C&P saddles: wear-and-tear or meant-to-be?

When I bought my C&P Old Style 8x12, the saddles were stuffed with cotton around the rollers. To my untrained eye it looks like the inside surfaces of the saddles have been worn down to varying degrees, and the cotton might be a makeshift way of keeping the rollers in place and preventing further wear.

Judging from the pictures below is that an accurate take on the situation, or is it normal, or is there another explanation? Should I be undertaking some kind of repair or preventive measures? Should I be expecting problems? Looking to replace the saddles? (Although from my searches of previous discussions it looks like saddles are prohibitively expensive…)

Any advice gratefully received!


image: 2saddle.jpg


image: 1saddle.jpg


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Do you know the serial number of this press?

38489 is stamped into the metal in two places. Is that the serial number?

It also has a small red plaque on one side: “Factory Rebuilt by Brandtjen and Kluge, St Paul, Minn.”

Mine are also worn down a bit. Not enough lubrication in the oil holes on the ends of the saddles at some point in the press’ life. Mine aren’t worn down as much as the one shown in the top photo, though, so I’m not worrying about it as there seems to be plenty of metal left to hold my rollers on the press. That top one looks mighty shaky to me and I’d be worried about it breaking and the roller coming loose. The roller springs are pretty strong and exert a lot of force pulling the rollers down. If one end breaks while the press is running I can imagine the roller flying toward the operator or dropping into a closing press. Neither is very desirable. I’d look into finding replacement roller saddles or having a machinist repair the existing ones by welding or brazing in some new metal. Don’t forget to redrill the oil holes and oil the press regularly.

Another possible worry is that if the roller saddles were mistreated this badly, what is the condition of the rest of the press? Does it also show evident signs of poor lubrication? A badly worn press will affect the printing quality. One check I’ve seen people do is to open the press and try to shake the platen. It shouldn’t move if everything is nice and tight. A little is acceptable, but a lot is a problem.

One press I’d acquired had a flywheel shaft that was so badly worn that 1/2” of metal was missing at the pinion gear end. That was repaired by welding on new metal and then regrinding it on a lathe to the correct diameter. A new bearing sleeve was also necessary. That cost me $125.

The double saddles look OK but the single saddles are very worn. I’d be willing to bet that’s why the cotton is there: as you suggest, to prevent further wear.

The hole you see on top and above each of the cores on the saddles is an oil hole and should be cleaned out if blocked. Proper oiling should go a long way to prevent wear and may be why they wore so much in the first place.

The saddle on the one side (top photo) seems so thin the end looks like it’s about ready to break off. If that happens when the press is running and the roller get smashed between the platen and the bed it could destroy the press.

If it were me, I’d deal with the situation now while the saddle, and everything else, is still in one piece. You can remove the saddles by knocking out the retainng pins. A local welding or machine shop should be able to fill in the space that has been worn away and create a new radius for the core to run in. This will likely be less expensive than having them make new saddles.


When I got the press, I cleaned out those oil holes on top of the saddles by rotating a very fine drill bit down into them and dragging out the grime, wiped the drill bits off and did it again. I’ve oiled it three times since then without actually running the press except for one tiny test run of about 10 impressions.

I cleaned out all the other oil holes with various-sized drill bits at the same time.

The saddle situation does sound like something that should be addressed now; the last thing I want is a roller-flinging disaster. Rich, is there anything in particular I should look for when trying to find the “right” kind of welding or machine shop for the job?

Arie – I was advised to tug the platen before purchasing, but maybe I gave it a girly tug back then – because at the time I noticed no movement whatsoever. In the 16 months since then, the press has been moved 4000 miles (seriously), cleaned, oiled, repaired and used exactly once (for a very recent little test “run” of 10). Today however, when I tug the platen hard I do notice a little movement ….how to describe this… if I pull towards me and down simultaneously, it “gives” with a slight tilting movement. I wouldn’t call it shaking, but there is a single downward tilt when I tug out and down sharply.

How worried should I be?

Dangerous condition indeed! The advice offered is sound and should be heeded immediately. I’m wondering if the cotton was used for the ears while the press was operated by the previous owner.
A thorough inspection of your press is in order. If the easy, visible oil points were so obviously neglected, it’s a safe bet the cam roller, throw-off shaft and platen points were equally ignored. The platen test is a good place to start. Then lift the flywheel up and down. Twist the bed arms. Also, a tightening of all fasteners would be indicated as well. Obtain an oiling diagram. There are about 36 oil holes and spots requiring lubrication. As suggested, clean out the holes as necessary then observe the ‘run-thru’ of the oil. That observation will reveal undue wear. Although a testament to the metallurgy of the past century, those existing roller hooks, as now worn, are an accident poised. They do serve, though, as stark reminder to all operating power presses - Oil, oil, oil. Crisco is not the answer,

Hi forme – I used three different oiling diagrams to do the three oilings I mentioned… hit all the holes after cleaning them out with the drill bits. I did all for the first time in January – it was idle in climate-controlled storage before that (from the time I bought it).

I used 3-in-1 for the first oiling to get a good flow, and heavier oil for the two subsequent oilings. I oiled all joints / points of contact as well as hitting all the holes.

When I got the press, the lower saddle contained cotton but no roller. Now I think I see why. There were old rollers in the upper saddle/s. Obviously I’ve replaced them all, as well as the trucks.

The fly wheel does not move.

The bed arms do not move.

The platen does a small movement as described in my post above. Not a good sign I know, but if it’s slight… there’s hope?

Does ANYONE know of a professional in my area who could do a proper inspection? I’ve searched and asked and searched some more, and I can’t find a soul. I think I might be the only person with a letterpress for miles around. I’m in Gulfport / Biloxi, Mississippi. Not prime letterpress country…

I’m so worried about all this now. Ugh.

When I say “used three different oiling diagrams to do the three oilings”, I mean I consulted all three at once each time I oiled… just to make sure I wouldn’t miss anything by misinterpreting a diagram.

In the open position, particularly with these old presses, there might well be slight - and I emphasize slight - movement caused mostly by wear of the platen cam roller. That oft-neglected (because of its locale) bearing will allow some movement. The critical part is of course on impression. Movement there is occassioned by platen saddle bearings and/or lock wear. Indication of such is loud ‘clunk’ at impression, visible movement, or shifting/slurring of sheet. Do this: Rotate through impression at hand speed while attending the aformentioned points. Should all be well then simply focus upon those worn saddles. Too, they can, for a time, remain unused. A great deal of printing is done using but two rollers on an 8x12. Unless of course forme coverage demands additional inking. For the most part, business cards, letterhead, line art and similar pieces will be easily done.

Thanks forme. The test print I did a week ago didn’t produce any loud clunking or any slurring – at least not in the short space of time I had it running. But when I’m baby-free for a couple of hours I’ll rotate through impression at hand speed as suggested.

The dramatic wear is on the single saddles only (lowest roller) so I’m encouraged to hear that I can get by with just two rollers while I search out a repair or replacement for the lower saddles. I’ll remove that roller until I find a solution.

For the upper double saddles, which really seem fine, is the best preventive measure to be extremely diligent with oiling?

Thanks to everyone who has helped me with these questions so far!

Yes, oil is the life’s blood of any machine. The press MUST be oiled prior to each and every use. In fact, runs greater than 5 - 6 hours require oiling as well. Even leaving the press idle over a noon hour sees oil obeying gravity’s law and leaving mating surfaces improperly lubricated. For the C&P type presses any automotive oil - say 10W30 - serves. For those surfaces fast moving ( roller hook aperture; cam roller) a specific oil can, containing flake graphite, should be set aside. Amazing the difference that solution will do to ease movement. Adding a touch of STP (or similar viscosity additive) is also useful. In short, these wonderful machines will easily last another 100 years with (even a modicum of) proper attentions.

forme is probably right when saying the slight movement of the platen is due to a worn follower cam. Some wear there is expected in a press that is about 100 years old. Yours appears to have been made in 1900. Ten years older than mine. (http://www.greendolphinpress.com/letterpress-faq.html#3.04 scroll down a bit to the OS lists) Just remember to oil that as well as all the other oil holes.

You might find more clunking noises when printing with larger forms. At least this has been my experience. I don’t fill more than half the chase. Not because I don’t like the noise level, but that’s about as much type as will print well on the press.

ps. There’s got to be some printers in your area. I have a friend about 1 1/2 hours away in Louisiana, though he prints on a Kelsey Star.

There are several letterpress printers and printmakers along the northern Gulf Coast. Prior to Katrina, we had a very active group that met bi-weekly in New Orleans and some of us still get together from time to time. Unfortunately, there is very little in the way of letterpress infrastructure here. Most of us rely on out-of-area vendors or have learned to do things ourselves.

About the roller saddles: They are not at all difficult to repair. I had a similar problem and a local welding shop was able to fix them. They build up the worn area with new metal, and I drilled them with my drillpress. Luckily, the tolerence on this part is not too critical, so if the drilling had been a little off, it would not have mattered. You can easily repair yours in the same way.

Thank you all! Some follow-up questions for everyone (always with the follow-up questions…!)

1: Where is the follower cam, or is it sometimes called by another name? I’ve scoured my various diagrams with no luck; I want to make 100% sure I’m hitting it on every oiling.

2: Thanks for the link, Arie! Looking at the list it seems like my press, with a serial # of 38489, was built in 1902. I had previously (and incorrectly) dated it at 1904 by looking at a different list, which might’ve been the “old version” mentioned on Green Dolphin.

3: forme, thanks for the info on flake graphite. I’ve never heard of it; I’ll have to track some down. I’m encouraged to think that if I continue to take proper care of it, we might be ok.

4: hey winking cat… I knew you were in Alabama (right?) and I’ve heard of a couple of people working out of New Orleans, which is where I lived pre-Katrina… I still sometimes get over to New Orleans and Mobile, but they feel further away with little kids in tow. Do you know of anyone in MS?

5: Was it expensive to get your roller saddles repaired? did they build up with brass or something else? My dad (whose life’s work is vintage car restoration) was saying steel on brass runs really well, so I’m curious. Any questions I can ask the welding shop folks to know if they’re the right people for the job?

6: LAST! How do you remove the single saddles for repair? I think I can see how to remove the doubles, but not the singles.

I wonder if this whole post will show up… it’s so looooong.

Thanks again!

This is an interesting discussion. Normally, that saddle hook should be with the open side down, toward the floor. I know, the roller can fall out. But the amount of wear on the saddle is excessive. We have a large platen at our colleg made in 1888 and it has slight wear on one hook but only about 1/4 as much as yours shows. It looks as if your springs are not strong enough so the hook probably open too much, usually on the down stroke, allowing the saddle shaft to stay open too long which then allows the roller shaft to wallow around and wear the space more. Check to make sure the shaft is straight, slides freely and that the spring tension is sufficient. A new hook will help but it will wear out faster if something else is not right.

I know Biloxi is far south but John Horn in Little Rock is a really good source for info on these presses. He should be in the Yellow Pages here on Briar Press.

Follower cam is inside the large gear; where if follows a cam race that makes the platen tip down as the press closes. There is a large hole in the side of the large gear where you can get access to the cam and its stud. The cam and stud are fixed in place on the rocker (the stud is threaded on one end and a nut affixes it in place on the rocker) and will appear in the hole when it is between the 3 and 4 o’clock positions. There is a hole in the surface of the cam to facilitate getting oil to the stud, but for some reason is is never facing up when I have an oil can in my hand.

If for some reason you want to, the cam and stud come out fairly easily (Loosen the nut and tap stud and cam out through the hole in the large gear) but it is a real PITA to get back into place. But that is really the only way to check to see if the cam or stud are excessively worn. Check out the NS parts list on Boxcar Press if you want to see drawings of these parts.

longdaypress – yes I really do wonder what was being done with this press before… the wear on both single saddles is dramatic, and appears in more than one place on each.

“Check to make sure the shaft is straight, slides freely and that the spring tension is sufficient.” – Great, will do – how will I know if the spring tension is sufficient? What is the definitive test?

I will look up John Horn. Thanks for the tip!

Oh also, will change the way the saddles face once I have them repaired!

Arie, thanks so much for the detailed info on how to find the follower cam. I’ll be printing that out and taking it with me as I hunt around the press!

(I don’t see myself removing the cam and stud, somehow, even if perhaps I should. I know my limits!)

I’ve had a response (to the want ad I placed in Briar Press classifieds yesterday) offering two single saddles, with the springs available.

I assume from longdaypress’ comments that it’d be a good idea to get the springs too. Is that right?

I’m thinking it might be less trouble to replace it all outright than take my disastrous saddles to a welder…

I suggest you go for the “replacement” parts, but hold on to the old ones - you can have them repaired at your leisure, and will then have a spare set handy “just in case”.

I absolutely will!

(I don’t think I’ve thrown out a single thing that’s come off this old press… whether it’s just in case, or just because.)

I second Bill on that.

Get the replacement saddles and try them out. After they are installed, they should offer moderate to strong resistance when you pull them to remove and install the rollers. They should snap back but move freely. Keep us posted on the results.

I’ll keep you posted… the person with the saddles available seems to have disappeared before making the sale, so I’m back on the hunt for replacements. We’ll see if I have any luck.

In the meantime I’m just going to take the bottom roller off for safety’s sake. Hopefully something will come my way soon!