Largest run…

I was printing last night and was wondering what the largest run (number of sheets + number of colors) anyone had run on a Vandercook where you were either hand feeding the paper or hand cranking.

How about a few stories of your experiences? If you can please list the sheets / size / colors / press as you remember.

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Gerald Lange
16 years ago


I discovered your question only after viewing a current Briar Press discussion referring to this thread. I don’t know how many impressions but someone once commented, during a workshop, that I had forearms like Popeye.

Not sure how much a Vandercook is going to sculpt your body but it is certainly going to have an effect on it.

I’ve read that Aldus Manutius quit twice as well did William Everson. I like that. Finest exemplars there are. I do far more other things these days; book design, typographic work, image and type reconstruction, instruction, platemaking, and occasionally, very occasionally, print. I enjoy printing, very much, I feel quite at home and at ease with it, but I really do approach it very cautiously now, and am always thankful when the job is completed.


Elisabeth Long
16 years ago

I’m even later in joining this thread, because I was having login problems. But I’m happy to add that I just finished printing 900 covers for the Fall issue of the Journal of Artists’ Books. 6 runs through the press each, with some solid coverage on the first couple of layers so I was re-inking constantly! So that was 5,400 runs — is not as much as some of you, but plenty enough for me! I’m ready for a break.

16 years ago

I too am late joining the conversation but think Patrick is certifiably insane! I hope you got paid at least half of what Kate Spade is charging for that stationery!

My largest job to date is an invitation & insert job of 850, 2/1 for the Kennedy Center’s Chairmans Ball plus 1000 1 color envelopes. It’s whooped me and I’m 25! I don’t even want to know what my body will be like years from now. I just thought it was a good way to multi-task, work and wour-out at the same time. I might be wrong in the end!

Gerald, any idea how many impressions you’ve done throughout your life?

Adrienne Berry
Dingbat Press

Patrick Masterson
16 years ago

I am a bit late joining the conversation but I believe I have Mr. Lange’s run of 10,000 beat. A few years back I worked for Anne Noonan at the Soho Letterpress and my introduction to the Vandercook was printing 40,000 envelopes for, I believe, all of the Kate Spade retail stores in the US. Technically it was 10 seperate jobs, 4,000 envelopes per store. It took me a month and a half to finish.

Casey McGarr
16 years ago

I printed Qty 750, 2/2 colors. It was more than I’ll ever want to do. Large coverage so the ink needed to dry overnight. So that was 4 press runs. Plus printing 750 at a time with good ink coverage and consistent color density took along time.

I won’t do that many posters again, I was whooped, shoulder was sore, back was sore, neck, hips, knees, etc…

The poster turned out great.


Gerald Lange
16 years ago

Yes, it was insane, but the rent needed to be paid. As it always does. It’s not so much how my knees and lower back felt then, but how they feel now, a couple of decades later. You think this “abuse” is hard on the press, think about how hard it is on the body, especially in the long haul.

I’m not sure long runs are bad for the press since one should occasionally stop, clean up the press, re-lubricate it, rest a bit, and then get it back on. The press is after all made for printing, er, reproduction.

I can’t recall how long it took, probably a few days. I did take time out to eat and sleep!!!

Now I will only print for four to six hours and only during daylight and pretty much can come up with any excuse for not doing it. And I wrap up everything; wrists, elbows, knees, lower back. After 33 years of it I can say that I feel quite good as long as I am not printing. Four days of it now though and I’m in a world or hurt.

I attended a lecture of Claire Van Vliet’s last year and she admitted that after 50 years on the Vandercook, she was pretty much crippled by the machine.


Terrence Chouinard
16 years ago


10,000?! That is certifiably insane! How did your knees & lower back feel after that? And how long did that take you?

I ran 2000 impressions once, ONCE. A two-color folder job of 1000 folders. And that took me all day. Admittedly I probably took too many coffee breaks, but still . . . Right then & there I decided there had to be a reason production presses were invented. Vandercooks, though capable of lengthy runs, just weren’t meant for this and didn’t deserve the abuse.

God bless the “stronger and dumber.” We all learn our lessons the hard way.

Ray Nichols
16 years ago

I think we should start work on a new dictionary of printing.

“Stronger and dumber then” should be one of the new entries.

Gerald Lange
16 years ago

Sustained run of 10,000. I doubt anyone is going to beat that. An emergency numbering job. My next door neighbor in St Paul printed the five-part form and then realized he couldn’t fit the numbering in tight at top upper right corner. He did have Heidelbergs and Kluges. I ran an extension plunger off the gripper bar. Was interesting to figure it all out. That took about an hour. The rest of it, the printing, wasn’t much fun but I was oh so much stronger and dumber then.


The Arm
16 years ago

I have hand cranked 1100 cassette inserts on the SP-15 which were two sided with two colors on the front and one on the reverse. I printed them two up and cut them down after scoring the folds on the platen. The SP-15 performed flawlessly, but I wouldn’t do it again.
The last job I did was a two color run of 1000 chipboard CD jackets printed one up (already die cut) on the power Uni III. I just love the power carriage and with the optional tower set up with the tapes you can stay in position at the feedboard and just feed the sheets and watch the ink.
If the runs start getting bigger than that I am going to have to learn to run a Heidelberg because even if the Vandercook is up for it I just don’t have the attention span!

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

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