Thoughts on Vandercook Universal

Does anyone own a Vandercook Universal I or III? Specifically a electric automatic one with the tower.

What are your thoughts? Do you use it often? Is it way more of a pain then its worth?

Would you purchase it again or would you pick up a hand cranked auto-inking Vandercook?

We have been kicking around the idea of adding a automatic tower Universal I to the mix but I want to get other peoples thoughts.

We would be printing invitations, posters, envelope liners, etc.

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I own both a Universal I and Universal III with power cylinders and I love them. Great machines. I do worry about all those relays giving up but I keep running them. I print posters and multi-page books on my power Vandys but for smaller work and large quantities, I rely on my hand-fed platens. Invitations on a Vandercook would be a waste of time and effort. Much easier and faster to run the smaller stuff on platens. Sometimes I wish for a Heidelberg platen (windmill) because I’m getting old and hand-feeding a platen all day does a job on my back.

I’d have to agree with John H. (the other John H !) that the Universal presses are great for short run edition work. One of the difficulties of running invitations is the stiffness of the stock, and the need to get it wrapped tightly to the cylinder. That doesn’t mean it is impossible, just easier as John Horn indicates, on a platen press.

The powered carriage makes it possible to run the press without the risk of repetitive motion health problems, although your finger gets tired when running in semi-automatic mode. The tower, using a frisket or tapes, allows one to feed from the feedboard and not have to walk with the carriage to remove the sheet at the other end of the press.

For larger work, the register is great, and the large size of the inking form rollers carries sufficient ink to keep consistency in the inking.

The Vandercook is not my only press, but certainly fills the bill for many types of jobs.

John H. (the other one)
Cedar Creek Press

We have a handcranked SP15 and an automatic Universal III. My wife loves the SP15. She likes feeling the cylinder roll across the paper. She likes that she is in control.

I like the Universal III. The tapes, though you’ll run them over type a gazillion times, has great register. It is really nice to run through a stack of paper. I really like it when it is set to ‘run’ and you slowly crank the dalay faster and faster until you are running at maximum speed.

I do also think that having the larger Universal III makes the automatic part much better.

And to be transparent, we’ve had our troubles with the electronics. We’ve been able to get them fixed to professional repair people or my son that just seems to understand ‘machine’ language (and not the computer kind). But if you blow a relay, it takes some time and cost to get things back up and running. Second time ago that we had electronics problems it took me $1,800 to get it fixed. Brought in an electrician (actually two of them) who worked two hours and NOTHING. Then drove a guy in from essentially New York, paying for the drive time coming and going, and nothing. Finally got on Dave Seat’s schedule and he had it fixed in about 2 hours. Ended up being a simple broken wire. Serious, a simple broken wire, but if you didn’t take it all apart you weren’t going to find it. All in all $1,800 and it took about 5 minutes to fix.

But I do love the press. Great to do workshops on if you are so inclined.