How much paint should I remove?

So, while dusting some of our new-to-us C&P OS Pilot tabletop press off last night, I noticed whoever tried to do a “restorative” paint job on the thing painted over the rails. And over the tympan bale (and bale arms). And, as if to add insult to injury, they also painted the entire gripper bar spring.


I mean, really?

They did attempt the gold pin-striping, but it leaves much to be desired and was obviously an attempt at making the Pilot more of a show piece than a functional press. But, everything is intact and with barely any rust (just a bit in spots), so I know a bit of cleaning can turn this thing into a great, functional press.

Looks like we have some paint stripping to do. Part of me kind of wants to take the whole Pilot apart and put ‘er back together again, but every time I talk about it, my husband kind of groans a little. I might kind of groan a little. I don’t know if it’s necessary, and we are much more eager to print than we are to repaint. However, I’d like to know:

1. What is supposed to be bare metal (i.e. the rails, the tympan bale, etc.)?
2. What is the best way to selectively strip paint (we won’t be sandblasting)?
3. How much of the press should I take apart to make sure it is thoroughly clean?

I’ve searched the site for paint stripping tips, but are there any particular favorites? I see the vinegar + citrus for rust removal, but, is it just steel wool for paint stripping or is there more we could be doing?

The press is pretty bone dry, so it obviously hasn’t been oiled in forever. I figure taking it apart and giving it a really good cleaning before oiling it up again may be worthwhile, but I want to make sure that’s a good idea before we go disassembling.

Lastly, I noticed there really isn’t an Old Style Pilot manual out there, is there? Are the parts the same in the New and Old Pilots in terms of reference?

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My suggestion would be to accept the less-than-artistic paint job, and put the press in a drip pan (like a large rimmed cookie sheet) to catch the excess oil, and then, using 30-wt non-detergent motor oil, drown all the moving joints in oil (keep the oil holes filled) and operate the press repeatedly until the oil oozing out around the joints is relatively clean. Then let it stand for a while to allow the excess oil to drain out of the joints, wipe it down with kerosene to clean off the excess oil, check your platen adjustment and set it if necessary, and start printing.

Think of it as a working tool, not an ornament! ;-)


Thanks, Bob! I don’t loath the paint job. It’s not entirely an eyesore (nothing a good cleaning won’t make look better since it’s dusty and grimy and dry). I just didn’t want their less-than-thoughtful work to have any affect on the actual printing process.

So, paint on the rails isn’t going to mess with inking up the press? My concern was that the paint job isn’t the smoothest at all and I didn’t know if that would affect my getting even inking with the rollers on the ink disk and subsequently on my plates.

I guess the tympan bale is just going to get covered anyway, but the paint is thick enough that using the bale arms is kind of a pain when padding the press. We may sand the inside of the arms a bit.

It certainly won’t hurt, and is not difficult, to scrape the rails clean, as well as the tympan bales (I wouldn’t sand them as that can remove metal as well). Unless the paint on the rails is REALLY lumpy though, the amount of deflection of the rollers would be in thousandths of an inch — could possibly cause problems if you’re trying to ink photopolymer properly, but otherwise probably unnoticeable.


I’ll probably be using more photopolymer plates than, say, metal ones, though I’m not opposed to ever giving metal plates a try. I already have a Boxcar base for my Pilot, however, and so I figured I’d at least start out using photopolymer and move on from there.

I’m not sure if the rails are lumpy enough to matter. They are rough as if the paint used had some kind of texture, though there aren’t any big bumps or dips, so I suppose that’s a good thing. I could always give it a try to see what happens. I should at least clean the ink disk and possibly use some vinegar/lime juice on the roller arms, then see if the paint on the rails affects my inking up a plate.

What would I scrape the rails with so as to not cause any damage? Paint or lacquer thinner and a Scotchbrite scrubber?

If you can find a single-edged razor blade, it makes a great scraper for removing paint from hard, flat surfaces.
Draw it down with the blade almost perpendicular to the surface, and the paint should come away. If you use chemicals, you take a chance that you would remove some of the paint on surfaces you don’t want “undecorated”.

A final rub-down using a rag with a strong solvent should remove most of the remaining paint. Particular surfaces to be concerned with are the rails, the bed, and the platen surfaces. These should be cleaned of all paint and dried ink.

The platen bales and the edge of the platen could also be scraped in this manner to remove paint. You do want the bales to be tight, but they should be loose enough to accept the two sheets of packing they are intended to hold in position.


I would hesitate to take the press apart. It is often unwise to do so unless you are an excellent mechanic. Often there is wear on some parts which, if assembled in a different rotation, could have a big effect on the impression adjustments of the platen. Your best start is to dress the platen and start printing after removing unwanted paint on the surfaces indicated and with a good dose of lubrication as indicated by others.

If you have problems with getting good inking or impressions, at least you know it wasn’t somethign you did, and adjustments will be close to correct.


I know I’ve got some razor blades for scraping paint already hanging out in the garage.

I don’t really want to take the press apart if I don’t have to, so it’s definitely not my first choice. Getting the paint off the places it’s not supposed to be, cleaning off any dried dust and grime, and getting it oiled are my goals for sure. I’d much rather be printing than staring at pieces. :)

I appreciate all the tips!

Well, this weekend I found the rails buried under paint. I also cleaned the ink disk with vinegar/lime juice. It looks very nice now. Before bed last night, we flooded the press with oil, running it for a while to work all of it into the joints and springs and everything.

I did notice the roller arms have rust, but I wasn’t sure the best way to remove them and the springs. How do I do that so I can clean the rust off? Or should it matter once I get it all oiled and keep it that way from now on?

The metal I did find isn’t shiny, but I know it doesn’t have to be to function. The ink disk is pretty nice, but the rails are dark and dull metal. Still bare metal, but really dark even after I scrubbed through rust and paint. I don’t really mind. I know they’ll work a lot better now that the paint’s off and that’s the most important to me. :)

There’s no need to clean off all the rust. If you keep the press well lubricated, the rust should not progress any further, and as long as everything works smoothly, you should be fine.

One thing to watch for, however, is that the roller shafts and springs work smoothly, as if the press has sat for some time in one position, rings of rust can form and they can make the shafts hang up a bit at that point. Ihis can cause slight jerking of the rollers which can cause problems in the inking of the form.

John Henry

I haven’t put the rollers on yet, but I probably will later this week. The springs seem to work well when I stretched them to oil and clean them, so at the moment, I’m encouraged.

Once I get the two rollers mounted, I’ll do some test motions to see if there’s any of that jerking motion or not.

While it does seem the press sat around for a long time because of the grime on it, when I removed the ink disk to clean it, the oil on the shaft wasn’t varnished! So, maybe this press was used more recently than I had assumed.

I did forget to order tympan paper, so I’d best get on that if I want to do some test printing sooner rather than later, especially now that the bales are free of gold paint. Heh.