Tag Archives: copy press

A Copy Press With Two Threads

Mark Anderson, Furniture Conservator at the WInterthur/ University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, is fixing up a copy press for their Book Conservation Lab.  At first glance, it is a large but typical press, though with a nice hand-wheel with spokes extending beyond the rim, useful for extra leverage or pretending to be a captain steering a ship.

Copy press usually have a steep thread pitch, which is great to move up and down rapidly, but they generate a lot of friction when tightening, therefore can’t generate as much pressure as a real book press. This is compounded by a common tendency of not attaching them to the bench. There is a reason almost all presses — like the one below — have four holes cast into the base, in order to screw into the bench! I guess that by having to hold a press with one hand, and tighten it with the other, the total compressional force is reduced by 25% or more.

Large copy press. Photo: Mark Anderson

Once Mark took apart the press to clean it, he noticed an unusual aspect: the central screw had two different screw pitches and diameters on it. Apparently the finer thread is internally threaded into the larger one, though it is currently frozen.

Two different thread pitches and diameters. Photo: Mark Anderson.

A similar style of screw is mentioned in the 1843 Practical Mechanic and Engineer’s Magazine. There  may be earlier examples. Even today, external threads are sometimes referred to as male, and internal threads as female. In a surprisingly contemporary note, the writer in 1843 recommends that this coarse language should be abolished.

Source: The Practical Mechanic and Engineer’s Magazine, Volume 2, p. 204.

Although Mark’s example is inoperable at the moment, presumably the larger external coarse thread raises and lowers the platen quickly, and at the same time the internal thread moves more slowly, due to the finer pitch. But when the press firmly tightened, the smaller internal thread kicks in to apply more pressure. Fast operation and lots of pressure would be ideal for a copy or book press.

Source: The Practical Mechanic and Engineer’s Magazine, Volume 2, p. 204.

For this to work, the finer thread needs to be affixed to the platen, as in the image from The Practical Mechanic and Engineer’s Magazine. In the press Mark is working on, it looks like it spins in the top of the platen, like most copy presses. An alternative explanation might be that the finer threads were left over from a different project, or cut wrong? But if this mechanism works as advertised, why wasn’t this a more popular mechanism for copy and book presses? Hopefully he can get the screw unfrozen and we can find out.




Using a Cigar Press for Bookbinding

Cigar presses are usually smaller than book presses, and often just half-arch, rather than full-arch.  As such, they cannot generate as much pressure as a real book press. The one I purchased seems to have the compressional force of a typical copy press, which is adequate for the most common bookbinding tasks: firm adhesion of pastedowns, casing-in, and tray attachment when boxmaking. It wouldn’t be too difficult to modify a large C – clamp to make something similar.

Since they are lightweight, this one is about 30 lbs, they are great for teaching and travel.  They usually have much more daylight than copy presses, again, useful when teaching, or for a secondary press. The main disadvantage is they only can be used for small format books.

Since cigar presses were originally used for pressing hand rolled cigars in long wooden molds, they often don’t have a top platen.  I made a 7 x 9.5 inch aluminum one for this machine.  Will I end up in conservation purgatory for drilling two holes in a historic machine?

Unmarked half-arch cigar press. I mounted a 7 x 9.5 inch aluminum platen on it.

Leonard Bailey’s Copy Press

It is a surprise when a well know name from one area of toolmaking suddenly appears in a different context. Leonard Bailey is best known for his many improvements to woodworking hand planes; in fact the modern metal plane made by virtually all companies is due to Bailey. Eventually he sold his business to Stanley, who often gets credit for his work. Patrick Leach’s Blood and Gore is a great site for Stanley info, BTW. Bailey was also the inventor of several copy presses and by 1903 had nineteen patents related to typing, copying, and pressing.

It is indicative of the popularity and demand for copy presses at the time, that someone like Bailey would devote sustained attention to them over at least a twenty year peroid. But was this really, as the advertising below proclaims, “the only perfect copy press”? It is certainly “elegant and ornamental”, with enough pin striping to pimp out any Victorian office.


New Britain Directory, 1882-3. Price, Lee & Co. (The Winterthur Library F104 N53a 1882), 280.

The top part of the press is an adjustable wringer which was used to partially dry the blotting pad before making a copy in a book. The drawer at the base stored the blotting pad. The double action Acme screw (coarse and fine) allows the press to rapidly rise and fall and provide lots of pressure. There are several actual photos of this machine in Rhodes and Streeter’s Before Photocopying, 229-231. Unlike most copy presses, this one can generate sufficient pressure to use as a nipping press. Almost perfection for a bookbinder, if you can live with the minuscule amount of daylight.

Paul Hasluck, Work, Gloophlex, and a Copy Press

Paul Hasluck edited the manual Bookbinding in 1903, and it was part of a series which included other titles such as Cycle Building, Taxidermy and Electric Bells: How to Make and Fit Them.  As a bookbinding manual, it’s ok, though not nearly as good as others from this time written by Cockerell, Crane or Zaehnsdorf. This time period is important in the history of bookbinding manuals, since many are specifically written for amateurs for the first time. Hasluck’s manual was reportedly written by an anonymous London binder and a Mr. Brown.[1]  One potentially useful aspect of this book are the many plans detailing how to make your own equipment. This book goes far beyond most bookbinding manuals in the complexity of DIY equipment projects. For example, it provides instructions for not only one, but three styles of a plough.  Most of the woodworking information is pretty reasonable. There are a number of editions and various publishers of this book.  All that I’ve seen share a distinctive, narrow format and very thin, semi-flexible boards. At least there is a 1903 Cassel and Co. edition,  a 1907 Cassel (available on Internet Archive),  a 1912 from David McKay, Philadelphia, and an undated one from Funk & Wagnalls Co., NY and London. The F&W edition has American style joints on the case and l’m guessing is from the 1920’s. The book is interesting in its early DIY ethos, and there is the corresponding commercialism of product placement and an interactive didactic aspect; readers are encouraged to write in with their questions.

Fig. 1. Advertisement for “Gloophlex” on the front pastedown of Hasluck’s 1903 “Bookbinding”.  

Prominently featured on the front pastedown of the 1903 edition is a full page advertisment for Glooplex, a product I haven’t heard of before, or since. The text makes a point of mentioning that “Bookbinders use large quantities of glue in their work, and doubtless much time would be saved by employing some such preparation as ‘Glooplex’, an elastic glue, guaranteed by the makers to be strong and reliable.” [2] I’m guessing it is a hide glue with an additive, quite likely glycerine.  Sometimes alum was also mentioned as an additive to make the glue more waterproof around this time, which unfortunatly results in a glue that is less easily reversible. It is quite uncommon to find specific products mentioned in early twentieth century manuals.

The interactive, didactic component in the undated Funk & Wagnalls edition is an appeal from the publisher for readers with questions to write in to Work: An Illustrated Magazine of Practice and Theory, for all Workmen, Professional and Amateur, which Hasluck was also the editor. “This treatise on Bookbinding is … so simply worded that even inexperienced readers can understand it. Should anyone, however, encounter unexpected difficulty, he has only to address a question to the Editor of WORK” [3] This creates a symbiosis between the book and the magazine (and the products mentioned therein), suggesting that they can function as a practical, though distant, teacher. One reader acknowledges this in the testimonial section of the book; “I have earned many pounds with WORK as my tutor; it is the best pennyworth I ever bought.” [4]

Fig. 2. Cover of  the 1903 edition. I assume the cover design is the same for the entire series.

Joel Moskowitz, founder of Tools for Working Wood, is reprinting Work magazine in a cool manner; reissuing the original once  a week, 123 years after the original publications dates. Originally each issue cost a penny, now they are free. They scans are quite large, so it is possible to read this magazine and examine the illustrations in detail. Work is a fun, varied read, and Joel mentioned he has about four years worth of material. In this era of shortened attention spans, I’m curious to see if Work resurrected will hold current readers interest.

Fig. 3. Diagram of a copy press from ‘Work’. Courtesy Tools for Working Wood.

In particular, Bookbinders may find the article “How to Make a Wooden Copy Press” (Vol. 1, No. 2) useful. I haven’t tried to make it, but the instructions seem to be adequate for making a light duty press, quite similar to entry level presses still sold today. I might be tempted to double the thickness of the wood on the platens, depending on the final size, and a metal screw would add a lot more force. David Denning, author of this article and a woodworker, wrote four books on woodworking including in 1891 The Art and Craft of Cabinet-Making, available in facimile from Toolemera. Denning manages to avoid the most difficult aspect of this project, making the screw, mentioning he found one in the trash— a man after my own heart. If you are not so lucky, it shouldn’t be too difficult to modify one from a woodworking vice, make your own from commercially available acme threaded rod and handles, or if you are feeling adventurous learning how to cut a wooden thread using taps and dies or a router jig. In my early years, I even made a crude standing press out of a scaffolding leveling jack that I had found. I placed the nut under a frame made of 2 x 4’s  to tighten. Crude and awkward to use, but it generated a ton of pressure.

Fig. 4. A scaffolding leveling jack. 

Work covers a wide range of crafts, not just woodworking. Perhaps a testimonial in the back of the Hasluck’s Bookbinding for Work magazine is reason enough to dwelve into this journal. “I owe to WORK a house for my family, a tranquil night’s rest, and an education for my children.” [5] What’s to loose?



1. Paul N. Hasluck,ed. Bookbinding (London: Cassell and Co., Ltd., 1903), Preface.

2. Hasluck, Bookbinding, 32.

3. Paul N. Hasluck, ed. Bookbinding (New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Co., [nd]), Publishers’ Note.

4. Hasluck, Bookbinding,1903, page opp. 160.

5. Hasluck, Bookbinding,1903, page opp. 160.

Alternative Uses for a Book Press

Buster Keaton & Fatty Arbuckle, The Bell Boy, 1918


The Three Stooges, Disorder in the Court, 1936


For information on the use, history and dating of copy presses, see Rhodes, Barbara and William Streeter, Before Photocopying: The Art & History of Mechanical Copying 1780-1938. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press and Northhampton, Mass: Heraldry Bindery, 1999.