Vandercook Roller Proof Press Newbie

I just acquired this press, serial no 1790. I have it all oiled and would love to make my very first print on it to see what needs work. I have 3 questions.

First, how do I keep the paper on the big roller? Do I need to attach small fittings to it somehow?

2. My ink roller has smaller metal bars that roll across the top. What are the function of those? My hunch is smoothing out the ink but I’m not certain.

3. Is there a chase I need to find or do I build the type inside the bed and lock it in only on 2 sides with quoins?

I’m attaching photos for reference. Thank you to anyone who can help. I have looked everywhere for a manual or video to help but not finding one for this type of press.


image: IMG_20201124_165352_386.jpg


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1. The big roller is the impression cylinder. The outermost paper wrapped around the cylinder is called the draw sheet. Made from tympan paper, it’s tapered ends are held in place by two reel rods on either side of the opening. Lower down on the inside of the cylinder are two more reel rods to secure a rubber blanket (0.030”), additional paper (packing) can be laid on top of the blanket.

2. Your hunch is correct about the metal rollers. The large one is the oscillator. It moves laterally as it rotates (via an internal worm gear) when the ink carriage travels over the bed. The smaller rollers are called riders.

3. This is a galley bed press (0.968”). This means that the type must be lockup up on a galley or on a bedplate (0.050” cold rolled steel) to bring it up to type high (0.918”). A chase is then optional.

Questions for the Vandercook census.
1. What is the width of the bed? This will tell us which model it is. The 20 has a 10″ bed; the 21 has 12″ beds;
2. Where are you located?

And adding to Paul comments, this was an early Vandercook, late teens or early 20s. The specific serial number and related press information is in one of my Vandercook serial number books, but today out of reach in the other room. It had no grippers and was designed for the paper to be laid directly on the type form and the cylinder to be rolled over the type. It was truly a proof press and not a reproduction proof press. This is not the press for doing 50 wedding invitations on. But it is a neat, very early press worthy of preserving.

I have used one of these, No. 20 with serial no. 2131 (on census already) and I made a paper register using a piece of wood, with a piece of veneer on it, creating a little ledge for you to hold your paper against. I was able to get reasonably controlled registration. (google “Kento registration board” for an idea)

The previous owner used to make linocut prints on it frequently, having had a piece of melamine countertop cut to fit into the bed (with slots for those raised metal strips). It works great for that.

Thank you to everyone for all of the fantastic information. I’m in Michigan if anyone is near and welcome to visits, I have a lot to learn and a passion for print along with analog machines. Linocut is my current medium of choice so it would be great to pull an edition of 10 to 20 prints.

I will look up the kento info.

I would also like to us it with type and am building my collection now.

The width is 10” between the tracks.

What are the four rolling bars for on top of the inking rollers? They come off very easy with one side raising up. (See photo)

I did figure out how the inking works with the large roller and am so excited about how they engineered it to roll back and forth.

Thank you all so much!

I placed some type under the rollers and the cartridge and they do both touch the surface but not a great deal of pressure. So I think I could shim or put cardboard under to raise it up.

If anyone is willing to meet via zoom so I can see your setup, I’m so down with that.


image: IMG_20201127_105949_286.jpg


Accidental post.

Accidental post. Don’t know how to delete.


Michigan has two active letterpress groups. The Michigan Letterpress Guild, a loose organization that tries to get together quarterly in normal times, and The Monks and Friars, a Detroit based (mostly) that gets together monthly except for the summer months. MLG does a yearly cooperative book and M&F a annual calendar. MLG meetings are usually shop visits and informal swap sessions. I’m in East Lansing and participate in both groups and their annual projects. Mostly I use a C&P but I also have a Vandercook #1 that gets used infrequently and Rouse handpress that is still not quite ready for use.

Hello Arie! I’m near Kalamazoo, so not far. As soon as I’m at my computer, I will connect with both groups. Thank you so much! I also have a C&P and a Kluge.

This press Is the ancestor of the vandercook no. 5

In person help is always preferred but in these strange times videos can also help.

Take a look at this, your press works very similarly

That video is so helpful! I understand now. And I have all of the things I need which is also very exciting. Thank you rmiller021!

I think I understand it all now. Everyone has been so helpful. I really appreciate this so much.