Here’s How Your Press Works

These pictures show the main points of printing. The Guide is written so that if you follow it, one step at time, you can do good printing. However, if you just can’t wait, you can open a package of type, put it in a case, and set up your name (as shown here). Place it in the chase (frame), also as per picture, put a dab of ink (no bigger than a good sized match head) on the ink table, smooth it out with one of the press rollers, and then take an impression on a piece of paper, turning up the screws on the back of the platen if necessary to make the printing show. The results this way may need considerable improvement, but they will show you that printing is no mysterious business.

Step 1 Step 2
Step 4 Step 3
Step 5

You can then go back to the beginning of this Guide, do your next job more slowly, and get first-class, professional results. 

Printing isn’t difficult. During the five hundred years since its invention it has gathered up its own words for certain tools and parts of the press, with which you will soon be familiar and use just as you do baseball terms if you are a baseball fan, or photographic terms if your are interested in photography. You can print without "speaking the language" but you’ll find it helpful and fascinating to pick up the terms.

Here are some of them:

Bodkin - Small pointed instrument, handy around type (like an awl).


Brayer - Roller with a handle on it, to spread ink on ink table, or make printed proofs.


Case - The type case is a box or drawer with small compartments, one for each of the letters and characters in a font (assortment) of type.

Chase - Frame which holds type, etc. in the press.


Chase Bed - Sometimes called chase back or backplate. Part of press into which chase (frame) fits, and which is removable on the Excelsior so that you can use it for a smooth working surface.

Chase Bed

Chase Irons - Two flat steel bars that are placed inside the chase and used to prevent chase screws from damaging furniture (wood blocking). They are not used with quoins.

Composing Stick - Hand piece to put type (letters) in when taking them from type case. If you do not have one, you can set your type directly in the chase (frame) which on the Excelsior Press is removable and may be laid on a table, bench or box.

Composing stick

Font - Just another word for a package or assortment of type or letters in one size and style.

Furniture - Blocking to hold type (letters) in place.

Galley - Tray for holding type, etc., when not in press.


Gauge Pins - Small pins which are used on press to hold paper or card in the right place for printing.

Grippers - The long metal fingers between the type and the platen which keep the paper in place when printing, and prevent its sticking after the sheet has been printed. Used on all except junior models.

Imposing Surface - Smooth, level surface (Excelsior Press chase beds are removable and make a good imposing surface).

Impression Screws - Screws thru the back of the platen, which are used to get more or less force or squeeze in printing. The Guide tells how to use them. These have lock nuts on them, which can be used to hold them at just the right pressure.

Leads - Narrow metal strips used to make space between lines - like this page.

Line Gauge - Printer’s ruler.

Metal Quotations - Metal blocks used for spacing around work.

Pi - Jumble or mix-up of type.

Pica - A way of measuring, 6 picas make an inch.

Planer - Block of wood used with mallet to smooth down everything that is in the printing frame (chase).


Platen - That part of the press on which you put your card or paper to be printed.

Point - A way of measuring, 72 points make an inch.

Quad Rule - Used for same purpose as brass or metal rule, but made in blocks like type.

Quads - Same as spaces but larger. (Used between sentences, etc.)

Quoins and Key - Wedges used to hold type, etc., in chase (printing frame). Not necessary on Excelsior Presses because material is held in place by screws in frame (chase).

Reglet - Narrow wood strips used to make more space between lines of type.

Rule - Brass or other metal strips to make ruled lines in printing.

Slugs - Same as leads but three times as thick.

Spaces - Blank pieces of metal used between words.

Tympan - The paper or cardboard padding on the platen.

Here Are Answers to Some Common Questions

1.  What holds the paper in the press?

Little metal pieces called gauge pins and metal fingers called grippers. If you do not have any gauge pins (or gauges), you can bend three common pins to L-shapes about 3/16-inch from their heads, and push the long pointed ends into the paper pad (tympan) up to the angle of the pin - two at the bottom to hold the work up, one at the side for correct margin, or, you can paste or glue quads (the large blank metal pieces) on the padding.

2.  How can I make ruled lines?

By the use of the brass or metal rule listed in the catalog. It comes in two-foot strips which may be easily cut to any lengths you want, or can be furnished already cut to your order. Quad rule can also be used for the same purpose.

3.  Can I print more than one color without any extra equipment?

Yes, all you need is the colored ink, which you will find listed in the catalog.

4.  Does the price of type include that of both capital and small letters?

If they are both shown in the specimen line in the catalog, the price includes both caps and small letters; if the small letters are not shown, they are not made, for instance, 6A 12a means there are both capital and small letters in a font, 6A that is consists of caps only.

5.  Does "12A" over the fonts mean that the font consists of 12A, 12B, 12C, 12D, 12E?

No, because you would run out of some letters before others if you had the same number of each. It means that, if you count the number of A’s in anything you print, you can get a general idea of how much type you need. In a type font or assortment there are more E’s than A’s, fewer B’s etc.

6.  What is the difference between a regular font of type, 8A, and a large font, 16A, for instance?

The large font is twice as big as the regular font. The larger the font, the cheaper it is to assemble it, hence we are able to give you bigger value for your money in them.

7.  What do mean by a 60-inch font of border?

There would be enough border in such a font to set 60 inches in a straight line, or a square 15 inches on each side, or any variation of it.

8.  Is the border made all in one piece so that I would have to cut it?

No, it is cast in small pieces like type letters, so that you can make it up in any length or shape you want; and use it in as many jobs, one after the other, as you please, just like type letters.

9.  How many are there of each letter in a font of monograms?

There are three of each so that you can make up any monogram combination.

In the Riverdale monograms there are not only three of each, but three of each size, so that you can make up either large or small monograms, or combinations of the two.

10.  How can I make raised printing that looks like engraving or embossing?

You can do it with any press and the raised printing outfit listed in the catalog.

11.  How long does it take to do raised printing?

Just about as long as it takes to do the actual printing. The price you can get for it, however, is so much more that your profit makes the time well spent.

12.  How can I make perforated lines for tearing tickets, coupons, etc., from stubs?

This is done with the steel perforating rule listed in the catalog, which is put in the press just like the type, and the pressure of which makes the perforations.

13.  How many leads are there in a pound?

About ten feet.

14. How many slugs?

Slugs are three times as thick so there are just 1/3 as many as there are leads in the same weight.

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