Dissassembly of Gordon OldStyle

We have what appears to be a Gordon OldStyle letterpress. It is in our basement and we need to get it out so we can donate it to a local university art department. We have managed to remove the rear subassembly that has the rollers attached and also the central upper subassembly that the paper is printed on (sorry I do not know the proper terms for this stuff). So the unit is down to the two main side frames connected by the H-shaped crossmember with the flywheel on one side and the gear wheels on the other. The wedge that holds the flywheel onto the shaft was driven FIRMLY into the keeper slot and it won’t budge. It sticks out about 5/8 inch so there is something to grab at least, but nothing we have tried so far loosens it one iota. Even if we get that out and remove the flywheel, the wedges holding the other wheels on are driven flush and there is no way to get to the back side to poke them out with a hammer and drift. If we do not manage to break this down further, I don’t see any way it can be removed from our basement (we have a narrow, crooked stairway - and no we don’t know how it got down there!). If anyone on the list has experience with fully dissassembling one of these beasts we would really like to hear from you!

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Typically, you can use a hammer and punch to drive the key out from the back side (using some penetrating oil may help loosen it) - but this usually requires removal of the the drive shaft first - which in turn, requires removal of the drive gear. Getting the drive gear loose is probably the best way to approach this - have you approached a machine shop about this? A competent mechanic may have a better way to do this.

Some presses have a removable bearing attached to the frame by machine screws or bolts on the flywheel side, which aids in disassembly - does yours have such a thing?

Thanks Bill. Yes there is a removable bearing collar on the flywheel side. I’ll look at that this evening, but I don’t think it splits into two pieces, and if it doesn’t, how does undoing the bolts holding it on enable access to the inner side of the flywheel?

I’ll check with my car mechanic and see if he has any brain sparks on this heavy metal wrenching.

We made some progress in removing the drive gear. I was able to tap it in relative to the keeper wedge by inserting a flat chisel into the axle groove to prevent the wedge from moving along with the gear. We got about 3 mm of movement but the back of the wedge is now flush with the back of the gear, so holding a chisel back there won’t help any more. We are working now on fabbing a short narrow piece of metal to fit into the axle slot and thus block the back side of the wedge so we can continue tapping the gear back and hopefully free up the wedge. Doing the same thing for the cam wheel on the other end of the big gear’s axle has still got us stumped. Fortunately I have made contact with a local letterpress doctor and hope to enlist his assistance soon on this breakdown process. Wish us luck!

What I would LOVE to have is an exploded diagram of this machine, but I cannot find one. If anyone knows of one and can direct me to a source that would be much appreciated. If the basics of their construction is common to all letterpresses of that ilk, maybe an exploded diagram of another make/model would suffice?

If you have 5/8 ” of the key sticking out where you can reach it, you might check a car repair shop or mechanic for a slide hammer with a hinged jaw on the end. This may be able to grab the end of the key and the slide would “hammer” it out from the front instead of punching it out from behind. This is a picture of one available from Harbor Freight Tools but a mechanic should have one you could borrow.


image: Slide Hammer.jpg

Slide Hammer.jpg

Thanks Bob! My auto mechanic has one and a gear puller also and will lend them to me.

Most Gordon-style presses are remarkably similar - there is a C&P parts list and digram on the Boxcar Press site:


Is there any identification as to the manufacturer? Often there is a name plate in back, connecting the roller assembly arms.

The typical procedure is to remove the drive gear first. The removable bearing collar allows easy extraction of the drive shaft - often with a “U” shaped treadle crank - after the drive gear on the other side of the shaft is removed. If you get the drive gear off, the flywheel and drive shaft can be removed in one piece, and you will have access to the inside of the flywheel. Then you can place the flywheel horizontally across a couple of 4x4s, and drive the key out. (Note - before you extract the drive shaft, be sure to clamp or tie the press shut, or else it might open unexpectedly.)

A gear puller is one of the ways for removing the flywheel. Another is to take off the drive gear. On my press this was done by an experienced mechanic who gently and gradually taped the gear in, toward the press with a large block of wood and hammer, moving it around the gear to put even pressure on the gear. Another approach is to do this with a short secton of pipe larger than the shaft size which applies even pressure. Again a piece or wood and hammer or wooden mallet. By driving the gear in toward the press, the key becomes loose and can be removed with pliers. With the gear removed, you can remove the flywheel and shaft without taking off the flywheel.

Of course you have to remove the gear cover on the flywheel side but that is only three screws as I remember. I imagine others will comment because this topic has been discussed several times. You can get a schematic breakdown drawing from Briar press or Boxcar of a NS C&P which is very similar to a Gordon as far as parts go.

could possibly nitrogen freeze the key/wedge and shaft adjacent to shrink it then use gear puller, or worst comes to worst drill it out maybe’s….if you drill out enough if it, then turning the wheel will break of the remainder…but at your own risk……..!

@longdaypress - I had a similar situation, and we were able to tap the drive gear back just as you describe

@jonathaneclipse - I’d be very careful if trying liquid nitrogen - the surrounding cast iron is brittle enough as it is!