Catseye Press Letterpress Collection Autovic

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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
Lagonda Platens
Autovic Platens
Supermatic Stop Cylinders
Mercedes Glockner Stop Cylinder
Heidelberg Platen Range
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.

Autovic Platen

This is a work in progess. We do not hold an Autovic, but I had one at home as a young apprentice.

If you own one of these presses with a feeder, I would be grateful if you would please let me know. Especially be sure to contact me if you have a feeder or even JUST a feeder. If, say you have bought one of these are are having troubles. I can probably help. If you have one and don't use it now, please get in touch. Even if it broken or damaged. If you are planning to retire and have one, which you are thinking you may have to send for scrap, please get in touch. Phone calls on the subject are always welcome. We would love to:-
See photos
See video footage or film
See one for real
Help get one going for somebody else
Teach anyboy who owns one how to use it
Buy one for our own use and to display

This link will take you to a video of the Automonopol, which is a very similar machine.

This is the type on press I first owned, at the same time as I was serving my apprentiship as a compositor at a jobbing printer's at Pinner Green, from about 1970. I bought it from Phil Kelly of H. P. Kelly (Printers) of Alexandra Avenue in Rayners Lane, Middlesex (he had 2). Later I shared ownership of a Thompson platen with him for a while.

I have not seen an Autovic for years, although I have heard of one or two, but not with their feeders. The feeder was a real pleasure to operate and the impression power of the press was unsurpassed in my experience to this day. Rolling power, from 4 forme rollers (one of which could readily be raised out of play, if my memory is right), was more than sufficient for any job I ever needed. It was particularly impessive (pardon the deliberate pun) for cutting and creasing and prining large solids. Interleaving (to avoid set-off) could be a bit of a pain, as the delivery tray is quite high for a person of my limited stature.

The feeder of this Parallel Approach (aka Swan Neck) Platen wheels away to provide access for make-ready and hand-feeding, if preferred. Hand feeding can be very useful for setting up and make-ready. Once make-ready is complete, there are few stocks that the feeder will not feed well. Automatic feeding is far preferable in most cases. Therefore I guess it ran at about 1500 impressions per hour. Although slow, by today's standards, for a press printing up to (if I remember rightly) Large Post or thereabouts. Will somebody who owns one please contact me and let me know. I have no recollection of the fixed (flat belt drive) speed of the Autovic. I only remember that it was a comfortable and respectable speed for hand-feeding. I do not ever remember being rushed, but then again, in those days I was, I suppose, quite accomplished, as I had 1st begun to learn aged about 11 and was, by this time about 16 or 17 to 21 years old. No doubt 5 or 6 years of experience hand feeding a small Victoria platen and a Golding Jobber, at Seconary School had done their job.

The lay arrangements are brilliant! There is a lay band, which clips accross the platen in a variety of positions according the size of paper being fed. Delicate but dead accurate, lay blocks slide along the band to suit. A side lay can be connected at either side for left or right hand registration. One of my prize posessions is a small part of one of these, which came in the tools box one of my Thompsons. These side lays came in a variety of lengths to suit paper size. The appropriate length of lay is connected to one side of the platen or the other using a cheese head screw. The side-lay-block has a fine spring mounted to it, which enables the operator to set it so that there is no possibility of the paper passing under the lay.

One thing well worth watching for is the seal between the pump, which is mounted under the main part of the platen, and the feeder. There are two big rubber rings, which are mounted on the platen-element, at the operator's shin level, and which seal to the roll-away feeder. If one or both of these become displaced, suction or blow will be lost.

It is always well worth setting the feed trip, so that the machine is stopped automatically if a sheet fails to feed. Doing so ensures that less attention needs to be paid to being able to quickly knock off the impression and forme-roller travel in the event of a mis-feed. It is rare for a properly-set feeder to fail to deliver, but the trip will function in that event too. The trip has to be set each time the machine is restarted and set to feed.

Connecting and disconnecting the feeder can be a bit demanding for the first few times. It is vital to get it right, otherwise disaster can strike in an instant. I remember failing to lock the feeder properly, using the claws and spur-wheel on the 2nd try and the result was a feeder with feed and delivery arms which had flailed forward in ungainly fashion. It was quite a struggle to get the thing back into it's rest postion, before I could try again.

Here's another little tip! Take the start lever in the right hand (across the body) and the impression lock lever in the left hand. As the platen comes forward, allow the left hand to remain still, with the finger tips wrapped gently under the handle and the impression will lock. If it is necessary to release the impression, allow the palm of the left hand to remain still, on top of the lever and the impression will come off with great ease.

If the runners get grubby, these Parallel Approach platens can get to rumble a bit. It is very worth while keeping those runners clean and lightly lubricated. To this, the greatest attention should be paid. There can be a moveable safety cover over the feeder drive gear. please make sure this gear is kept clean and lightly lubricated and that the cover is in place. This gear can 'grab' a workman's overall very easily and will never let go till the belt slips.

When locking up (imposing) your forme, be sure that the load is centred, as far as possible. If you do that, you will always have an even impression. If ever you see impression is uneven, you can reasonably suspect that this eveness of imposition is faulty. As a Parallel Approach platen, you will never expect to experience uneven impression from top to bottom, as you would if packing thickness were incorrect in a clam-shell platen, like a Thompson or Heidelberg. Do try to use the largest possible furniture you can and also try to avoid soft furniture like wood or lead. The manufacturers recommend steel, but aluminium (Cornerstone) furniture is also very good and very accurate. Whatever you do, use furniture which will avoid bending of the chase.

As to setting your impression, the impression adjuster should, if possible, never be set below 15°. You will get a sharper impression with a harder packing and much softer one (much less desirable) with a soft packing. A smooth, oiled manilla tympan will give a fine result. Otherwise, it is best to use a hard, bank tympan. Card and board up to 1/16" thick can be printed on these presses.

I only wish I knew of somewhere to lay eyes on one of these (with a feeder) again. They are beautiful machines, with an action quite like the Kluge, with a touch of the robot about them, but much more convenient. Do pick up the phone if you have one please? I would love to record the motion of the machine on video, to share the joy of it with the world. If offered the opportunity to own one, with a feeder, again, I certainly would be very tempted! I am sure I could use one most days.

I have a copy of the handbook and a fairly good memory of the details of operating it.

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