Totally new with letterpressing with a Heidelberg 10x15

Hello guys,
I’m totally new to letterpressing to and I’m from Italy. Here I can’t find anyone who can help me with my Heidelberg 10x15.

Considering the previous owner was an engraver, he never used the photopolymer plates, so I was wondering whether I need to change something on the press to accept photopolymer plates.

On more I’d like to know if you can suggest me any English book about letterpressing with a Heidelberg 10x15 and using photopolymer plates. I mean those genre of book with tutorials and possible pics.

I can’t believe doesn’t exist some sort of book for the beginners like me :)

Have a nice day!

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I believe Gerald Lange who runs the Bieler Press has written a book entitled “Printing digital type on the hand-operated flatbed cylinder press” that you can pick up at Combined with “Letterpress Printing, A Manual for Modern Fine Press Printers” by Paul Maravelas which is available from NA Graphics, you should be able to get the ball rolling printing PP. These would have to ship from halfway across the world, though. I’m sure there are a wealth of printers in your area who have experience with Heidelberg Platen presses and can train you on their operation.

FYI—“letterpress” isn’t a verb.


If you are printing from polymer you will need a base to bring the polymer plate up to “type-high”: .918 inches in the UK and America; .928 inches in europe.

So work out the depth of the plate you are using and deduct it from .928 (assuming you have a heidelberg built for the european market). The result will give you the depth of base you need.

There are lots of posts on briar about bases, some people use wood, others use machined aluminium; most of the posts will be from people using them in the US to the .918 standard.

So, what is the depth (thickness) of the plate you plan to use?

@ moderman:
thank you for the suggestion of the Gerard Lange’s book. I’ve sent him an email

Unlucky Italy is full of old Heidelberg “Windmills” but people don’t like to share knowledge!

ps. thanks for the correction, my English is quite poor :)

I’m totally new to this and I don’t know what is the thickness of the plate I’m planning to use.

Can I use every genre of thickness for the plate or does the thickness depend also from the paper thickness?

I deduct every genre of plate thickness means a different base, right!?

Yes, I believe I’m buying a press with European type-high of 0.928 can I check this?

Thank you all for your time!

Go to There you will be able to download a manual for the Heidelberg 10 x 15 free. Click on “YOU” at the end of the header. That will take you the download manuals part of their website. You will also be able to purchase an excellent base from them also.

I’ve already downloaded those manuals, thanks.

About the base, the shipping cost is very high from there to here..I prefer to make the base here, basically is simple aluminium, right?


Sorry to get your name wrong Fabio - there is another Italian guy called Paolo on a separate topic!

Okay, you’ve got your press, now find a supplier who will run polymer plates from your artwork. You will need “plates that range in thickness from about .037 to .060 inches and have fairly high hardness ratings (D60 to D85).”

Once you have found your supplier they can tell you which plate they use and how thick it is. You can then decide whether it’s compatible with the boxcar base or whether you need to source something similar in Italy. As long as the depth (thickness) of the base is consistent you could get one made.

One base could be used for a range of plate thicknesses if you were to pack the base with layers of paper to alter its height - but to make life easier why not choose 1 plate and stick with it for a while, it will mean that parameter will stay constant while you learn about your machine.

I would guess you have a .928 machine but it might be worth checking.

good luck!


I understand that you have problems getting information in Italy. But you can avoid getting bases from the USA. Do bear in mind that you work with an Italian type height, that aluminium bases can be obtained in Europe as well, printers all over Europe use polymer plates. First of all get the type height information (in Italy: 23,56 mm), second step, deduct the thickness of your plate (metal backed: 2mm) and next step find the aluminium bases. I use an existing set of aluminium bases, that every printshop had, they come in different sizes, you build up the area you want, cover it with Duplofol and stick my plates on.
Main and most important thing, try to learn first about traditional height of type, before ordering anything.

There is an excellent working printing museum close to Venice, check them out for knowledge as well.

Good luck.

If you want some photos, send me an e-mail an I’ll post them to you.

@john christopher:
do not worry :)

Yes I agree with having only a thickness of the plate but, I still cannot understand what’s the difference using different plate thickness, I mean into the print!

@thomas gravemaker
Hello Tom,
thank you for your reply on the forum.

Some questions:

- how am i sure that my type-height is 23,56mm? I don’t know the story of the letterpress!

- thickness of the plates: is there any reason to choose different thickness?

- why do I need different bases sizes? Don’t I need to buy an only base, of the maximum size that fits on my letterpress?


There are different plate thicknesses for different applications throughout the printing industry, some are thinner so that they can be used on curved surfaces such as bottles for example. As long as you find a combination which gives you type-height you will be okay, don’t worry about relative plate thickness.

My guess is you will have a heidelberg with a european type-height. Maybe you could talk to these people:

You only need one base - 9 x 12 inches for a 10 x 15 heidelberg was suggested to me by boxcar.

The thickness of the base does not control the amount of impression - how much indent into the paper there is - the heidelberg has separate controls for this.

Hello John,
thanks for the reply.

Okay, for the plates thickness.

About the base, there isn’t any way to print 10x15 size? or at least very near size?

Okay for the indent!

Thanks for the contact, they’re a museum.

Hello Fabio

You have to be able to lock the base into a heidelberg chase which has an internal measurement of 10.25” x 13.375”. However you must allow space for quoins/furniture to lock the base in, plus the gripper margin on the gripper edge (see p.43 heidelberg manual), that’s why 9” x 12” is suggested.

I gave you the link to the museum because you need to start talking to other italian printers - there’s always old guys attached to museums who are really good to talk to!

Hello John,
thanks for the reply :)

Okay, so quoins and grippers need space..

..but I have a print size of 9x12” maximum, having a base of 9x12 or Can I use bigger paper sheets but just print 9x12 maximum?

On thuesday I’ll try to call the museum!

Thanks and..Good Easter!!

yes fabio you can use bigger sheets: you have a maximum sheet size of 10 x 15.


Thanks a lot for everything John :)

just the last thing: you said “The thickness of the base does not control the amount of impression - how much indent into the paper there is - the heidelberg has separate controls for this.”

What a are the controls to give more or less indent on the Heidelberg 10x15 “Windmill”?


Hi Fabio

P.51 of the manual covers how you can adjust impression but initially you will have to ensure the platen has the right amount of packing for the thickness of the sheet you intend to print on - see page 46. If the packing isn’t right you will have uneven impression.

Hello John,
thanks also for this reply :)

I’ve read page 51 of the Heidelberg manual, and I’ve understood I need to make a packing of 1mm (included the sheet i’m printing)…I still need to understand the composition of the packing, however :

What about if I have to print sheets with thickness of 1mm? Do I need to remove all the packing?

I can’t understand also another thing of the makeready: the suggest to apply the “thin rubber blanket the size of the plate in the form”, but some sentences beyond they suggest that “the packing always cover the entire surface of the plate, no matter whether the printing maximum paper size or not”. do I need to cut the thin rubber 10x15 or what!?

Is there anything I can use instead of the thin rubber blanket?

Thanks :)

What would be a good idea Fabio is to create a new post entitled “Heidelberg Windmill - packing questions” - this would draw the attention of the people on briar who have more experience of this than me. At the moment they are not contributing because they only see part of the title of your original post “totally new to letterpressing…”.

The thin rubber sheet is applicable when you want to print half-tone blocks (photographs).

I’m opening the topic..thanks :)

Hi Fabio, I’m in Italy and also want to get busy with the letterpress here. Where are you? I’m in Toscana.

Let’s talk.


Heidelberg made a special chase in which an oversize base could be mounted without quoins. The base was held in with grub screws at the top and left hand side.

The packing ‘officially, according to the operator manual’ needs to cover the whole of the platen. The left hand side of each chase is raised and this area presses against the packing. It supports the left hand side of the platen and keeps the pressure even on both sides. Over long periods of time this stops the platen bearings wearing out due to twisting.