Guy restores a century-old letterpress to perfect condition

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DiResta is a cool as hell dude, love seeing the projects he takes on


as a graphic designer & type geek, this is a beautiful thing. how did he make his printing plates, though? what was that material?


Nice! He practically has a license to print money now!

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I have to quibble about the Headline.

Guy restores…

Not Guy, DiResta restores…


While a restoration of this kind of press is cool, and very commendable, most people would be surprised to know that units like this are still in operation at many printing facilities around the world, even in the US. And not just in specialty shops or museums.

The basic operation of letterpress equipment lends itself not only to printing ink on paper, but for processes such as foil-stamping and embossing. Modern printing equipment can operate very efficiently at high speeds, but hand-stamping of any kind can’t work that way. It’s still a matter of a pressman slapping a sheet into the feed plate, then the plate being drawn in and the stamping mechanism doing its thing. Then the sheet is pulled out, and another takes its place.

That’s why such processes are still quite expensive. There’s no other practical way to do it and get the same beautiful results. The last print shop I worked in had two units, both built in the 1920s. The operator not only has to know all the intricacies of running the press, but also in its maintenance. And if you need parts, well . . . it’s a good thing most of the parts are cast iron.


Industrial grade machines of the past can probably withstand a nuclear blast. Machines from these days probably wouldnt survive a 2 ft drop.

Interned one summer in a shop that had one of these Heidelbergs. However, their machine did not have working pneumatics for the windmill feeding (bad gaskets) so they did have to feed it by hand. Still, really cool piece of machinery.


I’m also wondering what he was running the CNC on, too.

With that background you may already know, but most people wouldn’t be aware - A lot of contemporary letterpress plates are made with a UV curing process to a photosensitive polymer.

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all the presses i’ve ever visited use thin metal plates (or polyester plates on the cheap side), but maybe they are old(er) machines.

A print shop I worked with many years ago had one of these, with the windmill fully functional. I was starting to learn how to run it, but circumstances changed and that never came to pass. Definitely one of my regrets in life.

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Corian (wiki).

And back in the days they used metal and woodtype. The tricky part is to assemble all your small elements so they don’t move or fall and be crush by the press !

Few machines, from “La fête des imprimeurs” (printer’s festival) in Strasbourg. seeing those monsters in action is always a pleasure !

A small pedal letterpress :

A huge “Rhenania” german press :

And the classic and elegant Heidelberg !


Diresta may know fashioning knives but he has no clue about basic painting. The first thing he did was paint right over a flywheel he failed to completely derust. Painting over rust is like painting over a cavity… you don’t make the cavity go away that way. The rust will contine to scale off and the paint will flake off with it. Rust is a catylyst (not just water) for the electric process of oxidation.

The proper way to do this is remove all the rust using electrolysis… or weak acids… such as vinegar, lemon juice, phosphoric acid… or chelate actions like Evaporust… to get down to the bare metal. Then you clean it with phosphoric acid, wipe it off, paint it with an aircraft zinc chromate primer, let that dry… and then paint it with a good enamel tractor paint… and let that dry.

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I had that exact same model (made in 1893, but Chandler and Price didn’t change the design until later) sitting in my garage for 10 years.

Whenever I see these, I always think about how you needed a permit to own one in certain countries at various times.

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One of those best printing press exhibitions I have ever seen is hosted at the National Technical Museum in Prague, Czech Republic. If you have the opportunity to visit, you should. Technical Museums are usually fairly staid affairs in every city in the world, but we saved our visit for a rainy day and it was worth the trip. There is a virtual tour available here: Printing at the National Technical Museum, Prague

The best one I’ve ever seen (not that I’ve seen many) was in the Museum of Technology in Cambridge. They had several of the machines working when I visited.

I’ve never been to the UK. Canadia is woefully difficult to leave, what with the border patrols and the loyalty affirmation tests to get the exit visa clearance.

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