welding platen letterpress leg

We obtained a circa 1880s-90s Challenge Gordon Platen Press. Only during the moving process did we notice that one of the legs (almost to the foot) was broken. It has been assessed by a welder who wants us to remove the right side frame (opposite the flywheel) so he can braze the break together. If done without disassembly he’s saying the heat would basically spread out to all connecting parts and not reach the 600 degrees required without damage to the iron.

While we want to repair it correctly, the break is clean- the top portion fits exactly into the bottom and it’s located slightly lower than where the bed connects to the base. The press had been in the same spot for 70+ years, probably with the break, and we don’t plan on moving it for a long long time.

I’m concerned about disassembling and the best way to keep the machine upright while that frame piece is being repaired, without damaging the press further. A cherry picker seems less than ideal, but might be the best solution for the day it’s getting repaired?

Has anyone done this?


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Here is an alternative to welding/brazing.

I have used this method on several cast iron breaks with very good results.

No heating is required and the repair if done properly is actually stronger than the original cast iron. The repairs that I have done tended to blend in and were not very noticeable, you can still see the repair, but it is not as obvious as a big blob of brazing.

I think that this repair method would be doable without any parts dis-assembly, which is another major plus.

Can you take and post a couple of pics of the broken parts?
Where are you located?

The only drawback is the upfront cost of the special taps required.


I would suggest, if you decide to disassemble the press to have the part repaired, that you can obtain a hydraulic floor crane, such as is used in automotive shops for engine removal, and which can be rated for 2 tons, and use it to support the press while removing and repairing the frame side. It can pick up an entire Washington hand press so it should be plenty strong enough. You might want to block the arm up to prevent the cylinder leaking down while awaiting the return of the frame. I used one of these half a dozen times to move hand presses, and bought mine for under $200 at Harbor Freight, but tool rental places also have them.


Hi, can you post a picture of the break?

I have a #8 Linotype with a welded leg, have seen C&P welded legs and also seen them with a piece of heavy flat iron bolted to the break as a splint and you might think about this if its in a good area? I weld a lot of cast iron, if it ran fine like it was you could think about just beveling a small area and welding it just where it is with a MIG welder (clamped in place and welded around slowly so it don’t warp) This really wouldn’t be welded very good but more of a cosmetic fix and might crack again anyway. The cast contracts at a different rate than the wire so its going to want to break right beside your weld and small peck welds are needed so its an iffy process but if you just want it too look good its not every noticeable when done. I have welded stove legs like this with success but other things broke. The best way is to take the part off and bevel the break, then slowly heat the entire casting up and use nickel rod to weld. This is the time honored way that stuff was done 100 years ago and huge spoked flywheels in factories have ran for decades above people’s heads after being welded this way. The thing needs to be slowly cooled also, either in an oven or by torch and then submerged in pure portland cement powder and left over night. In the old days they did lots of nickel welding and brass brazing and considering every printing item you see was sent out in a box car and had to be loaded onto a wagon or early truck by riggings and bars, its no wonder so much stuff got broke.

Hello again Marrisa,
There is a colder welding rod that works for grey metal (cast)
Find a more experienced welder. Sounds like a convenience to me.

beware-in Uk several yers ago, full size Albion got a leg/foot broken, was electrically welded back together by orinary welders to save money, although professional press engineers said MUSt be gas welded-later the weld broke again whilst student using it, press fell over crushing student to death as press could not be lifted off in time, although there would have been serious if not fatal injuries just from the falling over.
If you having trainees, or visitors etc using the press or visiting your shop , you might need to check with your insurers that the welder is certified and can issue a certificate that the weld has been properly tested etc etc ultrasonically for example.

Cast iron is brazed with an Azetylene Torch and Nickel rod, this makes a strong bond to the carbon rich cast Iron.

This is used widely in Pump (Fluids) repair for ever without Fail, and there are some high pressures applied.

jonathanjeclipse- Do you have any more info on this accident? I can’t find another mention of it online except for once when you mentioned it on Briar in 2012. Did this really happen?


I can elaborate on the accident with the Albion. It was at a college in the South of England. I am not going to name names because it is over and done with.
Essentially Jonathan is right a poor repair on cast iron footing of press. Press was also sited over or on top of a drain which failed under the weight of the press. The press then tipped, the weld failed and the whole press then fell on the student who died from crushing injuries. It was also the left hand leg which on the Albion takes the weight from the ‘pull’.
I personally wouldnt have signed off a leg repair. I would have gas welded as mentioned above and probably plated the repair for safety.
When I was doing further education stuff and college work I always erred on the side of caution, twice we actually recast damaged pieces or regineered anything suspect.
Health and Safety is a big concern nowadays and we’re not very far from ‘hands off’ work if we are not REALLY careful.

Thanks Albion……………………

jonathanjeclipse & Albion_press-
Thanks to the both of you for the cautionary tale. There are definitely some lessons to be learned in that unfortunate chain of events.