I may have a need to print a yardstick in a few months. What is the best brand of letterpress to do this? Where do I find the type needed? Local printers scratch their heads on this request… :-)

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1. Steel type (sell the house)
2. Brass type (sell the car)
3. Job out to pad printer (sign over pay cheque)
4. Rubber plate from stamp maker. (pocket change)
Do not use ordinary lead type as it will be crushed; do not use a polyplate for the same reason. Use an oil-based ink, or VanSon’s Tough-Tex. Tie back the throw-off lever if using a C&P and place the impression above platen center. Use flywheel for hand control.
If printing but one stick use a felt pen.

We printed a series of Quadrants onto thin wood not too long ago…. which are similar to yardsticks, but curved. We experimented with several different methods before we decided that letterpress is not the best way to print them. We wound up using silk screen processes, which worked like a charm.


silkscreen is certainly the best way for this. I’m sure it can be done letterpress, but I’d think it’s take some serious adjustment to not crush everything.

Let’s really think about printing a yardstick letterpress!
A yardstick is 36-inches——the largest common C&P
platen press is 14x22-inches——that’s just the first obsticle;
wouldn’t common logic suggest that letterpress was NOT
the correct method for doing this job? ——-Hello!!!!!!

Ever heard of work and turn? ———- Hello!!!!!

In addition to thinking about silkscreening, you might consider that yardsticks (and pencils) are probably not printed letterpress, but stamped. The machines may vary, as well as the type, but one could use either handset, linotype or specialized type. It is the machine which would determine which type would be best, because of the set up and pressure required.

In the days prior to the ‘instant age’ - and before the two-days-experience ‘experts’ appeared, a printer pretty much handled everything appearing at the counter. Unless you’ve printed wooden nickels, chopsticks, paper tape rolls, T-shirts, coin folders, and, yes, wood yardsticks, upon a platen press, please don’t pronounce on matters not experienced. In short - try it. You might well find letterpress a multi-faceted field; far beyond simplistic place cards. (I’d mention hat brims as well but suspect that would cause some heads to explode)

When I had a similar job to this I used a hot foil Press.


OK, forme, I’ll bite. What does work-and-turn imposition have to do with this project? (Most people here do not know what work-and-turn means, especially if they’ve read the Maravelas book, where he mistakes work-and-whirl for work-and-turn. Read a real printing manual and it will make more sense than the following description.)
A two-up work-and-turn form has front back forms side by side (keeping guide edge on backup, switching side guide). Work-and-tumble has front and back head-to-head one behind the other (back edge flipped over to become guide edge on backup). Both use one form, and one cut to yield sheets printed front and back (or folders printed inside and outside, etc.).
Work-and-whirl has two complementary fronts (back edge become guide edge on second pass). It allows joining of elements that don’t easily fit together, such as cross-rules and down-rules, or fit numbering machines into tight designs.
So, a 1.5 by 36 inch yardstick would run two-up work-and-turn on either 3 by 36 stock (with guide edge on 3-inch side) or 1.5 by 72 stock (guide edge on 72). Both seem preposterous.
On a 10x15 C&P, I can see printing half the stick (0-18 plate), with stick angled from corner to corner (avoiding the side arms), and whirling the stick to print the second half (18-36 plate), but that’d use two complementary forms, one-up. If the yardstick reads from both ends without other complicating text, then you could have a two-up work-and-whirl form. Rip-saw down the middle.
But how in the world would you use a work-and-turn form for this with an ordinary platen? Or is this another case where the American terminology I learned differs from that used in UK and former Commonwealth?

Wow. For so simple a task both PI and DTP show interesting approach. DTP is quite busy painting all the reasons why it shouldn’t/can’t be done, and PI becomes stymied by the traditional (read:paper) impression technique of ‘work and turn’. Perhaps if both were more interested in the challenge of actually doing that which others think impossibly difficult, letterpress as both art and craft would not be viewed as arcane. Next, someone will state, emphatically, that water and oil cannot be mixed.

Well, forme, you brought the phrase “work and turn” into the discussion, so can you explain exactly what you meant by it, if not the “traditional impression technique”?

Rather than get into a long heated discussion that gets us all nowhere, let’s just check out …
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!!!

Excellent reference site, SP. Thank you. Another interesting site, http://www.wooden-nickel.com/crew/, well shows the versatility of a C&P press. Although never tasked with their volume, I did have a standing 10k order for wood nickels that tied up an 8x12 C&P for a day or so. My mechanical set-up was not even close to what the Nickel Company’s owner devised (his air-operated device allows both sides to be printed - work and flip ); I could only print single side. Such use of the platen press by the Nickel Company, underscores that even in the 21st Century, the indefatigable C&P gives yeoman service. In competent, imaginative hands. As aside: wooden nickels are a profitable sideline for the home-based business. Many businesses give paper promotional coupons; the novelty of a ‘wooden nickel’ makes such an easy sell. The 3x5 Kelsey is ideally suited for that purpose.


And on and on and on and on … … … . Let’s close this before 2009!!!

arcane: mysterious; esoteric. archaic: old-fashioned; no longer in general use.
I choose the former for good reason. Should DTP understand the printing industry, he would soon find letterpress - from foiling to wire marking to carton marking - alive and well in this century. Just because computer-generated image-making dominates the popular press does not translate to the death of letterpress. Expand your horizons. As for ‘work and turn’, try it. But don’t limit your thought process.



forme: I’ll second the motion!!!! Yawn, Yawn!!!

I am so glad you are able to misstate terms and offer erroneous opinions and when you are called on it you act bored. Boorish behavior!

My, My! You are a touchy little tyro. Again: Yawn.

I have a little book from Kelsey that talks about printing on Pencils.. so im sure it can be done..


More accurately, ‘Pompous Blowhard” would better suit DTP’s claimed experiences. Were he to actually have such resume, the simple printing of a common yardstick might well be beneath his dignity - but certainly not his acclaimed skill set. “Those that can - do. Those that can’t - teach”. Woe be to the student.


I prefer a modification to forme’s supposition on teaching:

Those who can, do.

Those who can do more, teach.


Let’s hope it catches on.


Just a note on the variety and versatility of letterpress. I know someone that “prints” on his paper cutter. Since he also casts his own type, quick wear of the type is not a problem for him. He inks up a form, positions it on his paper cutter (under the clamp), places a piece of soft pine board on top of the form, and then uses the pressure created by lowering his clamp to literally ‘stamp’ the type into the wood. He employs this method to create a limited amount of side panels for his printed wooden boxes, which he fabricates as he needs them. A fairly ingeneous method to get a few lines of type printed onto wood.

now that’s cool!!!

I’m sure yardsticks can be printed via letterpress. Even if it takes multiple forms and passes to do so. unless you’ve got a 72” press though I doubt your going to be able to print them work and turn ;)

quite a testy group.

(i have the maravelas book AND i know what work-and-turn means. i don’t think either of those facts would encourage or discourage me from printing on a yardstick)


Thank you for the comments. This is what I like about briarpress: you get information about experiences. A reader can compare his or her situation to the experiences. That way, the best decision can be made.

A little background on the question: I’ve collected yardsticks for years. My background is with newspaper presses. I enjoy briarpress because it helps me learn about whole new areas of printing. I’ve often wondered how these sticks were produced. Knowing the costs of buying them as a finished product, it has often struck me that a production run shouldn’t be that costly. One day, I recalled Kelsey or some other supplier had a stock ruler cut available years ago for the job presses. I thought this forum would be the best place to ask about the process.

A few words of special appreciation: forme, one of the yardsticks in my collection was produced as work and turn. And all of my sticks were produced using letterpress — unless someone had a silk screen that could press down on wood!

Devil Tails Press: thank you for your suggestion to go the route of shipping out the order and start out by buying a round of sticks. After all, promoting a business on a yardstick has limited value (how many, Devil Tails Press, does a person need? ) and I don’t want to be out a wad of cash if my idea is a dud.

Thanks, too, folks, for the wooden nickel info. Like I said, the strength of briarpress is that you can get a range of experiences and then compare what you read to your own situation, to make the decision that is best for you. On that basis, I’ll buy sticks rather than produce them. This discussion was very helpful. Thank you to everyone who posted and thank you to the moderator of briarpress for making this forum available.

A number of years ago I attended an auction which had some yardstick manufacturing machinery. The presses were narrow cylinder presses. The cylinder had a circumferance of about 6 feet, and were about 2 inches wide. These used zinc plates curved to fit the cylinders. The presses were really quite simple. The yardstick blank was handfed and the printing plate on the cylinder would catch it and pull it on through. I don’t recall what type of inking mechanisim there was on these presses. Wish I had bought them. It would be kind of fun to make yardsticks.

Dave - Interesting you would mention this. I shared the yardstick situation with another printer, and she said she’d use a Vandercook proof press to do the job. Perhaps someone else here will remember the manufacturer’s name of the press you mention. Yardsticks are an ideal advertising medium. They last forever.