Last night we were watching the movie Seven Pounds with Will Smith. A rather dark sort of a flick, the movie, which I have seen before, does contain a scene with something from my past. One of the characters has a letterpress print shop in her garage. One of the presses is a Chandler and Price Snapper. The Other press is an Original Heidelberg Windmill. These are both beautiful machines.


When I was in college in the 1970s studying the printing industry, I had to take a letterpress class. One of my projects was to set type for a business card and then run it on a Chandler and Price press. In those days I was a record collector of vintage jazz from the 1920s, 30s and 40s. I was able to find a small suitable engraving of an image of jazz musicians and once set up, I ran my cards. Now, this can be tricky. The press has a large throw-off or impression lever and the idea was to pull this lever on and then feed the stock with one hand and remove and pile with the other, all without taking the press off impression mode. Failing to get the fresh sheet of stock in position after removing the printed one, would result in an impression on the tympan paper. One would need to stop the press and clean it. Failing to remove your hand when the press returns to print cycle again would result in… well, crunch. The cycle of the press could be changed, but, was somewhere around one second. I was so successful with my cards that I had to stop and go find a lot more stock. We were required to have a small number of cards for marking by the instructor. I had a whole box and used the cards for years.


The Original Heidelberg Windmill was a beautiful machine. It is hard to see in the picture above, but, the press gets it’s name because it has four arms that swing in quarter turns to pick up the stock, hold it in position for impression, and then carry it to the delivery pile. You can see the guard to stop the operator from bending over while the press was running and getting hit by the windmill arms. When Will fixed the machine and turned it on, I heard something fantastic. I had the opportunity to work in a shop that had one of these presses and I got to run it. This press can do many tasks besides printing with ink. They can, emboss, die cut, score, perforate, foil stamp and number. They are still used today. The movie reminded me of my experiences with the press.

I have decided that I want to find a shop that uses one of these presses and run it again.