Monday, December 22, 2008


Here it is in all its naturally lighted glory. It was a lot of work but I'm pleased with the result. Everything is running smooth and easy. I didn't keep close track of how long it took but I would estimate at least 30 hours.

The platen was out of adjustment so I took care of that too; I'll have to make a final test once I get rollers and pull a few test proofs. To make the initial setting I set a machinist's sliding wedge gauge to type high with a micrometer. I then stacked up a pressboard, three sheets of bond and one sheet of tag and had them slightly hanging over the edge of a table. I placed the gauge on top and took a reading of the total thickness with the micrometer. This gave me a reading of about .945. I wasn't really concerned with the actual number but with getting an accurate reading of a standard packing and the height of the type combined. I reset the wedge gauge accordingly and then clamped it in a Vise-grip for a handle. Then I used it to set each corner of the platen so the gauge slides in snugly: easy in and out but no play.

On my old 8x12 I tried at first the standard four-corners lockup with large sorts to adjust the platen but this didn't work well for me. I adjusted it a second time using the above method and it made a dramatic, positive difference in the impression. It did so well that I never had to make another adjustment other than standard makeready. I used this method because those were the tools I had. I chose the packing I did because that is what is recommended in the standard works, with slight variations. I substituted bond paper for book and I left out the cover sheet. I did this to allow for a bit more adjustment with the packing when dressing the platen. I'll see what a few proofs look like and experiment with different packing and then make any final adjustments if necessary. I don't want or intend to adjust the platen often. I want to have it at a setting that is as versatile as possible for whatever I may want to print.

An interesting discovery is that this press, like my 8x12 and other older presses including Pearls, has rails that are lower than type high. I've never yet discovered a reason why the presses were made this way and have not been able to come up with a reason myself, but it seems this was fairly common. What this means in practise is that the rollers and trucks must be different diameters, in my case the trucks need to be 1/8" larger than the rails. This of course flies in the face of the standard view that rollers and trucks must be the same diameter to prevent slurring. Personally I don't believe this view is correct. I think the usual argument from physics/mathematics is wrong. In fact I think physics/mathematics proves just the opposite, that the relationship to the axis at any given point is the same. Clearly some presses were made so only rollers and trucks of a different size would work. If slurring and imperfect work was a necessary result these presses would have ended up in the Ancient Press Graveyard long ago and clearly they were. Some Pearls especially seem to garner high praise for even fine halftone work. What does seems obvious is that some presses, mostly older, use rollers and trucks of a different size and most newer presses use the same size. I don't think it matters in terms of the work produced, only in terms of what will work on a particular press, even the rational for these differences has been lost in the dim past. In any case, I will use 1 5/8" rollers with 1 3/4" trucks like the printer before me did for over 20 years and the printers before him did with this press.

Today at work I made a wooden base for the motor's speed control pedal that will attach to the right runner. I'll post a photo of it once it's installed. I'm pricing out rollers at this point. One quote I've had so far is about $450 for three rollers. OUCH! I've since recovered from the shock with only minor relapses and am pursuing my search further. I am hoping to find something in the $200 to $250 range. I'd even settled for a set of good, used rollers at this point. Hopefully I can get a set by the middle of January. They'll be rubber and I'm going to use the original cores that came with the press. Hopefully that will save a few bucks.

I have a few days of vacation tied in with the holidays and will probably lock up a cut, ink it with a brayer and pull a few impressions. I can't wait to be fully up and running and working on some projects. By the way, I'm looking for a spider chase, book chase, and skeleton chase if anyone has any for sale.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's Alive!

Just a brief and photo-less post to announce that the press is completely back together, clean, oiled and belted to the motor. I turned the switch on about 1 a.m. this morning and like the Miracle of Christmas it ran. This is my first experience with a variable speed press motor so I'm getting used to it slowly. But I had it turning at 15 impressions per minute without trouble, the speed I'm most comfortable with for now.

I still need to make a wood extension platform to attach to the right runner for the mechanical foot pedal that controls the motor speed but I'll do that Monday. I'll also post photos Monday along with the details of the final adventures I had getting things completed. Ahhh. I made my Christmas deadline. Now I just need some rollers! Anyone have any old but usable ones they'd like to donate to a poor printer? They need to be 1 5/8" diameter however. I'll explain that later.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time To Rearm

The restoration of the press is coming along nicely. I told myself I wanted to have it running by Christmas and I think I'll meet that goal. I'm almost desperate to begin printing on it but for a while at least I'll have to take comfort in the old maxim: patience is a virtue. I need to get my roller cores recovered and I won't likely be able to do that until after the first of the year.

As you can see from the photos I'm at the point where I'm putting the arms back on. I had started cleaning, step by step working my way from the lower back of the base upward. I used my old standard cleaning supplies: 3M green pads; WD-40; rolls and rolls of cheap paper towels; 150 grit sandpaper; and elbow grease.

My goal is almost never to strip things down to bare metal and restore it to factory new. It's an antique and has years of working patina and character that I try to preserve as much as possible. That much being said, I remove all dirt, built-up oil deposits, rust, loose paint, etc. I file off all burrs and make sure all machined surfaces are ready to rub against one another again with only a layer of fresh oil between them. When I find something so worn as to affect seriously the operation of the machine I repair it or replace it. I readjust all settings as necessary.

All of these steps are important, perhaps the last more than any. Over the years modifications get made to machinery, some good and some bad. People who don't know any better make adjustments incorrectly or don't repair things that should be repaired because they don't know any thing's wrong. For example, on the right lower leg of the press bed where the shaft that connects it to the base goes through there is a threaded hole. This is for a bolt that tightens against the shaft so the shaft and the bed casting move together. I wouldn't have ever known this if the presses had not been disassembled and I wasn't thoroughly cleaning them which is when I discovered the hole and asked myself: what's this hole for? The bearing surfaces for this shaft are actually in the base where there are oil holes. But in both this press and my old 8x12 these bolts went missing sometime in the distant past and the holes were filled with crud (sorry for the technical term). This meant that the bed had moved on the shaft when the press was running, at least part of the time. There are no oil holes in the bed casting at these points so the shaft and journals in the bed would simply wear down no matter how much oil was put in the oil holes for this shaft in the base. So it pays to study about and thoroughly go over a machine: know your press.

The press was moved in pieces on different occasions, the bed coming first. It had been laid on a standard furniture dolly and I rolled it out of the back of my van onto my back porch and up through the French doors into the living room by myself. Did I mention it was heavy? It was heavy. The base I had help with and we used the usual 3/4" pipe method to get it off the truck following the same route into the house.

I started on the base and when that was done I pulled and slid it sideways onto more pipes so that it was lined up with the spot where it would finally rest. Then I rolled the bed behind it, cleaned the legs, bed face, and sides as well as the shaft. Then with a bit of heavy-duty fiddling got the holes lines up and pushed the shaft in. Using the heavy tie-down strap you see in the photo as a come-along I raised the bed high enough so that I could get under it enough to lift it up into place. Did I mention that it was heavy? It was heavy.

I tied the bed and base together as you can see in the photo for safety and then finished the cleaning. I made sure the press was lined up where I wanted it to go and then pushed/rolled it back to almost where you see it sitting now. I hadn't yet replaced the oil, grease, and dirt soaked original runners but did that next using some hickory we had laying round at work to make new ones (It's good to be a cabinetmaker). Using the scissor jack from my van and a 4x4 I lifted first one side and then the other, swapping the runners out. The I rolled the press back the rest of the way to where you see it in the photo. I then jacked up the back and removed a couple pipes and then did the same for the front. It ain't goin' anywhere now.

I'll leave the tie-down strap on until I get the drive shaft in and pinion gear and flywheel on. Though the side arms limit the movement, the drive train keeps the bed from simply flopping back. One more arm to go and then the drive shaft, etc.

I described all of this in some detail to show that there is no magic to doing this kind of work by yourself nor is the machine a living thing waiting to attack. Mechanical experience is definitely a plus but common sense goes a long way. You have to think and be careful but if you can't do that you shouldn't consider printing anyway since you're likely to lose some fingers. You also don't need to spend a lot of money or possibly any money to move a press and restore one. Except for the cleaning supplies, which were very inexpensive, it cost me nothing. I used short boards I had in the basement as ramps to get things from the van to the back porch and then up the stoop of the French doors. I also had several lengths of old 3/4" pipe from some pipe clamps but Home Depot has them cheap or perhaps a neighbor has some. The tie down strap I had from years ago from some other move. The jack came from my van. So if you're thinking of getting a press but the idea of moving it and setting it up intimidates you, ask some questions and use your head but you can do it!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Before and After

Here's a quick post to show some of the progress on the 10x15. There is almost no rust at all but a lot of the usual buildup of ink, grease, oil, dirt, sludge, glop, ick, slime, and what otherwise can make the press look bad and run worse. There was so much stiff syrup in the throw-off mechanism it was almost impossible to engage and disengage it. The press had sat idle for many years after regular use and everything just hardened up and turned to glue. But it's getting there.