Print Shop Planning

I bought a fixer-upper of a house a few years ago. In the back I have a pair of garages, ca. 1920, each approximately 18’ by 36’. They are rotten to the point of collapse so it’s high time to rehab them - the only elements in good enough condition to keep are the brick walls. I’ll need new roof, doors, and floor slab. I’d like to make one of these into my printing studio in the future.

Here are my questions for everyone:

The slab - is a concrete floor slab designed to bear the weight of a car sufficient for most any equipment suitable for a small to medium scale studio? I have a pair of tabletop presses at the moment, but I’d like to move up to something larger as soon as I have the space ready (like a C&P in the short term, maybe something as large as a Vandercook or a Heidelberg in the more distant future). I’m probably going to need an engineer for the city permit drawings - anything I should tell them about the equipment I may want to have?

The doors - it looks like I’ll be reproducing the historic doors, which should give me a clear opening of around 8’ by 8’ - that should be more than large enough, right?

Electricity - there is no electric service to the garage right now. I am thinking of getting a new service dropped from the pole right next to it. What do I want to ask for to be sure I have the most flexibility in running equipment? Do I need to plan ahead in case I want to run something that takes three-phase power? Anything I should tell the electrician?

Water - a connection to city water is going to be prohibitively expensive (it comes in at the other side of the lot). I may be able to connect to my outgoing sewer line for drainage (it runs under the garage I want to use). What kind of ideas have folks come up with to allow hand washing without a tap?

Anything else I should keep in mind? Anything anyone wishes they had done differently?


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Unless you plan on getting a Heidelberg cylinder, I do think a slab rated for an average car should be sufficient for most presses you’d want in a smallish studio.

a cheap option regarding power or electricity to that particular c&p or whatever why not Gas Powered Commercial Duty Cement and Concrete Mixer type of motor should be more than enough and then a lot of sunlight ;) no extra bills only pay 4 what you permit what is that hahah


My little printshop is 15 feet by 20 feet. A friend and I put down a reinforced concrete floor 6 inches thick at the centre and graded out to 12 inches at the perimeter all around. Over that I have some of the 1.5 inch high density insulation foam over which is your usual 1x3 inch strapping on which I have screwed down full 2 x 6 inch spruce planking each plank which runs the full width (15 feet) of the building. In the little printshop I have a 6x10 Kelsey tabletop (on my work table), an 8x12 C&P NS, a 10x15 Heidelberg platen, a Vandercook SP15, a Ludlow with one cabinet of mats, a double Hamilton cabinet full, a small type cabinet (not full), a lead saw, a 19 inch Challenge paper cutter, and the first fridge my family ever owned (‘born’ a month after me according to the little plate under the door) —- also various odds and ends (ie. - galleys of extra leading, nipping presses, etc. I’m not overwhelmed with room, but the floor seems to be holding things up quite nicely. Good luck with your planning……db

I bought a piece of property house and garage is equivalent to a 6 car garage . I wish they would have put a moisture barrier (plastic) under the cement slab. Anything that sits on the concrete will draw moisture from the ground. A side from that… The 40 x 60 addition with have a moisture barrier and 1940’s decor including the coal fired steam heating system to match that printing era. It will also have at least 6 inch thick concrete for load areas for the heavy presses.

12 inches ..thats good enough for a sky scraper .i made my floor my self with concrete and 8mm iron every 20 cm about 5 inches thick and electro welded wire mesh on top just in case, and have about 15 tons of machinery in 50m2.
but my wild guess that for a regular letterpresss or even a windmill a car etc 5inches of concrete and electro welded wire mesh on top will do just fine..another thing is that you can prepare the area for a particular machine so you dont need to do the whole floor.

I would get a 125 amp panel installed when you run power. 3 phase is rarely available in residential areas, and even if it’s close it costs $$$ have it run. The largish panel will allow you to run 220 which you might need and lights and heat as well.

Depending on your climate, you should plan to keep the shop above 40 degrees F even in the winter. Cold cast iron condenses water like crazy if you get a fast warm-up. Lots of insulation in the roof is a good idea no matter where you are.

A slab rated for a car should be fine, but garage style slabs are sloped toward the garage doors for drainage — you might want to not do that, if the code people will let you.

I don’t have water in my shop either. I clean my hands with Fast Orange smooth hand cleaner by Permatex and plenty of towels. It is citrus based and doesn’t need to be rinsed off. It even lists printer’s ink as one of the things it removes.

For Power - you do not have to have a new service drop unless you want to keep your shop as a separate utility. A 100A Sub Panel from your Main will be fine. As long as you have a 200A Main.

Hire a good Electrician, have him point you in the right direction. He will know what needs to be done. To find one, check with the local Authority (Inspector) and ask them to recommend one.

DO NOT LISTEN TO THE HOME DEPOT or LOWES STOCK GUYS! They will kill you. Most are not Licensed Electricians. The ones that are, don’t care if you burn your house down.

I call Home Depot my retirement job. I will let my Master Electricians License expire, Get Hired at Home Depot, To stock shelves, wear a Orange apron and pass out BAD INFORMATION to the customers.

Good Luck

Use a trained Electrician, it will save you money in the long run. The reason I say this is the last thing you want happening, is the wiring not done correctly, and you burn out a motor on your press.

I was lucky I am in a professional built U-Haul office front and warehouse and the wiring was done to city code.

The electric pot and mouth piece control is not working right now on my C4. I found a Electrician that worked on Linotype/Intertypes in to major printing shop, he coming Thursday. One good thing, after talking to him, he knows what the machine does and I do not have to teach him the reason for the control panel.

He rate is twice the price of a friend, but, it might it repaired faster using a trained electrician.

For conventional platens a 4” slab will be ok. If running small cylinders (Miehle Vertical or non-Heidelberg, you can probably get by with a thin slab, but would recommend going to 6”. A Heidelberg cylinder would require a 6” slab, since they are heavy.

If you can get 3 phase for a nominal cost over regular service, it’s good to have, but really only if you intend to run larger production machines (V50 and up). If you are running hot metal machines with electric pots, then 125 amp panel is a start and more is insurance against expansion. Cheaper to start oversize than to have to add the capacity.

Also, not only should you have a slab inside, but also one outside to allow using a forklift or pipe rollers to move equipment inside.

Thanks everyone - there are definitely some suggestions here that I hadn’t thought of yet!