Vandercook SP15 - Press Packing - What to use?

I have a Vandercook SP15 on the way and need to purchase my packing. I just checked the NA Graphics website and there are a ton of different types of packing for the Vandercooks - do I need them all?

There is
1. Kimlon Cylinder Packing
2. Mylar Top (0.007 inch thick) with Kimlon Under (0.021 inch thick) Sheet Set
3. Mylar Under (0.007 inch thick) with Kimlon Under (0.021 inch thick)
4. Rubber Top Blanket
5. Rubber Under Blanket
6. Top Tympan Sheet
7. Undersheet

I think that is all of them. Do I need them all? Do some of them go together. Any magical packing suggestions?


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Hi Brandi,
I would order the tympan top sheets and the standard undersheets. Also check their site for the some thinner makeready paper.

You may also want to consider having a mylar top sheet, but if I were you I’d just source a sheet of mylar and cut it yourself using one of the die cut tympan ones as a template. It’ll save you a fair bit of money. NA Graphics use .007 mylar. I’d suggest you not go thinner than .005.

The Kimlon and rubber are too soft for my taste, but they can sometimes be used to get a decent print out of worn type.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

NA no longer sells the .021” Kimlon, but does have the thinner .012” It is also useful for halftones.

I prefer buying tympan by the 700 ft roll, because I repack often which I might do less with precut sheets and I typical use a tympan drawsheet which I cut into as part of my makeready.

How much packing to add begins with knowing what your cylinder undercut is. This is the depth in thousandths of an inch that the face of the cylinder is lower than cylinder bearers.

With the carriage at the feed board, you’ll find the number stamped into the narrow oil channel separating the cylinder face from the cylinder bearers on the operator’s side. “040K” is most common, this means that .040” total packing is needed to make contact with a form locked in press bed.

If your undercut is .070” I suggest bulking up the cylinder with .016” Non slip hard packing also available from NA.

For a kiss impression the total packing (including drawsheet and paper stock) should total .003” over cylinder bearers. For example, if paperstock is .012”, under pack the cylinder to .031”.
You will need to add more for a deeper impression.



The rubber blankets would be too soft a surface, and would cause you to replaced the topsheet more frequently as it would get debossed and a bit stretched in the main imression areas. A good, hard packing with mylar (polyester) top sheet, particularly if your are going to be printing on dampened paper is good. If your packing is too “spongey”, you will see too much of the impression on the back of the stock (of course, that may be your intent).

Remember to consider the thickness of the stock you will be printing in your calculation of the packing on the cylinder. If your stock is .020” thick and you want to imbed the image .010” in the stock, you can use those figures when calculating the packing thickness, and just subtract .010” from the nominal packing thickness to allow for the thickness of the “un-indented” stock base.

Does all that make sense? Mainly, just account for a portion of the stock thickness in the packing if you are going to use bulky stock like Lettra.

Daniel, Paul & John - you guys are the best! That makes it so much easier!

I am nervous about this new press. In my mind the Pearl seems much less complicated but I am looking forward to getting to know the Vandercook.

I am sure I will be back with many more questions upon arrival!

Thanks again guys ;-)

Hi Brandi,

With regard to Paul’s comments, I made a little spreadsheet to help me determine how much packing to use with different kinds of stock. It’s for the arithmetically challenged, but even if you can add it will give you an idea of the sorts of layers you can use:[email protected]/3732899100/

Happy printing with your new press!


Very cool Barb - thank you! I am not a math person either!



I supply press packing for Vandercooks to my various clients, ex-students, institutions I work for etc.

I’d recommend a procedure that requires less sheeting (to minimize compression), is consistent in its approach, and is efficient.

For a hard packing:

From the bottom up, you need a material that will prevent cylinder corrosion. Treated Drum Head packing will do. Usually comes in .006. This is your variable packing and actually the packing that will need to be replaced quite often.

Above that I would suggest Kimlon, which is a latex impregnated paper. I recommend the .021. It will provide a bit of resilience. It rarely needs to be replaced unless you are a total bonehead and over impress your paper sheet.

Over that I use Poly Pak, a calibrated polyester sheet at .007. This is your top draw sheet. It too, rarely needs to be replaced unless you…

For adjustment makeready, I use calibrated Riegal at either .002 or .003. Either under the Kimlon or taped stretched directly to the Poly Pak. Having at least one sheet of this on top of the draw sheet prevents burnishing of the paper sheet.

Beyond that, .001 tracing paper or .0005 Japanese silk tissue, under the Riegal, for very fine makeready adjustments.

Pretty simple stuff. Mainly though, stick with a minimum of calibrated press packing sheets and avoid using any ole paper, printing papers and the like.


Okay… excuse my ignorance. But I have been trying to figure out what packing I need to get for my #4.

All this info helps a bunch, but I still can’t figure out what the difference is between the “Top” mylar or tympan, and the “Under” version?

Do you use just use one or the other? Or do you get the under versions and then use the top tympan over it? I’m still a little confused but this.

I get the thickness and the need to only be about .003 over the .040 of my press… including the stock to be printed, but it seems there are a ton of combo’s to do this. I’m mostly trying to figure out the Top/draw sheet and if there NEEDs to be something else under that besides just a single Kimlon etc…

I have a C&P also, and I just use a fresh tympan and the a variety of NA Graphics hard non-slip packing and red pressboard as necessary on that.

Thanks for your help.

- Jonathan

You may pack your Vandercook with the same materials you use for your other presses. You know the thickness, and most people use standard tympan paper as the top sheet. You want a firm packing. The polyester materials will work well for that and have the added feature that they do not absorb moisture if you choose to print on dampened paper (if you use polyester film as the topsheet).

What kind of caliper or measurement tool do most use to check thicknesses of various papers?

A vernier micrometer works very well.

Well, my step daughter haunts garage sales and picked up a very good Mitutoyo digital micrometer for cheap. She didn’t have any use for it so she gave it to me. I had a $20 Sears micrometer, and when I measured some paper with both of them, the readings matched exactly.


Ha! Yeah, micrometers, no matter large or small, are going to give you the same reading relative to a thousands. But a Mitutoyo dial caliper (not digital) is an amazingly precise instrument. A fellow from Jet Propulsion Lab (a student of mine) gave me one, with the warning not to close it completely when stored because of the possibility of “molecular exchange” between the forks that could throw off the reading!!!!