New Springs for Pilot Press?

Hello out there,

First time posting. I have a small tabletop platen press, which says “American Printing Equipment Co” on it, but which may be a Pilot Press? That is based on an old catalog I saw somewhere, but I’m not totally sure. But it does look like pictures I’ve seen of Pilot presses. I got it at an auction for $10.

I got the rollers re-cast, but am having a couple of minor problems and one major one. The major one is on the arms that hold the rollers. I think the spring on one side has to be replaced, because it doesn’t hold the rollers close to the chase on the way down, and they pop out every two or three times. This is on the left side. The right side seems fine.

Is there a place that will replace these springs? Or a way to order them and do it myself? Or perhaps a way to tighten it up on the one side? The springs have some gunk on them too, which I have tried to scrub off, but haven’t been too successful. Maybe there is a cleaning technique I don’t know about?

The other problems I am having I think just have to do with the composition rollers I have and the fact that it’s hot and humid and I don’t have AC. Putting tape under the rollers hasn’t helped, but maybe that’s because of the above problem.

Grateful for any help I can get. Thanks.

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The press you have is a “Pilot clone” produced in Germany and sold by American Printing Equipment. It is, from my experience with both, every bit as good a press as the original Pilot. You did very well in your purchase.

It could be that the roller shafts have some scoring that is stalling the shaft from returning and allowing the saddle to go slack on the roller shaft.

You need not remove the shaft and spring, it is held in place with a pin through the saddles, but just clean everything well and look at the shaft. if it appears to be scored, get some very fine abrasive crocus cloth (should be able to find at a good hardware store) and polish the rods a bit. The spot that is scored may be a ways back on the rod, but you should be able to extend the rod and use something to clamp it while you work on it (Vice grips?). At the same time you can clean out the gunk that has built up in the springs. After cleaning, oil the rods well.

Doing those two things will most likely get the press running more smoothly. You can use some gasoline or other fairly volatile solvent to rinse out the springs. Use a brush and do it outside or in a very well ventilated space.

The composition rollers do react to humidity in the air, and they can swell quite a bit between winter and summer months. Tape on both the trucks and rails may be the order of the day.

John Henry

Gasoline is a good solvent. I have even used it years ago. It is just too dangerous to use as a solvent. There is a story of a man who was using gas as a solvent in his basement. Gas vapors were pulled in to the water heater flame and there was a big explosion. Not nice.

Today Gasoline is full of carcinogens, use Mineral Spirits or Kerosene instead.

What about Coleman Fuel???

Didn’t recommend it here because it evaporates much more quickly. Kerosene and Mineral Spirits will act as lubrication for a short time until they too evaporate, long enough to tell if the spring and arm motion is a cleaning or burr problem.


John Henry,

Thanks a lot for the info and advice. I’ve looked at the shafts and they don’t seem scored. So my next step I guess is just cleaning the spring as well as I can. Should I just pour kerosene or mineral spirits or whatever on it, and brush what I can get to? Or do you think some WD40 would be a good cleaning agent, because the can I have has a long extended nozzle that could get in there better.

I’m hesitant to take it apart because I have never done that before, and also, it seems like a lot of work. I suppose I could try polishing the shafts anyway, just for good measure.

Thanks again, Ratbee

A good, strong solvent is your friend (I’ll refrain from suggesting the ones I mentioned again, but my assumption was that you’d be doing this outside because you’ll be making one whale of a mess using a stiff brush and solvent and you have enough common sense to not use strong solvents inside and to take the precautions listed on the can of solvent). Use something which will dissolve hardened ink and grease. Use a fairly stiff brush and give it the best you can. On many presses you can turn the shafts around, but on yours there is a pin that keeps the shaft from turning around, so you’ll have to depend on the solvent to do its work on the inside of the spring and shaft.

Once the brushing is done, pour some solvent directly on the area to rinse away the detritus, wipe it, let it dry a bit and add a good heavy oil (30 weight or so) and work the shafts in and out many times. I’ll bet your problems will be solved.

John Henry

Have you checked the shaft visually to be sure it isn’t bent? Even the slightest bend will cause it to bind and no amount of cleaning will fix that.


Ok, new update:

Cleaning the shaft and polishing with crocus cloth has helped, the roller arm doesn’t get stuck like it used to, and it doesn’t pop out the rollers. In fact, I have gotten the press to print quite well, with the following exception:

I still think the spring on the right arm that holds the rollers is not tight enough. The rollers don’t seem to be picking up quite enough ink from the ink plate (not as much as the C&P I’ve worked on), and inking on the right hand side is lighter than the left.

I have solved this problem by going slow, and applying pressure with my free hand to the right ink roller arm as it goes across the ink plate and as it inks the form. But obviously this isn’t quite ideal.

Has anyone ever had their springs replaced on a press like this? If its a huge hassle I won’t bother, because I can get it to work fine as is. But if it is not a terrible process, it might be worth the investment.

If you want to inspect the roller springs to determine their condition and free length, pull the tiny roll pins holding the spring in tension, on the roller saddles. It will be a slight chore, if they are original, as they are tight in their holes. I use a pair of sharp diagonal pliers to grab and roll the pin free from the shaft. Once the pin is out the roller arm can be extracted from the frame with the spring falling free. The spring will be under tension so be sure to place your hand over it while sliding the shaft free. Now you can work on the shafts to remove crud and polish them. Be mindful of the groove and clean it out as well. Inspect your springs for equal length and condition.
If you want to replace the springs or compare the length of yours to nominal lengths, give us a call.
Reassembly is the opposite. I recommend installing 3/32” cotter pins in place of the original roll pins. They need to be no longer than slightly greater than the outside diameter of the spring. This will prevent drag on the inside of the roller frame.

If you need new parts, Tom is awesome! (T and T Restoration above this post.)