General understanding problem: Type height, rollers, runners, bed height…

Good afternoon!

I’m looking for advice as I’m not sure about how all this goes together…. The rollers have runners. And if there is no type in my press (small platen press with lever), the runners run over the edges of the bed. Right?

The moment I put an aluminium base in it, the rollers run over the base and the runners “hang” in there, no contact with the rails/bed. Is this also right? It sounds wrong. Because that way the base will get inked up, not only the photopolymeres.

My press is German made and the German type height is higher than the US/UK size with 23.56mm instead of 23.3mm.
The base I have is 22.14 mm high, combined with KF 152 plates it would bring it up to the German type height of 23.56mm. So far goes the theory.

But: With the base in place, the space between the runners and the rails/edges is approx a millimeter when I pull the lever.

I just measured the height from the bottom of the plate bed to the top of the edges/rails and it is around 21mm.

So, I’m obviously totally lost. These numbers don’t add up in my head.

I always thougt the runners must run on the rails all of the time, and only the type faces or the top of the photopolymer plates are high enough to be touched by the rollers by then.

Does this mean, my base must be 21mm or less? OR I need to find rollers that have a bigger, diameter, to make them run higher. Right?

Sorry for my absolute newbie questions, but there is nobody else around me I could ask…

Thank you for your help in advance!

Kind regards,
Newbie from Germany

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Yes, you are exactly correct. The runners should always be in contact with the rails at the edge of the bed. It appears your base must be too high for use with this press.

Do you have a roller height gauge or a piece of large standard height (German) type? if so, check to see the rollers would work properly with either of those. Put the gauge or type block between the roller and the bed when the rollers are halfway up the bed of the press. If you feel some slight resistance, then the rollers are set properly. If the roller runners lift off the rails, then your press may well have been produced for the American or British market, and the plate base would have to be lower. Are you certain the runners are the correct ones? Do they align with the face of the roller when mounted? Or are they a smaller diameter?

You could possibly save the day by adding tape to the rails until the rollers run at the correct distance for that base, but it appears that it might take a good deal of tape to make it work.

jhenry, thank you, that helps.

I don’t have a roller height gauge yet but I have a few pieces of lead type.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a matching chase for my press, so I can’t quickly mount type, but I was able to measure the type. The height from the bottom to the “base” where the letter sits is 21.6mm high. It is a tiny bit higher than the edges/rails of the bed.

Does that mean that German type would also be too high? It almost looks like.

The runners are the one it came with. I don’t know much about it, it was found hidden behind the walls of an old house when it was knocked down. It must have been there for maybe 50 years or more. It was never in use since it was found. The rollers looks pretty much unused but the runners look vintage.

The rollers seem to align well, I think the runners have a tiny bit bigger diameter than the rollers.

The maker of the press is “F.M. Weiler” who also sold presses in the US as “Liberty Machine Works”. So maybe you are right and these presses were originally for the British market.

If I wanted to use a metal base for photo polymeres, which one could I get then? The Lyme Bay bases are either 21.8 (deep relief) or 20.37 (standard) millimeters heigh, this would also be too high for my press?

I guess I could use German “Unterlegstege” as a base, these are 21mm high. But I’m still puzzled by the lead type. I don’t think I have any UK/US lead type here to measure their “base” height.

I have made some (excuse me, they are bad) pictures to show you that my base is almost exactly as high as the “base” of the German lead type. But they still tower the rails.

Kind regards,

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After reading this post I think you need to take some very precise measurements and visit your local machine shop to have your base milled down to the right height.

I think you need to start further back. If you want to print with German materials you will need to adapt the press’s rail height to that standard height-to-paper (it’s called). Or you can choose to use British or American standard height. In any case the correct setup is: the rails on which the runners (trucks in US lingo) ride should be the height of the printing material (type, photopolymer on base, etc) above the bed of the press. So I would start by building the rails up to whatever height standard you choose.

As a standard to meet, the roller diameter and runner diameter should be the same, to avoid slurring of the ink as the rollers pass over the printing surface. So given that condition, I think you should build up the rails to whatever height you choose to use, so that you can use German or English type as well as photopolymer. But you could also decide to always use only photopolymer (though it is a demanding material to use with a small hand press like that unless the rollers are carefully adjusted for their contact with the printing surface). If so you could have the base machined to the correct height to make the KF152 plates the same height as your rails. (This also assumes that the rails are absolutely uniform height, not uneven.)

Another solution is to make, or have made, a pair of angle-iron adjustable rails that can be screwed to the sides of the existing rails and support the rollers at whatever height you choose to use.

The F. M. Weiler presses are I believe pretty well made and reliable, so making it work for you is probably well worth the effort. Good luck!


Hello Bob!

Thank you for your answer, this too is very helpful for me.

I went through my aluminium scraps and found a smaller, 20mm base, this one would fit perfectly into the chase bed. It fits really well, the runners stay where they have to and the plate doesn’t get inked up.

Also, I have measured the rollers and the trucks, which are 39,3 and 42,2mm in diameter. That means the rollers - which look like new - are either the wrong type or must have been used heavily, right?

However, I have noticed that, if I use the 20mm base, I would have around 1,5mm “space” between the base and the rollers to mount photopolymer plates. As these are 1.52mm, they would fit right in there, no? Even if it sounds wrong, but I think this could actually work out. The only downside is that I can’t combine it with lead type due to the height difference.

I’m going to get a bigger 20mm base now, I think this makes the most sense.

The last question: How problematic is the perfect evenness of the base? I read somewhere that the boxcar and lyme bay press bases are precise up to 0,015” or 0,4mm. My aluminium scraps that I get are milled down up to 0.4 - 0.5mm. Is this half millimeter critical?

Thank you in advance! You already helped me a great deal!

Kind regards,

Hello, Newbie,

The most critical element will be the relation between roller diameter and runner/truck diameter — they should ideally be equal diameters, with the rollers perhaps no more than 1/16 inch (about 2mm) larger. If your rollers are 3mm smaller than the trucks you may be able to get away with it but expect trouble — the rails will have to be about 1 to 2mm lower than your printing surface to compensate.

The main problem I think you will encounter is that photopolymer, because it is so thin, requires very precisely flat base and very precisely set rollers — an uneven base means some areas won’t get inked because the high spots hold the rollers up, and rollers that are not just kissing the surface of the plate are likely to ink up the bottoms, or blank areas, or miss the plate entirely. You can shim the back of the base to adjust for the latter and tape the rails to adjust for the former, but it’s tedious, and the uneveness of base, rails, or rollers will bite you.


“The runners are the one it came with. I don’t know much about it, it was found hidden behind the walls of an old house when it was knocked down. It must have been there for maybe 50 years or more. It was never in use since it was found. The rollers looks pretty much unused but the runners look vintage.”

What a story that press could print, if it could print its own story! Maybe it was used to print some Jewish Underground Newspaper in the thirties and forties, or possibly early communist literature? Perhaps cold-war era anti-Soviet or anti-American flyers like the ones I was handed in Heidelberg around 1976? We’ll never know, but I suspect you can come up with a good story to go with it, nicht Wahr?

Hello all,

I just wanted to give you a quick update.

I bought some more 20mm aluminium scraps and sanded them by hand until they are smooth.

Then I made my first testprints with the KF152 photopolymer plates that I ordered from Lyme Bay Press (very friendly and helpful people there, btw.).

Sorry for the profanities but I needed something to print ;-)

The rollers now gently touch the photopolymer plates, the height seems to be just right. However, I still have no idea how this was supposed to work with type, I guess the press really has the wrong rollers installed.

You are right! I too would love to know the full history of my press!
The seller said it was found behind a wall of an old house which used to be a base of the SS back in WW II.
I don’t know how long it was hidden, maybe even before the second world war… Whatever it used to print before, it’s going to have a bright and colorful future, the color brown won’t be involved in any way ;-)

Kind regards,

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