A Miehle V36 "Vertical" Cylinder Press

October 2016

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1. Introduction

Disclaimer: As I write this in October 2016, having just acquired this lovely press, I still cannot call myself a printer. I'm a typefounder, yes, but not yet a printer. So it's a bit crazy for me to have developed a preference for particular styles or models of printing presses - but I have.

Without ever having operated one, it seems obvious to me that the Miehle "Vertical" press is the most logical of all printing presses. It also has an impressive reputation as a durable, dependable unit capable of high quality work in volume. I've never heard any professional letterpress printer speak anything ill of the Miehle Vertical - quite the contrary, the rumor is that Heidelberg salesmen would simply skip shops which had Miehle Verticals as they knew they'd never make a sale there. Yet it is curiously underappreciated among letterpress printers today.

I had the opportunity to acquire one from Peter Fraterdeus as he shut down his printing operation, Slow Press, in Dubuque, Iowa in October 2016. It is a model V36, which was the original Miehle Vertical model. (The number indicates the number of impressions per hour, in hundreds. So a V36 could do 3600 impressions/hour. The later models V45 and V50 could do 4500 and 5000, respectively.)

According to Fritz Klinke, 1 Miehle manufactured the V36 from 1922 to 1931, ending with serial number 7342 (after which they moved to the V45 and, in 1940, the V50). The serial number of my press is 4455. So as a guess, it might have been made around 1927, plus or minus a year or two. Stylistically, it would not have looked out of place on the set of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

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(From Dunwody, Thomas E., "Pressroom Progress Through Better Equipment," The Inland Printer, Vol. 79, No. 5 (August 1927), pp. 777-784. (The Miehle image appears on p. 779.) My thanks to John Horn for loaning me this issue of The Inland Printer. The icon above links to a 2048 pixel wide JPEG reduction of this image. Because there should be more pictures of the Miehle Vertical out there, here's the full-resolution version (1200 dpi RGB, 3454x3921 pixels, lossless PNG, 22 Meg): inland-printer-v079-n5-1927-08-1200rgb-0779-dunwody-pressroom-progress-through-better-equipment-JUST-IMAGE-OF-miehle-vertical-v36-3454x3921.png )

2. Moving the Press Home

This move was the first use of my brand new Anderson HGL 7600 "Hydraulic Drop-Bed" trailer.

The press was palletized for me by riggers hired by the seller. They placed it on the end of my trailer. I took it from there (everything from that point on I did alone). The weight commonly quoted for this press is 2,550 pounds.

Here it is on the trailer in downtown Dubuque, partially strapped down:

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And 63 miles later, outside its new home:

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The photo above also shows a part of the Andersen Hitches (no relation to Anderson Trailers) Wight-Distributing hitch. To install it, I had to move the jack on the trailer to a new location (which involved cutting the sheet metal of the storage compartment of my brand new trailer - an unfortunate necessity.) I may re-install the hitch about five inches further back - it works in this configuration, but I'd like a longer chain length. This will involve drilling through the old mounting plate which originally held the trailer jack. It should give an extremely secure mounting while still not drilling any part of the trailer's structural frame.

Now, the whole point of a "drop-bed" trailer is that the bed drops down to ground level (while always staying horizontal). It's bit high on one side here because my ground isn't level (but my floor is). That's ok - I can shim up the high side with boards. The real problem is that my non-level ground also slopes away from the building. This means that I'm pulling a 2,550 press uphill by hand - something I couldn't do even if I hadn't hurt my back six weeks before.

The solution, of course, is having the right tools. In this case, a "come-along" worked just fine. Here's a view showing the trailer lowered (but with the ends not yet shimmed solid), and the wire rope of the come-along chained to the pallet jack.

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But of course, the other end has to be secured to something. What I should do is sink some nice strong mounting points in the floor - but I haven't yet. Short of that, I need some other anchor. Many people have "boat anchors." I have a Barth Anchor:

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(The Barth No. 3 1/2 Type Caster weighs at least 4,000 lbs. It didn't move one bit.)

So here it is, inside:

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And as seen from the trailer side. (Obviously I have much more work to do in my printing shop than just learning to print!)

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The trick to this, aside from working carefully and slowly, is to have the right tools: pallet jack, come-along, a drop-bed trailer, a sufficiently capable truck, properly rated straps (and enough of them!), etc. It's also important to avoid unsafe tools: pipe rollers, inadequate straps, etc.

3. Notes

1. Fritz posted information on Miehle serial numbers in a discussion thread on BriarPress on 2011-11-10 ( http://www.briarpress.org/28279) This gives an average rate of production of 816 units/year. But of course it is likely that production started lower than this and ramped up, only to fall off sharply (one presumes) after the 1929 crash.

A Miehle advertisement in The Inland Printer, Vol. 79, No. 5 (August 1927), p. 730, gives the number of Miehle Vertical presses shipped in May 1927 as 96, which works out to 1152/year.

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