please help

Recently i joined a local historical society, that, by chance, has an old chandler&price platen press. Im a screen printer (or silkscreen printer if you prefer) by trade, and they felt this makes me the most qualified to bring the old girl back to life. Believe me, i understand there is a HUGE difference between letterpress printing and printing tshirts, but despite my insistence, all they heard was “printer”.
Ive always been fascinated with old time printing though, so i maybe i didnt object loud enough.
My only concern (besides learning a completely new trade with no one in my area to teach me) is that the Society has recieved an offer from a local autobody shop to sand or bead blast it (im not entirely sure which) and repaint it. Would this hinder the functionality of the press?
I spoke with Maura at Day Moon Press (a very helpful and knowledgeable lady, i must say) who advised that unless they know what they are doing, old and rusty is better than new and full of grit and sand.
It IS rather stiff in movement at the moment. But that’s to be expected with a piece of equipment that hasnt been used since before i was born. Is there anyway i could go about getting it back to running order without having it “restored” by someone who knows even less about it than i do? Would oiling it possibly be enough? If theres any information i havent included that would be helpfull in the decision, please let me know so that i might include it.

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Tell where you are. If there is a letterpress printer near you, you will get help.

Stay away from general and overall sand blasting. It can cause far more trouble than good. If you are only looking for a display piece, blasting and painting might be OK.
If you are looking to make the machine functional and create beautiful work, then focus on function.

Yes, oil and lots of it are appropriate. You can find an oiling diagram for the press, but if you are a decent mechanic you can rock and turn the press by hand and oil any place that two pieces of metal move one against the other. The exception is on the rails where the roller trucks turn. Some have oil holes. There are many which do not. Some are hard to see. You have to stick your head in and search to see what moves. Clean out the oil holes and in all places apply liberal amounts of thin oil. You want it to run out onto the floor and flush out the grunk that doesn’t belong. Later you will apply a heavier oil. 30 weight automotive oil or heavier is appropriate.
I oil my press every time before I use it. That means if I used it yesterday I oiled it. If I use it today, I will oil it again.

There have been many photos of C&P presses posted here on BP — you might browse to see how many you can find and look them over thoroughly to compare what’s shown with the press you have. If there are parts in the photos you don’t find on your press you will know there could be a problem. You will also get a feel for comparative condition. But inky’s advice is excellent — any old press that has been sitting unused for a long time needs first to be lubricated thoroughly. I use a set of twist drills to clean oil holes — start smaller than the holes look and work up to ones that just fit, twirling them with your fingers, not an electric drill. They will lift the junk out of the oil holes, speeding the process of getting the oil into the joints.


Thank you. That was pretty well exactly the kind of advice i needed.
I’m in Springfield, Illinois. I havent found anyone close to me, yet.
Im a halfway decent mechanic, as long as its not a car. Very good at watching something move and understanding how it works.
It is not intended to be a display piece, we are definitely going for function, rather than looks. This poor press just had the misfortune of belonging to a group that doesnt understand sometimes function is form. Fortunately, its so heavy they havent been able to figure out how to move it, else the sandblasting and painting would have happened long ago.
Any recommendations on what a “thin” oil would be?
Also, how do i go about cleaning out the oil holes?
I’d hate to save it from needlessly becoming a half-ton paper weight only to screw it up myself, so any insight is extremely helpful.
Thank you for all the help you have already provided.
By what you’ve said, and what Maura told me, it seems the importance of constant oiling cannot be overstated.

Thank you. You answered my question as i was typing it.

I think i love this place. Ive been a member for less than a day, but it seems full of people who want to help and disseminate knowledge and skillsets

Any oil is better than no oil.
3 in 1 oil from your local hardware store is a good light oil for starters.
There are four surfaces that should be clean and bright and free from rust. Well, at least four major surfaces. The ink disk. You can work on it in place or remove it. It pulls straight up and out perpendicular to the surface. If you remove it, put it right down on the floor. It is cast iron and doesn’t bounce.
The rails upon which the roller trucks run. They are cast iron and have worn over the years in addition to having grown rust. You will very likely need to build them up after you have cleaned them up.
The bed. This is the near vertical part between the rails. It needs to be clean bare metal and will benefit from a coat of automobile wax.
The last is the platen. This is the near horizontal surface nearest to you as you stand in front of the press. This too needs to be clean and bare and have a coat of wax.
If you are enthusiastic and have enthusiastic people with you, you will restore this piece of iron to function.
If you can’t have an experienced letterpress person in your vicinity, you are at the right place here at Briar Press. Printers are pretty nice people and want to help.

Could you explain what “building up” the rails means? Will i mess any of these surfaces up by using steel wool to clean them?
If so, any recommendations on materials for cleaning?
Ive managed to stall the sanding, at least for now. I was only able to send a text message to the president of the,historical society, as he was rather busy this evening. But he,promised not to do anything until I was able to explain what i had learned.
So crises averted for now.
Now begins the process of getting the old girl a-going. And of course picking out her name.
Im constantly being heckled at work because i named my press (screen printing). But after looking around this site, i see that im not alone in doing so. That definitely made me smile

I would say the first step is to get the press to turn over smoothly and silently without much resistance — clean and oil it. I believe medium grade steel wool is best for rust removal (you can use it with kerosene to control and clean off the loosened rust) as it normally will not remove actual metal, whereas sandpaper or emery cloth will. Once things are reasonably clean and running smoothly, use an 18 inch straightedge and a type-high gauge or a piece of type to check the height of the roller rails on the bed, with the straightedge between the rails at several places top to bottom of the bed. This will indicate if there is serious wear and how much it would affect inking. You may not need to build up the rails. First things first!


Thanks again Bob,
I can and will do almost all of that. We don’t have any type unfortunately. I’m told that there was a rather complete set years ago when the property was first acquired. lots of type, plates, and several of the cabinets. But every year some stuff would go missing, until nothing was left but the press. So we’re pretty well going to have to start over as far as type sets are concerned.
You mentioned earlier that i should look over some pictures of other c&p presses to see how complete ours is. from what i can tell, it seems like the press is intact. I’ve only seen it once, so i’ll need to take another look now that i know what a working one looks like. But from what i can remember, i believe its all there.

Spray WD40 all over it and do it many times.

From Springfield it’s not a very long trip to Chicago. The Amalgamated Printers Association is holding its Wayzgoose ( June 26-30 and the big swap meet (AM) and auction (PM) is Saturday. It’s a great opportunity to pick up all kinds of letterpress tools and goodies like type. I’m sure someone will have a type-high gauge to sell and there will be lots of type. You can get a one-day registration just for Saturday, I believe. Might be worth the effort! Lots of very knowledgeable people there too.


Update time!
The good news is after a whole can of wd-40, some (hand only) work with various drill bits, and as someone advised me privately, a whole lot of cussing, i was able to get the old girl spinning pretty free and with very little noise. It still kinda slows down right as the bed and platen start to move away from each other, but not too badly. Almost like thats the part of the cycle that takes the most power, but i honestly have no idea. I was able to get the fly wheel to spin almost 2 full revolution by throwing it one handed. I hooe thats a good sign.

The bad news (theres more of this than the other kind) is that its filthy as all get out. Dead bugs, animal scat, and my least favorite thing in the world; lots and lots of spiders…. i also realized today that it is sitting right next to a broken window, so its completely exposed to the elements. Its sitting in about 3 inches of dirt and who knows what else. Theres quite a few pieces missing, and at least one that looks broken. Also, bieng an amature, and having no flashlight with me the first time i saw it, i misidentified it. Its decidedly NOT a chandler & price.
The ? News is its an “Old Reliable” made by the H. H. Thorp m.f.g co.
Also, its a 12x18.
Im including (or attempting to) some pictures i took. Mind, it was already evening, its overcast here, and its in an old outbuilding with no overhead lights, so i appolgize if they arnt that great of quality.

And Bob, while i would love to go to the wayzgoose thing, i will unfortunitly be rather busy that weekend. But thanks for letting me know. I had no idea there was such a thing as the APA.

File sizes are too large. Trying to resize them now

Here we go

Ok, well it not going to let me upload them.

Ok, well it not going to let me upload them.

Trying again

oil, oil oil, synthetic, synthetic, synthetic……..

Oil, oil, oil is correct.
Synthetic is overkill. Inexpensive automobile oil is just fine. You want it to run through and carry away the grunk in the bearing surfaces.
You have a large beast. Commercial size. Two free turns of the flywheel are fair for starters. Three will be good for that much iron. There should not be a hard spot in the rotation. You will have to find the cause. I am assuming that the rollers are off the press. When the rollers are on the press, there is a harder spot when the rollers pass over the shoulder of the tops of the rails. It is here that the springs are pulled to their max. Pull up on the roller saddles and get lots of oil down the cylinders.
Get some ink on your shirt.

From what i can tell, the rollers are still there and in the rails. However, a few of the springs are disconnected. Maybe thats why it gets a little stiff?

synthetic will coat better, penetrate better, clean better, and last longer. your oiling cycle can be cut by as much as 70 %

ericm — True if these bearings were of this century and even the last half of the last century. But they’re not. They are simple bearings (in most cases without liners) with an oil hole. R would be better off spending money on lots of plain old 30wt (non-detergent, which is what C&P spec’ed) and oiling the thing until it dripped…

that is exactly my point Jeff. instead of oiling every 3,000 impressions…. you can 8,000. depending on work force used.