equipment in use at the Excelsior Press
Chandler & Price Hand Fed platen
Vandercook images courtesy of
Proof Presses

This section is about proof presses we have collected, restore and use at the Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop.

We also have some links to other information about proof presses in general. In some cases, we simply send you over to
Paul Moxon's Vandercook pages...


 Vandercook Model 01   Vandercook Model 4 ~ Vandercook Model 17 ~ Vandercook Model 099
Vandercook "Showcard" Press ~ Vandercook SP-15
~ Chandler & Price Gravity Galley Proof Press ~ Composing Stick Proof Press ~ Miles Nervine Proof Press ~ Nolan #1 Proof Press ~ Potter (Hacker) Proof Press
~ Acknowledgements ~ Ink Roller diameters ~

Challenge GP-F-37 Parts and Instruction Manual
Challenge Model F-38 Manual (pdf)
Unidentified Sign Press

Paul Moxon's .pdf file from showing all details of the 99, 01, & Model 1 presses we have here

One of the major steps in the growth of the Excelsior Press was the acquisition of our first proof press, a Vandercook Model 4T, built in 1946 and initially sold to Newark Trade Typographers in 1946 and acquired at auction, in NYC, in 1977.

The Vandercook made possible things that simply were not practical on the 8x12  or the 12x18 "Big Ben" Hand-fed platen presses we used for most of our work. At the time, we were a full-time commercial print shop and one of two local printers in our community. We used it to print proofs of hand-set type for our own use as well as for other printers. We used it to print posters up to 14x20 inches. We played with it; we printed engravings, made up funny little signs and simply enjoyed having it in our shop.  It became the most popular machine.

Our Vandercook Model 4 is featured on the second half of our print shop hand press video.


Our Proof Presses today

proof press
                    collageThis ignomineous stack of machines are three of our proof presses, piled one upon the other as we prepare permanent work spaces for them. The lower one is an old Vandercook Composing Room Cylinder - the Vandercook Model 17. This one was reconditioned at the Vandercook factory in 1924 and was donated by our friends from Watchung Laminating Company.

Across the rails of it is an old Miles Nervine Proof Press, which is likely even older.  Miles Laboratories had these presses made so that they could be traded to local printers for advertising. The main drum of this little galley press is empty, but has holes which can be plugged up with corks after the drum was filled with sand to give it weight. One printer we know had his filled with concrete, however which has made shipping it prohibitively expensive...

At the end of the press is a little Show Card Sign Press, which is really relatively new. This was actually made to print small signs in department stores, but it has all the characteristics and capabilities of a small proof press and it works quite well. In fact, this press is indeed a Vandercook Model 099 proof press made for - and branded as - the Showcard Sign Press Style A.

A few notes about the Showcard Vandercook Proof Press

This "Mini-Vandercook" Showcard press is actually a standard proof press in every way. In fact, the way we discovered that it was made by Vandercook is that while restoring it, I recognized that it was identical in design to my larger Vandercook Model 99 proof press - same design, same bearings, etc. - just quite a bit smaller. That discovery piqued my interest and I asked around and Fritz Klinke at NA Graphics - current owner of the Vanderook/Vandersons name and records - confirmed that he has a list of serial numbers assigned by Vandercook to these "Showcard" presses.

This press can be used to print from any sort of standard type, linotype, ludlow, engravings, photo-polymer plates - any standard type -height (.918") relief plate or type.

The special Showcard type, in fact, is nothing more than regular foundry or wood type that has had a slot cut into it from the bottom. The slot allows the type to fit over the square rods that formed a removeable, adjustable grid in the bed of the press The Showcard company expected that this press would be used to print small point-of-sale signs in department stores and such - using untrained labor - sales people, stock boys and such - not printers. To make their system appealing to their unschooled users, they developed an easy  system of composition wherein the 'printer' would simply lay the top on top of an adjustable grid system which held it in place. It's rather clever, actually, but only needed if one has no idea how to set type or lock up a form.

One additional feature of the Showcard press, not found on its Model 99 and 01 " big brothers" is a gripper at one end which holds the sheet - or card in place - allowing for a rudimentary form of register which would make this little press practical for short runs of loose-register two-color work.

The gripper set-up, it turns out, (aka "Vandercook Register Device") was optional equipment that could be added to the press. It appears on all Showcard Models we've seen to date, but never on the plain 99 and 01 models we have come across over the years.

As of 3/10/09, we have added a Vandercook Model 01 which we will be restoring as soon as we can get to it.

The 1946 Model 4T and the 1936 Model 099 are in the other room, amidst the type cases. The photo below shows them both, sort of... You can see the board we place across the rails of the Model 4 when it's not in use. There's a large type form on Vandercook Model 4 and Model 099 Proof Pressesthe bed underneath that cover and we want it to stay clean. Besides, that little piece of plywood, cut to fit just right and sanded and stained to look nice, makes a great place to lay my reading glass case... ;)
Helpful hint when designing a job to print on the Vandercook Model 4: The Gripper Margin is 36 points. Make sure you allow at least 1/2" for the gripper to hold the sheet. Also: proof presses tend to "slap" the sheet at the far end. It helps to have some image - even just a point dot at the far end to control smearing of the text at the tail end of the sheet.



Our Vandercook Model 4 would look like this one from Paul Moxon's Vandercook website if we ever get it fully restored to like new condition. Currently, that work is in process - although it's in perfect working order and is used regularly, it's still waiting for that complete sanding down and fresh coats of paint that it deserves. We've got another one in the barn, but it went through a flood and still needs a lot of work before it will go back into operation.

And, for Paul's review, here are the serial number plates for the three Vandercooks currently in operation in our shop:

Composing Room Cylinder - No 17 serial number 992086
According to Paul Moxon, the 99 is a prefix that indicates that the press was reconditioned at the factory. So the original serial number would have been 2086. Ours was reconditioned in 1924, so it appears to have originally been built prior to then.

Composing Room Cylinder serial number  

and the Vandercook Model 99 - serial number 03625 made in 1936.

And, two Vandercook Model 01 Presses - due for restoration

Vandercook Model 01 Galley Proof Presses

Paul Moxon's Vanderblog Catalog page on the Model 01.
Vandercook Model 01

Vandercook SP15

(9/5/16) We have just moved Roberta's SP15 into our shop to install a new set of rollers and prepare it for resale. The SP15 was Vandercook's "Simple Precision" style, intended to replace the older - and far more beefy -& complex - Model 4. This press will soon be for sale, but first we're going to give it a serious once-over, install a new set of rollers and spiff it up for the next owner...


Potter (Hacker) Proof Press

I have been working on a Potter Proof Press at the Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead Museum in Lambertville, NJ. Aside from being old and a bit rusty, the grippers did not work as they should and the bed ran all the way out to the end and got free of the main gear, so it has to be re-timed as well. It did move

The First problem we encountered was with the bed running clear off the track. There is a stop at the right side, but not on the left side. The track can - and did - come clear off the track. Re-engaging the bed to the gear at just the right spot was a bit of a challenge and required many attempts to get it just right.

The other problem appears to have been wear on the spring that holds the grippers closed. It was a bit loose, and when replaced with a new spring just a bit shorter, began to function as expected. This was not always the case, however, because the little 1/4" by 1.5" steel pin that is caught by the swinging trip lever is loose and had come out at one time or another and been caught by the side frame of the press, bending the arm that the pin is mounted in and apparently interfering with its operation to open and close the grippers at just the right moment.

Ink form roller diameters & other technical details:

Press form roller diameter Gripper Margin
Vandercook Model 4 Proof Press
2 7/16"  36 points - 1/2"
Vandercook Model 17 Proof Press 2 1/4"
Challenge GP Proof Press - form rollers 3"


Press Model
Bed Size
nsurance value

Vandercook Model 0
our collection
Vandercook Model 01
to be restored

Showcard A

our collection

Showcard B

to be restored $950

Vandercook No 1 (Single Truss)
our collection $3500
Chandler & Price Gravity - Bed & Drum

our collection $650
Miles Laboratories Bed & Drum




Vandercook Model 17
our collection $6,000

Vandercook Model 4 - working
our collection $12k
Vandercook Model 4 -
In Restoration $15k

Morgan Line-o-Scribe (customer's press)

In Restoration ----
Morgan Mini-Line-ofScribe

our collection $750
Challenge FP-38

In Restoration $5,000



We wish to acknowledge the information and support we have had from Fritz Klinke of NA Graphics and Vandercook expert Paul Moxon,, keepers of the flame, so to speak, without whose help this page would be much less informative. NA Graphics is current owner of the Vandercook name, supplier of Vandercook parts and supplies and achivist of Vandercook production records. Paul Moxon maintains a very comprehensive Vandercook website - which includes a registry of owners and the current location of Vandercook and other proof presses.

Challenge GP-F-37 Parts and Instruction Manual       ~       Challenge Model F-38 Manual (pdf)
Paul Moxon's - THE Proof Press web site and forum

page updated April 2007 ~ March 2009 ~ Feb 2012 ~ Sept 2016 ~ Nov 2019

Please contact Alan Runfeldt with any questions.