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Jobs in The Pressroom and Bindery

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The jobs described in this section are all located in or near the press room. Press room employees contribute their efforts to one main purpose: keeping the presses rolling. While the jobs are listed individually, many press room jobs are part of a team effort, especially those directly involved with the operation of the press.

Press room jobs, more than other jobs in printing, are filled under an apprenticeship program under union sponsorship. If you are seeking a career in the press room, emphasize your mechanical abilities and your ability to take that extra measure of care in your work.

You may find unfamiliar words in some of the job descriptions that follow. The glossary in Appendix E defines many printing terms.

Press room Supervisor

This middle-level manager supervises and coordinates the activities of workers engaged in making ready, operating, and feeding all the various types of presses found in the press rooms of all printing establishments, such as newspapers, book printers, commercial printers, business forms printers, and others. He or she regularly observes the operation of presses and examines the output from the discharge stack of each operating press. The supervisor critically examines full-color work for dot registration and color fidelity. He or she coordinates the flow of work into the press room, ascertaining requirements in advance in order to plan day-to-day operations. The manager exercises the appropriate management skills in relationships with people above and below this level in the organization. When employed in an in-plant shop, this manager is called the Supervisor, Printing Department. The usual salary range is $22,000 to $50,000 annually.

Assistant Press Operator

These production workers may be found in any type of printing establishment, assisting the press operators of a lithographic, web, letterpress, flexographic, rotogravure, or business forms press. Some of their duties include, but are not limited to: make-ready, feeding, adjusting side guides and tension, monitoring ink fountain operation and roller distribution of ink, adjusting suction grippers, stocking supplies, removing printed sheets, and performing such other duties as the press operator may direct. One of the main functions is to keep the press clean and lubricated. Assistant press operators help with the monitoring of the press operation at run speed, reporting any faulty printing or press defects to the press operators. A usual pay scale is $10 an hour or more.

Rotogravure Press Operator

A rotogravure press prints by the gravure method with plates that are curved to fit around a cylinder. The rotogravure press operators make ready and operate the press. They install engraved copper plate(s) on the cylinder(s), adjusting doctor, or wiping, blades that remove excess ink from the surface of the plate at each cycling of the plate cylinder. They thread the web of paper through the feeder mechanism between the plate and impression cylinders, adjusting guides and tension bars. For multicolor printing, they set the focus of electronic scanners on the guidelines of the paper to automatically control color registration. If the press is so equipped, they regulate the temperature in the web drying chamber and adjust the automatic cutter at the discharge end of the press. Since a rotogravure press is usually very large, the press operators may direct the activities of a press crew, who may feed and unload the press, take care of ink levels in the fountains, clean the equipment, and perform other duties as the operator directs.

If the press is so equipped, the operators may be responsible for cutting, creasing, and folding, at the discharge end. The usual wage is $18 an hour or more.

Web Press Operator

A web press prints roll to sheet or roll to roll-meaning that the paper supplied to the press is fed from a roll and threaded through the impression and plate cylinders. The web press operator is a production worker who makes ready and oversees the operation of the press. Some web presses have more than one printing unit and may be capable of printing more than one roll of paper simultaneously. The press normally is used to print newspapers, books, periodicals, and business forms, generally in long runs that make it economical to use a large press requiring elaborate make-ready. The operator locks printing plates on curved cylinders and threads the forward edge of the paper web through the various cylinders, guides, and tension bars, inching the web through the press while adjusting feed controls. When plates become worn, the operator replaces them with make-over plates, performing the switch as quickly as possible to minimize downtime. If the web breaks, the press stops automatically and the operator must readjust tension bars.

Then the operator must activate a pasting device to join the ends of the web. The operator inspects finished signatures (groups of printed pages) for signs of faulty printing or press failures. The operator may be responsible for training apprentices and for user and higher maintenance levels. The usual pay scale is $18 an hour or more.

Engraving Press Operator

Die-stamping presses usually are found in greeting card and social stationery printing establishments. The operators of die-stamping presses make ready and operate the presses in the production of announcements, greeting and business cards, letterheads, and related items. They use wrenches to install appropriate die and inking rollers on the ram (plunger of the press). They cut out and fasten a paper template to the bed of the press to maintain the flatness of finished cards or sheets. They insert and adjust a roll of wiping paper that automatically cleans the die between impressions. They make the ink thin to desired consistency and fill the ink fountains. They start the press to obtain proof copy, examine the proof, and adjust the press and ink fountain to obtain uniform coverage and indentation. They start the press and hand-feed cards or sheets as the press cycles at governed speed. They may be required to perform user maintenance. Wage is typically at $15 an hour or more.

Embossing Press Operator

Embossing presses are used in die-stamping shops for producing greeting cards, business cards, and stationery. Embossing press operators install and lock an embossed plate in the press's chase (frame), locking the chase in the bed of the press. They mix an embossing composition to a puttylike consistency, spread glue on the platen, and apply a thin pad of composition over the glue. They then make an impression of the embossing plate in the composition, trim off excess, and allow the composition to harden. They scrape the high spots on the composition to prevent it from puncturing the paper. They start the press, set sheets singly between guide pins, and emboss them, removing and stacking them as they are embossed. The usual wage is $10 an hour or more.

Metal-Decorating Lithographic Printing Press Operator

A metal-decorating press may be found in a container printing and packaging establishment, where descriptive matter and art are printed on flat sheets of tin, aluminum, or other metal before being formed into containers. The press operators set up and make ready, install lithographic plates on the press cylinders, and adjust feed guides, back and side gauges, and ink and dampening rollers. They mix ink colors according to specs and fill the ink fountain. They start the press and make a trial run, adjusting for color intensity, register, and fit. During the run, they observe the press and product, adjusting as necessary. They observe heat gauges and regulate heat intensity to achieve uniform drying. Where necessary, they perform user maintenance. The usual wage is $12 an hour or more.

Plastic Printing Press Operator

These production workers are found in flexographic printing plants, printing colored designs and copy on rolls of plastic film or plastic-coated materials. They position and clamp plates on the press using hand tools. They pour ink into ink pans and thread plastic material through the press rolls. They start the press, inching the plastic web through the press to adjust side guides and other controls. They manipulate rheostats to regulate speed and feed of press and temperature of the drying oven. They examine printed sheets or rolls coming off the press to detect defects such as wrinkles, smears, and uneven color distribution.

They may be required to perform user maintenance on the press. The typical wage is $12 an hour or more.

Cloth Printer or Screen Printing Machine Operator

Screen printing on textiles is done in highly specialized plants. The operator is a production worker who mounts screens in specified sequences on the machine. He or she pours printing paste onto screens or fills the automatic feed pan. The operator adjusts machine speed and swing and pressure of squeegees, depending on the type of cloth being printed and the design. The operator starts the machine and the conveyor belt that carries the textile under the screen(s). He or she also inspects cloth to detect faulty printing and inaccurate register. During the run, the operator inspects the product to insure that it meets quality standards and specs. The operator may be required to perform user maintenance. The usual wage is $12 an hour or more.

Offset Duplicating Machine Operator

Offset duplicating machines are found in almost any sizable establishment, whether or not it is engaged in printing. The operator installs a presensitized metal or paper plate on the plate cylinder of the machine and also checks ink and dampening levels and paper stock supplies. He or she turns the elevator crank to raise the feed table to the proper height and sets dial controls to adjust the speed and feed of the machine according to the weight of the paper. The machine automatically reproduces copy by the offset process. The operator cleans and files plates for possible later use and may operate an automatic plate-maker.

The operator may perform user maintenance on the machines as required. The usual wage is $10 an hour or more.

Press Maintenance Person

In all but the very largest plants, maintenance is performed as an extra duty by the press operator, who adjusts and repairs offset litho presses and letterpresses, confining repairs to user echelon levels.

He or she also lubricates and cleans the presses, replacing worn or broken parts, and disassembles and cleans ink rollers, dampening rollers, and parts. The press maintenance person may be required to repair and adjust heat dryers. The usual hourly wage is $15 or more.

Slitter, Creaser, Scorer, Slotter Operator

These production workers may be found in package printing plants as part of the assembly line prior to the printing of corrugated or plain paperboard containers. One machine may do all or some of the operations of slitting, creasing, scoring, and slotting. The operators set and operate the machine, turning screws and moving picker feed bar and feed table guides to accommodate the appropriate sheet size. They position slitting, scoring, and creasing dies by sliding die-heads along a drive shaft over the machine bed to achieve the specified size blank.

They adjust to obtain specified depths and location of slots and creases. They may operate a machine that cuts off container blanks from rolls of corrugated or plain paperboard. They also verify dimensions of blanks by measurement and observe the performance of a machine to detect malfunctions. The usual salary is $10 an hour or more.

Tag Press Operator

This production worker is employed in tag and label printing and manufacturing establishments. He or she sets up and operates a machine that prints, cuts, and punches holes in paperboard to form paper tags and labels.

The operator reads the work order to determine the type of setup required. He or she mounts paperboard rolls on a machine dispensing spindles, using a jack or hoist, and installs and adjusts printing plates into the bed of the press. The operator mounts rolls of reinforcing paperboard onto the machine, threading the ends through the stamping section and filling the machine with metal grommets where required. The worker spreads a specified color of ink in the ink reservoir, adjusts the angle of the cutting blade, using an alien wrench, and turns valves to adjust the timing of the cutting blade and the punch. Then the operator starts the machine and observes performance to detect malfunctions.

He or she removes completed tags or labels from the discharge end, stacks the products into boxes in specified amounts, and stacks the boxes on skids. The usual pay scale is $10 an hour or more.

Carbon Paper Interleafer

This production worker in the business forms printing plant tends a machine that brings together webs of carbon paper and paper stock fed from rolls. The machine then winds the combined webs onto a single roll of specified length. The operator exercises care to prevent wrinkling of the stock as it passes through the machine. She or he installs the appropriate rolls of stock on dispensing spindles using a hoist.

The operator adjusts the paper guides and tension controls, reads a counter that records the footage, and stops the machine when the proper footage has been achieved. He or she also per-forms user-level maintenance on the machine as required. The pay scale is $9 an hour or more. This position is being phased out of some plants as businesses decrease their use of carbon in favor of newer, carbonless paper.

Quick Print Printer

This production worker/manager may also be found in smaller captive shops called in-plant printers. He or she sets up and operates printing presses, generally of the duplicator type, as well as automatic plate-makers, paper-cutting, drilling, and folding machines. The printer duplicates negatives on photosensitive metal plates, using exposure frame. He or she develops an image on the plate and washes the plate to make it ready for the press. The crafts person sets metal type in a chase (frame) by hand, where required. He or she mounts the litho plate on the cylinder of the press and may also mount type on the cylinder or bed of a cylinder press. This worker/ manager orders paper stock and materials, including chemicals and ink, and may have to discuss printing requirements with customers. He or she keeps records of time and materials for billing. The quick-print printer may be required to maintain and repair shop equipment. The pay scale is $9 an hour or more.

Plate Setter, Flexography

These production workers would be found in many flexographic printing establishments, most of which are engaged in package printing. Plate setters prepare cylinders for installation in the press by measuring and cutting brass plates of specified dimensions. They bend the plate to the curvature of the cylinder using a plate-curving machine. They lift and place a printing cylinder of the specified size on a proof machine holding rack. They measure and draw centering lines on the cylinder to be used as guides for alignment of plate and dies. Then they slide the formed plate on a cylinder, position the plate according to centering lines, and clamp the plate in place with tension bands.

They use a knife to trim and bevel rough edges of rubber dies. They position dies on the cylinder plate, following guide markings and diagrams, and fasten dies to the plate with adhesive paper. Then they apply ink to the dies with a roller and operate a proof machine to make a trial impression on proof paper. They correct errors on the original setup until the trial impression meets quality standards. The usual pay scale is $10 an hour or more.

Bag Machine Operator

This production worker tends a machine that automatically measures, prints, cut, folds, and glues (or seals) plain or wax papers, polyethylene film, or other plastic films to form bags. The operator threads materials from the parent roll through guides and rollers to cutters, gluer (or electric heat-sealer device), printer, and folder. He or she starts the machine as slow speed, observes the operation to detect a malfunction or faulty feeding or printing, and adjusts the machine to achieve uniformity and conformance with specs. The operator may be responsible for handling the parent rolls of bag material, using jacks and a hoist. The operator also performs user-level maintenance of the machine as required. The wage scale is $10 an hour or more.

Bag Printer

Bag printing is done in specialized printing establishments that may or may not be part of a package printing and converting operation.

It consists of printing data and designs such as brand name, trademark, contents description and/or analysis, and other data on paper or textile sacks. The operator inserts specified type or plates into slots in the plate cylinder, locking the plates in place. He or she pours appropriate color ink into the ink fountain and positions a supply of sacks on the press feed bed. The operator then starts the press and activates the rotary drum and feed mechanism and feeds individual sacks into the press. He or she then removes the printed bags and stacks them for further processing. The operator also cleans the press and performs user maintenance. The wage scale is $10 an hour or more.

Envelope Converter/Printer Operator

Many envelope converters also print corner cards on envelope die-cut blanks or paper rolls. These production workers set up, adjust, and maintain a battery of automatic machines that make and print the envelopes.

They install gears, plungers, and rollers onto the machine and turn set screws to adjust feeding, folding, gumming, and sealing, and apply glassine to window envelopes as necessary. They operate the machine for a trial run, measuring the dimensions of the first piece off with a rule to confirm that it meets specifications. During the run, they observe the performance of the machine and the products to detect malfunctions. These operators are capable of disassembling the machine to repair or replace worn or broken parts. They perform user level of maintenance as required. Salary is $10 or more an hour.

Decorating Printer, Glass

Glass decorating is done by the silk screen method, usually in container plants. It is capable of high-quality, full-color printing, although in most applications quality printing is not a requirement. This production worker sets up manually controlled or automatic decorating equipment.

He or she bolts chucks to the conveyor of the automatic equipment to accommodate containers of specified sizes. The worker adjusts the feeder mechanism to adjust the stroke of the machine so that the design will be placed in the proper location on the container. Then he or she adjusts the squeegee blade so that the proper amount of ink is deposited on the surface of the container. The worker performs user maintenance on decorating equipment as required. The pay scale is $12 an hour or more.

Box Printer

Box printing is done in specialized plants that may be associated with packaging operations. The box printer sets up and operates the machine to print trademarks, designs, or identifying information on cardboard boxes and sleeves, or sometimes on wooden boxes. He or she fastens type or plate to a holding mechanism in the press. Boxes may be loaded into feed hoppers, which automatically position the box on a conveyor belt passing under the printing head. In other applications, the operator may place the boxes one at a time under the printing head, depressing a foot pedal to activate printing. In either case, she or he is responsible for uniform ink coverage and even impressions of the image. The operator performs user maintenance as required. The pay is usually $10 or more an hour.


A multitude of jobs exist in the binding or finishing end of the printing industry, only some of which are described here because of space limitations. The actual printing of a product such as a book or magazine is only one step in its production. Cutting, creasing, folding, gathering, and stitching are all just as vital to the completion of the job.
A bindery worker must be especially careful to avoid mistakes because the substrates he or she handles have already had value added in the form of labor and materials. A mistake at this stage of the process can mean that all the labor invested in the product up to this point must be scrapped at great cost to the firm. Bindery workers should have good mechanical ability as well as good attention to detail.

Bindery Supervisor

This middle-level manager supervises binderies, which may be located within large commercial printers or periodical and book printers or may exist as separate trade shops. The supervisor coordinates the activities of workers engaged in forming, finishing, and covering books, magazines, and catalogs. He or she reviews work orders to plan work goals and coordinates the receiving of signatures, paper stock, and other materials required to complete the job. This worker exercises the managerial skills required in any industry to maximize a group effort. He or she may only be required to supervise workers engaged in forming operations such as folding, cutting, gathering, and stitching or sewing, but often the person also is responsible for the training of new workers and for overall maintenance of bindery equipment. The salary range is $15,000 to $50,000 annually.

Bindery Worker

Machines that do corner cutting, embossing, scoring, stitching, taping, gluing, punching, and index tab attaching are found in most commercial printing plants. The production worker responsible for these operations may tend one or more machines. He or she positions stock against machine guides, starts the machine, and depresses a pedal to actuate production.

The worker observes the machine during the production run to maintain dimensions against specs. He or she may perform user-level maintenance as required. The pay scale is $9 an hour or more.

Casing-in-Line Setter

These bindery production workers perform duties in a bookbinding shop. They set up machines that automatically perform in sequence such operations as rounding and backing, supering (applying strip of reinforcing material to back of book), lining, casing-in, and pressing to convert gathered signatures into a finished book. They mount rolls of cloth and paper lining and headbands on machine spindles. They fill the glue pot and adjust the flow of glue. Then they adjust guides, holding clamps, rollers, rounding forms, and other machine parts to accommodate specified-size books. They turn the hand-wheel to position the press head according to the thickness of the book and the amount of pressure to be applied. Then the cutting mechanism is adjusted to cut Unings and headbands to book size. The workers start the machine to produce a sample book and verify the accuracy of the setup before proceeding. They perform user maintenance on component parts as required. The pay scale is $10 an hour or more.

Gathering Machine Setter

This production worker is employed in a bookbinding shop where he or she sets up and operates a machine that gathers signatures for binding into books and magazines. The worker adjusts the machine pockets to accommodate the appropriate size signatures. He or she manipulates the dials to required graduations to set grippers and gripper feelers according to the thickness of the signatures being gathered. Then the worker installs and adjusts a jogging tray at the end of the line to true up the edges of the gathered signatures for trimming. He or she may be required to perform user maintenance on the gathering machine as required. The pay scale is $10 an hour or more.

Book Trimmer

This bookbindery production worker must have good powers of concentration and superior attention to detail. He or she tends a paper-cutting machine that cuts the edges of unbound books, magazines, and catalogs after they come off the press and prior to binding. The trimmer positions sections (or signatures) against the guide to trim the top, bottom, and front edges of the book to specified dimensions. Starting the machine, the stack of signatures is jogged against the paper guide(s) to achieve a true edge. Top, bottom, and front edges are trimmed in turn, activated by a treadle or a pair of levers protected with a safety device. The pay rate is $9 an hour or more.


This skilled crafts person is found in book printing shops and in independent trade shops engaged in manufacturing books of all descriptions. He or she cuts, sews, and glues components to bind books, using sewing machine, hand press, and hand cutter. The bookbinder may fold sheets into signatures or receive them from the press already formed into signatures, gathering them into numerical order. He or she operates a machine that sews signatures together to form a book body. The crafts person compresses sewed signatures to conform to specified book thickness using a hand press or smashing machine. Then he or she trims the edges of the book to size and inserts the book body in a device that forms the back edge of the book into a convex shape. Glue is applied to the back of the book body and a cloth backing and headband are attached.

The worker applies color to the edges of signatures where called for, using brush, pad, or atomizer. Then he or she cuts the binder board to a specified size, cuts cover material to a specified size, and fits and glues the material to a binder board. Then the worker places glue outside the end papers of the book body to cover the board. Bound books are placed in a press that exerts pressure on the cover until the glue dries. The bookbinder may imprint the cover with gold lettering or designs, using a stamping machine. Some or all of the above operations may be performed automatically on specialized machines. The salary usually is $12 or more an hour.

Book Jacket Machine Operator

Due to the complexity of the machine, the operator needs better-than-average setup skills. The machine combines paper and plastic film to make jacket covers for books. The operator mounts rolls of paper and plastic film on a dispensing mechanism, using mechanical hoists. He or she installs rolls of adhesive tape on either side of the machine, used to splice the ends of new rolls to the previous ones. The operator then fills the flue reservoir and makes machine alterations to fulfill size specs. Then the machine is started and gradually brought up to speed while ensuring that the covers maintain the proper dimensions. The operator observes for proper gluing operation as the machine operates, cuts covers to size, and tapes edges. The operator replenishes the stock, clears jams, and performs user level maintenance as required. The pay typically is $10 or more an hour.

Perfect Binder Setter

Perfect binding may be done in a book or magazine printing establishment, in a large commercial printer, or in a separate trade binding shop. The machine setters set up the multi-operation book-binding machine according to job specifications. The machine, or machines working in tandem, automatically gathers, compresses, stitches, or glues signatures into book or magazine bodies, then glues covers to form paper bound books and magazines. Operators install feed guides, holding clamps, pockets, rollers, and other machine parts to accommodate the book or magazine being assembled. They start up the machine to produce a sample for checking. They may be required to perform user maintenance. The pay scale is usually $10 or more an hour.

Folding Machine Feeder

Nearly every printing plant operates a folding machine of some description. Some folders have the capability of making only one or two parallel fold; others can make a series of parallel and right-angle folds. These production workers tend a machine that folds paper booklets, pamphlets, book and magazine signatures, and other printed matter. The operators turn a series of hand-wheels to adjust the folding slot opening and adjust the backstop according to a sample, using a rule and wrench. They start the machine and move a lever to engage a clutch that activates the folding blade and discharge conveyor rolls. They feed printed items against the backstop of the machine, synchronizing feeding with the action of the folding blade. Then they remove folded items from the discharge table and tack them on pallets for further processing. They may rub the folded edge with a wooden doctor blade to crease it. They also may hand-fold sheets when the capability of the machine is exceeded. The usual pay rate is $12 an hour.

Guillotine Operator

These production workers exercise great care and accuracy in the operation of a paper cutter. They set up and operate the machine, which has a heavy blade similar to the guillotine from which it derives its name. The machine cuts paper stock in stacks preparatory to binding; it also cuts paper in the proper size for delivery to the printing press. The operators review the sequence of cuts, measuring from the edge of the paper with the scale installed on the cutter, then set guides, clamps, and knives to cut paper to the exact size required. After placing the stack of paper on the bed of the machine, they fan the edges to allow the individual sheets to align themselves against the paper glue, using the hand or a stick to ensure a true edge. Using both hands as a safety measure, they pull levers simultaneously on either side of the cutter to activate the blade. They then remove the stack of paper and place it on a skid alongside for delivery to the press or the bindery. They are responsible for lubricating and clearing the cutter. The pay scale is $10 or more an hour.

Collating Machine Operator

This business forms bindery machine may stand alone or may be interfaced with a business forms press. The collator operator tends the machine or add-on component that assembles, perforates, glues, folds, and cuts multi-copy business forms and carbon inserts into sets. He or she sets an indexing control to numbered positions corresponding to the number of sheets to be assembled. Then the operator fills the flue reservoir and feeds sheets reverse order (last sheet first) into a machine that integrates sheets, glues top edges, and cuts sheets into sets. Completed sets are stacked in bundles of a specified number. The operator places tolls of paper and carbon paper on feed spindles, using a hoist. He or she may punch holes in a completed set using a drill punch. The operator may be required to perform user maintenance. The usual pay rate is $13 an hour.
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