Friday, January 7, 2011


You know what? Fixing a press is not easy, especially if you're unfamiliar with the inner workings of the type of press you're trying to fix. I've used Vandercooks for years, and feel confident tinkering with one, because I know how it's supposed to act when it's working. But this press...

my press where it sat for 30 years unused

Is a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a vest. Recently though, I've made some more progress, and more importantly, I'm gaining confidence. I'm also coming to terms with the fact that this press will never look perfect, but it should work.

A few months ago, I found out that my press has some parts that weren't manufactured by Chandler & Price.

my press, ink disc bracket

My ink disc bracket is made up of three parts, two arms that bolt to the frame and one that lays over top, like a post and lintel. On a C&P, this is all one piece.

my press, ink disc lever

Another mystery was how come the ink disc lever, the mechanism with a little hook that turns the ink disc, was much smaller than a C&P's. It worked, it just didn't look like it was supposed to.

Lastly, there's the gripper cam.

my press, gripper cam

A C&P's gripper cam

Well, as you can see, one of these things is not like the other. I knew these parts weren't homemade repairs, because they had serial numbers on them, but I didn't understand where they could have come from.

So I did some research and found out that around 1887, Chandler & Price was not the only press manufacturer around. There were many regional manufacturers building nearly identical generic presses lumped under the description of old style Gordon jobber presses. The article George Gordon's Dream Press is a great resource if you want to learn more. I plan to buy A Catalogue of 19th Century Printing Presses by Harold E. Sterne when I have some extra dollars too.

Now that I knew that, I searched for images of "gordon jobber presses" and started finding some presses that had parts that looked like mine! Like this one, an S&L old style jobber press with a three piece ink disc bracket.

three piece ink disc bracket

And most striking, I found the Old Reliable. The Old Reliable was only manufactured for one year, 1888, and then the patents were sold to Chandler & Price.

Old Reliable

Chandler & Price Old Style

The two press's look nearly identical! So what I've come to realize is that my press is a mutt. The main frame and platen is from a 1887 Chandler & Price. The flywheel, gripper cam, ink lever, and ink disc bracket...not Chandler & Price. They could be from any number of regional press manufacturers that were around back then. I'm so glad I figured this out, because now that I know that there's plenty of other mystery presses out there that are working. Will it work even though it's a mutt? I think so.

No comments:

Post a Comment