Safety for 8 x 12 C & P Press


My husband and I just purchased our first C & P Old Style Letter Press. I have been learning on a Vandercook, but had the opportunity to purchase this one for a really good price. Anyways, I am a bit worried about safety. I noticed in a few posts, people referring to safe guards for C & P Presses. Has anyone found any/one? I am anxious to learn, but my fears of getting my hand squished are creeping up on me.

Any insight would be wonderful. Thank you!

Log in to reply   8 replies so far

the best thing you could do is take a lesson or two, there are lots of people giving lessons, if you are near southeastern massacuhsetts i could help you. Dick G.

Remember, there is no piece of paper or cut or ANYTHING more valuable or precious than you and your hands. when the platen starts to close remove them! let the stuff crush not you.

Make sure that when you use the press you keep your back straight and allow the press to close beyond the reach of your hands. If you are leaning forward into the press then you have to pull your arms back as the press closes. This is not good practice.

Set the press up with a variable speed motor and run it very slowly at first. Get used to using the throw-off lever. Feed with your right hand so the left is free to use that lever correctly. Never attempt to reposition a fed sheet at the last moment.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

It’s instinctive to try to reposition a sheet that wasn’t fed squarely onto the gauge pins. As Paul M. said, it’s much smarter to ruin a sheet of paper than to risk hurting yourself. If you can’t take lessons, or watch a printer run a press safely, get an old high school printing textbook … they always have good information on safe press operation. Always remember that a job press is an old — and by today’s standards, unsafe — industrial machine. Almost anything with a flywheel can hurt you if you’re not careful. That’s one reason why proof presses and Pilots are so popular.

Alter….. before you operate your press, I’d recommend that you read ALL of the discussions concerning C&P’s and newbies here on Briar Press. There has been consideable debate on the subject….. and a lot has been discussed.

While many folks consider them to be safe enough for a beginner to learn to print on, the truth is that they can bite you and they can bite HARD. In fact, OSHA considers them to be so dangerous that they are illegal to operate in business environment here in the U.S. According to them, there is no retrofit available that will render a flywheel operated C&P OSHA complaint. (If you want to risk your own fingers OSHA doesn’t care, though.)

My own view is that until you’ve had adequate training from an exeperienced printer, you would be foolish to operate a flywheel operated C&P. Even then, you should proceed with extreme caution. That machine is totally unforgiving…. one wrong action, and you can lose your hand. I’ve seen too many serious injuries in my 40 years of printing.

Thank you for all of your insight. It truly has been extremely helpful!

Yup. Get training if you can. But don’t be so frightened of the press you get chased away. If you’re anywhere near Michigan you’re welcome to come over and look at my 8x12 OS and play with it.

If it has a motor on it I recommend taking it off and getting a treadle, even if it is only a temporary 2x6. Treadled presses can be run much slower than most motors. Once you have some experience you can either reattach the motor or get a reproduction treadle from Hern Ironworks. Unless you’re doing hours of production work, a treadle is a much more enjoyable experience (others will disagree, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it).

If you can get a good variable speed motor it is (in my opinion) a better choice than a treadle. The last thing you need is to have additional movements to try to coordinate when you are learning a new press. This way you can set the speed of the press as slow as you like and just stand back and watch it run. It’s like jump rope- when you are ready, go for it!

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY