Lock-up and Spacing

Although we have worked for years on a 10 x 15 C&P, only recently we have started doing more than cuts and proofing on a Vandercook Model 3. Obviously, there is something we missed given problems we encountered in a recent job.

We prepared a form for printing on the Vandercook. This was a 9” x 12” poetry broadside consisting of one column of 18-lines roughly 24 picas wide of hand-set, 14pt Bernhard Modern with 2pts of leading between lines and 12pts between each three line stanza. A second column included an 18pt head, 3 lines of 14pt Arrighi in a colophon, and a pressmark. All of this was planed and locked up in the press bed on the bed sheet with six quoins and several good-sized piece of decent wood furniture. It was a sound lockup, no bulging, firmly on the bed, everything nice and tight, but not squeezed real hard.

The problem we encountered was that after 20 to 30 impressions the spacing began to lift—leads, word spaces, etc., all of it began to creep up. If we continued, eventually the words spaces started to contact the form rollers and started to appear on the sheet.

Has anyone else experience this problem? Should we have used a chase in the bed to lock up the form? Do you think we were not locking it up tight enough? Or too tight? Any insights would be appreciated.

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John Henry
11 years ago


As Eric mentions, the problem may be due to some lines which are not as tight as others. One work-around that was often used by “mid-century” printers was to drop a 1/2″ strip of blotting paper (today you could use a couple strips of Lettra) alongside the ends of the lines, giving a bit of extra pressure to the loose lines as the paper would compress at the tight ones. These “sinkers” would help out if the problem was not too bad.

Another thing to watch is that the majority of the lines run across the width of the cylinder (parallel to it). That will minimize the back and forth motion which would move the not-so-tight lines and cause the work-ups.

I can’t quite agree with Gerald that the form should be broken up into parts. That would be pretty extreme, and it would be better to resolve the root cause of the problem, even if it took putting some of the lines back in the stick to re-space them. Of course, as Geralds says, it certainly would be an option if the problem could not be otherwise resolved.

I have found that some composing sticks can have bent sides or knees, which cause the lines to set longer as you build lines up in the stick. You can also force the stick to widen at the mouth if the lines are set too tight, causing a difference in length between the first line in the stick and the outermost line in the stick. Check your stick for squareness, and just set the line until it can be leaned forward and not fall over, no tighter.

It’s always difficult to troubleshoot without seeing the problem firsthand, but I hope these ideas will help alleviate the problem on the next go-round.

Eric Holub
11 years ago

It all starts in the composing stick, and the same composing stick for every line–they differ. Every line must be set to the same measure exactly, and it better not be of a shorter measure than your furniture. Any slight difference will make the shorter lines looser and prone to work-up as the run progresses.
Locking up into a chase is something most Vandercook printers avoid. A stone hand lifts the chase slightly and presses on the form to see if anything is weak, and a loose line is apparent immediately. If your lockup is only on the bed of the press, there’s no lift, no transfer, so you don’t know what is loose until it has worked up and “mackled” your work. On the bed, the only indicator is when you slap the form with the flat of your palm, or the planing of the form, and listen for hollow sounding. A true form sounds solid.

Gerald Lange
11 years ago


There is more of a tendency for workups with a cylinder press than a platen press. Generally if your lines are not all set at the same length, with the same pressure you may encounter workups as the edition progresses. There are a number of different elements in your form and this diversity may be causing the problem.

If you are experiencing workups unlock and redo the form. Or, and better in the first place, print your differing elements in separate runs. Oftentimes it is faster, more economical, more efficient, etc., to print several easy runs rather than struggle with a complicated form. And the work turns out better. That is the endgame after all, is it not?


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