Restoring/Cleaning an 8x12 C&P

I’ve recently had the opportunity to purchase an antique platen press. It’s beautiful. I’ve found the serial number and dated it to 1903.
It’s been sitting in a warehouse for a few years and had oil, dirt, grease, dried ink drips and paper dust all over it.
It appears that it was properly preserved…for the most part.
(The rollers were what I was mostly concerned about, but they seem to be in great condition. I’m going to need new roller bearings, I think…but that’s beside the point)

I’ve gone over it and have done a general wipe down.

-I cleaned the oil off the rollers with Simple Green.
-I’ve scraped the dried ink off the ink plate.
-The tab that holds the chase in place was practically glued shut with dried ink…but cut through that to where it moves just fine now.

I guess my question is…
How detrimental is it to use it with the old grease and oil?
I want to give it a total cleanup…but I’ve never done this before.
My dad, who’s been in the printing industry for 30+ years (who recently left the industry) loves these old machines as much as I do. But he hasn’t run one of these things in over 20 years.
The only thing I have to go on it that I have LOTS of cleaning to do.
But where to start?
The springs are pretty gunked…do I need to scrape every little individual section out and start fresh.

I’d love to repaint it.
I’ve discovered it was originally pinstriped, and would love to bring it back to it’s former beauty.
but I’m also itching to print something with it.

Any help, tips, advice, feedback would be appreciated.

Log in to reply   9 replies so far

I’ll be very interested to see the responses to your question, as I am in pretty much the same situation — I just took delivery of a 1916ish 8x12 C&P new style that came out of a printer’s shop that wanted the space back. Mine has no rust, but lots and lots and lots of caked ink and grease. I’m leaving the “patina” in place until I figure out what to do, since I figure it will be better protected by a healthy layer of old grease than having bare metal exposed to the air in a garage.

My main concern with not cleaning up the press is that it makes it that much harder to keep the surrounding area clean and ink/grease free (and hence that much harder to keep fingers and paper ink and grease free).

There are some good threads elsewhere on Briarpress discussing cleaning out the old oil out of the oil holes with a drill bit and re-oiling. Beyond doing that, I guess I don’t even know where to start on giving it a total cleanup!

If you have a penchant to print, go right ahead and get going. You can bet that the bearing surfaces will clean up if there is any ink in them, and I don’t think I would try to get the old oil out unless the oil holes are so gunked up that the lubricant you add doesn’t have any way to get to the surfaces it is intended to protect.

It might be good to clean the surfaces you will be handling as you put in the chase, and get the surface gunk off to a point where you won’t be getting any grime on your printing stock, but if the ink disk is clean, the rollers are clean, and the platen and bed are not covered with built-up ink drippings, you should be good to go.

I see no sense in workig so hard to clean something up even before you have any idea if it is in good working condition. Try it out and if any of the grime gets in your way, attack it as needed.

John Henry

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!!! 100 years of old oil and ink helps keep it from rusting, it also add charm. These presses didn’t last 100 years because they are clean, i think the old oil helps keep them going. (hardly anybody agrees with me but thats ok) ink it up and enjoy it. Dick G.

I’m with Jhenry and dickg.

The surfaces that simply must be clean are the feed and delivery tables, and the rollers. That’s pretty much it. The bed should be smooth, as should the platen, but neither has to be perfectly clean. The platen will be hiding behind the tympan and packing and bed will only see the underside of the type and furniture.. The ink table should be clean enough that you won’t get any contamination between color changes. But you’ll be getting that “dirty” every time you print with ink.

Even if you really clean the rest of the press, it should end up looking pretty much as it does now after a few months if your oiling it properly. All the bearings are open and the old oil is supposed to run out, taking any dirt with it. Even if you wipe it regularly, it will still attract dust and ink drips and excess oil. You could spend a whole lot of time keeping the press looking absolutely spic and span. Time you could be printing.

By the way I don’t really recommend Simple Green as a cleaning agent for presses. I use it at the university because they insist. Even there I use Crisco first to get rid of 98% of the ink and then use the Simple Green only to remove the last bits of Crisco that the rags don’t get. But it is mostly water and can cause some rust problems if it is not really carefully dried up. For my own shop I buy the commercial roller wash from NA Graphics and put it in a spray bottle. Spray on just enough to cut the ink. It works better than either Crisco or Simple Green and I end up using only a teaspoon or so in each cleanup.

Follow this thread: as it has some similar questions and answers to your topic.

Oh, no.
I would never use a water-based solvent on the actual letterpress.
I removed the rollers and made sure to carefully apply it only to the rubber portion so as to get all the machine oil off that was applied to preserve them.

Sounds like the consensus is to leave it be.
There is no rust that I’ve been able to find…unless it’s hidden under some of the ink buildup near the bottom of the machine.
There is only one weld…and that’s on the throw-off lever.
(Looked like someone got a little carried away and snapped it in half…lol)

Has anyone used/found a good “starter kit”
2 chases came with my machine, but nothing else.
I bought some quoins on ebay.
But, I’ll still need furniture, tympan paper, guide pins, ink, etc.
Any suggestions?
I found something for around $99 but didn’t know if this is something I should get in a “set” deal or purchase individually.

My dad said he always used to use Vanson rubber-based ink…but I haven’t seen much brand preference on here.
Has that changed over the years?

Thanks for everyone’s input!
I get stoked every time I think about getting Gordy running. :)

Don’t know where you are located but there are quite a few places to buy things for letterpress. In Massachusetts is Letterpress Things, a huge letterpress store that sells everything even presses. Look in the yellow pages on this site and you should find someone near you. NA Graphics in Colorado has a lot of things and has an online catalogue you can order from. Good Luck Dick G. ps Van Son is my favorite ink but almost any printing ink will work on letterpress, rubber base inks can be left over night but if you use oil inks you must wash up at the end of the day or you won’t get it off easily.

My favorite places to go are:
- Churchman’s Boutique de Junque in Indianapolis
- The Great Northern & Midwest Printer’s Fair in Mt. Pleasant IA (each September)
- The Amalgamated Printers Association Wayzgoose (This year in Lansing MI June 23-26th) I’m helping to organize this one.
- regional meetings of printers (example…the quarterly (more or less) meetings of the Michigan Letterpress Guild (aka The Brayer and Bodkin Chappel)).

Printing equipment is no different then any other machine. Take the engine in your auto for example. Moving metal parts, will wear many times faster with dirt and grime.( Remember rust is enemy no. 1) The steel and iron that your printing press is made of, is pouris, that is iron and steelwill absorb oil, and of course prevent corrosion. I keep partical board on the walls all around my shop, and especially next to my Chandler & Price printing presses, this prevents condensation.