Setup and assembly of a Vandercook 219 Test Press

I will shortly be acquiring a Vandercook 219 test press from my mother. The press is in a few pieces and needs reassembly. One of my questions is what kind of reinforcing/strength do I need in the floor area. I am planing on pouring a concrete with re-bar slab but was wondering how much reinforcing I need. The press weight approx. 2400 lbs from the technical manual I was able to download and research. Also, how large of an area do I need to set aside in my basement for travel etc. Finally, I live in Lake Tahoe and was wondering if there is anyone close that would be interested in assisting in the reassembly of this press. Any response will be appreciated.

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You need not worry about any extra re-inforcing under or in the concrete slab. The weight is distributed on that press to four “feet” which are wide apart, so there should be no issue with stressing a standard concrete slab when laid on a properly prepared earth base.

A typical 8’x8’ hot tub will weight over 4000 lbs when filled with water, so the press is a featherweight in comparison.

One thing to make note of. I recently obtained a 219 OS and in many ways, the manual you can download isn’t very helpful. From the old style to the new and over the years, plus all the different options, my press has very little in common with the manual!

Right, the new and old style 219s have little in common except the roller assemblies (and then not necessarily the gears). A 219 OS has a cast base that sits on its rim and distributes the weight. A 219 NS has individual feet (it might be three rather than four) and a little more weight, but not enough to stress a concrete slab.
Working space: you can put the feedboard against a wall, but leave enough space to get behind the press on the far side to clean, oil and adjust. The bed end should also have enough space to stand in or hold a galley.

Right, the new and old style 219s have little in common except the roller assemblies (and then not necessarily the gears). A 219 OS has a cast base that sits on its rim and distributes the weight. A 219 NS has individual feet (it might be three rather than four) and a little more weight, but not enough to stress a concrete slab.
Working space: you can put the feedboard against a wall, but leave enough space to get behind the press on the far side to clean, oil and adjust. The bed end should also have enough space to stand in or hold a galley.

To jhenry - thank you for the stress information. I generally over-engineer things anyway because I don’t want to repair it later…call me OCD or whatever but it has worked for me till now. Thanks again!

To Widmark - thank you for the manual insight. From what I have been able to tell till now, the manual I have is fairly accurate to the machine I will be getting. I am fairly good at reassembling things as long as I have a reasonable exploded drawing but I will admit this press is a little daunting. I will bear in mind your advice! Still looking for assistance. Would you consider a trip to beautiful Tahoe? We have an extra room…hint…hint…By the way, are you related to Richard Widmark? I liked him…tolerably good actor, especially in “The Vikings”…um…kidding!…at least about the movie…!

To parallel_imp. Thanks! This gives me a rough idea of the space requirements. Got a perfect area in my basement! I will try and get back to my mom’s to look see if it is an OS or NS. Either way, I am extremely excited to get this press…so many projects, so little time! Thanks again!

I have about 1 month more experience on this press than you do! And I’m not related to Richard Widmark but he’s a favorite actor and convenient login name. Never saw The Vikings but Night and the City and Pickup on South Street are both classic.

Of the press gurus around (and on this board) there are some who make house calls or might stop by if in the area.

Dave Seat will be traveling out west this Fall and could help with your press. See his calendar:

Also, send me your serial number and I’ll add it to the worldwide vandercook census:

Paul Moxon.

Thanks! Where would I find the serial #. I have looked over this machine for it and can’t find it. I’m blind!!! No really, where would I look for it. It is not on the original plate that I have. It might be stamped on the housing/stand somewhere but I need guidance. Please Help!!!!!

To Paul, I will contact Dave and ask. Thanks for the ref!

To Widmark:

The 2 movies you have cited are true classics! And thanks for the info. Glad you have at least 1 month more “experience” on this press than I. Maybe we can get together? Ha! Ha! Anyway, this press will make my current project EXTRA unique as I will be combining type-set print with illumination for the first time. Please see my limited work on Search for Dracoscriptorum and look at the posted items. Everything I have done up to this point has been ALL hand calligraphed and illuminated. Will be an interesting change.

On most Vandercooks the serial number is stamped next to the bed bearer on the operator side, down at the end of the bed. I’ve seen one 219 OS that had it stamped on the opposite side.

Thanks imp. There are also 1920s Vandercooks where the serial number is directly on the bed between the lockup pins.

Thanks both to imp and moxon. Unfortunately, I checked the press again, this time with my wife assisting and we could not find any serial # anywhere on the press. I did learn some more information about the press tho. It appears to be a “pre-patent” press. The chassis is solid cast iron without any drawers. All it has are 2 access ports on either side of the press that give entry underneath for service/motor mounting, etc. While it has the wiring for a motor, it currently has no motor. Both ports can be sealed with heavy iron plates stamped with the Vanderkook name and press # i.e. 219. No additional numbers are visible anywhere. The bed bolts down to the chassis. Both have the same patina and paint on them and the same amount of wear so I am certain this is a complete press. I took some photos as it sits now and will upload them shortly. Does anyone out there have information about this variety of this press. It appears to be totally unique, possibly a prototype for the S/OS/NS or later models. I can find nothing on the web. PLEASE HELP!

Ok, here goes. These are the photos I took of the press as it stands now. Hopefully they will help. I can always get more.

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More photos…please bear with me.

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Again, more picks. Thanks for your patience.

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I have a few more. Mostly paper boards, and misc equipment. But these hopefully will help. Let me know. Thank You!!!

This is a 219 built between 1927 and 1947, and now referred to as the old style. It was replaced with the 219 New Style for which optional features included an adjustable bed and a power-driven carriage. The 219 OS was the second model to have a power ink assembly (the first was the 119). It is certain that it has a serial number on the bed bearer at the right end of the bed under rust and grime. The bed is galley height (.968) and the cylinder undercut is probably .040. The number is stamped in the challenge between the cylinder face and the cylinder bearer on the operator’s side when at the feed board (also under rust and grime).

It does look complete. Adjusting the carriage bearings may be your biggest challenge. In print mode you’ll want to set them against the under rail with at .003” tolerance using an automotive feeler gauge.

There are other issues, too. Brass bearing blocks, which hold the roller cores, are likely to be reamed out and need to be replaced with steel blocks and plastic bushings called Nyliners. The rubber itself is most likely too hard and the diameter undersized.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Will check again and let you know! Much Appreciated!!

The two drums show it is an “ink fountain” model by Vandercook terminology. It needs an oscillating ductor roller to transfer ink from rear to forward roller. I’ve only seen one other like this and it lacked the ductor.
All 219 OS have this base, it is only the 219 NS that have the drawers.
Your serial number may just be hidden under dried ink, and it would probably have an “I” suffix (for “ink”).

THANK YOU IMP AND MOXON!!!!!!!! You both have given me renewed hope and excitement. I do believe I have the ductor roller. Today, we will be going to my mom’s place to lay everything out on canvas on the floor and photograph all parts. I will then be able to identify them somewhat from the manuals I have. If interested, I will send you a link to my photo bucket where they will be stored so you can also look at them. We also picked up some degreaser and will be searching earnestly for the serial # and will post it as soon as we find it. Thank you again! More to come.

You’re going to have your work cut out for you on this one. It might be wise to start attempting to reassemble it. You can clean and inspect the parts as you go. I hope that you find that nothing is missing.

You should get the press manual from NA Graphics and hope it has good drawings. I’d also advise finding a friendly person with a similar 219 on Moxon’s press census to get a whole lot of detail photographs.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Thanks!. We started cleaning the parts and found what I believe is the serial #. It was on the right side front of the press looking back at the rollers. The number is 4888FS. I do not know if there is an “I” for ink or not as some of the number was fairly worn or lightly stamped. Still, hope this provides additional information. Also, a couple of the parts were broken. I think it was through poor handling/storage and does not appear to be through fatigue or improper use. Probably the parts were dropped at some point. Will talk to local welders and see if they can be repaired. All in all, most of the parts are readily discernable and easy to place on the schematics. I just have to figure how to get the 2 heavy rollers out of the back of the press for cleaning and transport. Oh well, more to do! My thanks to everyone who has contributed so far, it has helped a lot! Will keep you all posted. Also, will post additional photos on photo bucket and provide the link later. TTFN!

SN 4888 is listed as Model 219 L.S., shipped 12/17/29, to California Ink Co., Inc., 426 Battery Street, San Francisco. It is noted at a later date to be at the Oakland National Engraving Co., in Oakland, California. The inking set up on this press may relate to a special order from Cal Ink. Oakland National continued into the 1960s. I have a ruler (not a line gauge) from them that I got back in the 60s that was a promotional item.


Fritz1…Fan-damn-tastic! Thank you for the providence!!! I would love to hook up with you, possibly on the reassembly of this press. I am a long time calligrapher and illuminator and appreciate good printed works so rehabing this press in very important to me and my wife! Please let me know, we would be happy to host you in Tahoe!

Among other things, I mis-remembered the “I” for “F”.
I’ve seen another Cal Ink 219 OS (55-HX is what I recorded), which I don’t recall having the extra ink drum, but it did have extra lower roller carriages and the storage cabinet for them. The extra form rollers were grooved in the middle for two-color proofing.
Going through my records I’ve seen two fountain 219s, one was 4912 (now in Utah), the other in the 6000s (in Berkeley), and neither had the vibrating oscillator

I’ve seen several 219 OS, the closest ones to you are the
seven in the SF Bay Area. Only a few have two drums.

Of the 41 219 OS in the census, I’ve recorded nine pairs of letters next the serial numbers: BS, CH, DJ, EF, KS, OT, OY, QE and now FS. None have repeated or at least been reported to me. Fritz hasn’t found a key to their meaning in his records. Perhaps they are employee initials akin to the “Inspected by” stamps found on many Vandercooks circa 1947-69:

Thank you imp and moxon. Some good news, I spoke with my local welder and when I showed him the broken parts and described what I was working on and what they went to, he knew exactly what I was describing and said he would definitely be able to weld the parts! It’ll only be a total of approximately $200.00 to repair! Whew, that saves me a bundle! We also have everything except the roller drive pulley assembly removed from the base and now begins the tedious cleaning and labeling of parts for re-assembly after transport. We also figured out where the motor mounts in this particular base but have no idea what size or type of motor to get. Any ideas? Will update further as we progress.

Ask the welder how he’s going to do the job before you jump into it. Cast needs “Stitch” welding where they drill both pieces, fill and move to (as the name says) stitch the metal back together. Make sure you get it done right the first time to save headache down the road!

Good Luck!

Thanks evilfish, this particular welder is local and has been doing it for ever. He knew right away when I described the piece what was needed. I trust him to do it right. Thanks for the heads up tho.