Equipment in use at the Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop
A Basic Proofing Press

Composing Stick Proof Press
The Bower Student Press
A very basic, economical proof press
Composing Stick Proof Press
this page shows the prototype. See the final version in action on Youtube -

Composing Stick Proof Press

Four Prints per minute

This little device was put together to be used by students visiting the Bower Museum's "Ben Franklin, American Printer" interactive student exhibit, where students will be encouraged to set their name in hand type and make a print of their own name - type set by hand from a job case - just as Ben Franklin and other Colonial Printers would have set their type over 200 years ago.

We put together a basic typesetting kit - a nice old wooden Type Case to hold the font of Old Style Caslon - same design as Franklin and other Colonial Printers used. (Until now, this font was only being used by the printers of Colonial Williamsburg.) We added some composing sticks, leads & slugs - everything but the press.

But they needed a press, so we developed this

Composing Stick Proof Press.
 affectionately known as
 "The Bower Student Press"

Unlike other proof presses, this one is specifically designed to hold a composing stick - quickly inserted, quickly removed.
The Maple 'furniture' is custom-cut to fit this particular stick.

Student Proof Press
1) Simply insert your stick full of type into the press...
The custom-cut maple blocking fits the stick like a glove
 - whether it is set for 20 or 25 pica line length

Student Proof Press
2) Mount your card on the Frisket

Student Proof Press

3) Ink the type

Student Proof Press

4) Close the Frisket

Student Proof Press

Grasp the Roller (with two hands)
and draw it across the closed frisket, bearing down hard.
The load will be borne by the side rails, but the impression is focused on the type in the stick.

put down the roller, open the frisket and... voila!

Student Proof Press

A passable print, made using the pressure of a regular kitchen
rolling pin....

Note: This only the tested prototype, R&D continues.
We reserve the right to improve the design in future models...

Composing Stick and Holder, ready to ship
Composing Sticks and Composing Stick holders,
being packed for shipment to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana,  California.

I just discovered (thanks to Ladies of Letterpress) that my idea is not as unique as I thought it was!
Ben Lieberman describes a press very much like this in his book "Printing as a Hobby" in 1965...

available on Amazon for $10-$50
or new, from Oak Knoll Press -for $25

and a GREAT WEB PAGE (on the Letterpressdaughter Blog) - About Ben Lieberman Building The Liberty Press

So much for being a creative genius... Ben made his press when I was still using my 3x5 Excelsior...
but mine was just my own idea, and my own design, although I guess I wasn't the first...
Printing As A Hobby, by Ben Lieberman 
The Liberty Press, by Ben Lieberman



page last updated 9/17/18