Windmill Wash-up and Oil pressure question

Ok, I’m getting close to printing but have a couple questions as I go through the manual again. What is a good “quick-drying cleaner fluid” for the Wash-up device? If I am reading the manual correctly it looks like a 50/50% solution of kerosene and gasoline? Are there any other alternatives?

My 2nd question is how much backpressure and or resistance should be felt when you pump the lever? Should this pumping be done when the press is running?


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hi courtney firstly do not use gasoline the better wash up fluid for general purpose use is turps for oil based inks,some roller compounds tend to melt if the wrong fluid is used.
there should be a fair amount of pressure on the oil pump which should be operated while the press is running. a sigle grade oil is ok to use a 30 or 40 grade is ok. those beaut machines will run for ever.

is turps short for turpentine?

Do NOT use turpentine. It is very toxic. Google turpentine MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), or go to this US Government site, scroll down to HEALTH HAZARD INFORMATION, and read number 2 under that section. I certainly hope that that will convince you not to use it.

hi courtney,i am a fit and active 69 year old, i have been using turpentine all my working life, maybe in this modern age things are over protected, when one looks at the old machinary without adequate guards on the moving parts, i would sooner wash my hands after a wash up and risk getting some excotic ailment than getting caught in a moving part on old machine

A good deal of effective safety in dealing with solvents and other chemicals in using common sense. The first defense against accident is knowledge of the materials with which you are dealing. There is no question that common sense would dictate that you should use the safest chemicals you can which effectively do the job you are intending to do.

Terpentine has long been recognized as a problem material, and has been eliminated wherever possible in the art world as well as professional home and industrial painting processes. Mineral spirits are a decent replacement for terpentine, and although the particular composition of what is termed mineral spirits can vary from brand to brand, it is a fairly quick drying solvent which has fewer ill effects than terpentine. Rather than producing tumors in tests, it produces skin irritation.

I use kerosene for wash-up, but use mineral spirits if I need to immediately re-ink for a second or different color run.


I use kerosene only. It is not corrosive; you have to actually dry the rollers with a cloth. As the press runs, place yourself behind the ink fontain, using the cloth you clean areas of the rollers, a bit at the time. Be very attempt as you use the cloth.

The oil pump lever will resist a bit when you pull the lever, if not something isn’t right with it.

Kerosene?? Gasoline?!? Why not just clean your rollers with a soft cotton rag, soaked in nitroglycerine?

But, seriously, folks, there are alternatives on the market now that are much faster dying than vegetable oil, and more odor free than mineral spirits. A search for “water miscible solvents” on your fave search engine returns a few results. Most are readily available near you.

There’s “Blankrola”, which I would cautiously recommend. Read the MSDS for Blankrola. It contains Naptha, and decomposes to CO, and CO2. Disclaimer: Use adequate ventilation. Never fail to wear safety glasses, rubber gloves, earplugs, a neck brace, nylon straps, Kevlar body armor, and guard rails when handling volatile organic compounds.

NEXT: Part II, The Red Handle

As far as the central lube goes: first, check the sump indicator. If it’s below the yellow line, you are just pushing air into the copper lube lines. Fill the oil reservoir above the yellow line, while gently working the red handle. Air bubbles will emerge at the fill point, and allow more oil.

Ideally, you should feel a strong resistance about halfway through the movement of the red handle, whether the machine is in motion or not.

If resistance on the red handle is weak, just keep pumping and replenishing the fill point. If resistance on the red handle is nil, it is best to let the added oil settle for a few minutes, before trying it again. Sometimes the pressure will come up on its own. Over time, you’ll work out the air bubbles from the central lube system… sort of like bleeding the brakes on your car.

That should read:
“As far as the central lube goes: first, check the RESERVOIR indicator. If it’s below the yellow line…”

The oil reservoir is at the top of the press, the sump is at the bottom. I hope I caught this in time to avert any confusion.

Thanks everyone for your advice. I was hoping there would be a simple answer. I think I will use orderless mineral spirits for now. But I may check into the nitroglycerine ;) after I buy my contamination suit. Seriously, I was hoping to actually use the wash-up mechanism since I just spent money on a new wash-up blade. My press is in an insulated attatched garage. So I am hoping to avoid blowing up the house. I do not have a problem using chemicals as I have already used an arsenal of chemicals restoring a 1909 C&P and now a Windmill. I will just have to experiment with safer alternatives.

Now back to the garage with more oil…


I have to agree with Jim Chase here. Companies make wash-up chemicals specifically for washing ink off of rollers. There are many good water miscible solvents with low VOCs out there (like California Wash or Color Wash Step 2). They do a good job and won’t make you pass out from the fumes (although they still smell, so always properly ventilate).

By all means, use that wash-up unit on your windmill.
With a new wash-up blade it’s a total dream. You’ll never want to wash the rollers with a rag again.

Vertallee Letterpress

Thanks Brad!

I have just put about a quart of oil in and have good resistance on the handle. Thanks again everyone!

Maybe it’s worth mentioning that the washup reservoir tube should be impervious to solvents. Otherwise it will harden and crack over time.

Already looking for a new tube.


One more caution, concerning something we have yet to mention here: flammable absorbent materials soaked in wood oil products.

Any flammable material (cotton, linen, flannel) soaked in a wood oil can spontaneously ignite when placed in a particular environment - loosely packed in a cardboard box, or anywhere ambient temperatures are above 30C, and an adequate oxygen supply is available.

The heat generated by oxidization (drying) will quickly exceed the flash temperature of the gasses released in the drying process, resulting in spontaneous combustion.

There is plenty of information on the Web, pertaining to this hazard. Look up “wood oil and cotton rags” in your fave search engine, and be advised!