awful noise on a Universal 1

I am printing on a Vandercook Universal One. Today it occasionally makes a terrible noise as the carriage crosses the form—it sounds as if the rollers are not rolling or it gears are grinding. Like a bad zipper. I oiled everything, checked for parts that are sticking or hitting. The automatic washup blade isn’t on. Nothing. And the prints look great. It is cold in the studio today and the ink is stiff but once it is worked around the rollers it seems fine. Any ideas? Oh, it doesn’t happen everytime. It will go for 30 prints without doing it, then doing it a few times. Also I increased the braking a little but nothing changed.

Log in to reply   6 replies so far

Is the gear on the form roller not meshing completely with the form roller rack? I have seen this happen which causes a nasty grinding sound - very similar to what you are describing.

You may want to post this on Paul Maxon’s site:

You will get more traction from Vandercook experts.

The gear on the back roller is not meshing with the rack. Check first that the rear roller is set correctly, then that the starter tooth is present and moving as it should.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

It seems that Dan concurs with my earlier assessment.

Check the part of the rack closest to the feed board. There is a spring loaded starter tooth that Dan mentioned in his post. Make sure that you can move this part of the rack down a fraction with marginal pressure. If not, you may need to clean the spring underneath. The entire rack should be clean and free of grease and oil.

I have also seen where factory shims under the rack were removed by an over zealous owner cleaning which caused this issue.

Thanks for all the help. Of course it stopped happening when I went back to print but I I located the spring and the starter tooth. All moved as it should but I will keep an eye on it. I could not locate the shims Ron described but now I have an idea of what is going on. Thanks!

Not all presses had shims. These were placed at the factory during assembly as needed.

Good luck.


I think this has been covered. Roller gear out of sync or loose, roller height wrong, temp could be causing problems.

Another possibility. Someone was trying to sell a student of mine a SP-15 and the gear was making this incredible noise. Seller explained that he had purposely had the rollers made oversized. Big, proud smile on his face. He also had this somewhat arrogant press mechanic there who solved the problem of the noise by putting grease into the ink. Not sure what these guys thought letterpress printing could do but they sure didn’t know what other than putting it onto the paper was.

When I showed the printed piece to my student and asked her is this what you want? she cried. She was good. And with my advice, passed. Found another press about a week later.

Just pay attention to the fundamentals. All the information is out there.