The Heidelberg windmill impulse buy.

Six months ago I fell in love… with a Heidelberg windmill press. I’m not a printer (yet) but, after watching a video of a windmill in action; the rhythmic sounds, the well choreographed movements, I was obsessed. I spent the next few weeks devouring information about the press, watching videos, checking ebay and wirebids. It wasn’t that I really had the money to buy one or get it shipped from whatever magical place I purchased it; I was more or less window shopping.

After a month of obsessing over the idea of owning a windmill and dreaming up all the beautiful things I could print, I came to terms with the fact that even if I could afford a press (I couldn’t) there were a lot of additional expenses involved that pushed it way out of my price range; shipping or transporting the press, replacing rollers and/or parts, etc. So, I put the idea on the back-burner.

Four days ago I was sitting in front of my computer and, just for fun, did a Google search for “Heidelberg windmill press” which was quickly followed by a Craigslist search for any presses that MIGHT be for sale in my area which was unlikely but I figured I’d look anyhow.

I was surprised to find a 1973 windmill press for sale in South Carolina (I’m in NC) and immediately checked the map to see how far away it was; only three-and-a-half hours! OMG. So I went back and read the listing. Owned by the same printer for 20+ years; his dad bought it and they used it mainly for numbering and did some (very little) die cutting with it. He had the original manual and parts book, numbering manuals, extra chase, quoins, furniture, lots of numbering machines, both drawers were there and full of parts and tools. OMG.

I emailed the guy. I didn’t have $1,000+ what it would cost to ship, nor did I have any idea how I would move it myself seeing as how everyone I knew was currently ‘social distancing,’ nor did I know how I was going to convince my wife it was a good idea, but none of that was going to stop me. This was too good to pass up.

After 48hrs with a lot of really quick, last-minute planning I told the guy I would take it. We settled on $800. He needed it out of his shop ASAP. I’d read a number of “how we moved our press” posts, read a number of “don’t attempt to move a press yourself, hire someone” posts, watched some videos, and concluded it was PROBABLY possible doing it myself if I had to. So, I borrowed my parents truck, reserved a hydraulic drop trailer and a pallet jack, spent $300 at Harbor Frieght on things I might need ‘just in case’ like jack stands, chain falls, come-alongs, floor jacks, straps, etc, filled the bed of the truck with wood of all shapes and sizes, screwed two layers of 3/4” plywood down on top of a pallet I had in my burn pile, and picked up two 6-foot 1.5” dia. solid steel bars on the way to SC.

I left home at 6am and, over the course of six hours, successfully lifted the press off the floor, secured it to a pallet, pulled it to the back door of the print shop, picked it up and backed it down a graded walkway and off the sidewalk with an old forklift I had dropped at the location and a makeshift curb ramp I build out of a scrap wood, strapped the press to the trailer, and wrapped it up with stretch wrap for the drive home. I got in last night at about 9pm, took a break, read through the beautiful manual, put my kids to bed, cleaned out a space in the garage and at 1:30am this morning I set my new press down, unwrapped it, and stood staring at it for about 30 more minutes before finally going to bed.

Yesterday was the day I (carefully and painstakingly) moved a 3,000lb press by myself.

Sadly, before I can get it up and running here at home I need to solve the 3-phase motor issue. I’ve read “get it re-wound,” “buy a converter,” or “replace the motor.”

Either way, I’m looking forward to learning how to operate it. I’m looking forward to making beautiful things. For now, I’ll just stare at it.

image: IMG_1185.jpg


Log in to reply   9 replies so far

There you go Nathan!
I vote for a converter, rotary is best, I have one on my Miehle, which is 3 phase.

Scott, thanks for the input. A quick look for “single phase to three phase converter” brings up $500-3k options. Am I missing something or is this really what I’m looking at?

Nice looking press, and you purchased it at a bargain price if it operates as good as it looks. It needs a face shield on that bar.

You need experience to operate.

Inexperience can lead to injuries. This machine can be very unforgiving and hurt you. Please be careful.

Best wishes for successful printing.


Michael, thanks for the words of caution and I don’t disagree. This is a machine I don’t plan to take for granted. There aren’t many, but there are a few windmill printers in the area I have connected with and will get a good amount of instruction and mentoring.

I have the shield for it. I removed it prior to transport as I was concerned about how it might be affected by wind even though I wrapped the entire press in shipping wrap.

And yes, it very much does run as well as it looks. It was left connected so I could see it running when I got down to SC. I have promised to take really good care of her

Dear Nathan - We are excited for you! And impressed by your “do it yourself” perseverance. Before you spend the money on a converter, maybe consider talking with Colonel Walt Whittenburg at Whittenburg Inc. His assistance and that of Rosa (his right hand office lady) have been most helpful for us. And they have been extremely gracious with their knowledge and resources to help us with our Windmills and other presses. He swapped out the motor of our first Windmill to a 110 motor. He might be able to help you do the same thing. Since then we have had to install a converter for our other presses, and the expense for the converter was just a portion of the expense. A licensed electrician was needed to get our converter up and running correctly and safely. The number for Whittenburg is 615.212.0015. They are in Springfield, TN.

@gfoots thank you! I will definitely give them a call and see what information they can provide. I imagine the physical swap of the motor I can do myself (I was an electromechanical tech on ICBMs in the Air Force 20 years ago) but not yet understanding the load requirements or needs of the press, I could use some direction.

When COVID-19 began popping up in the U.S. my wife and I were just about to open a community art space here in Graham, NC but couldn’t open. We are down to only a few thousand dollars left from the original business loan (most of it went toward build-out of the space) so even buying the press was a financial risk so I’m hoping I can get away with spending as little as possible getting the power issue figured out. Our landlord has (amazingly) said he will simply put our lease “on pause” until things return to relative normalcy but in the meantime, I’d love to get the press up and running!

Thanks again.

@nathanegriffin i bought a cheap chinese VFD (Huanyang HY01D523B) from eBay and it worked well for me. it looks like they’re also available on amazon for about $150:

i might have an extra one somewhere in the garage that i could part with as well. dm me.

stay safe and well.


gw, thanks for the info. I will take a closer look at the motor that is on the press (I believe it’s the original motor) and see what sort of specs I need to run the press. I’ll shoot you a pm so you have my contact info while I do some digging around.

Thank you,

Re motors-
Your best option is to replace the 3-phase motor with single phase one. Unless I’m mis-remembering, it’s a single speed 2(?)HP with a longer-than-usual shaft.

Second best is to get a VFD that allows single-phase in, not all of them do.

Third is to get a phase converter (which is -not- a VFD), the rotary ones are generally better than the static converters.