Proofing press

I’m considering buying a proofing press from Affordable Binding Company. Has anyone used one and gotten good results? Alternatively, are hydraulic bottle jack presses as destructive to type as they look? I use primarily lead type, have never used photo polymer plates. Wondering if one of these new presses are safe and as good as they seem.

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Digging through posts on PSI of platen vs. roller presses, it seems like the roller style press is the way to go. I’d still appreciate any advice on bottle jack presses though. I believe the one I’m looking at is a 4 ton hydraulic jack, and I worry it could crush my type.

Thanks for any thoughts anyone can share.

I wouldn’t buy the hydraulic type press- might be ok for printing linocuts or such. You’d be better off looking for a used proof press of some sort, even like a linoscribe.

This depends a lot on what you want to use the press for, and other factors. A proofing press, such as one left over from years gone by with a flat bed and cylinder (and maybe a paper registration system and inking system), can do quality work, can print forms with a lot of ink coverage, is slow, and tends to be expensive.

A hand fed platen press, such as a Kelsey, Golding, Chandler and Price and many others, is relatively fast, has an inking and registration system, can print forms with ink coverage of around 1/4 to maybe 1/3 the chase size, and can cost from zero on up but tends to be in the low to medium price range.

Bottle jack presses are rare, slow and tedious to use in my opinion, don’t have an inking system, could probably have a registration system devised for them, and the amount of ink coverage possible, would depend on how heavily built the press was. There is a reason that there aren’t very many of them around. As far as damaging type with a bottle jack press goes, you could have bearers or a chase made to go around the edges of your form underneath the platen, which is slightly higher than the type height. Then if you put a piece of paper on top of the inked type, inside that chase which is higher, the chase would hold the platen off the paper and you wouldn’t get any printed impression. You could experiment and put just enough paper, pressboard, etc., on top of your type and printing paper (but inside the chase) so you would get a normal printed impression, but not enough impression to overinpress or damage the type.

Hope this helps and you achieve your goal!


If you do a search on my posts, you will find a post where I did a whole series of experiments on how much pressure it takes to print….. and a lot of others about cylinder vs platen presses. My conclusion is that a cylinder press is theoretically superior to a platen press in their ability to press an image onto paper.

You will also find several discussions about home-made presses. There used to be several press-builders here.

The real advantage to platen presses are mentioned above: they tend to be self inking, and are faster. If you don’t need a lot of speed, and are willing to hand-ink, then a proof press is your best choice. If you need to print a lot of stuff, then maybe you should look at a platen press. Just keep in mind that per square inch of printed area a platen press tends to be heavier than a tabletop proof press.

My Showcard Press is perfect for 90% of what I do nowadays, and is easy to pick up and move around.

About the bottle-jack press: I wouldn’t use one. I built one very early in my press-building career, and found it to be slow, hard to ink, and impossible to keep good register. It’s not a good choice for letterpress, or photopolymer plates

About the Affordable Binding proof press, I’ve not used it but looking at the video, it does not look like the best design to me. If you want to go with a wooden press (which can be quite good machines) do a google image search for Winking Cat Press…. you’ll find quite a few better designs.

aka Winking Cat Press

Thank you to everyone for the information and advice! I decided to build a roller style press, after reading many posts here. Test prints with wood type came out well considering the lousy ink I used- speedball water based. Also the chase was handmade too. I had cast one from a silicone mold taken from my Kelsey chase, and added wire into the poured resin for strength. It wasn’t great but as a back up I keep it on hand. It was safe for the test print. My roller is 6 in PVC, filled with concrete, and a 3 foot steel rod through the middle with wood caps. Have to add handles and a blanket/packing, but am really pleased with first results. Thanks again for the info and encouragement.

Adrienne - I’m glad your test prints came out well but my advice is to not use water based ink (with presumably a water based cleanup) on wood type. The shellac finish on wood type is not completely waterproof and probably has small gaps on old wood type anyway. Water will make the wood expand and when it dries it will contract again, but if this is repeated it will cause the wood to crack eventually. (For instance, if you look at old barn boards which have been exposed to rain, they are full of cracks). I don’t mean to criticize but just to be helpful. Geoff

I agree not to use water-based ink on wood type.

BUT I’m glad to see that you made your own press. I love the old free-roller proof presses: I’ve got three of them in my shop!

My home-made version has a 7”diameter roller, weighted with concrete and old metal type. It is really heavy, and prints well.

One thing I’d recommend: if you don’t have a proper bed with rails, you should build one. It will help keep the impression even, and your registration tight.

Here is a link to my old press, and how it was made. Since that time I’ve made a number of different machines, but that one is still my favorite!

aka Winking Cat Press

Thank you, Geoff, I didn’t realize that about water based ink. I use oil base most times but grabbed that tube being lazy about cleanup.

I did also make a bed with rails, from Baltic birch, and the rails are maple. I have end pieces to hopefully keep the roller from landing on my foot! I will post a pic later. I need to add a blanket I think? I’m thinking not too thick, wondering about canvas. Also I will build a chase and registration system.


Thank you, Geoff, I didn’t realize that about water based ink. I use oil base most times but grabbed that tube being lazy about cleanup.

I did also make a bed with rails, from Baltic birch, and the rails are maple. I have end pieces to hopefully keep the roller from landing on my foot! I will post a pic later. I need to add a blanket I think? I’m thinking not too thick, wondering about canvas. Also I will build a chase and registration system.


Your idea of canvas might work for a blanket but there is the possibility that the weave pattern of the canvas might show up in the print, especially if the paper you’re printing on isn’t very thick. A few layers of paper might be better. Tympan paper is made for that, as I’m sure you know. Another possibility might be thin sheet rubber. That has been used before on presses. I just looked on the big “A” online order site and they have neoprene rubber sheet which is .032” (1/32”). Maybe other people will have other ideas.

Sorry, double post :(

Offset blankets work. You can buy new or go to a print shop and ask for a used one. Many shops will give you a used blanket. Also, Ace Hardware stores sell sheets of rubber.

Update on my proofing press-

To test how it prints I arranged a sample of the type I have, including some various “orphans” and ornaments. I know my lockup skills need work. I am used to a 3X5 chase and this is the first thing I’ve printed in a larger format. I was also using this trial run as an excuse to try my curved furniture from Springtide Press.

I used speedball block printing ink, oil base. I know it’s not very good but I have plans to order Southern Ink.

The press roller is 6 in PVC filled with concrete. For a chase I used an unpainted pre-stretched canvas upside down on the press bed, which is Baltic birch plywood. I used a thin wool fabric about the thickness of two layers of felt for a press blanket, and a sheet of museum board from the art store for packing. I added a couple sheets of paper too after first test prints were light.

The right hand side was not printing evenly so I added some makeready until I was happier with it.

I still have issues to work out. 1) it’s not straight and the lockup quality needs work. 2) while all the letters took ink, a few didn’t print at all or were too light.

I think that one or two of the letters may be a little damaged and not type high.

I’m curious if there is a term for a print designed to serve as a sample of one’s available type fonts.

I’m pretty happy with how my homemade press is printing. Other than better ink, paper, and experience, does anything stand out I need to address?

I do plan to buy some rule, type high. I also plan to buy a type high gauge. I also want to add to my type collection, so I could use advice on what fonts/ sizes I seem to missing that would add to a more useful range to have.

Sorry for the long post, and I appreciate any advice or suggestions!


image: 44F67ACB-22EF-42BB-BC4C-F1FF0CD5F2D4.jpeg


The term for the print designed to show your different fonts is “specimen sheet” (or “specimen book” if it has multiple pages).

I’m not quite clear on the sequence of layers you had in the press. From bottom to top is it canvas, the type, a couple of sheets of paper including the paper you printed on, museum board, and wool fabric on top?

Did you have anything wrapped around the PVC cylinder?

The print is actually pretty good, congratulations! It is not surprising that the larger wood type is a little light. You may need a little more pressure and/or harder packing for that. Substituting another layer of museum board or something hard like that, in place of the wool fabric, may help.

Also, better ink will probably help. It is good you are planning to get that.