Rebuilding a Press

In the past, I’ve rebuilt woodworking machines. And I don’t just mean giving them a fresh coat of spray paint, I mean stripping them to bare castings, repainting, polishing and repairing everything, and putting them back together. It’s a messy, time consuming process. The problem is that I obsess over it; I insist on having every casting clean right down to the cast iron, with no trace of original schmutz or paint left over, before priming and re-painting.

Completely ignoring the warnings perpetuated by my internal dialogue, I started to do the same process to my 10x15 Craftsman press. I immeidately miscalculated the tenacity of ink. Sawdust blows off, it would seem that some species of petrified ink could be applied to the bottom of the space shuttle for a stress-free re-entry.

I started with the ink fountain, which seems to have never been cleaned properly once in the last 75 years. After a long soak in some freakish smelling paint stripper that destroyed my rubber gloves almost instantly, then a bath in industrial degreaser, I was still left with a mountain of stratified ink residue that would impress a geologist. I spent sunday morning at the kitchen counter with a knife, carving off chunks of ink to help speed up the process. Another soak in the degreaser, followed by a bath in the Evaporust, the machine restorer’s miracle fluid. As I pulled a (finally) clean casting from the tank, it became clear to me that there is hidden beauty in my greasy, ink stained old press.

The castings were clean and well made; no voids or filler. The pattern from which the part was made was beatuifully executed, with sweeping curves throughout. The machined pieces that fit into the casting were all machined perfectly. 75 years ago, automation was limited to turret lathe and screw machines. The parts that I just cleaned off would have been finished by hand by someone. I’m not the first person to pay an insane amount of attention to the left ink fountain upper roller retaining block.

I wonder if that machinist, 75 years ago, as he popped another part out of the jig on the table of his big milling machine, thought anything about the fact that his handiwork would still be appreciated, so many years later?

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I’ve found out, several times, that the many hours spent restoring and refurbishing printing machines have a meditative quality. When I worked on my c.1855 R. Hoe Washington, no only did I uncover lettering that had been painted on the bare casting (probably by a worker directing it to the next department), unseen for 145 years. I also realized that it had been made before the discovery of oil, and all of the machines that made it had to first be invented, then built, and were lubricated by animal or vegetable oils. The five weeks that it took to fully paint it by hand was the same amount of time it would have taken then.

The exercise of getting to know every inch of ones press is not wasted time as some have argued. I know my press better than anyone ever has, and by extension it has become more than just a machine, it has become a part of me.

You guys are really talking my language. In the past 6 years I have restored and sold about 50 Golding presses with virtually every part having been individually cared for and analyzed. Heck, I even refurbish the original flathead screws, filing any burrs and wire brushing them smooth again. It never ceases to amaze me and give me a deep appreciation for what they accomplished in design, engineering and production. Many of them date from 100 to 130 years ago and still have the level of craftsmanship you describe. I second Paul’s comment as well. It is not for everybody, but, there is nothing that can give you a better understanding and intimate knowledge of your press. The one difference I guess we have Keelan is that I am for preserving the old finish whenever possible. On more than one occasion I have painstakingly removed several layers of new paint to reveal the original finish and decoration. My prettiest presses were all nothing more than black blobs when purchased, not, some perfectly preserved specimen I happened upon. At this point, I think I could disassemble and reassemble any Golding with my eyes closed.


I’m thinking Henry Ford or Ransome Olds would take issue with the “…75 years ago, automation was limited…” Heck, that age frame sees WW2 fought with club and rock. :o)

If they could see the current level of automation achieved in their own industries, I don’t think they’d take issue at all.

How do I get the main shaft out of the middle of my Adana? It moves when tapped with a block of wood, but obviously I cannot keep on tapping it once it disappears into the bearing. No doubt there’s a good tip for this! Tahnks


Go to the lumber yard and get a dowel of the proper diameter to follow the shaft in and go to it.

John Henry

Let’s not confuse Henry Ford with a tradesman and craftsman or master of a trade; he was a businessman who was good at stealing from from others and convincing people he was the originator (To be exact, the Model T which was the first AMERICAN mass produced car, the world first being the Austin 7 which Ford saw and thus stole and produced in the same manner).

Thanks, John Henry.

Your knowledge of Ford’s abilities, and for that matter, history of automobiles, is as deep as dew upon a butterfly’s wing. Austin 7? Really? Better look up Austin’s history. And the first mass-produced American auto was not the Model T Ford. Do your homework. :o)


Please, take a moment and inform us all.

Not to detract from the Ford thread…
Press refurbishment and restoration requires ambition, space, correct tools, some wisdom, mechanical aptitude, patience, ventilation, research skills, an air compressor, access to a machinist that listens, skillful welder and a McMaster Carr account.

Past performance is the best indicator of what to expect when you seek advice or a press that looks as good as it performs.

Pride in ownership. Quality lives on long after the price is forgotten.


It would take far longer than a ‘moment’. :o) And, I should think that the history of the man who put America on wheels would be as familiar to its citizens as is the point system to a printer. (Okay…. some printers.) :o)


Well said. I had to smile about your McMaster Carr account comment. I don’t know where I would be without them.

Tom, McMaster Carr will only ship to “long standing” Canadian customers, so I’ve never had the pleasure of such a readily available source of mechanical bits.

I had originally hoped to keep the original paint on my press, but it soon became clear that anything process — mechanical or chemical — capable of removing the ink was more than capable, and willing, to remove the paint as well. I haven’t gone all willy-nilly with the re-paint, I mixed up a close match to the original paint color, so the press will remain a bluish shade of grey.

The other discovery I am making is that while my press appears to have never once been cleaned, it was well oiled. I pulled off one of the side arms, and the plain steel-on-cast-iron bearings show no signs of wear.

Your remark about your press apparently having never been cleaned reminds me that I was told in the old commercial shop the press was often filthy except where the ink and paper touched. It was also well oiled. I was taught that if there is not some oil on the floor, you are not oiling often enough.
Get some ink on your shirt.