7 years, 5 months ago
I’ve been printing for the last five or so years on Vandercooks and have a 320G in my studio. I’m looking to downsize (I’d love an SP15), but smaller cylinder presses are more expensive and harder to come by these days.
That said, a C and P has recently become available to me and I was thinking about trying it out. I think I know some of the inherent differences between the two, but I’d love to hear some folks weigh in on the pros/cons of either, and on the safety factor of a motorized 8×12 platen.
Barbara Jean YapleParticipant@barbarajeanyaple7 years, 5 months ago
Back in “Ye Olden Days”, I owned a commercial printing plant, and had open and automatic platens, and cylinders—Miehle and Kelly “B”. In terms of a smaller shop, it is hard to argue with history, and at one time over 95% of the job shops in this country were equipped with C&P Gordons. They are not as well constructed as a Kluge, in terms of things like oil fittings and such, but unless you are going to run two shifts five days a week, it won’t be an issue. There is sufficient impression, and it is fairly easy to level the bed and platen if it should need it. Make-ready is easy, and if you don’t try to set a speed record, they are quite safe. (Having said that, they aren’t called “Snappers” for nothing, and I personally know a couple of elderly gents who were feeders and lost fingertips to C&P platens.) The 8×12 is ideal, and that and the 10×15 are my personal favorites. Oh, and unlike cylinders, numbering heads can face either direction. (On a Vertical, they must face parallel to the cylinder.) The main disadvantage is that a platen must apply impression force all at once, of course, and a cylinder naturally has to apply it only over a very limited area at any given time. One real advantage of the smaller C&P’s is that they are–by comparison–light weight and easy to move around. (Key words: “by comparison”).
I hope this helps a little bit. If you can pick up an 8×12, I’d say, “Go for it!”
Barbara7 years, 4 months ago
Thanks so much for your thoughtful response, Barbara!
Danielle FelicianoParticipant@daniellefeliciano7 years, 4 months ago
I’ve printed on both for years. They have advantages and disadvantages. Here is what I think:
– Far more dangerous, you can lose a finger or badly damage your hand if you ‘chase’ a fallen print
– Smaller print area, you can’t print all the way to the edges of the platen
– Probably best to use deep relief plates which cost more and curl a lot over time
– Uneven inking – because the force of the print must be applied all at once, you’re more likely to get light and dark spots or uneven prints
– Pins -I used compressible pins that can be lifted and repositioned without damaging my tympani so that’s not a disadvantage for me but be careful if you use metal pins!
-/+ Alignment – I find it slightly harder to align prints on a Platen, though for both presses I use a technique where I apply the print side to the paper, tape it down in place, and then slip the paper in the pins/grippers, remove the adhesive and run a print to deposit the plate to the base. Works well with both presses, though I though it was easier with the thinner plates I used on the Vandercook.
+ Uses much less ink and is SO much easier to clean and oil
+ Speed – you will print faster and you don’t have to walk and turn the handle (as with the unmotorized cylinders I always used), it’s less hard on the body, this is the primary advantage for me on these presses, I can probably print 3x as fast, and I was like LIGHTNING on the Vandercook, faster than anyone else in the shop
+ More Mobile and easier to maintain – they simply have less complex internal parts, so I think they are easier to tune up and move with a palette jack (especially if you mount yours on runners)
+ Easier makeready – Adding padding, removing ink, switching colors, and all that is infinitely easier on a platen once you’re used to it. Many vandercooks have adjustable beds which is nice and you can make some adjustments to alignment near the grippers – eh both presses have certain parts which are easier, but I HATED having to undo the packing on the Vandercook or stuff a bunch of sheets under my printing sheet each time I went to pull a print. I often taped my makeready right onto the cylinder but it shifted and frayed and was generally frustrating.
+ Trip/Throw off Lever is much easier and more useful during the printing process
+ Consistent inking, and it’s easy to add ink without removing the forme (whereas on the platen I usually remove the chase or the rollers fill in my plates/type)
+ Gradients/Split Fountain printing is easier, just remove the worm gear screw (oscillating gear) once you like your gradient and you’re good to go. On my platen I have to hand roll the gradients and hand add more ink
+ Larger prints with more even inking on large solids – this to me is the major advantage and the reason I really want to get one in my shop, I do book works, and large books have large spreads which print better on cylinders
+ Less misfeeds, It’s just easier and less urgent to line up the paper int he grippers than it is to feed into pins so I’d say I prefer that
– I covered all the disadvantages in the advantages of the C&P though they could be summarizes as huge and heavy, more complex and difficult to maintain, take FOREVER to clean so ink is often muddy from previous colors (never have this problem with c&p, always had to use easy street on the Vandercook or run white ink to pull it out of the rollers), harder to adjust makeready, harder to lock up with hand set type (have to move the type and get it all on the bed in the right spot with lots of furniture), uses more ink, electricity, and material in general.
I like both – platen for longer stationary runs (wedding invites etc) and the cylinder for more fine artwork and book making.
Also regarding safety, pretend to feed for a while, just getting the rhythm of printing, always be really focused, and stand up straight so you aren’t leaning into the jaws. Check the speed, if you can’t slow it down and it runs fast, you may be in a for a dangerous printing session. NEVER CHASE A FALLING PRINT – one that misses the grippers. Go slow, it’s better to set your ink level so it requires a double pass with the rollers than to have to rush to remove and replace the paper. Let it go two cycles if you need so you can use one cycle to remove the paper and the second to get the new sheet in an aligned.
Barbara Jean YapleParticipant@barbarajeanyaple7 years, 4 months ago
Couple things I forgot and remembered as I was reading Danielle’s response; when speaking of cylinders, most people now think of a Vandercook or some other proof press, but cylinders typically (in the press room, not composing) were large stop-cylinder or two-revolution machines, virtually all mechanically fed after the late 1920’s. Production presses, and beautiful machines, but hardly practical for small shops. However, the Miehle Vertical series (V-36, 45, 50 and 50x), the Little Giant, and the Kelly are cylinders and fairly small. I had a V-36 and did the majority of job work on it. It would run all day at 3000+ per hour, register, deliver and all I had to do was monitor ink and fill oil cups! So it depends on the type of work you are doing. Ultra-short runs (10-1000) I would think would go on a platen, and longer runs on an automatic of some kind.
The other thing to pop into my mind has probably been tossed around before, but operators do know about the rubber-band and sandpaper on the finger trick, right? Small strip of sandpaper secured to the tip of the first finger on the left hand, for delivering small items (B/C, etc.) from a hand-fed press. Prevents smearing of ink and gives the operator some extra traction.
For whatever it may be worth,
Danielle FelicianoParticipant@daniellefeliciano7 years, 4 months ago
Absolutely, Barbara is right. We do consider the proof presses to be the be all and end of cylinders now a days because they are the more commonly acquired for small shops. I worked for two years in the Minneapolis College of Art and Design print shop we had a Vandercook 219 and I studied the year before on a SP15. I’ve never run any of the larger automated presses platen or cylinder – none of the Heidlebergs or even the Vandercooks with the automatic paper feed (those big strap contraptions). Both of those are entirely different animals in terms of printer involvement and technical knowledge. I’d love to get instruction on them one day, but I’m probably the only letterpress printer where I live other than maybe some small hobby printers I haven’t met. I’m the only one who does it ‘commercially’ as well as ‘artistically’ anyway.
Never heard the rubber band/sandpaper trick! I rarely have trouble pulling out prints because I use mylar / acetate for my top sheet so it’s pretty thick. I always print on a larger sheet and trim so there is usually a non inky area to grab. I may try it one day though.7 years, 4 months ago
Thanks so much to you both. This information is thorough and super helpful.
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