Restoration of Reliance Midget hand press

I am in the process of restoring a Reliance Midget hand press to working order. With the help of Paul Aken I have located many of the parts needed to be duplicated for my press. One problem I need to address is that the platen is not parallel to the bed of the press. The difference in distance between the platen and the press bed at the two ends of the platen is about 3/4”. I removed the two bolts used to hold the platen up to the fulcrum mechanism and found both to be slightly bent is a way that coincides with the tilt of the platen. When I grasp the platen and try to move it, I find it to be totally solid - no movement up and down or side to side. I checked the upper and lower flanges on the frame of the press that the platen bolts fit into. It appears that the flanges were cast with oversized holes and filled with a softer material drilled to the exact diameter of the platen bolts. Can anyone tell me if this is the standard way the presses were made? Has anyone disassembled a Reliance Midget and noticed if the bolts are perfectly straight or slightly bent near the bottom flange? Thanks for any help you can offer.

John Johnson

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The platen can be made closer to level but it is essentially impossible to get it perfectly even, which is why you should use corner blocks exactly type high to level it when you are printing with a hand press. But you can remove the bolts and straighten them, or have a machinist do it, which will even the platen up some. Because there are only the two suspension points and always a little play in the parts, the platen can still wobble even when level. It’s also important, as with the platen jobber, to have the printed area centered under the center of the platen.


I have a Reliance, larger but similar.
I assumed the material holding the platen bolts is babbitting and cast in place.
Leveling the press is important and may help.
I have not had the platen bolts off in decades. I vaguely recall a similar problem and spun the bolts to see if that changed things, also swapping them. I searched for punchmarks on the bolts and frame to see if anyone left clues. After fiddling it was still a quarter inch off and I now recall paper shims. Studying the backside of the bolts with a magnifying glass and flashlight, a slight gap can be seen. I used rag paper shims, which would compress but not rot.
As Bob suggested, corner blocks can work. I use sheets larger than the platen and prefer to not have the marks corner blocks leave.
— Greg

Greg S, Thanks for the insight from your press and the information about the babbitt metal. At this point I think I am going to look into getting two new bolts turned & threaded and go from there. I’ll post how my efforts turn out.
John Johnson

I am getting ready to have a couple of parts made for the Midget Reliance press that I am revitalizing. Using terms from the Rummonds book, the two parts are the standard (chill, fulcrum, knee) and the toggle lever (lever, wedge). Instead of cast iron they will be of steel. I found a source company for the raw metal and seem to have two compositions/alloys available from them - A36 and 1018. Reportedly there is not much difference between them with respect to machinability. A36 is hot-rolled and 1018 is cold-rolled. I was wondering if anyone can provide a recommendation of one composition over the other, or can I simply go with price? My machinist said he can work with either. He simply recommended I make certain the steel will meet the requirement of the pressure generated on the parts. How would one determine what the generated pressure is? Since the narrowest part of the toggle lever is about 7/8 inches, I suspect I would never be able to create enough pressure with the handle to come anywhere close to damaging the part.


John, I’m pretty sure the old parts were either cast steel or probably machined cold-rolled. I would think unless you would really trounce the press either formula, so long as they are steel, should be fine. You might think about having them nickel-plated before installing them — I did that with my CTF Washington, along with the bar assembly. But the chances the steel would compress or wear excessively, or bend either, is pretty much nil, as long as the dimensions of the original are followed.