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Catseye Press

Mark and Graham Pressman
The Bungalow Cart Gap Road
Happisburgh, Norfolk NR12 0QL

Telephone 01692 582 292
Mail us by clicking here

Albion Iron Handpress
Thompson Platens
Wharfedale Stop Cylinder
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The Catseye Press letterpress collection

We are honoured to have been given many of the presses in, what has become known as, "The Arber Collection", which used to belong to printer, Mr. Gary Arber ex-of Roman Road, London. Mark and I extend our deepest gratitude and thanks to Gary. We shall put the presses to work with those we already have in due course. We now have all of the parts of all the presses here in Happisburgh. Those interested are welcome to visit by appointment (by which I mean, just give me a ring to let me know you are coming). Accomodation is usually available at our local pub, The Hill House Inn, in the village of Happisburgh (Telephone 01692 650 004 to book your holiday or short break) and are happy to show folk around our collection.

We have a small composing room of some 6 frames (randoms) and, by the time the "Arber Collection" is set up, 21 commercial letterpress printing machines, including our Albion iron hand press.

Thompson British Automatic Platen
Last edited 30/12/2013
.

If you are having a problem with
weak suction, we have a limited number of
these plastic suckers ready for you from about 07/01/2014
Cost 150.00 a set
Please phone for details.
We had 6 sets made and we need 3 of them. We can have more made quickly.

We will soon have a donor machine here. as result, we will be offerring parts for sale when it has arrived.
Click on this line to download the parts list.
It will take some time to download this 8.5mb flie.
Phone for details after you have identifieed the part you want.

If you own one of these presses, I would be grateful if you would please complete the form at the bottom of this page, so that we can add information to our knowledge base.

This is a work in progess, being written in the hope that, in time, it will add to the rather limited pool of information available in general about this machine. The author makes no claim to expert knowledge beyond 40 years of being a time-served Thompson Platen operator.

There seem to have been two previous designs for auto-platens to be designed by T. C. Thompsom. Only one of them went into production and that seems to have found itself a focus for a patents claim by Heidelberg. I understand that all those sold were recalled for destruction in due course, bar one, which is now long-gone.I have an advertising page for it.

Size: Crown folio, 15 1/4" x 10 1/2" inside chase
Speed: up to 3,500
Register:- Always working.
Parallel Impression Adjustment for speed and convenience.

It was available from agents:
H. W. Caslon in London & the S.E.
Kears of Bristol
Miller & Richard in Scotland

T. C. Thompson & Sons Limited applied for patent number 426804, which was registered in October 1933 in respect of a feed mechanism for a platen printing machine. This design had a gripper arm, mounted on a pivoted platen, it oscillated about an axis perpendicular to the platen and took a sheet from the pile and transfered it to the platen during the upward movement thereof by rotating across the platen to the vertical position and was constructed so that the gripper arm, releases the sheet before the printing operation, whereby a registering device registered the sheet on the platen clear of the gripper arm before the impression. The arm is oscillated through 90 degrees; The flying gripper only fed the machine. The delivery gripper carried by a slide, which is reciprocated on guide bars, delivered the sheet. However, the machine in the above picture is shown as having a pair of feed-delivery flying grippers not unlike the Heidelberg in general appearance - even if the press itself is, structurally, different. The 'British Printer"' of Nov/Dec. 1931 had an advertisement and editorial support. I wonder if that advert were not for an earlier or later model, rather than the one pictured above?

Patent number 480587 was granted in February 1938, following application on May 23rd, 1936. This was for the new feeder, which we all now know as the type used on the Thompson British Automatic Platen.

Patent number 490661, which relates to a Sheet-delivery apparatus we expect to see on all Thompsons today, was granted in August 1938 following application in November 1936.

From the facts above, we can see the date of the new designs. It seems that production of the new press did not start untill after WWII.

I do not know what happened at T. C. Tompson's factory between 1939 and 1945. However, I did doubt that many printing machines were built, as I believed it was all hands to weapons manufacture in those bad old days. I have since heard from a member of the family, who confirms that she too believes that the factory was set to the production of armaments during that war. T. C. Thompson advertising from the period did state in 1948 that they had 'built 1000 mchines since 1946'.

Production of the new design started at Buxton Street, Manchester either in 1946. By 1948, they had produced nearly one thousand machines and were showing three press at the British Industries Fair.

Alvis started to make Thompson Automatic Platens, from June 1948, for T. C. Thompson, and the first was demonstrated on 1st june of that year. I do know that many engineering shops had to agree to certain export quotas in order to get a good supply of hard-to-get raw materials after the war and I now read that it was the Ministry of Supply which connected T. C. Thompson with Alvis. The paperwork, for which I have a copy, claims that T. C. Thompson had orders on the books, at that time for some 1500 presses (worth 750,000 according to World Press News 24th June 1948). That would make the cost of one of these in 1948 some 500, which is now worth 15,385 in today's money. I see another reference to price is 275 in 1931 for the earlier design, which equates to 14,124.00 (December 2012) according to http://www.thisismoney.co.uk. The press, in 1948, were reporting great export demand for the machine. According to The Guardian (Manchester) on Wednesday June 2nd 1948, output at that time was planned to be 1,500 presses per annum, by the end of the year and aimed at 1 every hour soon thereafter. The Guardian also remarks that a firm called Heidelberg of Germany had monopolised the market for machines of this type, before the war. There was a clear expectation that a British made press would prosper, in the light of events between 1939 and 1945.
This is the 1st Thompson to be made by Alvis, 1st June 1948.

At the same time Worlds Press News reported that Thompson's output had been 1 per day up till Alvis started production. The Guardian reported that Alvis intended to achieve an output of 1500 presses per year by the end of 1948.

Serial numbering of machines is notoriously unreliable as dating evidence, on it's own. It is well known that companies could and would, sometimes, advance or retard numbering to suit their own goals. However, I have seen nothing to say that this happened in this case. Having said that, it does appear that numbering of machines made by Alvis started at either 10,000 or 10,500. I am inclined to look towards 10,500 being my favourite at this time, but reserve the right change my mind if a surviving machine is found with a number twist the twain.

We have presses with the following serial numbers in our collection
596
1341
2941
13559
13953
16402

T. C. Thompson were advertising re-conditioned platens in the mid-70's and they were not promoting sales for new ones by then.

I am now certain that pretty well 10,000 of these printing machines were sold worldwide and it may have been many more.

Changes and Improvements to design
The earliest Thompsons I have seen, sold in the UK, have a rheosat speed control. That was replaced by a variable vee-belt system. There is (uncorroborated) evidence to suggest that this change may have taken place between serial numbers 13527 and 13948, with Alvis made machines, whenever that was. I cannot verify the serial numbers, but have seen a scan of an intruction book with the rheostat design pictured on the cover and the number 13527 hand-written on the inside cover, with the date August 1952 alongside. Certainly our machine numbered (only a few numbers on) 13559 has the vee-belt drive.

Our presses numbered 596 and 1341 has a rheostat and none of the changes listed below.

Our press numbered 2941 has the fittings for a rheostat and none of the changes listed below.

I now have an earlier and a later Parts List and early and late Instruction Books. I also have an Installation Manual; all in pdf format.

Our press numbered 13559 is Vee-drive
and no other advances from 2941

Our press numbered 13953 is Vee-drive
It has a little tool tray above the switch
It has off-side lays
It has an adjustment screw for sucker-bar to platen gap
It has electrical delivery gripper cut-off. See the patent at this web page

Our press numbered 16402 is wildly different.

It has Vee Belt Drive

It has a little tool tray above the switch

It has a bakelite wheel on the speed control and the duct roller has one at both ends.

It has operating controls for the duct at the front of the machine.

It has a "stop" lever at the back.

It has a shaped slot through which to view the wash-up trough (how I wish we had the rest of it) (Right click the image and open in a new browser or tab, to see it larger)

It does not have electrical delivery gripper cut-off. See the patent at (Right click the image and open in a new browser or tab, to see it larger)

It does have the adjustment screw for sucker-bar to platen gap (Right click the image and open in a new browser or tab, to see it larger)

It does have off-side lays
It does have an anti-set-off spray. See the US patent here. It is dated 1954/1956.

If you have one, or more, please complete the machine details questionnaire (about the presses only - no personal stuff will be published without your permission) and I will publish it here in an effort to increase knowledge and understanding about Thompson Autoplatens. In particular, I would love to see numbers higher or lower than we have here. Who has the newest, or oldest Thompson? It cannot be me!

Thanks to all those who have completed the form. That brings more detail to the thought process and it is very important to know. Also, I very much want to know the most recent numbers.

All questions are voluntary. What is published is entirely the owner's choice. Inputing data will be taken as owner's permission to publish.

Your email address if you don't mind. So I can ask more questions. I promise no spam.
Or a phone number if you don't mind me ringing you to talk Thompson
Serial Number
Does it/did it have a little Accessories Tray at the front left?
Does it/did it have Rheostat or Vee Belt speed control
Does it/did it have Electric Delivery Gripper cut-off?
There would be a small toggle switch to the left of the blow control if it were ever fitted
Does it/did it have round counterbalances on the roller arms?
Those with the more modern looking roller arms did not have the counterbalances.
Does it/did it have Front Duct Control?
Does it/did it have Rear STOP Control?
Does it/did it have a Washup Blade?
Does it/did it have any Bakelite Hand-Wheels anywhere?
Does it/did it have Hand Wheels both ends of duct?
Does it/did it have left hand lays facility?
Does it/did it have the adjustment screw for sucker-bar to platen gap?
Is there any dating evidence / Year of manufacture?
Does it/did it have another special or advanced addition? If so, what please?
Country now residing?
Any additional observations?

  Serial Number Little tray Rheostat / Vee Belt Rounded counter - weight Electric Delivery Gripper cut-off Front duct control Rear STOP control Washup blade Bakelite hand-wheels Hand wheels 2 ends of duct Left hand lays adjusting screw for sucker-bar gap Another special or advanced information Reported Date Country My current best guess
Email 262 No VS 1ph Yes No No No Yes No No No No No unknown USA Early 1946
Catseye Press 596 No Rheostat Yes No No No Yes No No No No No 1946 UK Aug 1946
Science Museum 834   unknown                       UK Feb 1948
BPS Member 938 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No Available Uncertain UK April 1948
Alvis 1st machine 10500 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No Available 01/06/1948 UK 01/06/1948
Catseye Press 10515 No Rheostat No No No No No No No No No Available ??/06/1948 UK June 1948
The Portland Press 10533 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No No ??/06/1948 UK Aug 1948
BPS Member 11893 yes Vee Belt yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes Available 1949 Scrapped 2011 May 1949
Catseye Press 1341 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No Available Ord'd 1948 Del'd 1950 UK Feb 1950
From Web Form 1433 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No No Uncertain UK Aug 1950
Troglodyte Press 1538 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No Available Uncertain AU Jan 1951
Catseye Press 1626 Spare Parts Donor Machine. Arrived with major missing parts                
In use 13012 No Rheostat Yes No No No Yes No No No No Available Unknown UK May 1952
Catseye Press 13498 No AM Vee Belt Yes No No No Yes No No No No Available Uncertain UK July 1952
Catseye Press hoping to buy 13527 No Rheostat Yes No No No Yes No No No No Available Aug 1952 UK Aug 1952
Troglodyte Press 1935 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No Available Uncertain AU Nov 1952
Troglodyte Press 2167 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No Available Uncertain AU Dec 1953
Unknown 13559 No Vee Belt Yes No No No No No No No No No Uncertain UK Uncertain
From Web Form 2361 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No Available Uncertain UK Uncertain
J Jarrold Print Museum 2377 No Converted Yes No No no No No No No No Available 30/03/1950 UK Uncertain
BPS Member 13670 No Vee Belt Yes No No No No No No No No Available Uncertain UK 1953
Catseye Press 13953 yes Vee Belt No Yes No No No No No Yes Yes Available Uncertain UK 1954
Bentley Printing 14004 yes Vee Belt No No No No Yes No No Yes No Available Aug/Sept 1955 UK 1955
From Web Form 2573 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No Available Uncertain Ireland Oct 1955
From Web Form 2617 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No Available Uncertain Ca Nov 1955
Catseye Press 2941 No Rheostat Yes No No No No No No No No No Uncertain UK July 1957
For sale till 24/10/2014 16077 Yes Vee Belt Roller arms missing No No   Yes No No         UK  
In use 16097         Details not available             Working but in need of parts.      
Catseye Press 16168 yes Vee Belt No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Available Uncertain UK Uncertain
Shanks Printers 16182 yes Vee Belt No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Available Uncertain UK Uncertain
In use 16201 yes Vee Belt No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Available Uncertain UK Uncertain
Catseye Press 16402 yes Vee Belt No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Available Uncertain UK Uncertain
In use 16405 yes Vee Belt No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Available Uncertain UK Uncertain
Troglodyte Press 16441 yes Vee Belt No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Available Uncertain AU Uncertain
Heron Press 16479 yes Vee Belt No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Available 1957 UK 1957
BPS Member 16528 yes Vee Belt No unknown Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Available Uncertain UK Uncertain
Tilley Printing 16609 yes Vee Belt No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes   Uncertain UK Uncertain
In use 16538 yes Vee Belt No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes   1968 UK  
  16609                              
For sale till 24/10/2014 16745? 40 a/m vee belt     yes     No     yes     UK  
  16779                              
Troglodyte Press 16807 No Vee Belt No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Available Aug 1961 AU Aug 1961
From Web Form 17010 Missing Vee Belt No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Available Uncertain UK Uncertain
By Telephone 17041   Vee Belt No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes   Uncertain UK Uncertain

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