My Press

Furnival 1
My Furnival Express.

The principal, and currently, only press at the Vortex Press is quite an antique. It is a Furnival Express, which was built in Reddish, Manchester, in the late nineteenth century. It is a class of machine that is variously described as a jobbing press, a jobbing platen, or a clamshell press. The latter term relates to the movement of the platens, which meet like a closing clam. There were many clamshell designs from around 1870 onwards, the most successful being the Arab. The Furnival Express is an Arab style design, having the same inner chase dimensions of 13 by 9 inches. This size was called a foolscap folio, for some reason, though standard foolscap would be 1/2 inch too big for it. The complexities of the paper sizing system of the time requires further research and a separate page. Needless to say it is a letterpress machine.

My press is numbered No 366. They are very rare (not like the commoner Arabs), and may be one of only two working examples in the UK. One was at Castle Cary (which then went to Camberley, but has since been sold – with some parts missing) and another is at work in Brighton. Let me know if you know of these, or others.

My press was purchased in 2008 from a working press in Bridport. Here are some pictures of it.

Furnival 2
Note the ‘add-on’ at the top, an ink duct for longer runs. I haven’t used this yet, as my runs are usually of 100 max…I have modified it with roller guides at the top of the platen sides (the steel rods bend inwards at the centre of the picture. These help to avoid the roller housings catching on the sides. The bearings are quite worn. The roller housings have a few more years in them…I hope. There are no rollers attached here, but as you can see it is possible to attach three rollers in all (as well as an auxilliary inking roller at the top). However I only use two rollers.
Furnival 3
My press came with an attachment (this side of the paper platen, in foreground) for attaching a adjustable paper stop. The two vertical steel rods going up to left prevent the paper from sticking to the type after impression. It is always a worry that these will hit valuable type. It hasn’t happened yet (touch wood).
Furnival 4
The press is powered directly by the printer via this treadle mechanism, though these presses could be belt driven, clutched in by moving the flexible belt from idler to driven wheel.

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