A Mysterious Press

Jennifer Evers sent me this description and images of a mysterious press.  I’m baffled. At first glance it appeared to be some type of foreedge painting jig, but this doesn’t seem right. It also looked a bit like a double fan adhesive press, but not quite. Possibly some type of tooling jig?  The metal edge on the top platen might be for cutting against? The whole press looks owner made.  NB: I would like to buy some handles like these:  they seem great for applying a lot of pressure with one hand, look easy to spin with one finger, and have an attached freely rotating collar to protect the platen surface. Reward offered.

Jennifer writes:

“I recently acquired an unknown piece of bookbinding equipment, and am trying to determine a) what it is, and b) how to use it.  The piece consists of a stationary wooden base with footings on each side. Two long threaded rods are counter-sunk into the base just inside the footings. Each of these rods has a handle that can be cranked down to apply pressure on the platens.

The interior platen is the same size as the base. A small rectangular piece of wood is hinged to the underside on both sides. These hinged pieces can either be flipped down to allow the platen to rest a set distance from the base, or flipped up, to serve an as yet unknown purpose. Two small pieces of wood are adhered to the top of this platen and run parallel to its shorter edge, possibly to serve as jigs.

The exterior platen is the same length as both the interior platen and the base, but only half the width. It is angled at approximately 70 degrees on both of the shorter edges, and has a metal edge recessed into the middle of one of the longer edges. This metal edge does not extend down over the edge of the platen like the edge on a brass-edged board, but lies flush with the board edge.”


Mystery Solved!:  This is an early version of the “Digby Stuart Press”.  New versions are still available from Russels. “This is an ideal piece of equipment for the student bookbinder or a person working at home. The Digby Stuart has two main functions:
1. As a nipping press: when the folding flaps are turned down onto the base the lower platen is supported, leaving both hands free to arrange the material to be pressed.
2. Thin books and boards can be trimmed by running a sharp blade along the built-in metal straight edge on the upper platen. A metal plate should be placed beneath the work to protect the surface of the Digby Stuart Press.” Page 10 of their catalogue.

Thanks to Keith Stuckless for this info. Unfortunately, the new handles are much more pedestrian looking….



One Reply to “A Mysterious Press”

  1. I found one of these “mysterious” presses a few years ago in a charity shop. They did not know what it was and neither did I – however, I still bought it as it looked an interesting object and I thought good value for £5. Since then anyone who comes to our house is asked what it is – even our old friend Mick (91 years old) who knows most things – but no one had an answer. The one I have is identical to the one in the photographs – I am happy now that you have solved this puzzle for me – many thanks.

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