The Printing Presses


Printmaking was something I first tried at art college, and when I graduated I was keen to continue. However, antique printing presses are prohibitively expensive, hard to come by and often need costly repairs to get them up and running again. Similarly, a new large-scale printing press can cost tens of thousands of pounds - something that is out of reach to most new graduates – it certainly was to me!

The solution? Build a printing press from scratch, with a budget of less than £2000…

A​ couple of years previously, I had converted an Victorian mangle into a small printing press by swapping its perished rubber rollers with bespoke steel rollers and replacing its worn cogs. Could I scale this idea up and make something that would allow me to explore printmaking on a truly grand scale? 

Although I have no background in engineering, I drew up some designs and took them to local firm Beth Engineering, who seemed to think it could be done. They helped to manufacture the rollers and star wheel and provided me with the discarded inserts of railway wagon wheels which I used to make a bed for the plate. Better Metals in Alfreton provided the steel for the plate and the gears and bearings I needed to get it all moving along with heavy duty motorcycle chains from ?. I bought the RSJ girders for the press frame from ?. 

Hidden away in a shed in the garden of my council flat, the build took me five years to complete. Then I moved house and the press had to be dismantled and rebuilt in his new studio, a process which took another two years. Finally, the press was up and running. It stands six feet high, has a six foot star wheel and sits on its own foundations.

To see pictures of the build in progress, please click on the slideshow below.

The press in its earliest state – a pile of rusty RSJ girders.

Adding the insides of railway wagon wheels for the bottom plate to sit on.

The finished press.

The press in its earliest state – a pile of rusty RSJ girders.

Other Presses
I also use a range of smaller presses, some bought, some made from antique mangles. Click on the images in the gallery below to find out more about them.
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The small mangle press
Book press
Large mangle press
Large mangle press - wheel
Large mangle press parts