Hi there, congratulations on your Heidelberg find. It is the Cadillac of letterpress machinery. Before diving into letterpress printing, be sure to read the manual and learn how to oil and maintain the press. If the press has been sitting for a long time, dont just start it up and go. Make sure you find all the oil holes and grease fittings and lube it up good.


First answer: “Furniture” is spacing material - either wood or metal - that is used to fill the space between they type form (or engraving or boxcar base) and the sides of the chase.

It comes in a variety of lengths and widths - typically from 3x10 picas to 10x60 picas - about 50 sizes - and is probably sitting in a slope-front cabinet within arm’s reach of the lockup (“stone”) table. Furniture may also be foundr stored in racks on the lower side of the stone if it is one of those large steel top style as used in large letterpress shops in the past.

For a press like the Windmill, with the potential to run at up to 5,000 impressions per hour, Steel furniture and Challenge High-speed quoins are recommended, although good wooden furniture and even 100-year old challenge wedge quoins could be used (at slow press speeds) if that’s all that’s available.

But my bigger question is where are you located? I have a Windmill running in my shop in Frenchtown NJ and can teach you more than you’d ever want to know about operating it and Letterpress Printing in general. I’ve been at it for a while, and have taught many employees and even some outside students over the years. And, if you want to see how ‘easy’ it can be, I even have a short video of my Windmill in operation at

So, by all means, do not ‘gid rid’ of that press. Put it to use doing fine printing. Learn about its capabilities and learn how to properly - and safely - operate it.

It’s called a “Windmill” because of the way those feed arms rotate like the wings of a windmill during operation. And, by all means do keep your head and hands BACK when the press is running.

Note also the “Heidelberg” Shield which is connected to the emergency shut-off. Swing that shield up and the clutch disengages and stops the press immediately.

Aside from learning how to print with any of these presses - hand fed or windmills - it is also very important to how to learn to print and operate these presses without getting hurt. An inexperienced operator could literally lose their head, a hand or even just a few fingers if these presses are not operated with safety as a constant and overwhelmingly important concern.

- Alan
(Trained to operate the Windmill at 16 and operating my own 1953 10x15 Windmill since 1980.)


Thanks so much! You’ve been very helpful for someone who is learning about these great machines. I’d love to take your offer but I’m located in California. The only class I found online was in San Francisco and they are all on a long waiting list. I’ll check with the local college.

Your explanation about furniture is very helpful. I’ve asked a local printer about the machine, and the thing he asked was the furniture. Thus, this is why I asked the question. Would you know where I can purchase these? Can’t I cut my own wood? If I do decide to use the machine, most likely I’ll use a boxcar base? Any other ideas? Boxcar was one of the first sites I’ve read, including briarpress and

My dad has an old friend who said he use to print on this machine, so i’ll let him tackle it and see what happens.

Im about to view your link now!

There are two excellent printing museums in California, one in Carson, CA and one in San Jose, I believe. I know if you contact them, they will put you in contact with people who can teach you how to use your new found press.

Chuck, where in California are you located? The International Printing Museum in Carson is indeed excellent, and a true printing museum; but if you looked into classes in San Francisco I’m guessing you’re in Northern rather than Southern California.

History Park in San Jose ( isn’t a printing museum, but one of the many buildings in the park is the “Printing Office,” an 1884 building set up as a working vintage printshop. The San Jose Printers’ Guild ([email protected]) runs the shop and we’re fortunate to have a good variety of people in the group who would be happy to help.


If you are still looking for some wood furniture (and are in or around the S.F. bay area) I have a couple of small drawers full of misc. sized furniture I am not using. Let me know.

If you haven’t already gotten your furniture, I have a big box of wooden furniture that you can have for shipping charges. Should you be interested, I will weigh it up and we can take it from there.

Before you turn the press on, if you haven’t already, take a moment and go around the machine with an oil gun. You will notice many little holes painted either yellow or red. Give them all a drop of oil. There should also be an oil gun lying somewhere around the shop. It should be used on all the oi nipples located on the press. DO NOT USE GREASE ON THESE NIPPLES!!

On the back of the machine there is a trap door. Open it up and you will notice two red oil cups sticking up from the toggle. Open the covers and give them a good squirt of oil. To the right of the oil cups will be a small wheel painted yellow. Oil it two.

Now go to the front of the machine and grab the red or black ball that is attached to the impression lever. Lift it up and push it in. Now the press is off inpression. Facing the press, you will notice something that looks like a flute. This is the sucker bar. Follow the hose that goes from the sucker bar down to an apparatus that has a pull-knob that says Pull To Trip Suction. Pull it. Now, with your left had, push the clutch lever straight out away from your body. It should click into place. Now you can turn the flywheel by hand and watch how the press works without the risk of damaging either yourself or the press.

Unless you are feeling very generous, do not give the press away. Depending upon the age and condition, it should be worth at least a couple of grand, if not more.

Should you decide to lock something up and put the chase in the press, remember to back the impression control on the impression lever to 0. Saves a lot of misery.

Good luck.

Do you have any Kluge equipment in the shop?? We are always looking for used presses to put through our rebuild program.

Chuck -

If you’re in the LA area, Gerald Lange is offering a class in Windmill operation on Jan 26 & 27. See:

This would be a great way to get up to speed, so to speak on Heidelberg operation and would likely give you the impetus to begin printing on yours!

Best of luck.
- Alan

Hi Chuck,
I’m in the Sherman Oaks area of the San Fernando Valley.
I’d be glad to help you sort out the press and whatever else you have if you are not too far away.

Alan’s suggestion of the LA area class is a good one since your equipment is in storage and likely the press isn’t now hooked-up to power. Dick

Wow! What a wonderful community. Thank you everyone who responded. I’ve been so busy with my job, that I didn’t have the time to respond back to everyone and put everything on hold. Thanks for the generous offer to help me with the furniture and knowledge on letterpress. When I’m ready to start this up again, I’ll be sure to come back to the wealth of resource here.

Thank you again!