Vandercook Universal 1 Being Restored

Hi and thanks.

This is the first few of what will be many questions over the next few months.

I just moved a Vandercook Universal 1 into my shop and for the most part, it is in good shape except that it sat in a shed for about 35 years. Just to begin with…
1. The serial number is 24712. Can anyone please tell me when this might have been manufactured?
2. All I have found online about this model is that it comes with an adjustable bed but I cannot find any adjustment wheel as I have seen, and used, on other Vandercooks.
3. It came with a gauge for adjusting the rollers that is marked “.968 Vandercook Roller Gauge.” What does this .968 represent?
4. At the end of the press (facing the crank and to the right) are two (about) 1” x 3” shelf support looking hinges that swing out after a lock pin is disabled. Are these for an additional shelf?
5. The rollers look greasy and feel sticky and I know they are shot. But interestingly, each of the cores has a plastic black knob attached to each core. Does that knob and level allow for adjustment or raising and lowering on the rollers?

Thanks for all the good help. Neil

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I can only answer one of your questions: the .968 roller setting gauge is for adjusting the rollers from the bed when the bed is set for galleys, which are .050 (.918 +.050 =.968).

It could be that the bed adjustment is a lever — the press may only have two bed positions, .968 for type-high material in a galley, and .918 for type high material on the bed.


Not all Universal I presses had adjustable beds. If this press does have it, at the foot end of the bed there will be a small window onto a scale that shows the postion of the bed. The handle might be missing but there would be a shaft end coming through the end of the press.

Question 4, these two ‘hinges’ allow you do make a long or a short run on your press. That all depends on the size of your forme.

Question 5, these knobs are indeed intended to adjust your rollers with.

Have a look at some photos that I put on Flickr:

And, don’t forget to get in touch with Fritz Klinke from NAGraphics, he holds all the archives and files of Vandercook.

So helpful and thanks and more as I work. Thanks, Neil


Yes, the black knobs are for adjusting the height of each end of each roller. Make certain you loosen the set screw at the side of the little block if you intend to turn the adjustment knob. That set screw allows you to “lock” it into position do the adjustment doesn’t change during a run. If you try to turn the knob, and the set screw is tight, you can break the knob.

Also on the back side of the press is a cam which is removable to match the short stroke setting (hinged block) and will open the grippers at the correct spot dependent on your setting. You should search for a manual online, or one can be purchased from NA Graphics who at the same time will most likely provide for you the provenance (at least the first owner) of the press and when it was shipped to that company.

It is a good press, and although it may need some initial adjustment if it has been neglected, you can run some very nice work on it.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

Some pictures of progress in cleaning. Soaked rusty rails in lemon juice and venigar - amazing. Used Evaporust on the bed - amazing. Neil

Bigboypress, your photos aren’t showing up. Try checking the file-names for non alphanumeric characters or spaces.

Oops and thank you… Neil

image: 3.JPG


image: 2.JPG


image: 1.JPG


Nice, this looks like it’ll be a beautiful press once you’re done :) keep uploading your progress!


Thanks once again to everyone. Neil

Sorry - take a lookat for correctly oriented photos. Neil

And here I was thinking this is clearly the solution to the space problem in the print shop — ceiling-mounted presses!


Bob, you better use some good quoins for that ceiling forme!


Hi Neil! You should check out the community at Vanderblog. Lots of good advice and restoring and fixing Vandercooks.
I’m sure they’d love to see your progress too.

Progress report and thanks once again to all…

The rust was removed using a soaking bath of lemon juice and vinegar (such as for the rails) and Evaporust (which requires soaking paper towels and then covering with plastic wrap). Both are very effective and relatively safe. Rollers are on the way.

Perhaps the biggest challenge was to “key” the cylinder so that when it was returned to base, the gripper mechanism was perpendicular to the bed and it just did not crash metal to metal. That took some removing of the shorter track and moving the cylinder a bit at a time until we (a very good buddy) and I got it right.

I do have a question re: the gripper assembly and if necessary, I will send pictures.

Each of the individual grippers has a knob/dial that can be turned which moves the white plastic piece (quite small) which has attached to it, a metal phalange of sort which I think helps hold or straighten paper. I have three of the total plastics working(all grippers work). So…

1. What are those adjustable knobs/dials for?
2. It looks if I can line paper up on the inscribed line on the gripper assembly so that it will feed evenly. Do I need those other gripper parts mentioned above?

If I am not clear, let me know and photos to follow. Thanks, Neil

Yes. Those are GUIDES. You bump the leading edge of the sheet against two guides, and then the side of the sheet against a side guide (hopefully you have one).

They are adjustable because these are what allow you to tune the positioning of the sheet (and therefore, the positioning of the form ON the sheet) very small amounts. They hold good register, especially if you position them to be about 1/4-3/8 of the way in. This press prints 15x22 if I’m not mistaken (but it’s been a while since I used a UNI-I!), so if you use the full sheet capacity you want the guides to be in about 3-4” from the corner to take advantage of the sheet’s rigidity. Corners bend a bit more than closer to the center of the sheet, which deflects very little.

My usual way to start off is to position the paper at that scribed line, tighten up two of the guides until they’re up against the sheet, back the sheet off, bump it back against the two guides to check alignment against that same line, and then pull a proof. Then I check the proof to see how far off straight it is.

you’ll get it once you start printing- sounds like you maybe have never used a proof press before? Welcome to the ‘club’, if not. If so, you probably have a nicer one than others you’ve used before. A vandercook Universal I has all the ‘bells and whistles’, lucky you.

Thanks so much Haven. Neil