Hoe Washington Press Video

Hi list,
I hope you will enjoy this video.
Regards, p


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I did enjoy that, pcg63. Can you explain what they’re doing with the oil at 2:06?


Interesting video and thanks for posting. Looks like they did a complete restoration.

The oil acts with a capillary action to lubricate the bed which rides atop rail tracks. It’s steel against steel and the bed alone can weigh a few hundred pounds. The rails are about 5/8” deep on their inside over their 5’-6’ length. Aprox every 2 inches, there are raised inner tracks (also about 2” long). Oil is filled to their level, thus allowing the heavy bed of the press to almost float on the raised rails. Having raised inner rails with breaks between them keeps the oil from spilling out of the larger rail well when the bed is moved in and out and allows for the capillary action to work.

Some Washington Presses, I believe Cincinnati Type Foundry, did make some presses with rollers which aided in moving very large beds in and out.

Well, the oil is new on me. I work on four Washington presses, my own and three others at a museum, and I/we have always GREASED the rails for a smooth operation. Is oil something that is a recent idea? I honestly have never heard of using it for this purpose before.


I’ve worked on wooden, Albion and Columbian presses and on the wooden ones it was grease; the Albion and Columbian presses were always filled with oil…

That is a beautiful press.

Last week I was printing with a Cincinnati Type Foundry press (platen size approx. 29 x 35” : sorry! I can’t remember the numbers, even though they are cast right into the platen!) At any rate, the bed does have rollers to aid the movement, in addition to the tracks with wells. I was using the R. G. Rummonds book as a reference, which specified oil to be used in the wells of the track.

A few months ago we were working on a c. 1890 Hoe Washington press, which had the tracks greased. We replaced the grease with oil, and it does seem to move more smoothly, with a bit less effort than it did with the grease. Of course, I might just be telling myself that to rationalize all the time it took to get all that grease cleared out of the wells…..


When I set up a Cincinnati Type Foundry press at the Missouri History Museum a few years ago, I followed Rummonds instructions (p. 34 of his book) to pour motor oil into the wells of the tracks to just below the level of the raised sections. He specifically says not to use grease. Capillary action gives the rack just a good amount of lubrication for the bed of the press to slide across the rails, and it always operated smoothly with no slop on the floor. It scared me, though, to see them tilt the press up on those two legs—a lot of weight on the legs. We used a hydraulic lift to hold the frame up and slid the legs under into position.
Bob Mullen

Like any press a Washington can be over-oiled. To keep that much oil laying on the rails is inviting a mess from settling room and paper dust. The rails should be oiled regularly, but they should also be cleaned regularly as well. Giving the press oil when needed is the way the press ought to be run. Pouring an over-abundance of oil into the wells in the tracks is overkill, something for which Rummonds is known. The synthetic oils on the market today will coat the metal and give adequate coverage without flooding the press. I know that I would rather wipe up a little dirty oil regularly than a lot of dirty oil ever.


Rick… In addition to my own 1850+/- Hoe press, I’ve seen 8 other (working) Washingtons which all use oil, over the last 20+ yrs. When I first restored my press I used grease but it kept getting shoved to the sides of the tracks and pushed out the ends. The affordable grease products I tried all seem to have a factory stench to them which, when combined with the Glade “ocean breeze” scent in my house, wasn’t good. Add some dirt+time+use and the grease tended to become less tacky after repeatedly sliding between the same, constant, smooth surface rails. Constantly prodding the rails with a popsicle stick to stir the grease around usually ended up with me wearing it. Much later, after reading Rummond’s book, I took his advice. I experimented with some different oils from 20wt all the way up to a 70 weight. Soon realized that oil had it’s advantages.

I’ve settled on using engine oil that has a single viscosity rating of 40wt or 50wt. Didn’t like the thinner weights.

Bob… I also cringed when I saw the press tipped-up. Fortunately for the owner, the legs on the newer style Hoe presses are much stronger than the older, more ornate ones.

Thanks guys, I’ve learned something useful.


I believe that the early presses were designed to have tallow packed in the bed guides, so when the bed ran along the weight “melted” the tallow, perhaps that can be confirmed?
But I use oil today just on the bearing surfaces, a Saphire blue oil by Rocol hi-torque 220-it really is sticky so stays on top of surfaces and in worn bearings……but seems to be free running too. Top up once a month-!