press type question/book/research?

I’m not really a letter press printer, but I have been doing wood engravings for some time. I am interested in potentially buying a press to get more serious about wood engraving and producing editions…
My question is this, the only way that I have printed in the past is on an engraving press (not mine) and by hand, by hand burnishing, what would be the best type of press to use for all types of printmaking, but mostly for wood engraving? I am also interseted in dry point, etching, lino type ect.. so i think a cyllindrical would be the best, but im not sure if they all go “type high”?
Also, is there a good book or website that you can recommend to research the mechanics of these different press types?
thanks for any help….::.::::::…::.:.:::.::.:.::…..:.::.:.:.::.:.:.:.:.::.::.:::.:.:;:.::.::.:

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Generally presses are designed for a specific printing process, i.e. relief, intalgio, or lithography, and aren’t really made to be multi-purpose, as each process has differing requirements. But to some extent it can be done; check out for some ideas about what may be involved in “convertible” presses.

I have printed relief blocks (mainly resingrave, some cherry) on an etching press, alone and in combination with lead type. I used a small Richeson. It isn’t ideal for editions larger than 150 or so, but you can print at a speed (100 impressions per hour) close to that of a traditional handpress with the consistency of a precision cylinder proof press, all at less than a tenth the cost of a used Vandercook or Albion. It is how I got started in letterpress.

I adjust the gap on my etching press to be somewhere around .930-.950 inches, depending on the project, which gave me allowance for paper and packing/frisket. Type high is about .918, so add your paper and packing thickness to that. Get a micrometer ($50) and measure your paper and packing. Most etching presses should have a calibrated scale by the adjustment screws. Make sure not to use too much pressure. An industrial cylinder letterpress like a KSBA or Meihle exerts 100-200 pounds of pressure per inch of roller. An etching press can exert many thousands of pounds per inch.

It is possible to start with a $350 dollar Richeson ( press, though you will eventually yearn for a larger Vandercook, or wonder how to move 2 tons of V-50 into your garage and wire 3 phase power. It is labor-intensive to pull prints with an etching press, which is why most etchings are printed in editions of less than 100. If you want to do volume stationary, book or card work, get a Pilot or something. But that is my experience.

If you want a multi-purpose press, to do intaglio and relief work, I would suggest an etching press. The Richeson press mentioned before is also sold by Dick Blick. Buy the biggest you can afford. You can always print small on a big press, but you cannot print big on a small press. I have such a press, as do many of my friends. Most of us are like you wanting a general purpose press to allow us to experiment with different kinds of techniques.

An etching press has the capability of printing relief/letterpress images with some snags, but a directional pressure press, like a letterpress, will not easily print intaglio images. The biggest problem an etching press has when printing relief/letterpress is that the paper has a tendency to slide over the plate causing a double image. A letter press doesn’t allow the paper to move side to side when printing, eliminating this aggravation.

I would suggest investing in a Richeson/Blick press now, and looking for a cheap or free small letterpress in the future.

thanks all for the responses, they are very helpful, still would like to read about different press types, becuase it seems most of the platen presses are refubished from old presses?
anyways, boundstaff, is there a way or technique to keep the paper from shifting on the roller/cyllinder type press..
I have been using resin-grave blocks for wood engraving, they are pretty slick and i could see that being a problem.

Where are you located? If you are in the northeast you might want to consider this press.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

The surface ink in relief printing works to help keep the paper from slipping, and the wet paper should adhere to the plate in engraving/intaglio. Check out this guy’s registration system for etching type presses.

I have run into very few problems with shifting registration on an etching press. I tend to pack with a manila folder and a very, very thin sheet of felt. The felt slides over the manila folder, and the paper I’m printing on stays put between my block/form and the manila.

What I have been doing with multicolor and precise registration is making a frisket of sorts out of the manila folder. I tape my manila folder frisket to a chase edge and registration is almost always perfect. See for something similar.

The link on DBurnette’s comment above is no longer active. The new link is: You can find the same information on using a folder to create a frisket towards the bottom of the page.