Press binds when throw off is engaged

The subject line says it all. I have a C&P 8x12 Oldstyle. Worked fine yesterday. The only thing I did differently today was a) oil it, and b) run it with only two rollers.

I have looked closely at the mechanism and I can’t see anything wrong, but it is binding seriously when the impression is made. There is no pushing through it. As soon as the plate kisses the paper it is jammed. You can back it out and the press runs normally when the throw off is not engaged.


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The four images here are when the throw off is not engaged

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Sounds like you have too much packing, or the plate is higher today for some reason, or the stock is thicker. Is it the same job with the same makeready as yesterday? If that is the case, I don’t know…..

Here are four images when the throw off is engaged (thrown?). Again the press moved normally until the it closes to make an impression - that is when it jams.

The press was disassembled recently but reassembled by the PO and as far as I can tell it worked fine up until today. It never locked up like this. As I’m sure you can tell from my posts, I don’t know what I am doing. Thank you!

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Hi Geoffrey,

No, it’s a new setup. I’m still setting the machine up and YES there is a lot more packing today - a lot. Can too much packing do this?

Update: I removed the extra packing but no good. It still jams. I should add one more clue: for the past two days I’ve been working on roller height. I had to add many strips of packing tape to my rails to get the ~ 1/8” stripe on the roller setting gauge as suggested by Boxcar Press. That’s what I’ve been doing.

I now have it so the top roller (using only two) gives me a 1/8” strip of ink on the gauge. The bottom roller barely touches. I don’t know how to even out the height of the individual rollers.

Thanks to Geoffrey’s clue I removed all the tape I put on the rails and voila! The press works normally.

Someone please explain to me how building up the rails to get the 1/8” stripe on the roller gauge resulted in jamming the press when making an impression? And now what do I do about my type height?

My apologies for all the posts.

It sounds like the rails, with all that tape on them, may be so high that they are hitting the platen and not allowing the press to close.

One thing that might help you is: if the rails are hitting the edges of the platen where there is packing on the platen, make the packing narrower so that there is no packing in the area where the rails come toward the platen. That might create enough space so the press can close.

If that doesn’t work and the taped rails are still hitting the platen, you will have to take enough tape off the rails so the press can close normally.

Then if you need to raise the rollers, put tape on the roller trucks instead of on the rails. If you put tape on the roller trucks instead of on the rails, you can vary the amount of tape on each roller to individually adjust them to the right height.

Try that and let me know what happened. Hope it works for you. Taping the roller trucks isn’t the best way to fix the problem, but it is the cheapest and quickest. If the tape you are using is hard to put on the roller trucks, you can clean the roller trucks really well and then use a good quality black electrical tape like 3M 33+ or 3M 700 tape, available at just about any hardware store or Home Depot.

Your grippers are not under the bed bearers are they?

Hi John,

No regarding the grippers. I removed them.

You are absolutely right regarding the rail height. I had built them up so much that the press would not close. I also had my packing out to the edge so I’m going to follow your suggestion and trim the sides of the packing.

I’m also going to follow your advice and use a combination of tape on the rails and trucks. I really like the idea of varying the amount of tape on the trucks to even out the roller height. Figure I can do them one at a time starting with the bottom roller. Many thanks for the help. I’ll do this tomorrow and let you know. Jim

dickg, a regular on this forum and a good printer is a truck taper. I am not. Trucks and rollers are to be the same diameter. When different, you can have other problems. The objective is to return the press to the way it was built to operate. Wear has taken its toll on the rails and it is difficult to put new metal on. Tape is the quick answer. With the rails built up to .918” the press will not bind when the platen is bare of packing where the rails come down. Unless someone has been messing with the platen to bed clearance.
Get some ink on your shirt.
An alternative to rail tape is roller bearers. We don’t hear much about them. Pretty simple to make

Thanks Inky. The thing I can’t figure out is why my rollers heights are not uniform. It’s not the rollers or trucks - they are new and I have checked them with a micrometer, but when mounted on the press they do not ride the same. Using only two rollers I had the top one producing slightly less than an 1/8” stripe on my roller gauge (both sides) and the bottom roller would not even touch the gauge. How can two identical rollers riding the same rails have different heights? One thing I just thought of is that the rollers were in pretty much the same place every time I took a measurement. Could the rails be uneven?

Could the rails be uneven? Well, maybe.
I teach that one must think like the press. That means you must understand how the press was designed and built to work. The press wants to do a good job. If worn or misaligned, it needs your help.
New parts alone will not do the job. You know what the symptom is and what you want to accomplish to remedy that symptom. Now you have to determine how.
Swap the rollers and measure stripe, End for end the rollers and measure stripe. Do you have any new information? Examine the roller saddles. Are they well within tolerance of being the same diameter as the roller cores? Are they wallowed out? Remove the tape and place a straightedge along the length of the rail - each side. Rails can be worn wavy.
Do you have any information to help you? If the top roller gives a good stripe with proper tape and the bottom does not, think like the press. Why not? Is the spring and saddle holding the roller in far enough? If not, why not?
We probably cannot give you a good diagnosis and solution from afar. We can try to lead you to your solution.

Get some ink on your shirt.

Could the rails be uneven? Well, maybe.
I teach that one must think like the press. That means you must understand how the press was designed and built to work. The press wants to do a good job. If worn or misaligned, it needs your help.
New parts alone will not do the job. You know what the symptom is and what you want to accomplish to remedy that symptom. Now you have to determine how.
Swap the rollers and measure stripe, End for end the rollers and measure stripe. Do you have any new information? Examine the roller saddles. Are they well within tolerance of being the same diameter as the roller cores? Are they wallowed out? Remove the tape and place a straightedge along the length of the rail - each side. Rails can be worn wavy.
Do you have any information to help you? If the top roller gives a good stripe with proper tape and the bottom does not, think like the press. Why not? Is the spring and saddle holding the roller in far enough? If not, why not?
We probably cannot give you a good diagnosis and solution from afar. We can try to lead you to your solution.

Get some ink on your shirt.

I can’t offer any real assistance, but troubleshooting is part of my day to day job (completely different field) and I would add that you should only make one change at a time. If you add tape to the rails, and you add tape to the trucks, and your impression is worse then did you add too much tape to one or the other? Add tape to one, test. Add tape to the other, test. Add roller bearers, test. And so on. If a change makes things worse then you know which thing didn’t help. If you make two changes and one helps and the other hinders you will never know.

I would second trying roller bearers if you can, you would loose some printable area but should not need to tape anything and if the bearers are true then uneven rails should not be an issue.

First off, thank you for the great advice. Here is what I did today:

1. I pulled off the tape and checked the rails with a straight edge. The main rail sections where the chase sits are not perfectly flat (can see daylight under the straight edge) and become seriously wavy at the bottom curved areas.

2. Using a 0.900 standard, I added packing tape until the rails were flush with the it (6 strips each rail). I know it is not type height but it’s close and the shape is easier to use. I figured I could tweak from there.

3. I measured stripes using the roller guage and the stripes were way too wide - not even close - bottom roller a 1/4”, top roller > 1/4”

4. I added one more strip of packing tape to each rail. The press will not close and jams if throw off is engaged. I knew I was close with 6 strips - I could feel the resistance. Measured stripes again and still too wide with the top roller generating a wider stripe.

5. removed rollers and examined saddles. Not sure but I find it hard to believe they were machined like this from the factory. In comparison, look at the lower single saddle. Please see attached images and let me know what you think.

I think this press, from 1895, is not at a standard type height. I want to try roller bearers next. I’ve read some threads on the subject and it should not be too hard to make them. Just to be clear, I’ve attached an image of my chase with the base installed. I’ve placed red arrows where I think the bearers should be placed. Is this right? Do you swap out some furniture for the bearers?

Thanks again

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image: taped-rails.jpg


image: left-saddle.jpg


image: right-saddle.jpg


image: chase.jpg


Your understanding and mine match for the roller bearers. They go either side of the chase to keep the rollers at the right height. You will either want to use a frisket or keep the stock out of that area as the bearers are type high and will be inked.

You should probably be backing your platen out somewhat and positioning the packing so it is only between the roller rails. The best way to raise the rollers is with tape on the trucks, or make the trucks larger in diameter, but they should, as has been said here many times, be the same diameter as the rollers. If you use roller bearers, be sure they are also not going to hit the packing, as they need also to be type-high. You will also have the problem that they will ink up and print on the packing or platen unless you have a gap at their position.


You are thinking like the press. The single saddle looks about right. The double saddle looks like it was machined out deeper. Either that or it is wallowed out by the roller core having worn away at it without oil for a long time. The real solution is to weld/braze up in the saddle and drill out to the proper dimensions. The practical solution is to go to roller bearers as it is simpler, quicker and cheaper. They will also compensate for the wavy rails.
You are close.
Get some ink on your shirt.

This may be out in left field somewhere and please ignore if so, but from your descriptions it seems the issue started when you started using a new plate base and you say you had to add so much tape to the rails that the press wouldn’t close. That seems to indicate that the base might be too thick for the plates that your are using. Have you measured the thickness of the base with the printing plate attached? It may be that you could get a base that would be somewhat thinner that might allow you to operate without adding any tape at all to the rails.
Also, in your picture “taped rails” the tape looks ribbed with regular bumps. I don’t know the kind of tape you used or the condition of the rail underneath the tape but that surface need to be very smooth and straight or it will cause multiple image problems as the truck rolls over the bumps. If it’s really that bumpy you probably couldn’t get a good read with your gauge.

The worn saddles are not an issue. Repairing the worn saddles will have no effect on the roller height above the bed.


Hi Bruce,
I’m sorry i gave that impression but I am new to printing and this is how I received the press from the PO who used the boxcar plate base exclusively I believe. I made some stupid mistakes buying this machine such as not having him demonstrate that it can actually print. What I have been trying to do since setting it up at my place is calibrate it according to what I’ve read here and elsewhere. That’s where I am now.

Thanks to the people on this excellent forum, I am starting to understand the machine better and think like the press as Inky would say (love that).

I’m going to have some roller bearers made that will hopefully help mitigate 120 years of wear and tear. As for the tape, you’re right, but packing tape is what people recommend. I think my problem is too many layers. I’m still concerned that as Bob stated I may need to back out my platen but roller bearers first. Thanks!

It looks like you are using a .900” gauge to determine roller height, which is incorrect. Type high is .918” and roller setting gauges made to the correct height are available. The tape being used looks really rough and even at correct height will make for some pretty bumpy inking—use smooth tape. And, even though bases and plates are made accurately, they sometimes do not add up to .918” and after rollers are set parallel to the bed of the press, they may still need further setting to ink the image area correctly. And, if you inherited the rollers and trucks, you may need to get new rollers and trucks and eliminate the truck/roller problem and concentrate on the bed rail height issue.

Yes, as mentioned I used the .900” standard for my initial laying on of the tape because the size and flat bottom made it easier to check level. I have new rollers and trucks. Thank you

Suggestion: remove the packing from the platen and try again with the throwoff “on impression”. Still binding?

Edit: I now see you apparently solved the binding problem.


Did you remove all the packing and tympan form the press? If you have taped your rails to .918 and have no packing in the press and the press is still binding then roller bearers are not going to solve your problem and they too will bind the press when it closes.

You need room for press packing and the thickness of your paper. To get this you will need to back your platen your out to accommodate the thickness of packing you plan on using. I usually set my platens to be 0.050” above type high or 0.968” between the bed and the platen with no packing. (that makes it easy to set if you have a Galley Height Type gauge)

After you have the platen set you can then tape the rails. With rails that worn I would recommend UHMW tape as it comes in thicker sizes and is more stable than regular tape when you need to build the rails up that much.


Hi Lee, So I should be setting the platen as you describe before the roller height? To answer your question: if I build up the rails with tape to .918 and try to get a stripe on the roller gauge anywhere near 1/8” the press binds - even with no packing. What I don’t know is whether getting that thin stripe means I am exceeding .918”

The rails without tape measure ~ .875 from the chase bed and it is a pretty consistent measurement. Can that be part of the problem? Maybe that is all wear but it seems like a lot to me and it takes a lot of tape to get to .918

I have tried to stay out of this but Leo touched on what I have been thinking. Setting the impression has nothing to do with the rollers although excise tape can make them too high I guess.

I read long ago how to set your impression using a large point size piece of type in each corner. Tighten impression screws until type is snug at each corner, then back off. If you want, you can use and automobile feeller gauge to measure the amount of packing you want to allow for. Then you balance all 4 corners. Next you would tape your rails as needed. Cut all packing short of where the rails touch the platen.

When I have locked up my press, 3 times in 10 years, I had to back of the impression screws to undo it. Each time it was because of thick paper and heavy packing. Coincindentally I have an 8x12 OS like yours.

Hope this helps.

Thanks Mike.

Okay, I just sprayed the hell out of the platen bolts/nuts with Kroil in anticipation of adjusting the platen - something the PO told me to never touch…

Out of curiosity, I grabbed my .900 standard and closed the press with the throwoff “on impression”. I could not even fit a .900” gauge between the platen and chase bed (chase not installed). Unless I misunderstood Lee the space should be at least > than .918”

Also, with press closed and throwoff “on impression” there is a little daylight between the rails and platen.

Confused in CT

I am no expert but I set my press so that a lightly packed tympan barely touches the rails. The rails on mine are type high. This would give .918 between chase bed and tympan. My rollers are slightly larger than the trucks (1/16”) due to a misunderstanding when I replaced the rollers. If I put too much ink on the ink disc I have issues, but keep the ink light and I have no issues.

The REALLY important measurement is the chase bed to Platen (although packing can even that out a little.

Next is roller to chase bed (for proper inking) but in my experience that is less of an issue than you might imagine. Running a 1 1/4” roller on 15/16” trucks basically caused binding issues for me. (My press is “a table top toy” and my previous experience was with an Albion so I am pretty sure I would have trouble with your press.). Running 1” rollers on those same trucks works. I suspect it might be a little less sensitive to over inking if I was running 1” trucks. (The 1/16” difference in truck diameter equates to 1/32” roller height difference).

So, I would adjust the Platen first, then worry about the rollers. Once the Platen is set you should look at the inking, but if you get the perfect amount of ink on the type and can’t then get that on the paper you haven’t done anything useful.

You could always remove the rollers for the moment and use a brayer for the ink until you have the Platen set.

The objective is to return the measurements of the press to like new as it was manufactured and left the factory. If your bed to platen clearance is less than .900 with the throw-off on impression, someone has been messing with the press. Your previous owner advisor gave you pretty good advise about not messing with the platen screws. In this case though you will have to do it. Be very careful and fully understand what you are doing. You will want to bring it to .968 to allow for .050 of packing. You will need a measuring tool. Big pieces of type are .918. Four out in the corners of the chase. Pack the press with one sheet of press board, two sheets of copy paper and a tympan sheet. This is close to .050.Adjust the bottom of the platen first and then the top. You will probably have to go back and back off the bottom two bolts. You are looking for even printing. Kiss printing, not smash printing. Hand ink
the type (fingers perhaps, or a roller hand held) and tape a piece of copy paper to the platen to test after each adjustment of the platen screws. Several trials and adjustments. Think like the press and help it.

.875 rail height is a lot of wear. .030 wear is not unheard of in old well used presses. You have a bit more. Once you have the platen and bed adjusted and parallel (some say leveled) you can deal with the rails. I believe roller bearers will be you best solution. Your press will thank you.
Get ready to do some good printing and

Get some ink on your shirt.

In your first post you said that the press worked fine yesterday. More recently you said your .900 gauge would not fit. Something does not compute here. The two facts are inconsistent.

Hi Inky, I was was referring to the press being able to close and not jam - that’s what I meant. That said, I was able to test print although the printing was uneven. The press was putting too much ink on the plate and even inking negative areas of the plate. That’s what prompted me to re-tape the rails which started this debacle. I didn’t know enough about how these presses work to associate taping the rails and packing with why it was jamming.

Hi gutenberg99, back in the day the trucks were made out of steel and that’s why there is so much wear to the rails. Also, if there is that much wear then that may be why the previous owner adjusted the platen closer to the bed. If they didn’t build up the rails somehow they would have needed to use printing plates less the type high to get a proper inking, and then had to adjust the platen to get a good print. People will do whatever they need to do to get things to work, you know? So it could make sense now to build up the rails and move the platen back out. Just out of curiousity did you get any printing plates or a base from the previous owner in the deal that were less then type high?

All good advice on the different methods of setting your platen height.

You can buy uhmw tape on amazon that is .020 thick two layers of that and you are almost back to type high. My 8x12 and has two layers of .020 tape and one layer of .005 uhmw tape and it has excellent inking. This will not fix uneaven wear without carefully taping the worn spots first.

That UHMW tape is great—very durable and easy to apply. You can also buy it from Fritz at NA Graphics, in .005” and .010” thicknesses; and along with your tape you’ll get invaluable advice from a letterpress veteran. Check out—they help make what we do possible. (*Not* a paid announcement …!)

I concur with Lisa. I have used Fritz for many things including the tape. You can also buy it online from CS Hyde Company in a thickness of .003. Tricky to handle but if your rails only require .008 to be type high, it is indispensable.

Where in CT are you located. I’m in Westchester, NY. I’ve been printing on my 8x12 C&P NS for over 35 years.
I rebuilt one for a friend this past weekend upstate NY.
Please let me know where you are maybe I can help.
[email protected]

Thanks for all the advice. I’ve ordered UHMW tape and John Falstrom’s platen gauge. Thanks to John I now understand how these bloody platen studs work (mine has the two nuts per stud). I managed to back out the platen to a fairly uniform .950 using a cylindrical calibration standard. Once I receive John’s gauge I’ll set the platen height and tweak as advised above.

Okay, here’s the latest:

This evening I adjusted the platen height using the Falstrom roller/platen gauge and… EUREKA! Thanks to this gauge and John teaching me how the two nuts interact with the adjustment studs, I was able to adjust the platen to a uniform height of .968.

I tried a few test impressions and they looked fairly even, so I moved on to the rails. I applied two layers of .020 thick uhmw tape to each (this tape is great stuff), set up three rollers, inked the press, and measured stripes for each rollers. To my amazement, each roller produced an 1/8” stripe no matter where I measured. I must be dreaming…

I mounted a photopolymer plate that has some detail and made test prints on Crane’s Lettra 110lb (see below). I couldn’t get the frame to print cleanly but real progress thanks to this forum.

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Congratulations on the progress so far.

As I say, I am no expert, and my press is rather different… But in my experience that looks like a bit too much ink on the inking disk. I always find that I need a lot less ink than I think I should.

All the best