WNYBAC Welcomes Paul Moxon

This past weekend, printer extraordinaire and Vandercook printing press expert, Paul Moxon, came to visit WNYBAC.

Paul Moxon
Photo credit Katherine Taylor (Paul’s amazing assistant)

Paul Moxon is one of only a few dozen people in the United States trained in Vandercook maintenance and upkeep. Hailing from Alabama, on this “tune-up tour” across the North East and parts of Canada, Paul will be making stops to work on about 20 different Vandercooks. One of the stops on his tune-up tour was right here at WNYBAC to work on the three Vandercooks that live in our studio!

Check out Paul’s website: Vanderblog


Meet our presses:

Mandy the mangler
Vandercook No. 4

The Vandercook No. 4 was in production for 25 years from 1935-1960. Today, more than 300 No. 4 presses are still known to exist, as recorded by the Vandercook census, making them a pretty common model by today’s standards.

Please note: Mandy is not known to have ever mangled anyone or anything.

Vandercook 219

An older style of press, the Vandercook 219 was in production for 20 years from 1927-1947. Today, only about 3 dozen 219s are known to exist, as listed in the Vandercook census, making this a much rarer model of printing press.

Olga may be an old broad, but her quintessential beauty attracts many. She’s used most for demonstrations with tours, field trips and workshops.

Vandercook SP20

The SP in SP20 stands for “simple precision.” The SP20 was only in production for 16 years, from 1960-1976. This late model of Vandercook was designed to be able to easily print photo-litho plates, a more modern way of printing than using traditional hand-set type. More than 140 Vandercook SP20 presses are listed in the Vandercook census.


Why do we name our presses? Naming Vandercooks is actually a fairly common practice. We couldn’t really tell you why nearly all modern printers feel compelled to call their printing press by a name, but at least for us it’s because we know every single press that still exists today has a history and a story. Vandercook stopped manufacturing printing presses in 1976. That means that even the very last Vandercooks ever produced are still 42 years old. And a lot can happen to a machine that many think of as “outdated” in 42 years.

During his time with us, Paul told several stories of the histories of Vandercooks he has encountered. For example, there’s a No. 4 out on the West Coast still in operation after having been through a fire. He mentioned Vandercooks that had been left out in barns and under trees because whoever had inherited them didn’t know what else to do with them or where to put them. Some of these Vandercooks were later re-discovered and were able to be restored and brought back into commission. Stories like these make these machines feel worthy of a human name, don’t they?

Paul Moxon didn’t come all the way to Buffalo to tell us stories about Vandercooks, though. He came to do maintenance on our Vandercooks, and to teach us how to do some basic maintenance in the process.

Most of the WNYBAC staff, including myself, attended the workshop. 

Paul went over the basics with us, then, as we started taking apart each of the presses, we learned by doing. With Paul’s guidance, we completed maintenance tasks including stabilizing Mandy, re-timing the cylinder on Barbie, and cleaning and checking the rollers on all three of the presses. Paul also taught those of us who never had before, how to cut and add new packing to a press.


Vandercook Maintenance Workshop
Photo credit Katherine Taylor

We learned terms like “worm gear” and “crescent.” For reference, the worm gear is a gear inside the top roller that’s cut in such a way that when the crescent turns around the gear it causes the roller to oscillate, mixing the ink and spreading it evenly across the roller. When you remove the crescent, the roller won’t oscillate, which makes it easier to do a rainbow roll (which is when you use multiple colors of ink in a single run).

We practiced this technique the second day when we had enough time to get into some printing. Removing the crescent to do a yellow and red rainbow roll, we did a quick run of prints using a word known to all Buffalonians: Scajacquada.

After two days of getting our hands dirty taking apart Vandercooks and putting them back together, we definitely all know a lot more about our three favorite printing presses. As a community print shop, we aim to maintain a welcoming space for printers of all kinds. By working together to take care of our printing press babies, we’re able to preserve these pieces of history.

We here at WNYBAC plan to be printing for many years to come.

If you’re interested in learning more about letterpress printing and our presses,
take one of our letterpress workshops!

Register Here

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our funders listed below, for providing support to WNYBAC's ongoing programs taking place throughout Western New York:

NYSCA M & T Art 4 Moore Zenger Group Evans Bank Community Foundation Baird Foundation
Cameron Jane Wendt Foundation StoryGrowing