Rollers Not Inking Properly

I have read other threads and hope this is new enough that it’s helpful to others…
I have a C&P Pilot (Old Style). I am using 1 3/8” composition rollers (summer). The issue I’m having is that my rollers only make it about halfway up the ink disc, so the bottom roller never makes a full revolution. There’s about a 3/4” gap that never gets inked unless I manually rotate it every few pulls of the lever (not a sustainable solution). I’ve watched carefully to make sure the rollers aren’t slipping. And as far as I know, this is the original ink disc, the springs are tight, etc. Any ideas??

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Sorry I can’t give a definite solution, but some years back I looked at another Pilot with the same problem. My only guess at the time was that the “roller arm” on the right hand side (the link that causes the rollers to move when the lever is pulled) may be the wrong length. (That particular press was bought from someone who disassembles Pilots, cleans and paints them, but could he have swapped roller arms between presses?) Maybe a longer one would drive the rollers farther up the ink disk.

Sorry I can’t give a definite solution, but some years back I looked at another Pilot with the same problem. My only guess at the time was that the “roller arm” on the right hand side (the link that causes the rollers to move when the lever is pulled) may be the wrong length. (That particular press was bought from someone who disassembles Pilots, cleans and paints them, but could he have swapped roller arms between presses?) Maybe a longer one would drive the rollers farther up the ink disk.

I can’t imagine this is a problem with the length of the roller arms. I have worked on several Pilots and never noticed even the slightest difference in roller arm lengths. This could perhaps be the case if someone switched old style to new style, but I am still not sure that would create this problem. Keep in mind that a longer roller arm would still be limited by the range of motion of the platen and lever. Once the platen has completed the impression it doesn’t seem to matter how long the roller arm is.

All the roller arms I have come across have been long enough to insert or remove the rollers even when the are on the ink disk (not something I would recommend). This leads me to believe that the problem is somewhere else.

Is the lever of the press moving to a position parallel to the table?

Any chance you could post or email some photos of the press in action?

Certainly this is something that can be fixed.

My guess was based on the fact that the rollers only went half-way up the ink disk at complete depression of the lever, and that’s whether there was a form in the press or not. Since the roller frames are linked to the movement of the platen by the roller arm, it directly affects the movement of the rollers. I admit I’d never looked at a Pilot before that, and it was five years ago; it takes a parts diagram for me to get this straight now. But the two Pilots I’ve seen since than have had normal and complete roller movement.

True, but also keep in mind that the Pilot rollers will never make it to the top of the ink disk (one of the few flaws of the Pilot design). This is why I asked for pictures so we could see just what ‘halfway’ is. It may be that the rollers are simply too large in diameter?

I will get some pictures to post today. In the meantime, thank you for your ideas. I did have even larger rollers and then went down to the 1 3/8” which is what other C&P users seem to have. Although David at Tarheel said he has made some 1 1/4” for other Pilots. I did the math, though, and I’m not sure that would be enough to solve the problem.

One thing that helped a little was to pull back my platen by adjusting the impression screws. That allowed the lever to go as far as it would (parallel to the ground but not to the ink disc). I’m closer but still not going past a full revolution.

The other tidbit is that my ink disc is silver (I guess this was more common on the New Style) and some have said they tend to be uneven so the roller doesn’t make contact at the edge of the disc. This is true of mine as well.

Photos to come…

you could probably try going to the hardware store and finding a large (but thin) washer to place at the base of the ink disk. this would serve to raise the ink disk a fraction of an inch and maybe solve the edge contact issue.

Well, here’s the update on my rollers:

After I adjusted the impression screws (as mentioned above) I got a thin washer at the hardware store (great suggestion, dicharry) which I placed under the ink disc. That raised the ink disc just enough to make up for the unevenness of it. Now the rollers make contact at the very edge of the disc. Those two adjustments combined did help but did not entirely solve the problem.

(see attached photos)

My last resort is that I could move from 1 3/8” rollers to 1 1/4”. That would be a 4/10” less circumference on the roller, so maybe that would get me the rest of the way on the inking. Thoughts? Other suggestions?

Thanks, Susan

image: how far the rollers go up the disc with the lever all the way down

how far the rollers go up the disc with the lever all the way down

image: how much the rollers get inked with lever all the way down

how much the rollers get inked with lever all the way down

image: the resulting area on bottom roller that never gets reinked

the resulting area on bottom roller that never gets reinked

Update: Between me, my husband, and my letterpress instructor, I think we have diagnosed the problem with my Pilot. The resting position of the rollers is too low! In fact, the entire platen side of things sits too low (or in the case of the platen, too far open). The problem seems to be something to do with the handle and corresponding shaft. What I need to do is be able to adjust the whole carriage to sit higher and then the rollers will travel up the ink disc the appropriate amount. We have been able to loosen some things, adjust it, and then tighten it back up but as soon as you start moving the handle again, the rollers slip back down too far and the platen falls too far back. Has anyone had this issue, heard of it, or have any idea how to fix it???
Thanks, Susan


Any chance you can post an image of the press from the side with the platen open? I am restoring a press just like yours (old style with scallop arms and straight handle) that I should be able to use as a reference.

In all honesty it sounds to me like your rollers are just too big. However I don’t want you to head out and spend a ton of money on new rollers just to find that they don’t solve the problem.

Send a picture if you can and we’ll get it figured out.


Thanks, Brad. Here are the photos. My fear about getting smaller rollers is that it will improve—but not solve—the problem. I would like the answer to be smaller rollers…that would be much easier! Let me know what you think of the photos.

image: close up to show where rollers end up in respect to the rails in rest position

close up to show where rollers end up in respect to the rails in rest position

image: notice the space between the rollers and the chase (not there on other Pilots)

notice the space between the rollers and the chase (not there on other Pilots)

image: with platen open

with platen open

It appears the roller arm assembly has been installed incorrectly. As now positioned, the fulcrum is above the arm - it should be beneath to effect proper sweep.

I’m still looking at this and trying to figure it out. Forme does indeed seem to be correct, but I can’t imagine a way in which the roller arms could be installed differently. You have a linkage on the right side that attaches the roller frame to the right press arm which, in turns, moves the roller frames and roller arms when the lever is pulled. The only thing I can imagine is that something is not the right length here.

In making a full sweep the roller arms should be completely vertical when in the ‘up’ position. Right now you are falling several degrees short of vertical for some reason.

The lever arm, when pulled down completely, should be parallel with the surface of the table. This shouldn’t really be important, but you may want to simply loosen the bolt on the bottom of the lever and adjust it as such. It should also be completely vertical in the ‘up’ position. Probably much easier to adjust in this position.

Can you tell if the rear yoke is all the way up when the lever is fully pulled? The tabs on the rear yoke should make (gentle) contact with the back of the press.

Do you get the same range of motion when using the press WITHOUT rollers?

Just trying to figure out what could possibly be wrong here…

Two images would be helpful: one showing clearly the position of the impression toggle (operated by the handle) in the full-impression position — it should be parallel to the links to the platen for maximum power. That in turn affects the amount of travel of the rollers. The other helpful image would be from the other side of the press, showing the linkage to the roller arms (actually two images — press open and fully closed) so we can see how the linkage is operating the roller arms. I can imagine the possibility that the roller arm assembly is upsidedown and that there is enough eccentricity to it to cause the problem.

Yes, the tabs on the roller arm yoke assembly appear at fault. If installed upside down they will affect travel precisely as experienced.

Susan has emailed an image to me and I wanted to post it here to further the discussion.

image: IMG_2538.JPG


I still can’t figure this one out. Judging from the pictures everything is as it should be. Sure, the lever is a little less than vertical, but that shouldn’t change the travel of the roller frames/arms. The rear yoke seems properly positioned with the tabs facing away from the press (and chances are the word PILOT can be seen cast into the yoke when standing behind the press?). The roller frames seem properly positioned as well. In one picture above I can see the linkage tab on the right roller arm and it is facing upwards as it should be.

So, until we get a few more pictures as requested by Ad Lib, all I can think of is:

The linkage is binding. If the bolts at either end of the linkage are too tight it will impede the motion of the linkage. These bolts should only be half-threaded, allowing for the linkage to travel smoothly over the unthreaded portion of the bolt. Make sure these 2 bolts aren’t tight—they simply need to be screwed in by hand and then maybe a gentle 1/4 turn with a wrench.

I am not convinced that’s the problem, but it’s worth a shot.

Thank you all for sticking with me on this. I was hoping you could clarify what the “impression toggle” is? And I’m assuming the “linkage” is the “roller arm” on the right hand side? As soon as I’m sure what they are, I will take pictures of them and post. Sorry, I’m a beginning printer and don’t know all the terminology…

I’ve been using this manual to identify parts:

Oh, and I did loosen what I think were the right bolts on the linkage which were definitely screwed in really tight. It does seem to operate more smoothly but didn’t affect the height of the rollers. And yes, “PILOT” is facing up on the yoke.

Thanks again!!

Posting a rear view of the press - in both open and closed position - would be helpful as well.

It would appear that the linkage which moves the inking rollers (#217 on your parts list) is what governs the length and start position of the arc made by the rollers during the print stroke.

I’m not convinced that there is anything amiss with the roller movements you describe, and find my Pilot press has similar inking characteristics. If the linkage were lengthened, the stroke would start higher and the position of the rollers on the disk would be higher.

Is the roller fully inked in the area which covers the printing area you intend to use? You must remember that the ink disk is wider than the inside dimensions of the chase. I measured a pilot I have and the ink disk was 11.25” in diameter, but the chase width is only 10”. When you take that a bit further, I notice that you are using a Boxcar base and photopolymer plates in the press which is pictured. You need, therefore, only be converned with the maximum image area width you will be printing, and I think with the ink coverage I see on your roller (even the lower one) it appears you would fully cover the area you are capable of printing.

If you have the need for better coverage, it would be a simple matter to create a new, somewhat longer steel bar, drilled to replace #217 linkage, and get a wider ink stripe on the lower roller. It is possible that that part was broken and replaced with one from a newstyle C&P or a pilot clone, and the measure is just not right.

I guess my inclination would be to ignore it until it causes you trouble.


I think the way the rollers are inking are already causing a problem. Check out the photo above captioned:

how much the rollers get inked with lever all the way down

You can see there is a definite problem with that bottom roller only picking up a little bit of ink. All the Pilots I have used worked with fully ink both rollers on each pull and this one is not even fully inking the top roller.

Something is not right and I think you may be onto something when you suggest that the linkage may have been replaced from a non-compatible press (either different era Pilot or clone)

Susan, any chance you can measure that linkage from end to end? I have a press of the same era that I can use for comparison.


Brad, arm is 10.25 in from end to end. What is yours?

John, the issue with the inking is not from side to side but around the circumference of the roller. The bottom roller doesn’t travel far enough up the ink disc, so it is putting ink on the boxcar base but not making it far enough up the ink disc to get that same spot re-inked.

And yes, as Brad has said here, other Pilot users do not seem to have the same problem.

Thanks to all,

P.S. I am going to start a web album of all the photos of my press (new ones included) so that you can see the problem—and the press—in its entirety.

I guess I saw the lower of the three pictures and saw that the roller seemed to be getting ink wide enough to cover your maximum image.

I measured the linkage arm on a Pilot Clone here at the plant and the overall length of the casting is 10.5” and, more importantly, it is 9.5” center-to-center from bolt hole to bolt hole. If you could find a piece of strap iron or steel at the hardware store and drill it out to a measure which would increase the arc, it could work for you.
I will measure my C&P Newstyle Pilot at Cedar Creek Press to see if the linkage arm is a different length than the clone. The Oldstyle arm would be the one to check & Brad says he can do that. Maybe a part from a broken press could be available to eliminate the difficulty.

Just measured the linkage on both an Old Style and New Style Pilot. The numbers I have are the same as what has been posted:

Old Style = 10.25” end to end, 9.25” bore center to bore center

New Style = 10.5” end to end, 9.5” bore center to bore center

So it looks like the linkage may NOT be the culprit.

Let us know when you have that web album up… maybe we’ll find something that has escaped us.


I don’t know anything about pilots but I noticed that Forme mentioned about the roller arms not being installed correctly and the fulcrum being on top instead of on the bottom. Is it possible that the arms are upside down and on the wrong side of the press? In other words should the left side roller arm be on the ride side and turned upside down (to the way it is now)? And vice-versa for the other arm. Just an idea.

I don’t think that’s possible given the way the arms of the Pilot are drilled. Only one arm is tapped to receive the linkage.

I understand what you’re saying. To be sure someone will find an answer.

Alright, folks…here it is: my web album of press pictures:

I tried to get every angle with the platen open and closed. I am going on vacation this week and will be away from the computer but will try any suggestions you have when I return. The one thing we are planning to do when we get back is take the handle off and put it back on to make sure it is engaging correctly.

Thanks for all the help. Hope you can find something in these pictures while I’m away! :)



I’m a rookie at letterpress, but I am in the process of taking my C & P 10 X 15 (OS) apart for restoration and moving. There are a lot of parts that look alike on our presses (yours is just cleaner and smaller).

This may sound like a dumb question, but are your roller arm springs fully compressed? I don’t know if that’s what you call them. But looking at your photos… it looks like the springs are fully compressed and won’t allow your roller arms to extend any further. If so, the rollers are reaching their ultimate extension midway up your inking disk.

Again, I’m a rookie and working off of photos. Can you pull the roller arms further up the disk?

There is a remote chance that the previous owner replaced the springs with some intended for a larger press. These springs would be longer and have less “travel”. If that’s what happened, I believe you could cut yours down, or relocate the cotter pin to the end of the shaft by drilling a new hole.


From the pictures it also looks like you aren’t getting enough travel in the rear yoke. That being said, it looks like the tabs of the yoke are already making contact with the frame of the press. You might try equally backing off the impression bolts as far as you can and see if you get any more travel in the yoke. If they are already making solid contact this step may be worthless, but if you aren’t sure it could be worth trying.

Still thinking about other possible causes and solutions…

Definitely a puzzler. From the photos, the yoke/platen/rods are in sync. That is, the platen mates with the bed and the yoke is correctly locked when the press handle is in full down position.
Thus simple geometry would indicate that fault lies with the roller arm actuating link. It appears too short to affect proper sweep and, in the photo clearly shows the roller arm fulcrum point at its apogee. But, in an earlier link, comparative measurements indicated the link’s length to be correct for the model. This might well lead to suspecting the entire roller arm assembly was at one time changed from the original, but that’s somewhat of a stretch for the rollers/trucks appear to match the saddle configuration. One might also conclude a manufacturing error sees the right-hand roller arm boss drilled incorrectly; the pivot point being too far to the rear. This would limit full travel over the ink disc and also see the rollers driven too far down the bed rails. Too, the actuating arm’s connecting point on the platen arm link could be incorrectly positioned. But that is also a stretch.
I remain centered on that actuating link. Although overall measurements indicate nothing amiss, the center-to-center dimensions could well be incorrect. Thus, I suggest:
1. Remove the rollers from the press.
2. Close the press.
3. Remove the connecting bolt from the actuating link at
the right-hand roller arm boss.
4. Holding the actuating link in its position, move the roller-
arm assembly upwards to its fullest extent.
5. Note the travel distance between the actuating link bolt
hole and the now re-positioned roller arm boss’ hole.
6. Open the press.
7. Remove the actuating link from the press.
8. Place the actuating link over a 1x2 slat of pine or
plywood of similar length.
9. Mark, then drill through, a suitable hole for the
platen arm connector bolt.
10. Mark - at the new, estimated distance, then drill through
a suitable hole for the actuating link boss connector
11. Install the wood arm.
12. Mount the rollers/trucks.
13. Slowly close the press and note assembly travel.
14. Modify experiment until satisfied with roller coverage.
(Point to observe is the higher on the ink disc the higher on the form will rest the rollers. Tinkering will produce your desired results.)
Once satisfied, you might simply fabricate a link from a harder wood, modify the original link, or seek replacement.
It’s impossible to accurately assess your problem from mere photos of course, but such steps as outlined above gives an inexpensive method of determining cause of your difficulty. Have fun.


Did you ever solve your problem?


I am back from vacation and very hopeful that I have in fact solved my press problem—or rather, you all have solved my press problem.

First, I switched the handle from the left to the right to see if it was a problem with that shaft, and although the divot on the left was worn, it didn’t make any difference.

So, I went back over Forme’s suggestion (thank you!) and looked hard at that linkage arm. I took it off and found that indeed, if it was longer the rollers would travel further up the disk and come to a rest in the proper position, and the only thing currently keeping them from moving more was that linkage arm. When I unbolted one end of the arm, I noticed that the hole was not centered from top to bottom, so while the arm actually measures the right length, the holes are not quite the proper distance apart. When I had measured it previously, I did so with the arm on the press so I didn’t see this problem. I’m not sure if that teeny bit of off-centeredness is the culprit, but I am quite sure that a longer arm will do the trick.

My dad is doing just what Forme suggested and is making a trial arm so that we can figure out the proper adjusted length. I will keep you all posted once I test out the new arm and add more pictures to my web gallery.

image: The end of the arm with an off center hole.

The end of the arm with an off center hole.

Bingo! I believe you’ve isolated the problem. When the trial arm is matched against the original there will probably be a mere 3/16” or so differential; over an 11” sweep that is a considerable travel. There is plenty of surface remaining in the original so, once the trial arm satisfies that you’ve achieved correct center-to-center dimension, take the mis-aligned arm to a machine shop, have them plug the offending hole, then re-drill to the correct measure. Once the linkage is back in place and the pivot bolt fastened even your hairdresser won’t know the difference. Press on.

Sounds like a good plan. Let us know how it works out. I looked at the 3 different presses I have and (surprise, surprise) all the linkages look just like the one you have posted with the bore just low of center. Makes me wonder if this was a replacement from another Pilot. I have cleaned up and repaired enough Pilots to know that, even though the parts may look the same, things are not actually swappable from one press to the next.

There are ‘old’ and ‘new’ style Pilots, but I have counted no fewer than 5 different models within those 2 general categories. Trying to replace parts from a 1900 Pilot with those from a 1902 Pilot may seem to work at first but may only cause problems in the end. Perhaps that’s what’s going on here.

Makes me wonder if the last person was able to use the press at all…

Just make sure that when you reinstall the linkage that it clears the roller arm. Most of the linkages have an ever-so-slight bend to them to achieve this clearance.

So I was having a problem similar to some of the above but even worse…my bottom roller wasn’t getting coated for a large part of it. A temporary solution was to manually rotate the roller after each print. That worked, but isn’t something I’d want to do each time.

I thought about that raising the ink disk but didn’t have a washer on hand. I noticed the 2 bolts on either side of the piece that the ink disk sits in, I believe these are the disk bracket and disk bracket screw? I loosened them and wedged some spacing between the bracket and the press itself which effectively raised the ink disk up.

The ink disk is still rotating fine and now the rollers getting much better coverage. Is there any reason why this would seem like a bad idea?