This project is a BLIND BUILD CHALLENGE! Try to build a working cylinder printing press and a movable type printing plate.

In short, we’re going to build a flatbed press that uses a cylinder to apply pressure.

What is a cylinder printing press?

In presses that operate cylinder to plane, called flatbed presses, a cylinder provides the pressure while the typeform retains its flat surface, generally in a horizontal position. Generally, too, the bed is mobile to allow the typeform, as it moves back and forth, to pass under the rollers of the inking system.

A flatbed press is a printing press employing a flat surface for the type or plates against which paper is pressed, either by another flat surface acting reciprocally against it or by a cylinder rolling over it. It may be contrasted to the rotary press, which has a cylindrical printing surface. There are also flatbed presses that do not use a cylinder to apply pressure.

What is movable type?

Movable type is the system and technology of printing and typography that uses movable components to reproduce the elements of a document usually on the medium of paper. Gutenberg did not invent movable type – Bi Sheng of China’s Northern Song Dynasty did in circa 1040 AD! However, Gutenberg improved the process with his introduction of metal movable type; Sheng used porcelain.

Moveable type was a HUGE improvement to mass production of the written word. Movable-type page setting was quicker than woodblock printing. The metal type pieces were more durable and the lettering was more uniform, leading to typography and fonts.

Functional requirements of a working cylinder flatbed press:

  1. The cylinder must be held in place, yet must be able to spin.
  2. There must be space for the printing plate to slide beneath the cylinder.
  3. The moveable type on the printing plate must all be on the same plane to create a proper forme (page image, ie, printing plate with movable type).

Your kit contains all the pieces you need to make a functional cylinder press and printing plate with movable type:

Some pictures to get your brain thinking…


  • What is printing?
  • How did people print before the digital age? Before movable type?
  • How did people communicate via text/image before printing?


  • GRAPHICS ATLAS – a sophisticated resource that presents a unique, object-based approach for the identification and characterization of prints and photographs.
  • PRINTMAKING (Khan Academy / MoMA) – A video playlist that introduces you to printmaking as well as the 3 main types: relief, intaglio, and lithography.
  • PRINTS AND PROCESSES (Minneapolis Institute of Art) – A video playlist that includes relief, intaglio, lithography, and screenprinting processes.

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