Learning on a Vandercook proof press

Hi everyone- I’m wondering…
if I’m interested in procuring a C&P 12x18 but am learning my first baby steps on a Vandercook proof…
will I be lost once I get my new press?

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You shouldn’t have too much trouble. Granted the proof press is going to be very different than the platen, but you will still gain all sorts of ‘universal’ letterpress knowledge and vocabulary. Before you step all the way up to a 12x18 C&P you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the smaller platens. I don’t think you really would need to purchase a smaller one, but jumping head first into a motorized 12x18 could be dangerous… even with plenty of experience on the Vandercook.

is there any way to cover the motorized part so that its safer? thanx for the help!

I am not sure what you mean by ‘cover the motorized part’. The motor and belt assembly is not, in itself, the biggest danger you face when using these presses. The biggest danger is getting your fingers caught between the bed and platen. You could likely get a treadle for the press (provided it has the correct shaft) but I don’t think you’d enjoy treadling a 12x18. The absolute best solution would be to make sure you have a variable speed motor and start it out very slow. Also become familiar with the throw off lever so that you don’t find yourself trying to reach for misfed sheets of paper. If you do misfeed a sheet your instinct will be to reach in and fix it as the platen is closing—something which you never want to do.

Actually, treadling a C&P is no safer than a motorized press. That flywheel carriers a LOT of energy, and it doesn’t really matter where that energy came from. A treadled press will smash a finger just as badly as a motorized one.

Thinking about it, there is no way I’d recommend a C&P or any other large platen press to a newbie. The long and short of it is that they BITE and BITE HARD if you get your fingers in the wrong place. I’ve seen far too many printers with missing fingers to think that a person with no training could operate one safely.

Legally, most of the old presses cannot even be used in a commercial shop since they don’t even come close to modern safety standards, no matter how slow you run them. WE use them, of course….. but every one of us who sells printed work does so against OSHA rules, and contrary to Federal Law. (CFR 1910 to be exact) MOST of us know this, and accept the risk of both personal injury and/or legal action if someone else gets hurt.

However….. most Newbies are probably NOT aware of the dangers of older presses. Thus I wonder if it is responsible or wise to advise anyone who hasn’t got a mentor of some sort to purchase such a machine. A far better recommendation would be to advise them to purchase a Pilot or some other Lever-operated press like a Kelsey…. or possibly a proof press.

Miss Prosody,

I’m a newbie in letterpress and I started learning on the vandercooks. And just recently bought a sigwalt and a c&p pilot. The transition between the vandercook to the lever platen press is pretty smooth. The most obvious reason is because you are in control of the movement of the press. I’ve made a number of mistakes with the vandercook when moving the cylinder across the bed that if the cylinder was motorized…I probably would have hurt myself. I agree with winking cat press and dicharry that mistakes that happen where you get hurt are when you aren’t really thinking and are reacting. If the press is motorized, you won’t have the safety that comes from using a vandercook or lever platen press where when you stop, the press stops. Talk with your instructor before you buy anything and if anything else check with the place you are taking classes. You might be able to rent the vandercook and not need to buy anything until you are absolutely going to get the press you want and are ready for it. That’s what I did.

thanks guys ! that was so illuminating- i love this forum/site! =) and yikes, i def. didnt know all the risks…I like my fingers.ha.
I’ll be taking it slow and looking into buying a larger press AFTER my class and AFTER a few steps using a tabletop or Vandercook…
are proof presses safer than platen presses?
and can most C&P full size platen’s use both treadle and motor?