Heidelberg ink keys

Some of my keys (T-0824) don’t seem to be working properly. Instead of reducing the ink, it only is scraping out a small line of ink, so it’s not reducing the flow at all. Are these easily replaceable? Looks like Printer’s Repair Parts has them for $22.90 a pop. I tried to completely unscrew one of them but it’s a bit stuck and I didn’t want to force it.

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if you force them by hand you should not hurt anything, perhaps squirt some penetrating oil around where they screw into underside of fountain. Easier still is to remove the four bolts which hold the ink knife(T0817F) in place, remove the ink knife and clean the bottom of it off plus accumulated gunk off the ends of the keys.

Sounds like they are all too far in and the fountain is not all the way up to the roller. The keys’ tips should never be in contact with the roller, as they will score the surface.

It is a bit of effort to clean up the fountain but it’s the best way to ensure it works properly. Check my post at the bottom of this page: http://www.briarpress.org/35282

The roller has been scored by all the keys, unfortunately. It was that way when I purchased it. Only recently, though, have the keys not really been working properly.

I like the idea of removing the knife completely and cleaning it. It’s a real mess down there. Not quite as bad (I don’t think) as some of the photos on that other thread, though.

The ends of the blade may have buildup underneath that raises the corners of the blade, so interior keys get turned in further to match the distance to the roller… a little more buildup, a little more key… and eventually the key tips reach the end of the blade and contact the roller, if the buildup is not dealt with.

I used a rotary tool (Dremel) with a small wire brush (#428) to clean the threads and tips of the keys before turning them out. Dried ink can make them very tough to turn, otherwise.

The rest of the job is like stonecutting.

The most basic instruction regarding ink fountain use is to loosen all the keys and then tighten from the center out. Tightening keys from the sides inward will warp and wear the fountain blade and can over time damage the fountain roller. Dried globs of ink around keys and blade also can interfere with function.
As already suggested, removing dry ink is the first step, and then you can assess the state of the metal. Fountain blades can be replaced on most presses, fountain rollers are more serious work.
There is a tool for adjusting Heidlelberg ink keys. It is bascially a wrench, open/box ended, with a half-round groove filed into one face on the open end. Fix a short rod through the box end, and you have a handle for the tool. For me it gives more precise control than using just fingertips to turn the keys. (Saw this tool working in a shop and then improvised one for my own use.)

How much do you tighten the screw that holds the blade into place against the roller? I’ll sometimes adjust that tightness to increase or decrease the overall ink flow.

Some can be tightened all the way and the blade won’t quite touch the roller, others will need to be backed off a hair. Once the fountain, blade and keys are clean, it may be a very different setting from where it is now.

Some shops rarely use the fountain… short runs of invites may be quicker to leave the ductor roller off and ink the distributer rollers directly. Other shops always use the fountain, regardless of job size.

Another basic fountain technique is that it is better to use a thin feed with a long stroke than to use a thick feed with a short stroke. Better control. easier to make fine adjustments.
If long-term misuse has lead to a fountain blade that is warped or wavy-edged (it may be subtle), it needs to replaced.

I’ve attached two images, one of the roller and another of a close-up of one of the key tips. The key corresponds to the groove on the far right of the image. The top feels slightly sharp, probably from scraping off material. I had no idea how dirty these things had gotten!

The blade itself seems perfectly fine and even.

image: key tip.jpg

key tip.jpg

image: fountain roller.jpg

fountain roller.jpg


That roller prolly needs to be turned on a lathe.

I doubt there is any current means to turn it in-situ, but who knows… maybe some special tools intended for other equipment might work.

Aside from the increased score on the right side of that photo, this is how it looked when I got it 3 years ago. I haven’t had trouble managing the keys until recently. Do you think a new key (or perhaps really cleaning and rounding off the end of the current key) could resolve this? I don’t know how much a new roller would cost but I can guess I’m not going to be able to afford it right now!

One of ours is scored like this and it isn’t really a problem.

We take the whole assembly off of the press every 4 months or so to clean. But you can unscrew the fountain blade with the the fountain attached to the press.

When all of the gunk is out and the keys are backed out fully, the screw on the right side will allow you to get the fountain blade closer to the roller. Then you can use the keys, gently, to get it dialed in.

It would probably be wise to back the keys out when you’re done so you never over-tighten them.

ihae a vintage case with a steel plate with rows of slots with little gears that slide and can lock in place. it has a #74 b stamped on it, about 1foot squire heavy,the leather is totalt worn out. maybe 100 or more years old, can any help frank

this is about 100 years or more old steel 1foo0t squire heavy with grooves #74 b stamped on it, in a leather case

They look filthy - if you bought the press and ran it without a good scrub down and clean up, don’t come whining than things go sideways. You should have taken the whole unit off after receiving the press and soak and clean it, the keys should turn without effort, with ease. What would have been an investment in time and a few bucks in cleaning supplies, now it’s serious money and adding up fast.

For years I have propagated than one cleans his press and corrects any mechanical faults, as one never knows what the previous owner knew or didn’t in using the press.
The amount of answers etc. I have provided over the years stand for that. And I took Flak by the boat lod.

But this what happens -you miss out in the beginning and now it costs money and production time.


You are correct that I should have given it all a good cleaning, and I’ll deal with the fallout. The person who trained me on the press didn’t mention anything about it, so what was I to know? My previous press was a standard platen with an ink disk, no self-inking system. It is unfortunate that we don’t have internships and apprenticeships any longer because it means a lot of what we know about our presses we have to learn ourselves. Such is life.

I take exception to the “whining” comment, though. I come here looking to learn, sort out issues I’ve come up against, hopefully help some others just starting out and generally partake in the congenial relationships among this small community. You have sent me numerous emails responding to some of my posts (and one to this thread as well) and I appreciate them very much, but the attitude expressed here is exactly the kind that will keep learning pressmen and women from coming here to seek assistance.


Edited to add… I took the Vandercook maintenance course (for my SP-20) with Paul Moxon. I wish someone would mirror his efforts with Windmills. The class was invaluable.

I’m attempting to remove the fountain blade, but it seems a little stuck. Both hex screws are out, but the blade won’t fully pull out. Do I need to remove the ductor roller first?


The fountain blade has four or five screws along the underside/back of the fountain. The blade will likely need a rap to fracture the dried ink bonding its spine to the casting, but it should be easy to lift after that.

It’s weird because it seems to move relatively freely and doesn’t seem to be attached. I just can’t slip it out from under the roller.

The blade itself is only held at its back edge, which has a ~4mm thick steel spine to give it space above the casting. This configuration allows the blade to flex when the keys extend and push the front edge up.

The entire fountain is held by two large bolts in the ends of the pivot bar (T0838). To remove the entire assembly, the bolts need to be removed and the adjuster (T0839) on the back held by a circlip needs to be removed also.

The left side of the pic shows a couple of the holes where the blade is fastened.

image: IMG_9311_sm.jpg


Here’s a pic of the adjuster and one pivot bolt.

image: IMG_9334cropped.JPG


Thanks. I figured out this morning that I need to remove the adjustor. The side bolts are already removed. Now I have to go get a pair of circlip pliers! Off to the hardware store!


Man there’s a lot of dried ink in here…

Fountain blade:

image: inkblade_before.jpg


And after a little acetone and scrubbing:

image: inkblade_after.jpg


What do you guys use to lube the keys when you reinsert them? I don’t want to use something that might trickle down and contaminate the ink.

After cleaning the threads with a brass brush, a light wipe of oil on the key threads is fine.

I suggest trying to remove as much old ink by careful scraping, then do a final scrub & wipe with naptha (Coleman fuel). Acetone is probably more aggressive than needed and will also remove the paint from areas you want to protect.

I soaked the keys in acetone and that took off all the dried ink instantly. For the blade I used a wire brush dipped in a little acetone after I removed most of the ink with a scraper.

I’m working my way through the fountain itself with a screwdriver to break up the chunks and then more wire brushing. I’m going to try a light touch of a Dremel to see if that saves my elbow a little pain…

How did you get all the crud out from under the pivot bar?

Double post… Oops.

Hi Jon,

On one, I used a small screwdriver to chisel the bulk away, then used a flexible steel scraper to get under the bar, scraping a narrow swath, not the full width of the scraper.

The bar was stuck solid on one fountain, so I used an aggressive solvent in the bore to progressively dissolve the old ink, working the bar with vice-grips in the middle. I would check that the bar moves freely first, since if you take it out it will be easier to scrape the trough.

image: PivotBar-sm.jpg


Wow. I didn’t even realize that bar was removable!

The bar should move freely, as the fountain pivots on it. (When the bolts are tight the bar shouldn’t move, but the fountain should.)

It can be removed if it isn’t too bound up by ink… One of the deficiencies of the design, is that the inboard openings of the bores have a gap that allows ink to build-up and seize the fountain to the bar.

Mine clearly is glued in tight… I had to reassemble everything because I’ve got some jobs stacking up, but I’m going to take it apart again and really get in there. It’s a whole lot better than it was, though, that’s for sure.