Ludlow Help

To all who know about Ludlow….(you too Dickg!)
My Ludlow has seized mid cast twice now. I fixed it the first time around following the instructions in the manual. This time however, the delivery table is stuck out and I can’t get anything to let it go. I’ve adjusted the table latches, and yet still when I close the lid, the lever won;t allow me to engage so that casting can happen and the machine can un-freeze. I’m at a loss. I know that I need to clean the pot, the guy I got it from hasn’t used it for at least 15 years so it’s WAY overdue but I figured it might be best to un-seize it before trying to clean the lead. Perhaps I should do it the other way around? Any help is much appreciated, if more pictures are needed just ask. THANK YOU!!


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sometimes when it seizes up just after casting when the pot hasn’t been cleaned it could mean your lead didn’t fill the mold and the ejector blade gets stuck in the mold. just after you left today i thought about cleaning the mouthpiece, do you have the tool, it kinda looks like a saw blade with a black handle, this goes into the mouthpiece and you work it up and down to clean out the mouthpiece. Looks like when you shut the lid either your latches aren’t all the way to the right and its preventing you from locking the cover down, or the safety isn’t in the right position and it won’t let you lock the lid. Sometimes the spring on the saftey breaks and the part that is on the lid will not return and it won’t allow you to operate the machine, call me in the morning and i’m sure we can get it fixed over the phone. Dick G.

I assume that the safety key broke? First, remove the plunger link and leave it unhooked until you’re done doing everything else. Next, with the motor off, replace the key, engage the clutch and rock the drive pulley back and forth until you see what is jammed and why. 99% of these troubles are due to a dirty machine, (metal chips) and lack of lubrication. They need oil and often. Lastly, remove the plunger and clean it and ream the well BEFORE IT”S TOO LATE AND YOU CAN”T.

One thing I just noticed in your photo is the clamp for the mouthpiece wiper isn’t in the fully down position. When it is, the knurled clamping nut should be almost straight down and snug. This wouldn’t cause the machine to sieze up but it would alert a troubleshooter to look for other incorrectly installed parts.

Could the clamping bolt the last post mentions not hit the back of the ejector mechanism if left loose ? I dont like these monsters i still have scars inside my wrist from a bad splash i has while casting 12pt slugs when i was 18

musikwerke, good catch, if the mouthpiece wiper isn’t clamped down it could fail to wipe the mouthpiece, this could cause a squirt under the mold.


Everything that everyone before me mentioned is correct and are all good things to look for.

While your Ludlow is hot and ready to operate, yes remove the pin that connects to the top of the plinger, place it off to the side while you diagnose some possible problems.

I have had 2 Ludlows for years and have been able to repair with or without new parts. These are great machines and I’d rather fix these machines compared to Linotype Machines.

Do all testing and repairs with the motor shut off, that’s the motor that cyles the complete operation.
The “KEY” that shears when there is a binding problem is at the end under a large approximately 2” knurled knob.
With your motor tuned off remove this knob and then open the safety cage door on the right side. When you do this you will be able to grab the motor belt and pull up or down and get the key way lined up to replace the broken key. After you have done this replace the 2” knurled knob and hand tighten only.

Now you will be able to once again pull the belt and run through a complete cycle. DO NOT put the pin back in the plunger just yet until you can figure out where your real problem is … this much will allow you to check things over as you pull your belt until it runs smoothly.

With the pin out of the plunger you can safely check and run through a cycle with the entire cover open while doing like you show in your first 2 pics.

Look in all of the cams and roller bearings for any lead shavings or splashes from hot metal. Oil all of these areas with a good 30W oil after all is done and works.

Here is an IMPORTANT PART that I always did when doing maintenance and pulling the plunger out to brush the plunger with a wire brush, that is completedly removed. You should have a straight edge black metal blade simular to the one with saw edge. Take the flat edge and go to the bottom of the metal pot. Scrap the bottom back and forth as well as the side walls. Now scrap the bottom of the plunger hole. This is going to remove and debree and sulphur particles. All of this will float to the top, skim off and throw in a bucket. This dross can be recycled. Now lubricate the plunger on the side walls and bottom. Try to do all of this with the plunger hot so that it goes back together easily. If plunger cools off too much let it sit on top of the throat area where it goes, will only take a few minutes to heat up.

Get some good leather gloves so you don’t get burned.
I only wish I was ther and could solve your problem in about 15 - 20 minutes!

Sorry for the long explnation - somtimes I get into it too deep and love to help people out. GOOD LUCK!

If you think you are missing any tools or parts, extra wipers, let me know.

Jim - Green Bay, WI

Hi Nicole

Were you able to get that Ludlow running yet?
Jim -

Ludlow Manual of Instructions, No.10, p. 19, article headed “When Machine Stalls in Casting Position” explains procedure in quite a lengthy procedure, (14 steps), on how to correct this.

Thanks so much to everyone for the wonderful advice! I think that the first problem that I need to tackle is that the safety key is indeed broken. It seems from the responses that I can’t do much with out an intact key. Does anyone have resources where I may be able to get a new or at least un-broken one? Thanks in advance!



also, there was a set of them on Ebay, always keep an eye out on Ebay for Ludlow stuff to stock up on spares, they don’t make that stuff anymore.

Nicole, check the long draw in the bottom of your ludlow rack of cases, most times there are spare parts in there, if you don’t have any i can give you a few, we’ll make a ludlow girl out of you yet.

Please furnish me your address. Best I can do is mail you a couple of safety keys (shear pins) Monday am, weather permitting. Need wipers, other parts, let me know.

Hello all,

further ludlow issues……so, it has been un-seized and the safety key has been replaced (thanks stanislaus pekala!) and I’m in the process of trying to remove the plunger to clean it. Not surprisingly the plunger is stuck. I’ve checked inside and there is no lead in there. It just won’t come out. I’ve tried the cold water trick, no dice. Secondary is that the pot continues to intermittently solidify for no known reason. Is there some sort of safety mechanism that prevents it from overheating? Or perhaps is it just a problem with the heating element? This machine is going to drive me nuts!! Thanks for any help.



Dave Seat shows two different shop-built stuck-plunger-pullers on his Ludlow page at:

Speaking of Mr. Seat, he just announced on LETPRESS that he’ll be doing a service trip to the Northeast, including Massachusetts, in mid-March. I’ve both taken Dave’s class on fixing the Ludlow and had him in to my humble garage shop to service my Ludlow and Linotype. Click on the “Our Services” link on his home page at
for a description of the standard service he does on a Ludlow.

In my opinion, he’s the best there is - and a heck of a nice guy. I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to have him visit.

Good luck with your recalcitrant Ludlow. Once their working, they’re sweet little machines.

David M.

I second that, you may have electrical issues etc, not things to be trifled with. You would end up with a perfectly running machine.

My husband and I would like to thank everybody for their comments which has helped tremendously in restoring our recently acquired Ludlow. We had small problems with water, fixed, small problems with table top locking, and a larger problem with the plunger. All are now fixed and it works a treat, with a small exception of the new line of type sliding out. A small problem considering the rest. Thank you to all. We are over the moon with our efforts thanks to this community. Australia is a long way away but we often have similar problems in letterpress. Thank you all again.