.918 for all thicknesses of stock?

I was just thinking of the technical side of type high and couldn’t figure out the answer for myself (I’m sure I will be able to when I have my own press arrives but the question is frustrating me now); hopefully someone on here can help.
When preparing for a print run and getting everything to type high how do you…well…do you need to allow for different paper weights? Whether you are going to print on say 600gsm or envelopes but you don’t want to punch through the stock. Where do you do adjustments for different paper thicknesses?
Does the above even make sense? Sorry, hopefully not worded too badly!

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Your form (type, cuts, p.ate/base combo, etc.) should always be type high. You adjust for different paper thicknesses through the amount of packing you have on the cylinder or platen. Less packing for thicker papers, etc. Cylinder presses have an undercut (often .040”). You can use this measure along with the thickness of your paper stock to work out how much packing you need.

So how thick can stock be?

What kind of press do you have? For a cylinder, you need the stock to be able to bend around the cylinder. Lettra 220 is the heaviest I’ve run on my Vandercook. You don’t want a paper so thick that the cylinder struggles to get over the form. You’ll damage the press that way. Platens like the C&Ps can handle thicker stocks as you can adjust the platen depth. I don’t run one myself, so others can tell you more about that.

I have a platen on the way (but needs restoring first). If you have thicker stock wouldn’t you eventually need to do less than type high? If you were printing on envelopes obviously there would be a certain amount of packing but I guess what I mean is, there’s only a certain amount of packing you can remove before there’s nothing left…then what?

I have always set my platen to type distance using 60lb. cover stock as the printed sheet .014, an oiled tympan drawsheet .006, 2 standard packing sheets .005 each, and a sheet of pressboard .026. By adding or subtracting packing I am able to makeready from 20lb. bond to 220lb. art paper. I keep a stock of makeready tissue and other papers and card of varying thickness to fine tune the impression.


Thanks Paul.
So essentially you start with .974 and go from there?

ps. My apologies for putting this in General Discussion instead of Beginners, I didn’t realise until after I’d asked the question.

Bissym, Friend, re your request for help, and as by implication you are “a new Kid on the block” asking for help/advice, you will soon work out, that you will get a good spattering of gobbledegook, half truths /facts, non facts, conjecture heresay, 2nd hand, (never actually myself etc) And “got to publish some rubbish, just to get ones own Handle in the frame!!” etc.>> MY (alleged) expertise ends with the last “e” in Monotype but (to help your learning curve) perhaps I can pose some relevant points for YOU, in the hope that some/any contributors can be enticed from the woodwork, to offer good teaching style replies, from Alleged, Informed (or at least by default and or longevity) contributors, ..There are a few on B. P. that post constructive replies to serious questions!!!>>>FOLLOWS a few for starters * .918 is (surely) the base line to begin at? In the case of say Heidelberg or Thompson Platens, on Clamshell Action the concept of progressive and staggered packing requires a lesson on its own for starters? **Parallel Approach, (Autovick, Vicobold, Probably Colt Armouery Presses etc) present (surely) a whole new approach to, and answers for, packing, makeready, underlay, overlay, etc. “See Footnote” ***Envelopes, possibly a little seminar regarding make ready to accomodate the “X” at 2 or 3 or 4 thicknesses??? Many more and counting!!! Come in EXPERTS. “”Footnote”” A Good Buddy and Co Volunteer at our working Museum, Print Shop, (who,s Weapon of choice is the Vickobold!) has for a long time,TRIED to show me how the judicious use of Tissue paper, Bible Paper, Air mail paper etc, (as part of makeready), can make the difference between a perfect impression and vice versa!! Another point of finesse or lost art maybe??? Come in Teachers!!!

In the absence of a model of machine this is a loose question but once you have a material so thick you cant pack the machine you have hit your limititation of the press if A you can not lower the bearers and B if your printing block cant be levelled below type high .
However, if you have the autovic or other parallel approach system you are able to adjust things easily for a few extra thou of print stock but with clamshell machines you need to play around with the blocks height so long as the roller bed bearers can be lowered to make the allowances necessary . if you have a heidelberg you are also limited to the clearance of feed grippers in relation to the platen surface.

I have a C&P 13x18 + an Arab 10x15 on their way.

My question was/ is a theoretical one, in that I understand you can increase packing for printing on finer paper but how do you go about decreasing the impression on thicker stock if you have already removed all packing? Therefore (and correct me if I’m wrong) would it matter which press you are printing on? Or is this not an issue at all and I’m not recalling the printing process correctly (it’s been a few months since I attended my last course).

Thank you for the answers so far, I’m finding them interesting reading.


Thank you MonM; yes, that blew me away the first time I saw what a difference a single piece of airmail made to an impression.
PL, so do you mean you would have to be able to reduce the block height AND adjust the rollers down to match the adjustment made to the block height and that is how you’d give yourself a little more play room on a platen?


Yes, it is a problem, but fortunately for you the two presses you mentioned are both capable of printing on fairly thick materials buy re-adjusting the platen screws to move the platen further away from the bed to allow thicker substrates to be printed. On these two presses you could not reduce the height of the printing surface (plate or type) very much since your ink rollers most likely are not as adjustable.

I have backed off the platen in order to imprint information on catalogs which were 1/8” thick. I does take some care and patience to get the platen level, but it certainly is within the capabilities of anyone who can run a platen press.

I would suggest that a new user might want to begin by printing materials within the current adjustment of the press to get a feel for running and packing the press before attempting to adjust the platen (unless the platen needs adjustment from the start).

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

Thank you John, while just thinking about the above, I figured am I (un)simply asking “if type high is .918 then what is the distance between the platens?”.
I absolutely understand that this would not be a situation for a beginner to work with but you have answered my (theoretical) question in regards to how this would be dealt with on a clamshell action machine.
Cheers, Beth.

On most platen presses the type height is fixed, so trying to calculate that into your set-up is just confusing. Just think of the type surface and what you need to build up or remove to that surface.


I think you’re barking up the wrong tree, so to speak, by messing with the form/inking side of the press to increase/decrease impression; backing the platen off is the right way to go, but more often than not the handfed chandler and price Platen presses I’ve encountered are set to .065” packing (I don’t know if this is a standard or something, but maybe someone else does?)

One (general) good rule of thumb I follow with thicker printing stock is to measure it’s thickness and calculate max impression by % of stock’s thickness. Use a micrometer if you have access to one, or look up the stock’s thickness by getting in touch with the manufacturer.
I use a type gauge manufactured by Vandercook that was used to determine form thickness, but I just depress the foot and throw some stock underneath a piece of .918”/type high iron. Once I determine the thickness of the stock I can decide how to proceed with the packing.

I usually try NOT to push more than 25% into a stock.

On the thick side of things- I work with museum board fairly often, and typically it’s something that is thicker than .030” for the 2 ply, and up to .060” for the 4 ply stuff. This is the max I can really print on my platen press (a 10X15 Chandler and Price Model N); My platen is set to contact the form on impression with exactly .065” packing. So, with a .008” topsheet that has a piece of mylar sticker paper on it, and a .060” piece of museum board, the form is naturally pushing .003” into the piece of museum board, or 5% of the way into the board.

As keeping with the rule of thumb mentioned above, I try to add packing to equal out to .012” if my customer wants some good punch to the impression (they usually do), but maybe a bit more if they request it up to .015” if I can manage with tissues.

One job I had a while back was to print on some wood veneer. It varied wildly in thickness from lot to lot and needed to be gauged in samples to determine the “thickest” and “thinnest”, so as not to overpack the press. We used a copper plate mounted to wood below type high, and then shimmed it up to type high with some softer materials so as to have a bit of a heavy-duty crush resistant surface/durable plate which had a base behind it that forgave a bit of…. Variation in stock thicness. This would seem counter-intuitive, but it worked out because the plate was stronger than the material behind it.
Only catch was, every now and then during the run I had to remove the chase and change out the material behind the block-mounted-cut because it was compressing and the block would sit too low for the rollers to ink it properly. Kind of a funny situation to figure out but we got around it.

Beth, if I may address you as such! It would seem that as you are a self confessed novice/learner (and Thankfully for the progression of the cause) and obviously eager to get to grips!!..Some of our friends are assuming that you are more advanced than you have reached YET!!..No disrespect to anyone but surely the basic principles and concepts should be the initial building block, to start with??? Hitting you (or me) with too high tech/high spec solution too quick must surely be confusing….I know (and am frequently) accused of rambling but I try to think in terms of the perception, (without demeening) of the keen new learner, who may not have had the benefit of in depth experience as yet!!!>> Case(s) in point::-.918 is the normal/usual height for standard type, (fixed in time and space) Variables only begin from that point on!!! As already implied Clamshell, H/berg,s Thompson,s and similar are (normally) fixed in the approach of the bed to the platen, therefore the amount and degree of packing is critical and delicate and an acquired art, not learnt overnight!!..The weight of the impression can be controlled over all, with the fine adjuster on the impression handle, but because it IS clamshell, any packing has to be calibrated to compensate, Peter will I am sure cross the “t”s and dot the “i”s..>>Generally/Usually the smaller platens, have adjustable Bed screws, whereby the position of the bed in relation to the platen can be repositioned plus or minus for impression and packing. The rollers on their tracks keep the same relationship to the bed, and are normally only effected by the diameter of the trucks, (USA terminolgy) or the provision of adjustable height bearer rails, normally only on bigger power presses!!!>>When adjustable bed screws are present, it seems to be a recurring problem as to how to end up adjusting 4 points accurately and synchronised!!! one tiny solution, (bearing in mind that the impression screws are at rear of the bed, and need to be thought of as mirror image for adjustment) is to mark/calibrate the 4 screws (with tippex, quick dry enamel, or even beg nail varnish, from The Girl with The Kluge!!) and mark the screws at say 12 o,clock, 3 o,clock 6 o,clock and 9 o,clock and adjust progressively in or out, virtually 100% accurate, from job to job!!!>>Hoping this may help the learning curve, Good Luck, Mick.

‘Round here, we call him ol’ Wall-o-text Mick, pioneer of the capital period. But don’t let that take away from his posts — they are quite informative!

This thread is taking on a life of its own. A very experienced and advanced printer once told me that the impression on a platen (C&P in this case) may have to be changed with each job. Although I have read and heard of recommendations for measuring packing thickness on Vandercooks, I have not read where .065” is a standard for platens. It seems to me that you should first set the impression to nothing by locking up a type letter in each corner and adjusting until each one makes no impression, then you can adjust back to a slight one if you want one. It follows that each job and each added paper thickness will result in a deeper impression. If you want a traditional kiss impression, you will have to back off the impression bolts each time you print on 600gsm paper. If you want a deep impression you may leave the impression adjustment where it is. Does this sound to complicated?

Platens and impression. C&P’s, Thomson(American) and Heidelbergs are all different from each other. You need to understand the manuals or at least the mechanics of each. Nuff said.

It is much easier to adjust the packing on a press before moving the platen.

I have consulted three platen printing manuals:

The Practice of Presswork by Craig Spicer 1919, 1929
Elementary Platen Presswork by Ralph Polk 1931
General Printing by Cleeton & Pitkin 1953

All of them generally concur that packing should be about .045. Spicer actually gives the measurement using two thicker calendered inner sheets, the others repeat pressboard, 4 inner calendered sheets and tympan. I would recommend getting any or all of the above books to increase your understanding of proper set-up and make-ready. You will receive so many varying comments on this site that you will become more confused than when you started. You also will be able to understand better with the presses in front of you.


Bissy m
The printing surface (type) must meet the printed stock evenly across every dimension of its view or surface , if with no more packing , and nothing left to adjust backwards you have not got the job to print on a clamshell machine and still need to get packing out but dont have it you have to look at bearer height and the height of the printing surface , You dont look to altering the roller diameters nor the bearers of the rollers Trucks .
You would need to use a lower type surface and therefore need to lower the bearer (rails ) if you used a type surface that is twenty thou lower than your usual you would have to lower the bearers twenty thou also , this to keep within the relationship created by the rollers and the trucks .
Many of the problems found with these old machines is the variety of bearer heights (Rails ) , some of it is wear from the years of use , some are because of different type heights ,others still will be out there that have been manufactured for a purpose other than printing on boards and papers .

Keelan, thank you for my Stateside quoted Handle,!! appreciate it because it tells me that some, albeit, a few are on the same wavelength and frequency as me, and I fully appreciate that my ramblings are (nearly) all relevant, to the original post(s) but I try to think in terms of the New Ones, asking searching questions, and hoping for simple to understand relevant replies?? Too many times it seems, too many advanced responses appear, that make it difficult to “see the wood for the trees” and I suspect that at least some are NOT based on long time hands on experience or training?? One (of many) cases in point, not too many days ago, a plea for help appears re Motor for Vandercook, the enquirer!! already states that Grainger? has been consulted, to no avail”“” and again the original enquirer is asking advice re an adaptor plate, and what appears, Waste of column inches,? saying/implying Consult Grainger! re motor and “you will need an adaptor plate” ???As the original postee already stated knowledge of both, NOT very useful. I submitted a long ramble, admittedly, but I hope(d) constructive and helpful, possible alternatives, with the known “X” factors in mind, so at the very least the original enquirer could search further for viable alternatives.

Woah, Mick. You can’t go around calling Canadians ‘Stateside’; that’s a bit like calling an Irishman an Englishman! My parents and entire extended family are from England. Middlesbrough, most of ‘em.

I think your only flaw is overestimating people’s patience, and ability to do things with their hands. My dad apprenticed at Smith Docks, and learned how to do everything by hand before being allowed at the machines. He had the same attitude with me as a kid, so I learned how to do things by hand. I take it for granted that the hacksaw follows the line ‘on it’s own’, or so it seems. It’s amazing what practice does. Seems that’s not the case for everyone. I’ve worked with kids that don’t know which end of a screwdriver to use, and couldn’t tell a wood saw from a hacksaw.

To kelan

I have sometimes used a hacksaw as a wood saw, but chose one with coarse set off teeth. Next door neighbour was somewhat upset when I pointed out that she had hacksaw blade in back-to-front.

We have plenty of people who do not know basic principles but have the degree certificate on the wall. One is the man who claimed that if an aircraft propeller was taken off and bolted on the other way round, it would be necessary to reverse the rotation of the engine.

It is well-known what other country was involved in an incident with U.S. which led to the writing of The Star-Spangled Banner.


Keelan, Apologies, without prior knowledge of good peoples whereabouts, I unfortunately assume, WEST of Lands End makes all beyond, Americans. I hope that My very good Friends In British Columbia dont read B. P. because That doormat will certainly not say Welcome anymore!! And on count 2, further apologies, to yourself and others, because I (wrongfully) assume, again, that as our new friends are starting down the road, of wrestling with, for example, older, bigger, slightly messier, lumps of machinery, they all must have some working knowledge of such. Again a serious misconception by Me, for which I apologise again. Grew up mainly on/in farm type surroundings, at the back of beyond (relatively) D.C. Lighting, Cooking on Grannies Big Black Range, etc and the road ended 1/4 of a mile away. T/V here was in its infancy, “Journey Into space, “(weekly) on the Radio was a must !! from a valve radio running from 90 volt dry battery and 6 volt accumulator. And “Dad” didnt have “Steve Earls, Dads” BIG BLACK DODGE,” just a beat up old Ford Lorry and late 50,s some highly dodgy loads, crossed the Borough Boundary, (State Line style) outward bound!! Mostly cable “borrowed” from the War Dept, who didnt want it anyway, as used, stretched between Pylons to stop German Aircraft Landing!!! All/Most of the preceeding by way of saying, Have been very Priveleged/Fortunate to have had the advantage of Dads Input, for most things mechanical. MUST TRY HARDER! with/for less fortunate and younger souls trying so hard, One more time Apologies. Mick.

I thought i was old but Mick, cooking on a black range, TV in its infancy, wow. No need for apologies, love your posts old guy.

To Mick on Monotype and others

Well, yes, even in this Great Southern Land (a Continent which is one nation with no border but the sea) we talk about South America and North America, even though we have heard of the United States. At present we are doing that, talking to each other.

I have much enjoyed reading briar press comment, learned a few things. Even that there are some different kinds of printing.


to all

Typehigh is typehigh, .918, and that’s that.


Alan, that is unless you are in Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, etc.


to kimaboe and platenprinter

Do you use more than one typehigh, but I acknowledge my failure to remember that there are several; maybe some printers use presses of different standards in the one shop?

At a small town (Coonabarabran) in New South Wales, Australia, one Linotype was fitted for use with Rogers Rule System matrices, while the others used normal drive-depth matrices. But if a few of the wrong matrices accidentally got into the wrong machine, sometimes the blunder stood out very well, and proofreading usuallly showed up the vice-versa error. All their typehighs were meant to be standard, .918.


There was a trick which produced a linotype slug slightly over typehigh, sometimes the compositor became aware of what had happened, and abused the linotype operator accordingly. But it’s a dangerous trick, similar to deliberately introducing a mis-spelling of a person’s name into ordinary text. We tried to ban such tricks. One lino operator inserted an insult to a football player, forgot to correct it, next morning went to editor to confess.

The Prime Minister of Australia at one time had the name of Menzies, originally pronounced Mingays (like Chumley for Cholmondelay), so he was given the nickname of Ming the Merciless, from a movie serial which was popular with the kids as science fiction. Of course, the journalists used the slug (catchline) of MING which we tried to explain was dangerous because occasionally a slugname line was left in the forme.


Alan, I do actually have fonts of varying type heights, usually not too much of a problem as a little bit of make-ready will sort that out.

This is an international forum, few things fit “…and that is that” :)


In case anyone is looking for it online, the book ‘The Practice of Presswork’ (Pittsburgh 1919) recommended in one of the many useful posts in this thread is by Craig Spicher, not Spicer. Another old text I have found useful (as a rank beginner) is the two volumes of ‘Modern Printing’ by John Southward (I have the 6th edition of Vol 1, Leicester 1933 and 4th ed. of Vol. 2, London 1922). These are particularly useful in their very detailed descriptions of equipment, which helps a lot when trying to understand stuff for sale on eBay etc. Southward’s books are perhaps easier to find in Australia, with its British heritage, than in the USA.