Cantankerous Pilot

Hello fellow printers.
I keep going back (and eventually giving up on it again)
My precious C and P Pilot. It’s lovely to look at and I love it to death but in the 10 years I’ve owned it I’ve never been able to get it to the point where I can print with confidence or print without some level of frustration. It has all original parts, I use the best ink I can find. I have learned to adjust the platen with only mild or temporary success. The rollers (new) and inking disc are good. The plate/cuts/type print perfectly on the flat bed Farley. Make ready works only temporarily. Please help!!

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I suggest a photo survey to start. Perhaps a cracked part. If you care to take six photos of your press, L/H, R/H, front, rear, Top with ink disc on and top with ink disc off. The better the photo the more I can see. If the press is without a fault then I defer to the printers reading this note.


I’d recommend looking at the bolts that hold the press together. If your adjustments are only temporarily successful, and your packing / type height has not changed, then something is moving.

I had a Kelsey Star that was notorious for just that thing. After struggling with it for several months, I discovered that one of the frame bolts was allowing the machine to rack a little bit. Oddly, it was as tight as it would go…. it would not turn with a wrench. The problem turned out to be a bolt that was slightly too long. It was not tightnening the frame. Instead it was bottoming out in it’s hole.

The other possibility is worn bearings / shafts. This is not as likely with a Pilot… but still possible.

A question not asked yet, that I can see, is “what are you printing?” If, like many, you are trying to obtain a good consistent result hitting the paper hard to make a deeply impressed image, it may be that your materials are suffering from the “abuse” and, for example, your packing is getting mashed, or your image is getting mashed.. Many commonly-used materials for press makeready are not up to deep impression, and of course the presses weren’t made for it either. If you are overstressing the equipment or the materials you can expect this sort of response from them. If each time a new setup is renewed with fresh materials (packing, image etc) it starts out OK and deteriorates during the press run, I would suggest careful examination of your choice of materials. The Pilot is one of the strongest small presses but none were intended for the stress of deep impression.


Double post

Ten years to own and not enjoy your press is too much.
Where are you? You need to get together with someone who knows how to inspect and adjust a press. Also do as Tom at T & T Press Restoration (ink spot) says and provide pictures. He is very good and may be able to detect a problem.
Next contact John Falstrom and purchase his roller and platen adjusting gauge.
Think like the press. You need to understand how the press was built and designed to work. The platen was adjusted at the factory and the rails were not yet worn.Unless the platen screws (really bolts) have been taken apart by someone who thinks the press should be disassembled for cleaning, the factory setting should not have to be messed with.
There are three types of people who mess with the platen screws:
The nut and bolt turning idiots who don’t know what they are doing
The well intentioned but misguided
The few who understand the process and can see in their mind what is happening

Get John Falstrom’s gauge and we can go from there. Ot would be best to have hands on with the experienced person, but I can talk you through it.

Get some ink on your shirt,


Thank you all.
Have sent photos as suggested to you Tom. I await your verdict.

Winking cat…I’ll check all of the bolts.

Bob, I’m printing or at least trying to print, vintage cuts and type of all sorts but none of it with a deep impression and none of it, so far, successfully. I have a flatbed Farley which prints everything perfectly (like the good child) and an Arab which is also cantankerous but less so than the Pilot. hopefully the advice received here (for which I am deeply grateful) will solve my problem.
I learned to print letterpress using a Heidelberg KSBA cylinder press about 20 years ago but decided to go manual after nearly losing a few fingers late one night whilst cleaning up.
Since then I have honed my skills somewhat.

Inky, I have other presses that are easier to use so I have always trod the path of less resistance but the Pilot has had its way too long. Have sent the pics to Tom.
I have a gauge that I think is the same as Johns.
I’m in the tropical north of Australia. Its a five hour flight to get to anyone who knows presses. I will do my best to think like a press…that’s good advice actually.
We had no choice but to take out the platen screws…they were difficult to turn and I was worried that there was too much pressure on one side. We were successful with that much at least… I think.
It would be great to have you all close by to offer your advice. Anyone want a holiday in the tropics? Accommodation is free!!
Inky, my husband often complains because I don’t own an item of clothing without ink on it! :)
kind thoughts to you all,

where in oz are you?

I live in Queensland and maybe I can assist you

Sent you an email rroddi

lease try [email protected]

lease try [email protected]

Copious emails later we now have the cantankerous Pilot running smoothly and, for me at least, printing as never before.
Thanks go to all of you for your valuable input.
Special gratitude to you Tom for your expert advice, patience and tolerance.
Kind thoughts to all,

That’s great news! Can you give us some details as to what was causing the issue and how you resolved it?

Raggedy Red followed these steps with desired results.

Step one, with the platen closed… is the yoke against the stops, both left hand and right hand? That is to say with the lever in the horizontal position the yoke (rear element of the press attached to the side arms) must be hard against the two stops of the side frames. The yoke must cleanly stop against the side frames at the same moment of full lever actuation.

Step two, if the stops are not being contacted back off the platen adjusting screws until the stops are contacted. Hold this position with the lever down then readjust the platen to type high plus 0.050”

Step three, if step one is complete and functioning as designed and the platen is adjusted correctly, remove the lever and left hand side arm. thoroughly inspect the lever to yoke interface (stub shaft) paying particular attention to the area of engagement with the lever. Pilot presses over the years have used many different types of “lever to shaft” engagement techniques. Compounded by previous printers tinkering and possible repairs… anything is possible. About 4 out of 10 Pilot presses have failures at this joint that could contribute to your noted results.


The platen was out of adjustment…