When giving tours of Master Print's facilities, the most popular press is always our Heidelberg letterpress. Everyone wants to learn about it—but why? Is it because it's easily the oldest machine in the building? Or because they've seen how beautiful letterpress printing can be? Whatever the reason, it's a high point of every tour.
Letterpress printing is one of the oldest forms of printing. The format of letterpress printing is a direct modernization of the first printing press from the 1400s. The term "letterpress" comes from the action of the letters and artwork being pressed into the paper to form an impression. Like an offset press, each ink color uses a different plate. But unlike offset, letterpress is not a good choice for four-color process printing. It's better for simpler designs with two to three colors and not too much trapping in the design (where colors touch each other).
The Heidelberg Original Windmill Press was first produced in 1914, but ours is from the 1960s. The Heidelberg name is revered worldwide for a reliable product of good quality, and these letterpresses prove that point! They work for years and years and are not too finicky to use—fortunately for our press operators!
The reason it's called a windmill press is because of the gripper mechanism that grips and releases the paper stock. It moves in a wide arc that is similar to—you guessed it—a windmill. It's also the reason it's a potentially dangerous machine. Lean in too far to see what you're doing and you'll get whacked in the face by unforgiving machinery! These presses have a large metal plate on the front that says "Original Heidelberg" that stands as a guard from getting too close. (It also makes the press look even cooler than it already does.)
While our press is capable of printing ink, we don't use it that way. We use the 13"x18" paper capability in three ways: to score, perforate, and die cut. Scoring is when an impression is made where a fold will be, making the fold easier and preventing the paper from cracking when folded. Perforating is done by using thin metal forms that cut a dotted line in a specific pattern on the sheet. And our machines die cut small jobs using standard dies that we already have on hand: circles, door hangers, and more. For complex die cutting, we work with other methods to ensure a unique product.