Adjusting my C&P Pilot - Help!

Hi! I am ready to finally get my press printing. I have a 6.5x10 C&P Pilot. It’s been completely disassembled, cleaned, painted…completely restored. I have a new set of rollers and new steel trucks. I also have a custom machined base that fits right in where the chase would go made specific for photopolymer plates (what I will be using). It seems very handy for setup but I believe it is too high for my rollers because when the rollers come down over the base, they are hitting the top part of the base and then continue down over the plate, which looks as if I will end up with ink all over my base. I have not inked up the machine yet but there is no doubt this will be a total mess. How do I adjust this? Is my only option to tape the rails or how do I adjust roller height? I haven’t examined my roller/truck diameter in a while but from what I remember it seems as if they are exactly the same, or perhaps the rollers are a tad larger.

Also, the platen. It is not even coming close to my base, and when examining the press from the side it definitely needs adjusting as it would not be meeting the base flat. The bottom of the platen is angled in. I can post photos later on tonight. I am not sure which bolts I have to adjust in order to get my platen perfectly flat for an even impression. To get anywhere near the plate I have to add TONS of packing, and I did that just to see what kind of blind impression I could get which was, as suspected, very deep towards the bottom of the image and just kissed at the top. I understand there is a new tool out there developed by a printer that helps get the adjustment right, but I don’t even know the first thing about how to use it or what bolts to adjust to get my platen flat and closer to the base. Can anyone help?

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This may not be relevant, but I have found that the Roller/Platen Gauge tool from John Falstrom (Perennial Designs) really helps in adjusting your platen:

There was also a thread on Briar Press sometime ago about this tool.

Photos would help.

What height is the base you have? With the plate in place on the base, it should measure .918” high. If the rollers are closer than that to the base, you will have a mess. Tape or other support on the rails will bring the rollers to the proper height for printing.

The position of the platen can be adjusted with the support bolts on the back. With the proper packing in place, you should have just the clearance between the top sheet and the base for the plate to fit and a bit of squeeze. You can get close by eye, but will need to test with a plate in place.

The adjustments are not rocket science, but are simple mechanical adjustment to make the platen parallel when properly packed and printing.

I have difficulty seeing why the press needed to be disassembled to be cleaned. It must have been in pretty poor shape when obtained.

J Henry

Where are you located?

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

thardjono, that is the tool i am talking about. it is hard to see how it works. are they magnets or something that are made exactly the right length to where the platen should meet the bed of the press, and i should adjust and lock according to that? just really confused as to how that tool works.

jhenry, i am at work right now but i can post photos tonight to show my issues and to see if this base is really even going to work for me. i hope so. according to the person who restored my press, it was in pretty bad shape, but that was a bit of a nightmare in itself as i didn’t know who to trust. i do know things needed to be welded and fixed.

daniel, i am in virginia. i have family in new jersey though. maybe at some point i will be able to get my fiance and i up to the arm to learn a few things.

also, i have another question. the new rollers and trucks that i got from the same person who restored my press…i there some way the trucks should lock into the roller core? there are no notches or anything in the metal for the trucks to lock in, they are literally just little round things with a hole that fit onto the roller, but there is nothing keeping them in place and i can easily slide them on and off the rollers. i think this is a problem, but maybe i am wrong?. i have an old set of rollers with plastic trucks that do have notches to fit onto the roller core, but the person who restored my press said they were the wrong size rollers and don’t fit right. the press was a mess when i got it and i didn’t know how to remove the rollers so i don’t know if they really were too small or not. all i know now is that they don’t seem to fit the press. any help is appreciated!

I bought that platen/roller gauge from John and used it to set the platens on my pilot and 8x12, and to adjust rollers. You should have some basic understanding about how the platen is attached, but other than that, the instructions that he provided were more than sufficient for me to figure it out and get a nice even platen.

The tool has a little cylinder that is the correct gap size between the bare platen and press bed. You use it in each of the four corners of the platen as you tighten or loosen the corresponding bolts until the space is even all around.

Good luck. You can do a lot with that little Pilot. Have fun!


Thanks Emily.

The gauge is simply a metal “stick” with two movable plastic cylinders (moves up-down on the stick). You move one cylinder to the bottom-right of the bed, and the other cylinder to the top-right of the bed. Then start tightening/adjusting the bolts of your platen/bed until the gap is exactly the thickness of the cylinder. That is, until the plastic cylinder is squeezed (gently) by the bed and platen.

Then you repeat for the left side of your bed.

As Emily says, the cylinder thickness is the correct gap size needed between the bare platen and press bed.

Kudos to John Falstrom for this clever little tool.

Why doesn’t the person who sold you the press help you? It seems to me they should know your press and should have set it up to print. Here is a link that will show you how to level your press:
If you use the search feature you will find many other threads that will help you.
Good luck and happy printing!

here are some images…i have 7 more. posting now.

image: this shows the angle of the platen, the arm is all the way down and platen closed.

this shows the angle of the platen, the arm is all the way down and platen closed.

image: this shows how hard the rollers hit the base.

this shows how hard the rollers hit the base.

image: this shows how the trucks have no notches in the roller core so there is nothing keeping the trucks from touching/rubbing the rollers.

this shows how the trucks have no notches in the roller core so there is nothing keeping the trucks from touching/rubbing the rollers.

more images.

image: showing the rollers touching the trucks.

showing the rollers touching the trucks.

image: now, WHICH bolts do i actually adjust to move the platen, and in which order?

now, WHICH bolts do i actually adjust to move the platen, and in which order?

image: shows how no notches in the roller core affects the rollers...they move and this shows they will make an inky mess on my rails.

shows how no notches in the roller core affects the rollers...they move and this shows they will make an inky mess on my rails.

image: the gap in between the rollers and the trucks due to the fact that there are no notches to keep them in place.

the gap in between the rollers and the trucks due to the fact that there are no notches to keep them in place.

image: 08.jpg


image: another issue...notice the contact the platen "arm" is making with the side of the press? there is a nice gap on the other side but the right side actually rubs the metal. is this a problem?

another issue...notice the contact the platen "arm" is making with the side of the press? there is a nice gap on the other side but the right side actually rubs the metal. is this a problem?

image: showing the custom machined base that came with the press.

showing the custom machined base that came with the press.

Do you have a caliper you could use to measure the overall thickness of your photopolymer base? Once you know the thickness you will know what plate type you are meant to use on it or if it has been machined over-height.

It looks like your grippers need to be set further out to the sides so they can clear the sides of the base where the thickness drops down. I wonder if this is why you are having trouble getting the press to close.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

If you are on the east coast you could bring it to and they can help you and your press in person. Also, The Arm Letterpress is located in NY and has hands on help available.

One potential problem you have is that the rollers are oversize — I can’t tell the scale but it looks like they could be as much as 1/8 inch larger than the trucks overall. With the very small clearance of the chase base because of the thinness of the polymer plates you don’t have much wiggle room.

For the roller alignment, push one or both rollers all the way against one roller hook with the trucks tight against the rollers and measure the gap on the other end between the truck and the hook. Get some flat washers at your hardware store that fit on the cores and total that thickness and put one on each end of the rollers between them and the trucks and the rest equally distributed on the ends of the cores between the trucks and the hooks. That will keep the rollers centered. The roller covers look too long for the space between the rails - you may need to cut a little off to give a little more clearance. They don’t need to be any longer than the diameter of the ink disc. Then you’ll need to tape the trucks to get them to the same diameter as the rollers.

I’d also suggest checking the height of the chase base to be sure it and the photopolymer together are exactly type high, not over.


thanks very much for the help everyone.

daniel, no i don’t have a caliper. not sure where i could find one. i fixed the gripper issue. i have been meaning to but finally got the screwdriver out tonight to fix it. they are now off to the side of the base.

as for the seller of the press, there were some discrepancies about the condition it was in when sold to me. the seller claimed it was in working order, the restoration person claimed it was not. i felt taken advantage of and was not sure who to trust. i would rather deal with this problem on my own or asking for another’s help.

i have e-mailed alan about bringing the press to excelsior. he is not that far from where my family is from. i think that will be my last resort. i have not heard from him yet, but i am running out of time. i need to have my project printed by the end of this month.

the fact that the rollers could be oversized infuriates me. we were told the other rollers were too small and didn’t fit the press, so we spent a pretty penny having new ones made. they should be perfect for the amount of money that has gone into fixing this press.

After looking at your press, i gave you wrong info on adjusting your platen, the nuts further from the platen need to be loosened just a little then you adjust with the ones closer to the platen, i think Girl with a kluge is right, why doesn’t the one who rebuilt your press help you, i would think the platen would have been adjusted before you got the press. another trick to hold your rollers tight to your trucks is to place a piece of string or thread over the roller shaft then force the trucks on and the string will hold them tight on the shaft. good luck Dick G.

Daniel from the Arm is correct about your grippers. If you look on your chase base you can see that your grippers have left a smash mark. Think of it this way….would you put your grippers in front of your copy…pull an impression…and expect that your copy wouldn’t be smashed by the gripper? Move your grippers all the way over to the sides of your chase base. Remember to leave room for your guide pins too when you do get it set up to print

dickg, the press was completely restored so this is how it was adjusted when we picked it up. i agree it should have been properly adjusted but it was not so i’m trying to fix it now.

thanks girl with a kluge, i have now fixed them. i meant to but i didn’t before i took the photos.

Does your press close correctly now that you have moved your grippers?

The grippers hitting the base could cause the press to not close properly, before you adjust try closing the press after you move the grippers over to clear the high part of the base. Girl with a kluge makes a great point about your gauge pins, they will damage your base unless you set them to miss the high part of the base. there is a way to make gauge pins out of paper so you don’t damage your base. Good Luck Dick G.

It seems to, but it looks as if the platen is still too far away and is still slightly tilted on the bottom. i put some pressboard and paper on the platen and i get an EXTREMELY faint impression at the bottom of the plate. it is so barely there but it is enough for me to tell that i am closer, it does need to be adjusted, and that the bottom of the platen is still closer to the bed than the top.

thanks dickg, i was actually taught this way at the workshop i attended in alexandria (how to make ‘gauge pins’ out of paper). i have also contacted the instructor but she is obviously very busy and i think takes a long time to respond.

the roller arm shouldn’t rub on the press, i don’t think this is good, could you tap it over just a hair, be careful, cast iron will shatter if you hit it with a hammer, a small block of wood against the press then just a slight tap with a hammer should move it over.

dickg, ahh this scares me! i’d rather have someone like alan take a look at that before i even attempt something like that…

Hi all,

I just read this thread this morning. (roller platen gauge guy here). I am not a Pilot expert for sure, but, I have a couple of points(some already made) I want to stress

First, I would separate the issues and work first on impression adjustment, then proper inking. Focus on one thing at a time. The rubbing part could be first or last or left “as is” depending on how serious the rub and difficult the fix.

Impression: Pilots vary quite a lot in how the platen is adjusted depending on age of the press. I have seen three different style studs/nuts and there is likely more. As DickG has said, for yours, loosen all outside nuts, and then turn inside nuts to move the platen in or out against the black gauge cylinders. (with press closed) You do this without any packing and without the chase/base installed. Make sure the grippers are also not in the way as well. Have patience and go slowly. Because of the style you have, you probably need to retighten all the outside nuts everytime you make adjustments to the inside nuts even just to check your progress. You do this with the gauge on one side of the platen and then the other until the black cylinders fit snuggly(but not clamped tight) top and bottom. When you think you have it, make sure to tighten all outside nuts, and then go back and recheck with the gauge because tightening the outside nuts can alter the adjustment. This whole process when being done for the first time with someone not yet totally comfortable with their press can test your patience and be very frustrating.

Inking has been well covered and my gauge works the same as all the others sold.

If you are still having trouble and would like help over the phone, contact me through my website:

I would be happy to try to help.


For the roller frame to clear the rail area of the press during actuation the roller frames need to be re-shimed to center the assembly on the press allowing adequate clearance from both frames simultaneously. This will require the roller frames to be removed from the roller frame shaft. The frames are secured to the shaft with tapered pins and likely Dutch pins within the frame and shaft interface behind the roller springs (unless of course they have been messed with and aren’t original as manufactured). If you are satisfied with all alignment elements except the rub you could lick the frame with a file to create a bit of clearance at the point of contact.
T&T Press Restoration

thanks very much everyone. i started doing the adjusting last night but need my fiance to help me. john, i may very well invest in your tool. seems as if it may save me a headache. but even still i am going to mess with the nuts and bolts tonight to see if i am actually even adjusting right or getting the platen any closer to the bed.

thanks tom, if it isn’t causing a problem while printing i may not worry about the roller frame, but it is just frustrating with the amount of money that was spent in restoring the press that it is not adjusted properly. it isn’t really causing a problem with the motion of the press, it still moves pretty smoothly, it just rubs in that one spot.

I rescued and restored a non-functioning (and rusted solid) Pilot last year. I had nominal letterpress experience in the beginning but found I understood the machine and the process a lot better by struggling through the mechanical issues. It’s certainly frustrating not being able to pull a beautiful print with a newly purchased press. That said, you’ll always be adjusting your press and learning it’s nuances. Enjoy the process. It teaches patience and perseverance. And when you do pull that lovely print from a cranky old machine you’ve bonded with, it’s magical. Good luck. Hang in there. We’re all pulling for you.

hey all, small update. my fiance helped me adjust the platen tonight with the small plate i have. it probably isn’t even on all sides, but until i can get one of john’s handy tools, i am pretty satisfied with the impression i got. at least we know how to adjust the platen now and really, it wasn’t that hard. lol it just seemed so daunting.

now, my roller issues. my rollers are not secure in my hooks. is there a way to make sure they don’t move? as well as the trucks…are there any fool proof ways to get them to stay in place since my cores have no notches? also i am pretty sure i have to build up my rails with tape to make sure the trucks do not lift up off the rails. that is happening now so i can see it is hitting the form too hard. i really need to have my project printed by the end of this month, so if i can’t get my rollers the right height and working by then, is it possibly to ink everything with a hand brayer? i know that is a little tedious but i will do what it takes to make sure this project is done in time.

lastly, i am looking for some ink options. at the workshop i was at the instructor used (i believe) rubber based pantone inks. she had the cards that gave you the formula to mix specific colors. i liked this because she did not seem to have to store tons of ink. this seems to be ideal for me since we don’t have a lot of space here. is there a good place to buy these inks?

lastly…my adobe files. i am working in illustrator (total newbie but i am doing okay!) to send in my files to a company like boxcar to make my photopolymer plates. i have read a few things on boxcar and on the web about how to prepare files, but being so new to illustrator it all confuses me. is there someone who can help me get my files in order, and tell me the steps i need to take to do that? i have about 5 different designs i want to be put on one sheet from boxcar in order to save money. love being able to cut photopolymer :)

hopefully i am on my way…i was so excited to see how nice my impression came out on my press tonight.

Glad you got the platen adjusted, for your rollers you can lay a piece of thin string or maybe yarn over the core then force the truck onto the roller, this will help keep the roller turning with the truck, i’m not a big fan of taping the rails, i would rather tape the trucks. I think NA Graphics sells tape they use for taping rails. Check out the yellow pages on this site, you should be able to find someone near you selling ink. Rubber base ink is what i mostly use, i buy my ink from Expedix, they have stores all over the place, they mostly sell paper but most of their stores carry all kinds of printing supplies. There is an ink supplier called MixMasters, i think in Lynn, MA, most of my ink was bought from them, they would mix pms colors at a very reasonable price, you have to tell them if you want oil or rubber base ink. If you can’t find a number for them i will post it for you. Sounds like you got this under control, good luck Dick G.

Kelly -

DickG got through to me “on his direct line” this afternoon and told me your story. And, once I looked, I did find your message from 7/5 in my contact form log. (sorry, I’m behind in reading my email)

But I’ll reply this afternoon and we can make plans to get together and get your press back into proper operation.

From what I’ve read here, we should be able to make it all right in short order.

I have a set of Kelsey’s own platen leveling tools here that Gene Mosher gave me in January. These are the ones they used in the factory and will make adjusting the platen fast and easy. I also have now have sets of Xx’s on pp plate material that we can use with the chase base.

If you have folks near Frenchtown, NJ come visit them; bring the press and we can fix everything for you during your visit - and send you home with a properly adjusting, fine working press.

I’m confident we can take care of all of the issues you mentioned. Oh yeah, I have ink, too. I like new Van Son Rubber Base and can fix you up with one of my 4 mixable color starter kits.

I can drill the roller shafts to install pins that keep the trucks in place without washers. And, if my new broaching tool arrives before you do, we can add two more pins and channel the trucks to make them lock on the shaft as well.

BTW - As Dick suggested, I also believe that the better way to adjust roller height is to tape the trucks. Then, they’ll work just like the old Morgan Expansion Trucks. I don’t like taping the rails on a small press. I’ll show you how easy it is when you get here. (and update the web site with instructions as soon as I can get a Round Tuit.) Taping takes 5 minutes, is much neater, and taped trucks work perfectly.

And, if you want to bring your plates and paper, we could even print your invites on your press or on one of my Vandercooks.

The only thing I’m disturbed by is the fact that you were sold a copy of my chase-base. That wasn’t very nice. I’m fine with folks using my ideas for themselves, but it kind of feels uncomfortable to see someone else taking my idea and then selling the same product I am making in direct competition with my own efforts to keep this museum shop funded.

In my case, all the income I earn from printing, training, parts, supplies, repair & restorations simply goes to keeping the rent paid and keeping this old museum print shop in operation… and, believe me, it ain’t much and I don’t expect to get rich doing it.

But I certainly enjoy what I do. Bring your press and spend the afternoon and then you can begin to enjoy printing with your press as well.

- Alan

hi alan, great! thanks so much. i am trying to figure out a time we can come up with the press. we are only able to do a weekend…i hope that is okay for you?

and the chase base…i can tell you who it came from. the person i bought the press from says her dad owns a machine shop and he custom made it for her. i am sorry about that, i didn’t know it was something you came up with and sold them to help fund your operation. she gave it to me for an additional $100 and i figured if it did the job, why not? i don’t think that is something she sells to others, i think it was for her own personal use and since she no longer had a press for it to fit she gave me the option of buying it with the press.

i will look for your reply and we will figure out a time to get us up there. thanks so much for helping me!

Well, John Falstrom, looks like Kelly is going with the younger guy, maybe we are just too old? Dick G.


I’m sorry I just got up from my nap, what were you saying?


lol sorry guys, you are just a little too far from me :(

i appreciate all the help you’ve offered, though!

Alan is a great teacher you will be in good hands, even though John and i have a little more experience. Dick G.

With regards to your Pilot, would you contact me at 413-222-9029 asap. Thank you.