P16510: Reconstruction of a Wooden Common Press


Project Summary Project Information


The wooden common press of the mid-15th to late 18th centuries sparked a revolution in communication and culture. Prior to the printing press, communication was limited to stories passed down through generations and hand-written books written by few educated monks. The wooden common press was first developed in Europe by printing pioneers such as Johannes Gutenberg and rapidly spread throughout the west eventually coming to America [1]. The design of printing presses remained largely unchanged and the primary means of printing during this period until iron hand presses superseded them. These wooden common presses work in conjunction with moveable type to produce printed works on paper, and can deliver consistent, mass-producible results. This new production method allowed for advancements in science, technology, and the arts. The lasting impression of the common wooden press will forever be one of the most influential developments in the development and growth of today’s world.

Problem Statement

The Cary Graphic Arts collection maintains a collection on the history of printing, including a full pressroom with 18 historic presses. Few original wooden common presses still exist; in order to better present the history of printing, the Cary Collection is seeking to have a reconstruction of a wooden press made.The goals of this project are to design a wooden press based upon historical research, to build a press in accordance with this design, and to publish a paper documenting the design and construction processes. The final press must be consistent with original common presses and maintain historical accuracy. This press will function as an original press and be used for instruction at the Cary Collection.

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Put interesting photo of project here
Project Name
Reconstruction of a Wooden Common Press
Project Number
Project Family
Printing and Imaging Systems
Start Term
Spring 2016
End Term
Fall 2016
Faculty Guide
John Kaemmerlen, Contact: mailto: email jxkpdm@rit.edu
Primary Customer
Steven Galbraith, Curator, Melbert B. Cary Jr. Graphic Arts Collection
Sponsor (financial support)
Melbert B. Cary Jr. Graphic Arts Collection
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Team Members

Left to right: Ferris Nicolais, Seth Gottlieb, Randall Paulhamus, Veronica Hebbard

Left to right: Ferris Nicolais, Seth Gottlieb, Randall Paulhamus, Veronica Hebbard

Member Role Major Contact
Veronica Hebbard Project Lead Industrial and Systems Engineer vah4961@rit.edu
Ferris Nicolais Lead Design Mechanical Engineer fwn7327@rit.edu
Seth Gottlieb Research Lead Mechanical Engineer sjg6582@rit.edu
Randall Paulhamus Lead Engineer Mechanical Engineer rsp5861@rit.edu
Daniel Krull Educational and Social Media Specialist Museum Studies dk5617@rit.edu
public/creo/phase5/team surrounding press.jpeg

public/creo/phase5/team surrounding press.jpeg

Project Journey


Below is a list of highlighted accomplishments per each phase of the project. For more indepth information please visit the links in "Table of Contents" located below.

Phase 1:

Began understanding and defining the project goals.
Started researching the history of printing presses.
Met frequently with Dr. Steven Galbraith to learn about printing history.

Phase 2:

Contacted the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum, then visited to begin collecting measurements and data on printing presses.
Featured in Niagara Falls Review.
Began recognizing the design changes in common presses over time and in geographical places.

Phase 3:

Chose to design a press typical of the period 1770-1790 in England.
Found additional team member Daniel Krull, a Museum Studies Major.
Made an initial bill of materials for an English common press.

Phase 4:

Traveled to New England during Spring Break and visited surviving presses from the 18th century at 4 locations in 4 states.
Began searching for suppliers of white oak timbers.
Made significant progress on models and drawings.

Phase 5:

Traveled to Cornwall, CT and purchased white oak from New England Naval Timbers.
Made arrangements with Genesee Country Village and Museum to contract with their blacksmiths.
Continued working on drawings.


Phase 1:

Reconnect with craftsmen to review progress an establish future expectations of work.
Re-vist project plan to ensure project completion at the end of the semester.
Continued review of drawings for total completion as well as historical accuracy.

Phase 2:

Update risk assessment and mitigation actions.
Trip to purchase and deliver mahogany to craftman.
Collected and reviewed first batch of blacksmith parts.
Getting RIT machine shop specialist involved in the production of a spindle.
First Material ordered from McMaster-Carr for various machine shop parts.
Team created presentation for the 2016 APHA Conference.
Prototype of bar and round handle was created.

Phase 3:

Veronica and Seth travel to the Huntington Library located in Pasadena, C.A to present at the 2016 APHA Conference.
Issues arise with the drying of the wood.
Team works with craftsman to mitigate obtaining more wood for construction.
Collected second batch of blacksmith parts.
Team gets to work with blacksmith to hammer out crescent arm!
Team receives beech wood for production of rounce and bar handle.

Phase 4:

The team took a trip to Harrisburg for a full day pf sanding, scraping, drawboring, and finishing of the press.
67% of the blacksmithed parts are completed.
100% of the wood parts are finished with only 54% tested assembly.
Leather girths were ordered and received.
Pre-Assembled wood parts were picked up and delivered to RIT.
Stone was received.

Phase 5:

The team as well as recruited volunteers, machinists, and engineers worked to fabricate all parts.
Blacksmithed parts completed. Rework completed.
sanding and oiling of wooden parts are completed.
Sleepless nights inside the Machine Shop and Cary collection getting ready for final assembly.
Press was assembled in the Cary in less than a day.
Cary Collection unveiling of the press to the public.
Poster seminar.
Final documentation including tech paper completed.

Table of Contents


Works referenced

Planning & Execution

Project Photos and Videos

Field Trip


Problem Definition

Systems Design

Subsystem Design

Preliminary Detailed Design

Detailed Design

Build & Test Prep

Subsystem Build & Test

Integrated System Build & Test

Integrated System Build & Test with Customer Demo

Customer Handoff & Final Project Documentation