Cleaning and preparing C&P Old Style (8x12)

Hi, I have a Chandler & Price Old Style 8x12 that I bought in May and then moved 3000 miles. It works but needs a very (very) thorough cleaning and all-over “wellness check”, if you will…

I’m daunted at the thought … is it something that a beginner like me should even contemplate tackling? Are there people who provide this service? I’d really prefer to have a professional do it the first time.

Any advice on where to start looking would be greatly appreciated!

(I now live in Mississippi, if that makes any difference…)

thank you

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I have the same C&P model. One thing you can do is go to Boxcar and download the pdf for the C&P part catalog. It is for a NS but most of the parts are the same. It will give you appropriate names for each part to help communicate with other uses. Here is the URL

Second, there is a pretty experieced letterpress user near Ole Miss, Starksville. I think it is AJ Letterpress. I can’t remember the name for sure but maybe he will log on. Great to hear about letterpress in Miss. There are not many on the discussion list. You don’t say where you are but if you look in your local phone book for letterpress printers, chances are they they will be willing to help with advice. Good printing.



Do a search on Briar’s Yellow pages. You will come up with 3 letterpress’s in Miss. The Museum in Jackson is the one I remembered. Very knowledgeable people. Contact them.


If it hasn’t been used for years, it needs a good oiling. I’d use a drill bit, turned by hand, to clear the dirt and grime out of the many oil holes. Oil it with a light oil, run the press to work the oil into the joints, then oil it again. Eventually all the debris will be flushed out. It will make a world of difference. Some people go in for complete stripping, painting, decorative striping, etc. I think that 100 years of oil and ink provide a nice protective coating. I have had my C & P Old Series, built in 1906, since 1975 and it has never had a cosmetic cleaning. Works great!

Thanks, Mike and Kevin! This is great info.

Kevin, when you say to oil with a “light oil”, can you spell it out for me? I’m very, very new to this. Any brand you recommend?

How can I tell for sure if there’s just oil and ink on it, and nothing else that might need to be removed? I do have a picture of it in its uncleaned state… at the moment its in a climate-controlled storage unit a couple of suburbs away though, so I can’t exactly duck out and look at it.

thanks again!

All previous information is good.
You will wish to get an oiling diagram for the press to show all the places oil is needed. There are a couple of spots that are hard to see and a couple that you need to get down behind the press to oil. The rule is that where two pieces of metal move one against the other, oil is needed. There may or may not be an oil hole, but there usually is. Don’t forget that the ink disk turns and metal is moving under there. That thing that goes clank each time the disk turns is metal moving against metal. (It is called a pawl)
Light oil for starters. 3 in 1 from your local hardware store works just fine.. Later you can switch to an aotomotive oil if you wish, or stay with the 3 in 1.
In the old commercial shop, the press was often filthy, but well oiled. The only places that were cleaned were those the paper touched and the ink disk and rollers. The old rule was that if there wasn’t a bit of ink on the floor, you weren’t oiling enough. Kitty litter doesn’t look very good on the floor, but it is good to soak up oil. Better is to oil lightly and frequently and wipe up any extra and the drops that may hit the floor as soon as they are noticed.
It is good housekeeping to want the press to be clean. You are going to have to work around it and lean over it and crawl behind it. The press will operate fine without being shiney bright. It doesn’t care. You do. Use whatever is under your kitchen sink that you use for greasy dishes and pots and pans, but not the abrasive cleanser. A green scrunge and dishwasher liquid will work just fine. Any bare metal surfaces you clean need to be rinsed and then wiped quite dry and oiled lightly to prevent rust. The lightly oiled surface will attract new dust and dirt.
Don’t think you have to have a wizard in a white coat prepare your machine for liftoff. Get it out of storage and get it oiled up. Get some ink on your shirt and start printing. Enjoy

Thanks so much!

I feel a lot better about this now. When I got it in Seattle I was itching to get going (and still am) but while we were moving to the other side of the country, waiting, unpacking etc I started thinking too much.

You know: “what if this amazing press survived more than a century and then *I’m* the one who ruins it just by being green…”

So I’m really happy to have some specifics and a friendly push to get on with it. Thanks so much everyone.

I have the same press too, and it might seem a little daunting to clean it up, but I had a great time doing it. Going over the press inch by inch will also help you familiarize yourself with how it all goes together.

All the tips above are great. I myself never bothered with actual soap b/c I didn’t want to have to rinse the press.

I mainly used very fine steel wool designed for polishing metal, soaked with kerosene at first for the big globs, and then with 3-in-1 oil later for finishing. Since both are oil-based, I could just wipe up with a clean rag. I also used a soft plastic bristly brush with a little 3-in-1 on it for the hard to reach places.

Another good tip (if you’re up to it) is to remove the feedboard and delivery board - a lot of gunk collects under them.

Good luck and have fun!

Updated. Thanks, I love getting step-by-step info from people who’ve successfully done this. I’m starting to think I can tackle this after all, armed with these details.

Are the feedboard and delivery board hard to replace once you’ve removed them?

Pepper — Be sure to clean the oil holes out manually, first, with the drill bit. For the initial flushing, you can use regular old automotive motor oil — it’s a lot cheaper than 3-in-1. You can get a whole quart of 10-weight, which is very thin, for $2 or so, and that’s enough to do several presses. After the joints are clean, shift to a thicker, more clingy oil, such as straight 30 weight or automotive gear oil. To avoid a big mess, it is smart to put the press on a sheet of metal, or on an automotive metal drip pan used to catch the drips from the oil pan of a car. That way, the oil is contained, and it isn’t all over the floor. I forgot to do that myself, so I lay three slabs of cardboard down to absorb the excess oil — one in the middle, between the press legs, and one on each side. They work fine; you just pick them up and throw them away when they get too oily. These old presses require continual oiling, because the oil just runs through them.

ok… I’m going to ask something that should be terribly obvious: do I just take an appropriately-sized drill bit and poke it into each oil hole by hand and turn it around a couple of times? Is that how it works?

And if I place the press on a metal drip pan when I move it in to its permanent location, should I then place cardboard in that pan each time I oil, so that I can switch the cardboard pieces out and not end up with a full pan?

Finally… and this is a bit off-topic… I’m planning to run the press in the garage. It seems to be the only feasible place – it’s large, it’s enclosed, it’s on the level and it has a concrete floor. The only thing is, it’s not air-conditioned. Will this put the press at risk? We’re in Mississippi so it’s never going to get very cold, but it’s humid. Will consistent oiling prevent rust?

thanks again!

If you end up with a full drip pan, you’re using too much oil! The pan or cardboard is just for the stray drops which escape your wiping. You might get a little extra on the floor when you first flush the oil holes, but not enough to fill the pan.

I was told on the letpress list (for what that’s worth, no one ever seems to agree on anything there!) to flush the holes as Kevin described, and then use 2-3 drops of 30-weight in each hole on the days I print. So we’re not talking huge quantities of oil.

As for lack of air conditioning - humidity will be the real issue as far as I know, so you may want to get a dehumidifier. Especially if you leave your tympan, packing, or any paper in the garage. You don’t want these to warp or get musty.

If you don’t use the press every day, you may get a little surface rust in high humidity despite your best intentions. Oiling is the best prevention, but for those of us who only use their presses a few times a month, I sometimes have a few splotches on the spokes of the flywheel. I don’t think you need to worry about it, just rub it with steel wool with some oil to remove the rust and try to keep ahead of it.

For your reference, there are a LOT of oil holes. I can’t think of the exact number, but it’s something like 26 for a C&P OS. You’ll definitely want to download a diagram with the holes on it to make sure you don’t miss any.

HUMIDTY: Re: Will this put the press at risk? We’re in Mississippi so it’s never going to get very cold, but it’s humid. Will consistent oiling prevent rust?

As far as humity, that is one thing that will cause you problems both with surface rust on an occassionally-used press as well as while printing a job. To protect the press when you are not printing, by all means do, cover it with a cloth cover. You want to stop the humid air from condensing on the always slightly cooler press. That can cause surface rust in one day.

Humidity while printing is another problem, worthy of a whole seperate subject header.

Oil the press - both in the oil holes as so well-explained well above as well all over the press with a spray mist of W-40 or pehaps something even more sticky.

The whole idea is to mimimze or prevent contact of that humid air with the always-cooler press, where it will condense and activate surface rusting in minutes. A simple cloth cover can prevent that. And keep the windows closed. Keep that garage just as dry as you can. And floor covering over the concrete - some old industrial carpet - will help as well…


Thanks higgance and Alan for the great information on humidity! I can see that’s going to be an ongoing battle so I’ll have to arm myself.

Is there a particular kind of cloth that should be used in a cover for the press?

(If only I could camp out with my press in the climate-controlled storage unit!)

My husband wants to get a dehumidifier for the house so maybe we’ll double up and get one for the garage too. Or maybe I’ll just “acquire” the house one.

I’ll get some carpet, and fortunately the garage has no windows. We’re replacing the garage door so hopefully the new one will be more tightly sealed… but boy, it gets hot in there.

Thanks again for all the great information. And higgance that diagram is really great. (I’m guessing it applies to the Old Style too, not just the New.)


Updated. Oiling the C&P
The way to avoid having excess oil dripping down your press is to simply wipe it off. Unless yours is in the living room or on a wood floor or something, C&Ps don’t really need drip pans like some other presses (like my Windmill) do. Although I think that Kevin’s suggestion of some cardboard between the planks is a good idea.

I oil my old 10x15 frequently, and as I do, I have the oil can in one hand and a shop rag in the other. I use straight 30 weight and drip oil into the holes until they are filled, then wipe over the hole - and around the area - with my rag. That keeps it pretty clean.

Oil may occassionally leak out the side of the shaft that’s being oiled - especially, as H points out, on a worn press, so it would be a good idea to wipe there as well.

One other reason to wipe off the excess oil is that it becomes a dust magnet and after a while, an oily press becomes a dirty press. I’ve had presses where I had to scrape off the oil/dust/dirt mess on the base planks using an ink knife… But that was long in the past. Now all I use to keep my press clean of dust is a supply of shop rags…

Humidity I use old bedspreads or table cloths. Actually, anything that keeps the moist air away from the press will help. But. If your garage has no windows and little ventilation and gets hot, I may have been mistaken in saying that the press is always cooler than the air. An unventilated garage can get mighty hot and if it is, then the press will warm up to the air temp and there would be no condensation and you’d have no problem in any case.

The places I’ve had to deal with rust on my presses are the flywheel and the large diameter main rocker shaft beneath the feed board. You might even want to wrap that one, since after being away from the shop for a few months one time, I found serious surface rust on the bottom of that piece… I have also encountered some pretty rusty ink tables in my time as well, but they cleaned up with with some WD-40 and scotch brite pads…

Feedboard/Delivery Board R&R
No problem there at all. The feed board should slip straight up and out of the hole it sits in. There may also be a thumb screw to loosen first.

The delivery board is held in place by four screws from the bottom. It is easy to remove and replace - just be sure to pull out the feed board first, or you’ll find yourself with an unbalanced set of boards that will be a pain to manage once you take out the last screw holding the delivery board in place.

Cleaning the oil holes
The hand-held and twisted drill bit sounds like a good idea. I’ve used a nail in the past. But twisting a drill bit by hand sounds like a clever approach to me for getting the heavy gunk out. Then, if you really want to clean the oil holes thoroughly, get a bunch of q-tips. Moisten them with some WD-40, and have fun.

Thank you for these great answers! I love having all the details. I’m going to print everything out to make sure I get it 100% right.

Yes the garage is really, really hot, and not ventilated. It feels completely airless in there. I’ll take all precautions though!

You may want to get it air conditioned…sweat dripping onto a really nicely printed page is counter productive. My press is in the basement of an air conditioned house in Michigan and I still get warm enough to need a sweatband when feeding the press.


Ok, good point… I’ll have to go price out very capable air-conditioners, I guess…

Um, mine has a motor on it so I won’t be using a treadle – will that make it a less sweaty deal, do you think?

Just think of all the C & Ps that were used, day after day, before AC was invented. Using a motorized press is a lot less strenuous than treadling one. You should be fine — just open the door, turn the fan on, and go to it!

Good point.

I *knew* there was a reason we kept all our fans through those two years in Seattle…