Constructing a Press

I am a sort-of beginner with letterpress - I’ve printed before with both handset type and photopolymer. To continue learning and get more experience, I am building a small press. I’m following a design by Charles Morgan (
that uses a bottle jack to provide the pressure and operates like an iron hand press.
I will need to modify the design somewhat to provide for a chase. I’m considering constructing the chase as part of the press bed - half-inch or so bars forming a rectangle, attached to the bed itself. Has anybody with a similar press tried this? What would you recommend? Any advice and ideas would be greatly appreciated!

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I haven’t built a bottle press press, but I’m currently experimenting with various methods of printing wood cuts.
(I could kick myself for selling my Poco 0 last year before my move south.) Anyway, I’ve been accumulating fruit press parts and a copy press, but haven’t begun to experiment yet. I DID keep the simple frisket/tympan I built and you may be interested in viewing it on the web at:

I constructed it from oak of a size to fit around a 4 sided galley I still have. It’s primitive, but made block printing so much easier.
Windswept Press

What will your form be? If it will be type, think about moving it from the composing stick to the chase you propose to be part of the bed. If woodblock or linoleum block that might need a bit of underlay to bring it up to print better, think about unlocking the form on the bed to get to the piece to remove it and apply the underlay, and then maybe not getting it right the first time.
I think a conventional portable chase that may be removed to the stone might serve better.
Sounds like a fun project. Please give us progress reports.

Probably, for the near future, the forms will mainly be wood/lino cuts, or mounted photopolymer plates. I only have a small amount of type at the moment, but it will still see use.

Dave - thanks for the link to your website! I’ve actually been trying to figure out a tympan/frisket arrangement as well, and had the hardest time trying to find good pictures, so yours are really helpful.

I finally have all the parts and materials together, so I should have the press roughly together soon. I’ll be sure to post some pictures.

postersforrobots, printinkg really doesn,t need
hydrulics. nice work though, 2words wooden spoon
best james

So the press is basically put together. I am still puzzling out what to do for a chase. I don’t know if anybody has had any success with building such a thing?


Also, a picture of the press in its current state can be found here:

Pretty good for a first go at it. Looks like it ought to work for some small stuff just great! I wager lino cuts could be printed with it pretty easily as well.

Now revise it with some more rigid materials for the bed and ‘platen’ once you’ve put it through it’s paces and things start to warp a bit; it’ll really help if you can somehow construct those two surfaces from maybe some aluminum.
Then you can tear it apart again and rebuild the legs out of stronger material over time as well, and you’ll have yourself a great little press.

As luck would have it, I’ve actually found a few sources for aluminum plate (on ebay, funnily enough), which wouldn’t be terribly expensive and easy to ad to/replace the material I already have, which is very stiff, but will, as you pointed out, start to warp as time goes by.