This question comes via email:
Q: Is the Vandercook letterpress capable of printing forms larger than type high? I have a woodblock that I’ve carved, and it is about 1/8″ higher than the type.
A: It is possible only if you have a press equipped with an adjustable bed (e.g: 219 AB, 15-21, Universal I AB and Universal III AB). Most can lower the bed to 1.060″
.125 (1/8″) + .918 (type high) = 1.043″ Check the dial indicator on the press and the manual to confirm. If you don’t have an adjustable bed you will need to plane you block. Here’s why:
Standard bed: .918
1.043 – . 918 = .125″ above type high
Even if the cylinder undercut (typically .040 or .070″) is subtracted and neither packing nor paper thickness is factored:
.125 – .040 the block is .085″ too high
.125 – .070 the block is .055″ too high
Galley bed .968
1.043 – . 968 = .075″ above type high
Subtract the undercut, and again neither packing nor paper thickness is factored:
.075 – .040 the block is .035″ too high
.075 – .070 the block is .005″ too high
Some individual presses have a deeper custom undercut, but this rare.
Even if you could pull out all your packing and make it fit, the circumference of the sheet on the cylinder and the distance traveled on the bed would be out of sync.
You’d get a decent print, but with distinct slurring, especially the more you push your height or pull your packing. The only real solution is an adjustable bed or a planed block.
Doug Wilson (whilst working on promo work for his Linotype Film) just took a bench router to a bunch of VERY poorly produced Mag plates with great success. That would also be a suitable solution if one is at your disposal.
The simplest answer is usually the best. But I do get asked why not.
The easiest thing would be to lower the block. Sandpaper can be used to take 1/8″ off the foot, with patience.
A better method would be to plane the block to .918″ before cutting. .918″ is our standard, and trying to force higher measurements in is asking for problems.