I am new to letterpress and just recently got a vandercook press. Since I am printing mostly from polymer plates, it is ok to leave the boxcar base locked on the press (even when i am not printing)?
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Yes. I can see no problem with doing this. You may want to remove the base occasionally to clean it or if you are in an area where humidity is high as you could get some corrosion on bed or edge of base in a humid environment.
If you plan to use any water or water-based materials, you may want to remove the base and insure that there is not water or moisture under the base after cleaning the form, or at the end of the day. I worked in an engraving shop which had two Vandercooks with vacuum bases to hold the plates when proofing, and those bases were rarely removed from the press until the presses were sold.
I’m not familiar with Vandercooks, but something else to keep in mind is that temperature fluctuations cause materials to expand and contract. However I’m not sure how much expansion it would take to damage the base or the press nor what temperature range it would take to bring about said catastrophic expansion. To be on the safe side we are always sure to loosen the quoins after use. This really hasn’t proven too much of a hassle as we leave all the furniture and base in place, just loosened so everything can move freely.
Being sure to check underneath for corrosion and cleaning/protecting those surfaces periodically, especially if in a humid environment, as the previous response suggested sounds very wise also.
Personally, I wouldn’t leave it on the press. Rust can happen quite easily and with it not showing you may get rust and therefore not have the base perfectly flat.
If it is a boxcar base, the surfaces are anodized aluminum, so corrosion is not likely to occur in an area where pitting would occur as the anodizing will pretty well protect the base itself. It is the idea of moisture being trapped between the aluminum base and the steel bed that would be the problem area to occasionally inspect. If printing solely from the base using photopolymer plates, there would be no reason to remove the base every day — unless water or aqueous materials being used for cleaning plates or the base.