wooden made washington press

Either home made or wooden frame Washington Press could be build? Probably it is very complicated to build a press, even platen press. It must be cast iron frame.

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Think “hand press”, rather than “Washington press”. I studied a wood-frame hand press that was made by the Cincinnati Type Foundry around 1821-35. The Stansbury used a two-rod torsion toggle and had a cast iron platen and bed but the frame could be all wood. I designed a reproduction using a couple of 12x18 C&P platens for the platen and bed. I think it could be built without much need for machine tools using 4”x6” and 8”x12” oak timbers for the frame. You could build the whole thing mostly with hand woodworking tools.

Ad Lib,
Do you have any photos of the press you built? And where is that press from CTF?

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Thought I’d draw your attention to this:
the UK comedian Stephen Fry presented a BBC programme about Gutenberg which included the manufacture of a wooden press.


When it’s screened again I’ll flag it up.

Alan May in the UK built the press for the documentary. He recently delivered a talk at the ‘Letterpress, A Celebration’ conference at St Bride’s in London. A publication is available. In the late 1970s a reconstruction was built in Amsterdam by a group of afectionados, and has been in use since. I printed on it myself and if I’m not mistaken the press is now at the University Library in Amsterdam.

Daniel, I never built the press I designed — it was going to be my last-ditch choice to get a hand press, but I got a Washington instead. The CTF press it was based on is at the Missouri Historical Society (was in storage when I studied it). It is missing some toggle parts but it is obviously a Stansbury.

I think Moxon gives some instructions for building a wooden press in his _Mechanick’s Exercises_. I’ve thought that it might be possible to build a press frame out of I-beams, and an impression device from some old power brake equipment. But then, my wife thinks I’m a conceptualist. Still, on a site that tells how to cast rollers out of gummy bears, there can be room for individual initiative. Now, if I could just get the Lino to cast chocolate!

Good Luck! Brian

The Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., has an exact reproduction wooden hand press. I think it was made in England or Ireland 30 years ago.

IPK …. if you look here in Briar Press, you’ll find wooden home-made presses that various folks have built. I routinely use a variant of the wooden handpress that I built some months ago and posted here. Several others also use similar presses. In fact, there exists a small group of us “home-built handpressers” who correspond regularly.

After my own experiments, I’ve found that building a working hand-press is not difficult at all…. in fact, it’s rather simple. Modern plywoods make for very stable platens and bases, and wood-working vise screws are easily adapted.

Wood worked for centuries when people started printing…

Moxon and Diderot both provide some direction. Diderot’s encyclopedia probably has the best illustrations for a handpress without a compound lever system.

My dearest better half has hinted that we should make a handpress at some point. I don’t believe it would be too complicated with some decent woodworking handtools. It is all fairly simple joinery, albeit on a bigger scale than cabinets.

The biggest problem is the screw. I have looked at multi-start Acme rod as a solution, and that is probably the direction I would go, unless historical accuracy is wanted.

DBurnette- I’ve found that Veritas makes some very excellent screws in appropriate pitches for hand presses. My own press uses a Veritas twin-screw system that pulls the platen downward instead of pushing it, which makes building the press very easy. The pitch is such that the platen moves approx 3/4” with a 180 degree pull on the lever. ( I’m not saying that the Acme thread is not good too, just that the Veritas screws have worked well for me. )

As far as your Dearest Better Half’s opinion about building a handpress goes…. she is obviously a wise artistic person. Printing on a handpress is slower than other processes, but it has a certain asthetic value that is very appealing.

It is good to know a wooden press possbile to make. I live in the Philipines, and I know Ifugao people who is good wood carving. But anyway I started to make paper by traditional way. I use local fibers. Next year we will make a water wheel stamper. This replace a Hollander beater for western style papermaking, and Naginata beater for Japanese style papermaking. It brings one step back to traditonal papermaking. I make more study and I try to make a small wooden press for my miniature books. My paper needs a traditonal wooden press.

Thank you for all these information.

IPK- It’s GREAT to hear that you are making traditional papers…. and the proper press to print them on. My own circle of printer-printmaker friends has a similar philosophy. In our group we have two papermakers, several wooden presses, one hand-mold type caster, and several wood-cut artists…. all geared toward producing authentic hand-pressed books.

Please make sure to keep us posted about your progress, and if you have any technical questions, donot hesitate to ask. We may not know the answers of course, but we may have encountered similar problems in the past.

Keep up the good work.

Somebody — was it on Briar Press?? — posted photos of a hand press that used a modern hydraulic car jack as the screw. It looked simple and practical, but I couldn’t see how they kept from smashing the type.

A colleague in Australia, Richard Jermyn, has just hand-built one of these presses using local Australian hardwood timber. I was at the first printing of the press, and have written an account here: http://ampersandduck.com/art/?p=359

It’s pretty spectacular! I’m attaching an image, and I have more at my flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ampersandduck/sets/72157622423255397/

image: press_wide_lr.jpg