Inking systems

Hi all

I’ve been considering a midrange flatbed press that’s up for sale near me. It’s similar to a VC 20 (see pic) - separate inking carriage and bed-based grippers.

My question is this: A friend has suggested that I’m likely to have inking problems with a setup like this, and a lot of people resort to hand-inking these types of presses. Do you agree?

I appreciate that it doesn’t have an oscillating inking system, but presumably they wouldn’t have built/sold it if it didn’t work, and several companies including VC, Farley, and others seem to use similar systems.

Many thanks, Chris.

image: 20_35.jpg


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Hey Chris- if you see in this illustration, there is an ink plate over to the right hand side. You should note it’s possible to sort of ‘oscillate’ the ink plate by hand with a brayer, for better distribution even if once doesn’t have an oscillating roller with a worm gear.

The inking will be lighter duty but would be satisfactory provided you paid care and attention to the system as you’re using it. What you wish to print with it will affect how useful it will be.


The studio where I work acquired one of these presses about 6 months ago, it prints great, but I do suggest hand inking. Ours came with the inking carrage, but is missing the worm.
I find it much quicker to have 2 type high runners that I rest my brayer on, and remove them before printing.
I am still figuring out a registration method, but I just haven’t tackled that yet. (I plan on making a less than type high wooden ‘corner’ with magnets set in the bottom)

Hi galensmart

There seem to be a variety of registration methods for these - I’ve seen photos of people setting the paper on the tympan with gauge pins as if it were a platen press. The one I’m looking at has grippers on the bed.

It seems to me though that the bidirectional printing will create registration problems since whatever method you use, every other print will be pushing toward the registration grippers/pins/whatever rather than pulling away from them.

Thanks Mark for your views as well.


This is a real revelation to me. What the Hell were they thinking???????

I have a Showcard proof press, made in Chicago, IL that has a very similar inking system. There is a carriage with three inking rollers that is moved back and forth over the form and the inking plate. HOWEVER, the inking plate is a rotating disc, which is basically the same concept as a platen press.

When the carriage with the ink rollers is drawn over the disc it trips a spring-loaded lever that ratchets the disc every time it is hit. I don’t know how this didn’t get picked up in England. The flat plate seems insane.


Rick, I suspect you might be disregarding this press-design’s intended use.

Its a proof press, it was used to make one impression per forme and then move on, not for printing a small edition, or even printing a dozen showcards for a department store.

Taking a brayer to the plate for a new, clean inking pass was the least of their worries, and was likely deemed less of an inconvenience than dealing with a multi-part assembly required for a rotating ink-disk, which is more *slightly* more work to clean. (I suspect these were a lot cheaper to make, faster to assemble, and cheaper to buy too)

For the same reason, there is no registration, you would never print a two-color job on this press. Hell, getting the paper straight on the bed wasn’t a concern either, as long as you got a clean proof.

Line-o-scribes and Showcard presses have grippers and more advanced inking because they were actually used for multi-color work and often quite a few pieces per design. A completely different use-case.


The inking carriage includes an oscillating roller which gives a similar effect to the rotation of the disc in promoting even distribution of the ink. Vandercook used this flat plate setup on presses even as large as the 325. It works well as long as it is set up correctly.