New Vandercook #4 checklist?

Hey guys. I finally got around to picking up the Vandy #4 I purchased months ago. Its in the shop now and I plan on starting on a good cleaning/dusting tomorrow.

I wanted to know if any of you Vandercook experts could give me a checklist of what I should be checking on this bad boy as I get it ready to rock out some new prints.

I am going to be using a deep-relief base with this press since that is what I use on my C&P and I don’t want to have two bases and plate setups, at least at this time.

I only looked at the press for a few minutes tonight after we got it in the shop. The form rollers didn’t seem to be hard… but are for sure very dusty/dirty. I doubt this press has been used in the last decade. There is a VERY slight amount of rust on the bed surface… but I think a little WD and some steel wool and it will be looking good.

Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated.


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Hi Jonathan

Re boxcar bases - look at this recent thread first:

There are lots of No. 4s out there, with common problems.
The large oscillating roller ought to be disassembled, cleaned and lubricated (graphite grease for the post of the crescent, vaseline for the worm gear). Check that points on crescent and worm are not broken.
On the lower roller frame, the bearing blocks should be cleaned and lubricated. Make sure the roller bearing blocks are correctly assembled (matching numbers paired, oil holes pointed outward); these are often misassembled with oil holes inaccessible. If they are steel bearing blocks, make sure all the nyliners are present. If nyliners are used there should also be steel pieces that hold the nyliners in on the non-gear side; without these retainers the outer nyliners get lost. The older bronze bearing blocks don’t use nyliners.
Clean and lubricate the roller clutch mechanism; on presses with much use, the roller clutch pins may be worn flat at the end, or the bronze clutch plate may have dimples worn into it, leading to insufficent clutch clearance. Then replace the pins, and/or braze new material onto the clutch plate to fill the dimples. And check that the spring is present behind the bottom of the clutch plate.
Check the trip/print mechanism. If the handle will not stay at trip, the bolt that it pivots on will need tightening.

Hi Jonathan,

I bought a No. 4 three years ago. It was in pretty good mechanical shape, but it was very grimy and, like yours, it had some surface rust. I gave it a thorough cleaning, which necessitated disassembling some of the parts. I documented the procedure here:

I was a rank newbie at the time, but I had taken a Vandercook maintenance workshop, which was invaluable.

If you haven’t already, you should definitely make yourself a regular visitor at the Vanderblog:

In particular, go to the Archives and under the “Select Category” pull-down menu choose “No. 4.” It wouldn’t hurt to read all 42 posts.


Barbara, your restoration photos are FANTASTIC! Great job!

I second parallel_imp’s suggestion to check the trip/print mechanism. That’s been the biggest problem for me with the #4.

Definitely check out the Vanderblog. It’s an amazing resource.

Congrats on your new press.

Barbara, Nice restoration job, was the cat restored as well? Dick G.

To fix a loose trip/print lever on the No. 4, you have to get a wrench on the head of the pivot bolt, which is hidden. The nut is accessible, but in my experience the bolt turns when you try to tighten the nut. The bolt head is covered by sheet metal, but it can be pried out enough to get a wrench in (sorry, I don’t recall what size). If you had a flat wrench, the cheap kind pressed out of sheet metal, it might just fit it in through the gap. Cutting away some sheet metal is another possibility for access to the bolt head.
While this is true of most 4s, there is also an early version that has the trip/print lever on the outside of the press.

My press has only one owner before me and it is in really good shape. It was purchased new in 1957 by the print company I received it from, they owned it for 53 years. I’m guessing it wasn’t used in the last decade.

I have the original owners manual, in the original envelope that it came in that is stamped Nov ‘57, I’m assuming the original date of delivery. Also in that envelope is an original Vandercook catalog with a typed letter from May ‘57 from the rep at Vandercook to the buyer at the company with the original quote for the press, including the notation that they would give them a $50 junk credit for their old Paco Proofing Press. It’s a very cool piece of this presses history I am very pleased to have. I will post pictures of the press and the other items soon.

The print/trip mechanism works flawlessly. It has good positive detent, and stays in either position firmly.

I still have some cleanup to do, but really not much, in my opinion.

The only problem I think I have found is that the pedal to raise the grippers seems to only be about 1/2” from the floor and it just BARELY raises the grippers… just enough to slip a bond sheet of paper in… I doubt I could even force a sheet of 110 lettra in them. Can this be adjusted easily? What and where do I need to look for an adjustment?

Thanks for all you guys’ help so far. I’m sure I will have more questions as I continue to clean and get the press ready for use.

- Jonathan

There are a number of linkages to check, from pedal, to cross-rod, to lever, to chain (then all is inaccessible until the bar comes out the far side of the press), another pivoting lever, rod through the center of the cylinder, levers which are part of the tympan clamp, and the grippers themselves.
I have seen grippers raise insufficently because of a broken pin on the lower cross-rod, or a loose screw on the lever that pushes the rod through the center of the cylinder (or that lever, worn), or grippers that are gummy, or just one bent gripper can cause trouble.
Many 4s can open grippers automatically; on the far side, where the bar comes out of the press, there would be an L-hook that holds the cam-wedge back in a fixed position. If that is present, engage the hook and see if the grippers raise automatically when the cylinder is brought back to the feedboard (first they raise, than as you come back they close). Do the grippers still come up low?
Also, is the cylinder over-packed? If the packing is much above the level of the tympan clamp/gripper bar, it can be difficult to get thick paper under the grippers even when they open a normal amount.

When the L-hook is disconnected to allow the grippers to auto-trip on return they raise significantly more then is possible using the foot pedal.

Right now there is NO packing on the press other then the tympen top sheet. So that is not the case.

Like I said, the pedal only has about 1/2” or so before it hits the ground. If I reach in the left cabinet opening and lift on the chain I can lift the pedal up approx another inch. Is it possible that the chain stretched that much?

I’ll take another look sometime today at a few of the things you mention… but I really believe it has to do with the pedal and it’s linkages before it gets to the cylinder because the auto-gripper function seems to work perfectly, with the grippers lifting probably 3/16”-ish. That number is just a guess from memory.

- Jonathan

Is there a turnbuckle to take up slack in the chain?
You could also raise the press an inch and gain more pedal travel.

I think I have found the problem. I took out the drawer so that I could get to the backside of the lever that attaches to the chain, and I found that if I held that lever in place and moved the pedal that the pedal itself is rotating around the shaft it is pressed onto a good bit. Its as if the pin that holds the pedal to the shaft has broke or the hole itself has become enlarged. I just can’t get the pin out because I can’t get anything under the pedal to drift the pin upwards (out). I’m going to mess with it some more tomorrow.

Another thing to check—make sure that both the pedal and the lever on the other end of the cross-rod are both still pinned. I recall a press with a similar gripper motion, from a sheared pin on the inside lever. There’s slight gripper movement when the pedal is depressed, but slippage after that. Any force against the pedal in moving could shear a pin.

Yes. I think that is what has happened. It’s on the outside pin though cause I can see the shaft pivoting within the pedal arm. I just have to figure out how to drive out the pin without jacking the press up onto blocks.

If the pedal slips on the shaft, the pin must be broken in two places. Try a gear puller on the pedal, or just a lever, very carefully. It might be possible to re-align the pin fragments and drive them out, but I don’t think you can get a straight hit on them with a pin punch without lifting the press.

Just a quick update. Got the pin out of the pedal, replaced it with a stainless bolt and nut and good to go. Pulled my first prints on it last weekend and it prints fantastically.

Thanks for all you guys help.