Summer Street Studio
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Letterpress - New Machinery
The Move 4/2007
In response to my emails to the LETPRESS listserve on my broken Pilot situation, Chris Jackson wrote me and said he was moving from Providence to Kentucky and picking up a Vandercook on the way, and that he had a press that would be a nice upgrade from my Pilot that he would let me have at very reasonable cost. After some discussions, we arranged for me to come down to his studio and pick it up one Saturday.

I reserved a Honda Element at zipcar, and we made a family trip of driving down to Providence (we don't get out of the city much since we don't have a car of our own). I also brought a bunch of tools, straps, and a handtruck. We arrived and inspected the press at the studio, which was in a cool old building in Providence.


By taking it apart a little bit and with plenty of help from Chris, we got the press loaded into the vehicle and strapped down.

Ultraviolet keeps an eye on the payload

The next day, I rolled the handtruck out of the car on 2x6 ramps I knocked together, then took it apart some more and moved it up onto the porch since it looked like rain.

Cleaning 4/2007
The press was pretty dirty, so I put a wire wheel on my angle grinder and spent a few hours brushing off lots of greasy black stuff and disintegrating paint (I checked the paint for lead first). Kind of reminded me of the caked up layer of stuff on the bottom side of a car. I followed this up with some hand wire brushing, then a wipe down with Boeshield T9 which is kind of waxy and solventy, so it was good to take off more dirt and leave a good rust resistant coating. At the end of this I was dirtier than I have been except on a few occasions in my life; my carharts got a huge collection of new permanent black stains!

Summer Street Press Works

After this I moved the pieces up into our spare kitchen that is currently used for storage and a cat toilet.

Reassembly 4/2007
Let me tell you, this press is a thing of beauty. Check out the old-style curved spokes on the flywheel. All the other castings have pleasing proportions and curves, and in general have a very attractive fin de siècle look going on. The whole thing also now has a deep, dark, patina that is full of history and promises an interesting future. Of course some of that nice patina comes off on your hands or clothes if you touch it, but I'll probably end up cleaning the points that you are likely to touch with simple green.

The press seems to be pretty much an exact copy of the Damon and Peets 6x10, seen here at Briar Press online museum. My press has cross brace castings in the base though, which the picture doesn't have. The only marking on my machine is cast into the roller synchronizing plate, and says 'NATIONAL'. Here are the cleaned up and moved parts:

Frame and shafts

Ink disk and bed
Platen assembly

Treadle, roller lock, arms

Incidentally, I also weighed each part before putting it back on. Here is what I found:

Component Weight (lbs)
Base, shafts, gears, roller arms140
Bed assembly40
Platen assembly55
Arms, platen shaft, throwoff lever40
Ink disk, platen spring10
Feedboard arms and tables17

So only 378 lbs. Pretty dang light for a floor press! And it looks substantially beefier than the Pilot, so hopefully it will in fact be an upgrade in terms of more even and stronger impressions. I'm also looking forward to the foot powered continuous operation, though it seems like it might take some getting used to.

Here are a few interesting detail shots:

Left side crankwheel

Right side crankwheel/gear

An interesting detail for the crank pin to wheel connection; looks like its held in like a rivet... wierd.

Crank pin connection to wheel

First part to go back on was the bed assembly. This attaches by two bolts on either side of the bed through the frame.

Bed assembly in place

Next I positioned the crankshaft. This is the shaft that is driven by the treadle and has the flywheel mounted on one side, and a pinion gear to mesh with the large gear on the main shaft. The shaft runs in cast iron journals that bolt to the sides of the frame. I adjusted the meshing of the two gears and tightened the bolts up.

Journals positioned and tightened

The platen assembly mounts to the frame using a small diameter shaft, shown mostly pushed out in the photo below. This assembly is pretty heavy and rests funny on the base if you let it flop all the way out, so I put the spring on its boss such that I can support the platen on the press after I attach it with the shaft. There is a bit of lateral play after installation; I'll have to take this up with some washers at some point.

Platen assembly ready for installation

Platen assembly installed

Now the platen shaft goes into its housing in the platen casting. This big shaft has two smaller shafts turned in its ends, machined off center. This allows for the throwoff action; the throwoff lever rotates this shaft and thus brings the platen slightly further or closer to the bed. The main arms attach to the offcenter turnings on the ends.

Platen eccentric shaft and left arm going on

Left arm attach to drive pin

I reset the bolt on the throwoff lever so it could get maximum translation of the platen across its range of motion.

Radial positioning of throwoff on platen shaft

The rollers freely swing on the main shaft. There is a lock plate casting that bolts on the back of the rollers to keep them synced up, and an arm that attaches to the platen to make the rollers travel through their motion as the platen goes forward and backward. Notice the repair of the roller drive arm; I wonder how that got broken? Doesn't seem too worrying since this shouldn't normally be a high load path unless something gets jammed.

Roller lock plate
Roller drive arm connection to platen assembly

Left side pieces installed

Now the treadle gets hooked up. The foot pad had been broken off the treadle casting at some point and repaired, but it looks ok for now.

Treadle pivot shaft
Treadle crankshaft hook

Treadle positioning collars
Treadle hook lock pin

The pics at Briar Press and the look of the shaft indicate that the standard position is flywheel left, but it had more recently been installed on the right side - perhaps to make more clearance around the throwoff lever? I decided to start with the wheel on the left and see how that goes.

Flywheel installation

Mostly back together

Still left to do:

  • Repair and refinish feedboard parts
  • Tune, shim, adjust
  • Locate rollers - (cores:~13 inches long/.3875 dia)
  • Locate chases - about 7-3/4 x 11-9/16 inches outside
  • Here is a little video I took with my camera of the mostly reassembled press doing its thing. Its a beauty!

    Short clip on YouTube of the press turning over
Design partially original and partially ripped off from other websites
by Holly Gates