How to Make a Model of Gutenberg's Press

Johannes Gutenberg invented the first movable type printing press.
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Johannes Gutenberg, a metal smith of the early Renaissance period, was the first to devise a printing press with removable wood or metal letters, making it easier to print hundreds of copies of any book or written material. Although, an extraordinary idea, the press was simply made. It was constructed of a few wooden beams, holding a wood frame box containing the letters. This frame was pressed down to paper lying on a workspace to make the print. To demonstrate what the Johannes Gutenberg printing press looked like, you can make a model using white poster board.

    Draw out a rectangular box pattern on a piece of white paper. Measure the sides of the rectangular box side you want. If you are making a model of about 12 to 16 inches tall, make each beam side approximately 2 inches wide by 12 to 16 inches long so you get a finalized rectangular column shape. Draw each side out on the template, so you can fold them into the rectangular beam shape. Draw out the top and bottom sides of the template, making them the same width as your sides but only 2 inches long so they can fold over the column sides and close the beam at both ends.

    Add tabs to the end sides and bottoms of the beam template. Each tab should be approximately 1/4-inch wide and 1 inch long.

    Place a piece of carbon paper over the white poster board you use for the model. Put the white box drawing over the carbon paper. Trace the rectangular template onto the poster board. Remove the carbon paper and place it on another area of the poster board and retrace the box. This will give you two exact-sized rectangular beams.

    Make another two shorter rectangular beams similar to the vertical ones you made, but make them half as long. These will be the top and bottom crossbars for the printing press.

    Cut a hole in the top and bottom side of the top crossbar before you glue the rectangular shape together.

    Fold and glue the rectangular shapes together. Roll a paper tube and insert it through the holes of the top crossbar.

    Cut a rectangular piece of cardboard that fits through the center of the columns to simulate the printing frame that holds the letters. Glue this to the bottom of the paper tube. Pull the tube up and down to make sure it works like the press that pushes the letter frame down onto the paper.

    Measure the interior space between the vertical beams, and cut a rectangular piece of poster board to this size. Add two tabs the length of the vertical beams on each side of the rectangular piece. Glue each side to the columns, making the work table where the paper lays for the printing press. Be sure to glue this piece high enough so that the paper tube and top rectangular piece can be pushed up against it.

    Cut a small rectangular piece of paper and glue it to the work table area to demonstrate how the press pushes the top frame down onto the paper to print.

    Things You'll Need

    • White paper
    • Carbon paper
    • Pencil
    • White poster board
    • Scissors
    • Glue

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