Challenge-Hempel Wedge Quoin Key Substitute

Hi All!
I have acquired some Challenge-Hempel Wedge Quoins but, so far, no key.

I’ve been trying everything in the shop looking for a substitute, but, so far, no luck.

Has anyone found a nifty home shop tool that tightens these in the absence of a key?



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I have more of these than I need…
I have numerous duplicate tools and parts for letterpress I bought “accidentally-on-purpose”, three drawers in a galley cabinet had multiple duplicates - tools, parts, springs…
I’ll be happy to send you one if you’ll pay the shipping.
I admit wandering plumbing, tile, masonry etc. aisles to see what “new” things can work for me…I’ve seen similar “heads” available for powered drivers, I haven’t found anything easily worked by hand.
Contact me if you’re interested in one of my extras.
Good Luck!

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I believe the old style “Hempel” wedge quoins can also be set with a “shooting stick” that is originally meant for setting wood wedge quoins. Hern Iron Works also still casts one.

Note there are TWO sizes of Hempel Keys. You are probably looking for the #1 (bigger) size. There is a smaller size for the “mini” wedge quoins.

A long time ago I dreamed up and made a four legged device that incorporated on three legs pre ground inserts for A standard cornerstone type quoins, B narrow margin quoins and C 4 colour miniture honeycomb keys, the fourth leg I just ground up to hempel configuration. It wasnt rocket science. I could easily revive my original idea for pennies or dimes but obviously impractical to post around the world.How ever I am sure that your local engineering orientated (friendly) buddy could even perhaps with only an electric drill and grinding point make one, for possibly for even less than internal postage. Mikefrommontana is correct there is at least 2 sizes but with a pair on sight and judicious use of an ordinary screwdriver determining the required size is easy Mick. g the size bn h

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I have three sizes of Challenge/Hempl quoins in my shop. The largest measures 3 7/8” long and are best used on large cylinder presses where the chases are beefier. The medium size which are the most commonly used measure 2 3/4” long, and the smallest are 1 7/16” long and are best used for tight lock-ups or very small presses. I would never use a shooting stick on a metal quoin, metal against metal would do damage to both quoin and stick.

Early in my apprenticeship I learn to tighten this style of quoin using two hands to balance the quoin key, and to place two fingers on each side of the handle. If the key tilts the gear teeth and the key will wear quickly, and the handle can slip, causing plenty of damage to your knuckles as well.


image: ChallengeQuoins.JPG


image: ChallengeQuoin_2.JPG


Thanks for all the great advice and offers of help.

Some of the reading I’ve done suggests these are passé, having been supplanted by the hi-speed quoins and other options. But I kind of like the simplicity of the device.

Are many of you still using these?


i still use these once in a while, my favorite is the wickersham, on my automatic presses i use the high speed.

I agree with Paul that you should never use a shooting stick on metal quoins. Metal on metal is a bad idea AND the traditional wood quoins that were designed to be used with a shooting stick taper to a fairly blunt end so that there is a decent surface for the shooting stick to engage for unlocking those quoins. The metal quoins are too tapered to give much surface area for unlocking with a shooting stick.

Although high-speed quoins are preferred at Printers’ Hall for most lock-ups (I think convenience is the big factor) in the majority of our presses. The person that locks the newspaper forms into the huge chases still prefers to use the Challenge/Hemple style quoins for those massive forms. Old habits are probably hard to break. I marvel at how well they hold the forms together and still wince a little bit each time these chases are lifted off of the stone.

I haven’t seen one come loose yet.