Letterpress skates / Press on wheels


I’m looking for some letterpress skates for a Vandy 1. Does anyone know where I can get something off the shelf or fabricated?

Alternatively, does anyone have a good technique for putting a letterpress on wheels? Open to suggestions of any kind.

(We don’t currently have a permanent place for the Vandy 1 so we have to keep shuffling it around the office, which isn’t ideal from a cost perspective to be hiring a mover every time we need to move it around). The press is too long for a palette jack (and it’s not currently on a palette).

Chicago, IL

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Is it a 1 or Universal 1?


From a long time ago, when we wanted to do the same thing, i.e. frequently move a proof press that was too long for a conventional Pump Truck, and was constantly in the wrong place, but needed eventually. Follows>>

When we could NOT borrow or HIRE, conventional machinery Skids, we adopted a D.I.Y. method thus:-
We already had 2 ton capacity Auto Mechanics trolley jack, several inches lift, and with 4 massive cast iron Wheels,
2 fixed in line ahead, 2 steering, for pulling 2 ton + Autos around.

With occasionally an adapter plate, to accommodate the front cross member on the press, that was our front steerable Bogie/Skate.

For the rear or trailing *Skate* we scoured the Scrap yards, for a redundant, blown hydraulics, trolley Jack.

Providing the 2 fixed, (in line ahead) wheels were O.K. those 2 wheels were cut of, and just welded onto, usually, a thick wall 3” x 2” steel box girder, But spaced and welded on, to suit the width of the press.

In one instance we welded on, for the rear bogie/skate, side to side, 4 small x 2, retaining plates, some presses have completely flat continuous, bases, some have *Feet* at each corner, some have, Anti Creep bolt holes, for Rawl bolts into the floor.

Which we utilised, when possible, otherwise our small retaining plates came into use, accompanied by Industrial Capacity self grip tools. We made it up as we went along.

Our Heath Robinson device, worked fairly well, rough factory floors and cast iron wheels, did hinder traction, but the same applied to professional skates,anyway.
The cost excluding labour was maybe $10 dollars, for the scrap jack, but $25 dollars, maybe more!! for the welding.
Labour was not an issue, we played in company time anyway,
But probably stood us in good stead, when we got a B********G for fiddling the time Clock.??
My usual apologies for Rubbish, May just help. Mick

Universal 1


Get on Craigslist and find yourself a cheap *narrow* pallet jack. A narrow pallet jack is 21 inches wide vs. 27 for a standard pallet jack, which is IMHO too big and clunky for home use. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find one with 36” forks rather than the standard 48” forks. Build a nice looking skid for your Vandy, and make it its permanent home.

I barely have the room for a pallet jack in my garage, but it’s come in handy so many times for shuffling my two linotypes and press around. I haven’t yet figured out how to use all three machines at once, so the pallet jack is stored under one of them.

You’ll be building skids/pallets for everything once you have one.

If you elevate your press, you are going to have to build a platform in front of it to use it. I would suggest you figure out where the press is going to live and set it directly on the floor.


Thanks for the help Mick. Definitely an affordable solution! I kinda prefer lower traction, as I do need to turn this baby.
Still trying to figure this out.


I’ll keep harping on about the pallet jack — attached is an idea for a ‘pallet’ that would only add a small amount of height to the press, mind you some degree of fabrication would be required, making this a somewhat costly solution. The thing would be sized so that the ends of the angle iron fit under the feet of the press, the rest would fit in the free space between the legs of the press. The rectangular-tubular bits could be replaced with appropriately sized channels, leaving the bottom open for the wheels of the pallet jack.

image: thing.jpg


If the skid pictured is fabricated out of steel and the press weight transfers to the four corner posts of the press. The shelving and back panel of a Universal I will not support the weight of the press if lifted only by a pallet jack. This is also true of the SP series.

The lack of robustness in the shelf is the reason for the steel skid — to transfer the weight to the legs of the press, rather than the shelf.

I would worry about that design flexing at the joints of the channels for the forks and bending upwards into the sheet metal of the press.

I would suggest a more expensive but safer solution — there are “crawler” pads for moving heavy machinery, which use a track like a bulldozer track instead of wheels, and with a swiveling pad for the load to sit on and a short steering rod. It will raise the press a bit, but would be a lot sturdier and safer than even casters, as well as lower.


I am with Keelan on this problem. While I don’t know the details of this press, ie; size, weight, construction of legs and/or base, etc., a steel frame would work well.

Give me some dimensions, estimated weight, pictures, and I can design a skid that will support the weight when being moved and while it is in operation, Unless the press is unusual in leg design, we should be able to keep the increase in height to 3”or less. Most likely we can keep the height increase to less than 1/2” and still be able to move it with a standard pallet jack and/or forklift.

Unless this press is more than say, 5,000 pounds caterpillar skates are a solution looking for a problem in
my opinion.

Not trying to be critical, I have a set that I use for larger rigging jobs. They have there place, but can be finicky to use.

Most people try and use four skates, one at each corner, they soon learn that unless the floor is perfectly flat, one skate will always be a problem, three skates will work better for most jobs. The drawback to using 3 is that the third one really needs to go where there is no leg or support on the machine being moved.

Looking forward to hearing different solutions to this problem. There is always more than one way to solve issues.


It’s a Universal 1, which can weigh anywhere from 1300 to 1900 pounds, either way, peanuts in terms of the suggested weldment. A channel suitable to clear the forks of the pallet jack would have web thickness of around 3/16” to 1/4”, so a 1/4” x 2” strap at the front and back of the lower side of the channel might be in order to keep the flex under control, and it wouldn’t present an obstacle for the wheels on the tips of the pallet jack forks.

All this is armchair engineering, of course…

Thought a little more about this, a simpler solution would be to cradle the press on the outside rather than the inside…

image: alternate.jpg


If the space is so tight that the press needs to be moved repeatedly, there may not be enough working room for a pallet jack But I’d suggest that permanent wheels on a press are not a good idea even if they lock.
Personally, I lucked into a set of old cast-iron three-wheel piano dollies which handled my Vandercook 325 with ease. The closest I could find in a recent web search would be four-wheel automotive dollies, at $89 per pair (Northern Tools & Eqipment) with two pair needed, or one pair and a Johnson bar.
My teacher made very compact casters out of a shaft welded to angle iron, sized for the roller bearings that were taken out of service from his large offset press. Place one in each corner of the machine and on smooth flooring movement is easy and controllable. The bearings break occasionally but even then it is only a 1/4” drop so not a catastrophic failure. And the press only needed needed a 1.5 inch lift to put the roller in place. Sorry, I don’t have any pictures, but some had angle-iron in “L” configuration, others in “V” for different machine bases and different angles of motion.

One more idea, this time not in the “get a pallet jack” direction. I didn’t want my printer’s saw to be much higher than it already was, but I needed it to be mobile, so I crafted a contraption that put the casters beside the cabinet rather than under it. It ended up being a little over an inch taller than it was before, and it’s quite stable as well, given that the wheels actually enlarge the footprint of the saw. Sorry for the terrible picture, my battery died after I took it. You can’t tell, but there are casters hiding under the square plywood protrusions.

Of course, for a printing press, you’d need something more robust, plywood wouldn’t cut it.

image: saw.jpg


jmpace, acknowleged, thanks, tried to keep the original quest in mind, i.e. occasional use, cheapest option and length of pump truck or lack of.? Good Luck.