Vandercook #1

I might have an opportunity to purchase a Vandercook #1 in very good condition and was wondering what a reasonable price would be and if registration is a problem.


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A reasonable price is an agreement between the buyer and the seller…pretty hard to define. I paid $200 for mine a bit less than 10 years ago. I thought I got a pretty good bargain, but it’s still the most expensive press (of 6 currently in the house) I own. Prices have gone up considerably since then, but the Vandercook #1 is not one of the more popular models. If I were selling it (I’m most definitely not!), I’d probably ask for $500 or more. Hope that helps.

Registration isn’t really a problem, but since there is no built in system for registration you must adapt to that and figure out one of your own. The common possibilities include a making a tympan & frisket assembly or a pin registration system like the engravers tend to use or some other method. On the only multi color item I’ve ever printed on mine. I used a strip of stiff paper folded in half and taped to the cylinder (parallel to the cylinder shaft) and then moved the type block around with register quoins if needed. I wasn’t trying for really close register and it worked out fairly well, with only about a 10-15% reject rate per color. Since I only wanted about 100 copies at the end, I started with 150 sheets.

I had many more problems with inking than with registration. Hand inking is not as easy as it looks. A new brayer, roller bearers and more experience would probably make inking less problematic. The fact that there is no trip mode means your printing in both directions. I chose to put in a waste sheet on the return trip to make my registration system work easier.

The Vandercook #1 came in at least three flavors: The double side truss (like mine), a single truss at the back side and no trusses (the cylinder held down like on larger Vandercooks). The double trusses on mine make paper handling in and out of the press a bit more of a chore, but again not an insurmountable problem.

I only use mine occasionally; that’s part of what makes it livable for me. If I were doing this for money, I’d get really tired of it’s limitations. But with in those limitations, I’ve found it a really nice, easy to use press.

I also like its compact size, just right for my basement shop. And two guys can pick it up and carry it out if necessary. Once the cylinder is fixed into place so fingers don’t get smashed if the press gets un-level while being carried by the trusses.

I can’t imagine paying more than $800-$900 for one, tops.
I know there is Vandercook fever in some parts, and they are great presses, don’t get me wrong.
I love my #4, it is great, but you need to consider what you are getting for your $. the #1, is really just a press bed, and a cylinder. A very high quality press bed and cylinder perhaps, but pretty limited in the end. Without any real features to offer, it won’t do much in the way of serious or involved work.
As is mentioned above, if small size and weight are your desired features and you only have simple printing needs, then fine.
I could not help but notice that one was offered recently in the classifieds for $3500. I don’t mean to interfere with a transaction, its a free market society, but I almost spit out my drink when i saw that price.
I recall seeing one for around $1000, just last year, which seemed about as high as i thought such a press could demand.
You could get a pretty sweet C & P for that kind of money, or if you are patient, probably a much more versatile proof press will come along. Just my 2 cents.