Grippers on 8x12 C&P

I am getting my press on the verge of printing and the only thing that I am currently missing are my grippers. I want to avoid adding additional problems to what will already be difficult for a new printer. Thus my question is, how necessary are these to the process. I see lots of people, it seems, running their machine without the grippers at all. When do I want to use them and when should I not worry?

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If you decide to run jobs from photopolymer plates the grippers will have to be adjusted outside of the width of the plate base. I think they are useful, this is just something you will need to take into consideration.

A rubber band stretched across the grippers will help to pull the sheet away from the print surface if this means that they have to be set too wide to do their job in the conventional manner.

What books do you have? I would suggest Platen Press Operation by George Mills if you can find a reasonably priced copy.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Grippers are like car insurance, most of the time you don’t need them; but when you need them, then you really need them… :) Like insurance, you buy them to have them for when you need them.

Fritz at NA Graph has new replacement grippers for the C&P 8x12 and they’re worth buying at less than $100 for a set. They are good replacement grippers and they come with an interchangeable set of fingers that hang off the grippers to hold stock from one or both sides. You may also need to order the bolts to hold them in place, which he has. As Daniel notes, you need to keep them out of the way of your polymer base or metal type forms. 99.99% of the time, mine are on the press, but pushed to the far left and far right and if I need their action, I use string between them to build out a retainer system to hold the paper on the pins. I do this instead of moving them in and risking mashing a form or base.

They are most needed when running heavy forms, and/or small stock or very thin stock. Heavy forms with large solids may pick the paper and hold it the form, small forms sometimes are hard to keep on the gauge pins. I was printing some calendar pages (12 months on separate pages) to staple to a larger background calendar, and the thin paper/heavy coverage combination was deadly with every form picking the paper off the pins. I built a nice retainer using string and the grippers. In lazier moments, I just stretch a large rubber band between them to hold the paper in place (putting the band where nothing is printing…)

You can get by a lot of the time by using the right gauge pins and not using the grippers. I like the Kort Quad Guides sold by LetterpressThings which have these nifty little fingers that reach out and hold most stock on the pins quite well.

One other thing grippers are useful for, but is seldom done by printers today it to create a frisket on your platen press. Basically you tape or paste a large piece of paper across the two grippers, covering the entire platen and making a basic frisket. then, you print onto the frisket, and using an x-acto knife, carefully cut out the printed areas. Then, you can start feeding your forms and the frisket will function as a way to keep the paper on the pins, and if you are having roller height problems and are inking a corner of the base, or have some mystery ink hitting the stock outside the intended area, it will print onto the frisket instead of your stock except where it is cut out, allowing you to protect your stock. A handy trick if you need to get a job out and don’t have time to screw around with roller height and taping your rails, etc…

Since Daniel mentioned a book, I’ll also suggest one that is readily available, Elementary Platen Press Work by Polk, which some kind soul has recently reprinted and has made available on Amazon here:

If you own a C&P, you owe it to yourself to buy this book which is the instruction manual that was never written for C&P’s…



Those Kort gauge pins are very nice until someone (certainly not you!) accidentally puts the chase back in the press upside down and smashes one right into your Boxcar base. Be very careful not to do this- I suggest marking your chases with a distinct top (maybe a green mark at one side, red at other) to keep you from ever accidentally doing this. And always turn the press over by hand checking for clearance before firing it up or treadling it over.

The first big mistake I made during my apprenticeship was to accidentally put the chase in the wrong way after correcting a typo. I took out some very nice foundry type and a McGill pin, too. Master Heaver, though always very patient, was unable to hide his displeasure.

I was so embarrassed I wanted to dive into the hellbox right along with those lost sorts.


Daniel, Alan, and Dan,

thanks for the explanations fellas. I do have Polk’s manuel but I must have either skipped that part or haven’t gotten to the topic of gripper use. I have read about different ways to use them but just not the why if using them.

I will check with NA graphics. I need a quoin key from them also so might as well just get those at the same time.

Since someone brought up the topic of smashed gage pins, now might be a good time to announce that a new gage pin design will have its debut at the APA Wayzgoose in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa in June. See:

These are fairly inexpensive guides which will compress and spring back if they are positioned in an area where they hit the base.

They have not been named as yet, but may be “Henry’s Holders” or “Henry’s Safety Guides”.

I’ve been using them for a couple months now with my own work and they are doing quite well. They are re-positionable when setting up, but stay in place for the run.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press


I LOVE that story! I’ve seen mashed pins, ‘tis ne’er a happy moment…

I have a little flashlight in the pocket of my apron so that I can check, check, and recheck the location of my pins against my form and base… Helps with seeing into a closing press. I think every base I’ve ever seen at a book center or college print lab has had pin marks in it…