Machining uneven rails on a C&P

I have a 10x15 new style C&P with uneven rails. The rails are worn badly and are not parallel to the bed. They slant upward, getting generally lower towards the top of the bed. With creative taping I have managed to get decent inking but I am tired of the extra effort and frustration and ready to do something about it.

Does anybody have any information on machining the rails? Can they be filed without disassembling the press? If so, I imagine that some kind of jig or guide would need to be locked up onto the bed.

Or is it easier to disassemble and take it to a professional machine shop?

I have many more questions but will leave it simple for this first post.

thank you

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This is a job that would require significant precision, so you’d probably need to disassemble and bring the bed to the machine shop. I would have your local machinist come out and give you an onsite opinion if you can. It’s not a cheap fix…


I assure you, it would be cheaper to buy another press.

When Chandler & Price (as well as a lot of other platen job press manufacturers) made these presses they likely assumed they would not still exist a hundred years into the future. When and if the rails wore down, so what, buy a new machine. Rails are thus not replaceable. They are part of the cast iron structure of the machine.

Mentality was sort of like this:

Paul is correct. If you intend to buy one of these relics, check out the condition of the rails before you do so.


would the use of roller bearers in the chase help this problem??? it might be worth a try before spending a lot of time and money on the press.

All this would take is a jig to hold a carborundum stone flat at a specific height, and then you just hone away. The jig keeps you from going too low, and keeps the honing action level. Then you build up the tracks with tape or other dense strip material depending on how far beloww type-height it takes to be level.
This doesn’t have to be taken to the machine shop. It doesn’t have to be expensive.
Note that when the older C&Ps were made, there wasn’t a single standard of type-height in the US, it varied from foundry to foundry, and any competant pressman could have made adjustments to track, truck and form to get them in agreement.

I did this on my Kluge, but the rails can be un-bolted from the bed. A good machinist (being one) could pound it out in two hours. So about $100. Or knowing someone in the right job could do it for a trade.

Note: have them add on “ground flat stock” (steel) so that if they wear in the future all you have to do is replace the flat stock. That way you don’t have to deal with tape anymore!

I would rather not take the press apart so I am leaning towards trying parallel_imp’s suggestion. At least to give it a shot. I could always take it into a shop and have it done properly if I screw it up.

I looked up carborundum stone. It is a sharpening stone, correct? I assume that these are harder than metal so they would work as a guide. They also come in nice flat sizes so that would be easy to make work.

What would you suggest using to hone the rails? A neighbor of mine who works with metal said that he would use a file and do it by hand. But he said there is not much room to work in the assembled press so it might be tricky. Is there another tool?

I like that photo Gerald and I understand what you are saying. But the fact that they had to use sledge hammers on that equipment just shows how new they were to the disposable culture. Today we make things that fall apart on their own.

How about Morgan Adjustible Trucks, i’m just throwing things at you to try to save you a lot of work. I would try the Morgans, it might save you a lot of work if they don’t do the job then you have new trucks, i use them all the time.

Thanks dickg. I appreciate any suggestions at this point. It is all helpful.

Because my tracks are worn unevenly from top to bottom, the adjustable trucks would not help my situation.

The roller bearers might help but I have considered those in the past and decided against. They seem like they would be messy. More importantly, they seem like their effectiveness would depend on the softness/hardness of the rollers. This option stays in the back of my mind but for now I am thinking that getting the rails parallel would make my life much more pleasant.

I’ve run a lot of c&ps over the years, i have owned about 15 or so myself, i have never seen one that needed work on the rails, when there is a problem its usually someone trying to print with old rollers, i try to replace my rollers every 10 years or so, also if there is a lot of temperature change it will cause problems with ink and rollers. if you decide to use bearers you can cut away your tympan where the bearers are going to hit it and things will be less messy. Kelsey made bearers that worked pretty well, i think Alan Runsfeldt of Excelsior Press sells bearers. Also, everyone tapes the rails, i have from time to time but i would rather tape the trucks, using an electrical tape.

If you are going to try it yourself, I have a couple of thoughts which may help.

First, scribe a guide line along the edge of the rails, parallel with the bed of the press. That way you have something to work down to, rather than just guessing. Make it so that it is easy to see, even after getting metal filings and dirty fingerprints all over.

Second, split the work into two parts. The first is “hogging away waste”, which can be aggressive and imprecise. The second is finishing, which is slow and exact.

A carborundum stone is cheap, and is going to cut aggressively, but will wear as you use it. It is good for hogging away. Also, you can get ones designed for rotary use, in a regular drill, which will speed up that part of the process considerably.

Go to a discount machine tool shop and pick up a finer diamond-grit sharpener for the second stage; it won’t deform as you work with it, and will give you a smooth, true finish. Think of the process as being like sharpening a knife blade, only you are making the steel flat instead of sharp.

It will be sweaty and dirty, but if you work slowly and patiently it will go well. This thing wasn’t born, it was made. Such things can usually be repaired well by someone who is not afraid to take the required time, and put out the necessary effort. The problems come up when someone is trying to be fast and efficient, usually in pursuit of a profit margin.

Another possible, slightly wacky, way to attempt this repair would be to measure the lowest part of the rails, then figure what difference there is between that and type-high, round to the nearest standard steel bar-stock thickness, make a “gauge” that represents the difference between the stock steel thickness and type-high and clamp that gauge beside the rail. Using a belt sander with a belt made for metal, grind the rails down to match the gauge height, then add the steel bar stock to them to get back to type-high; I would screw it on with hardened steel flat-head machine screws. Bevel the ends to make a transition to the top and bottom remainders of the old rails. You should be able to do all this with the bed still installed on the press, though working around the roller arms might be challenging.


D Armstrong,

If I am understanding your suggestion then it does not require any jig (beyond what is necessary to scribe the initial guideline). After that you just use the carborundum stone and then the diamond-grit sharpener to file or hone it down by hand (or with the drill attachment).

I like this because it sounds the simplest. The tricky part is keeping the honed surface parallel to the bed I suppose.

Once I get the rails true then I can debate if it is better to add a steel bar or just use tape to get it back to type high.

I know this press can be restored. I have tossed HP printers that were really beyond hope.

A “jig” can be as simple as a piece of hardwood to which you could mount or hold the stone or file tight, the thickness of the wood block would determine the depth to which you would reduce the rails. Without something like this, you would never be able to get the rails all the same height above the bed. A visual mark will not be accurate enough to ensure that the rails are the same height all along their length, and it will be extremely difficult to keep the file or stone parallel with the bed, so that the rails don’t have a slant toward or away from the bed. In this work, a few thousandths of an inch can be critical.

Without a jig, you could easily generate the same or a worse problem than you currently have, just closer to the bed.

Hmmm. I both agree and disagree. I work with vintage fountain pens, and have done woodwind instruments, both of which require critical tolerances. A press doesn’t need the same tolerances, as witness the fact that we are slapping in type and cuts which vary wildly—if measured in 1000s. In fact, just casually doing makeready plays havoc with such micrometer work.

That being said, as jhenry pointed out, accuracy isn’t hard to achieve with a simple jig, and decent accuracy makes life much simpler.

To clarify in connection with tools, I have attached a photo of both a carborundum stone and the diamond hone I had in mind. As you can see, the diamond hones are long and flat, and that helps to smooth out any bumps and hollows from the rougher abrasive.

image: original (8).jpg

original (8).jpg

Few more suggestions, in view of some of the previous posts which would appear to be very laborious giving eventual accuracy to about the nearest 1/8 of an inch top to bottom side to side possibly!!!! with a small angle grinder and a steel surfacing stone, which is dished for that very reason, grind the rails down by using the hardened steel jaws of a machine vice, locked into the bed as height guages, the surfacing stone will rip of the cast iron, well before it hurts steel jaws and give accuracy down to 2 or 3 though, remove enough material, say 1/8 or 3/16 of an inch, to then accomodate steel slippers back to type height, on top of ground back originals, obviously with a 90 degree crank, to lip over the side of the original, and then with pen steel shims under for adjustment.

Unless you have some way of keeping it level other than eye and hand I don’t see the purpose. You’d be back right where you started only with lower rails. You can’t guess at something like this if you want it right. Not meaning to sound critical of your intentions. Just hate to see a piece of equipment that is not being made anymore be wasted. I understand you might say, “what good is it the way it is?”
but why make matters worse.

This really isn’t rocket science and similar techniques to the filing to a mark are used widely in rebuilding and reconditioning machine tools to attain tolerances of less than .001.

Were I to do this, I would take the rollers off, remove the roller arms or disconnect the linkage so the arms can be swung out of the way, I would even possibly remove the tie rod on the side I am working on, but would probably secure a chain around the platen and bed so nothing will get loose.

With that preparation, I would get a long flat—not machinist grade (.0001 over 24”) but something that would be .001 over 12”. I would get a couple good mill files about 10 or 12 inches long and then mark the lowest spot. From there I would file the rails down and use machinist marking dye (Dykem is one brand) on my flat to make sure I getting things level as I file things down. When everything is all at one level, I would then drill and mount steel or brass strap on the face of the rails to bring the final rail height up to where I want it.

Alternately, if the divot is in just one spot, I would file a pocket out there and put in a filler piece of metal. After that, I would make sure everything is flat and then build up the rails in the conventional fashion with UHMW tape or what have you. Then do the other side.

If one is careful and meticulous about the work (and doing it yourself is about the only affordable way to do it) you should be able to get good results. Even a klutz with a file should be able to get things within a 1/32nd of an inch without too much trouble, certainly closer than an 1/8”!

One thing is certain: All of our presses WILL wear out to the point that we will have to fix them. We will NOT have the luxury of just “finding another one”. The sooner we face that reality, the easier the transition to long tern reconditioning we will be.

Whatever the case though, if you are not comfortable with the work required, get the press to somebody who is or can and seek another one—-if you can find one.

Upfront I am going to state that I do not know exactly what press we are talking about and/or what parts are worn. I am a complete newbie in letterpress area.

From a machinist/ machine tool re-builder viewpoint what degree of wear are we talking about? .020” over 12 “, 1/8” at one end, dip in middle, ???. I am assuming that what is wore is cast iron? What tolerance do we need to get back to?

If the parts are cast iron and we need fairly close tolerances for good long term operation I would think that scraping the rails would be the best long term solution. Someone with a background of machine tool scraping would be tops on my list of fixes.

I tend to think long term fixes, rather than bandaids.

Marshall “Newbie”

If this mchine is so bad that it is unuseable then take a look at the bed bearers on the A3 heidelberg gtplaten . they have a kind of auxilliiary bearer on the side of the rails , were i to make it a serious project for repair I would have the existing rails rails either a scraped back and then have a steel slipper affixed to the surface with chamfered and countersunk screws to mount the new surface,or like the big H platen i would fit auxilliary bearers they ony need holes and slots to re mount and would also be variable , however you may need to have rollers and roller bearers made to fit the new dimensions .
A good lesson is hidden in this post , steel roller bearers are bad news . It was for this reason that the heidelberg had composite roller bearers and the british thompson had brass ,all being softer than the bed bearers .
What you see on these old presses was the result of that oversight , as Gerald said they were built for a lifetime , however the lifetime depended on how quickly it wore out , I think to be honest most old table tops and treadles fit the title worn out . Dont take that to read “scrap” .

I agree with Winfred…unless you have a way to make sure that you are lowering the rails evenly, when you add the new surface material then you are just as likely to still have problems. If you had this done by a machinist, I’m sure it’d be fine but I’d be less than confident in doing this yourself without the proper tools and lots of experience.

What I have considered is generously knocking down the rails (only where type high objects can be locked up in the chase, not the curved areas of the rails) and tap multiple screw holes in the side of each remaining rail. Then take two pieces of angle iron cut to the length of the removed rails and cut slots in one leg of each piece corresponding to the tapped holes. The slotted holes would allow minute adjustment to achieve and maintain the rollers at type high and be replaceable if they were to become worn or damaged themselves.

The biggest concern that I’d have with this idea would be ensuring the transition between the curved section of the rails to the new adjustable rails is a smooth one that wouldn’t damage the trucks causing more trouble than it would be solving. Perhaps grinding the ends to meet the existing rails could work though, as suggested in someone else’s reply. Less concerning would be how many screws and how tight they’d have to be to maintain the set rail height over prolonged use lest it be just as annoying as having to deal with taped rails.

Thanks for all of the help. This is a lot of good information. Many of the suggestions seem to have complementary methods that can be combined. I am going to take this info and talk to some people locally and come up with a plan. If it is possible to do this work I will take pictures and post them here.


Just for the curious. The rails on my press are not worn evenly from top to bottom. There is a high point in the middle. This could be because that is where the springs holding the rollers have the least tension.

This press is far from unusable as it is. I have gotten very fine printing out of it. Below is a link to a calendar that I recently printed.

This is my first press and was a very difficult press to learn on. However, once I got the other variables under control (inking and impression and general roller height) then I found that by trial and error I could add bits of scotch tape to the tracks to even the inking out.

Recently I needed to replace the tape on the rails so I stripped the old tape off. I locked in my Polymer base and used a straight edge across it and over the tracks to see the variance of the tracks. That is the first time that I had done that. By using a strip of paper like a feeler gauge between the straight edge and the track I was able to build the tracks up to a roughly even height with staggered bits of scotch tape. Then I layed down the full strips of UHMW tape over the top to bring it up to type high. This works but it is imprecise and it is a pain. Avoiding this hassle and getting a guaranteed uniform inking is why I am looking into machining the rails.

Thanks again for all of the advice and warnings too. I will proceed cautiously.

There are probably more than a couple of ways to do this. One is to find a good machinist and have her or him come to see the press. Carefully describe the results desired. She or he must be confident that he can do it. You must be confident in the machinist. The back and bed of the press can be removed and taken to the shop. This only requires money, a bit of labor to disassemble and reassemble the press and a good machinist.
I have not done the do-it-yourself operation, but a friend has. Remove ink disk. Disconnect throw-off. Remove arms. With care, lay the back and bed of the press back and down on a strong support. It doesn’t have to go all the way flat, just to a convenient level to work on the rails. Build up the worn rails with an epoxy material like Bondo,
J-Weld or Red Hand. Probably several thinner coats. When all is hard, hand machine it down to uniform height and as near to type high as possible. It will take a jig and file or stone to remove the material. You will need a way to measure. Not likely that you have a depth micrometer in your toolbox and some presses have a groove/slot right adjacent to the rail preventing easy use of the micrometer.

If you take off a couple thousandths extra and end up slightly under type high, that is OK. You are close and just have to tape up a bit.

Your restored rails are probably even softer than the cast iron. With steel trucks, they are going to wear again if in direct contact with the rails. A layer or two of tape to take the wear and to be periodically replaced sounds prudent.

With care you can get the rails to a uniform height and parallel to the bed. Then with a bit if tape, you should print well. I would also not rule out bearers. They work well.

Interesting conversation. I hope that your plans to address the problem by hand work to your satisfaction. The following is my positive experience with a machine shop and a broken rail. When I moved my C&P Oldstyle press a number of years ago, the person moving the bed of the press dropped it. The top part of the rail broke off on one side. The moving company made good by sending it out to be repaired. First, the machine shop reattached the broken piece. To ensure that the rails were in line with each other and type high, they ground down both rails and attached thick strips of metal down the length of the rails. The result is steel rails on both sides of the press with smooth brass rivets which reinforce the attachment of the new rails to the bed. The press has worked consistently well with little need for adjustment. When I moved it again, a spring hook snapped off the gripper bar. A friend fashioned a new hook from an appropriately sized nail. Good luck with your faithful press!

Hi everyone,

I’m bringing this topic back to life because it has relevant information.

I just had the rails of my C&P Craftsman 10x15 ground.
The machinist made them even and flat again. They had many bumps. He informed me he took 32 thousandths of an inch.
I’m not too worried because the Craftsman has the adjustable rails, and I can always shim it up with brass or stainless steel but with the advantage of doing it on a flat surface.

I thought this route would solve most of my inking evenness problems, but I’m having problems adjusting the rails.

From the start I was reading more ink on the left side, which called for the adjustment of that side, and then tape on top.

I have been fiddling with it using a .918 roller setting gauge, but I still cannot get it right.

There is a part of my plate that inks masterfully, but quickly right next no ink, and on the left side still too much ink.

I measured the bed to rail height and I got a .920 measurement on the right side, and a .930 measurement on the left side.
I measured my rollers and my trucks.
Trucks measure 1.750 and rollers measure 1.730 “

I made a little diagram that proves it should be inking evenly, and yet I cannot figure out why on the right side I get no ink, and that side it’s adjusted to its lowest point.

My local made aluminum base is .875” and KF95 plates which are about .037” + adhesive which is .002” aprox.
Total of .914” I know I’m still short of 4 thousandths, and I can underlay my base, but I don’t think I need to since at a certain point I’m getting over inked, and on the far right (top and middle) with the gauge I’m not reading any ink at all.

I’m trying to do this methodically rather than empirically, so if anyone could shed some light as to what could I need, I’d really appreciate it.

Here’s my diagram. The dark blue are the trucks, light blue are the rollers, dark gray are the rails, and yellow is the base and photopolymer. Red is where the rollers are supposed to touch the photopolymer.

image: Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 9.03.00 PM.png

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 9.03.00 PM.png

And here’s an image of my test.
I’m using rubber base ink for my tests and coated and uncoated stock.

image: testet.jpg


Peter Luckhurst

Just found this. I find it quite interesting when folks purposely misquote another (even though the original post exists) just to make a point. How valid is that? How does that help your argument? Or do you assume everyone is a numbskull? and does not really follow a thread.

Just saying.


Gerald . that wasnt intended to be some sort of dig ,or add on to your comment , i remember helping remove equipment from print departments and burning pyres of wood type and cabinets because of progress and the need for space in a hurry when the market was so flooded with surplus equipment it couldnt be given away .
Bad term as it is , Newbies are going to buy a press that may be not as ancient but can still be worn to hell , as i put they are as old as their use has made them .
Envisage anything still existing in one hundred years that is around us today and will we in the future have the ability to repair it ?
I wasnt implying you would take the hammer to the mans machine or were recommending it !
Having said that i would have an engineer do this job for him seeing as he struggles with the concept of what carborundum is …….


Methodically, I’d try to isolate the source…

I would set the rollers even using a lollipop type-high gauge.

If the issue persists, I’d try flipping the base in the chase.

If the issue persists, I’d try flipping the rollers.

If the issue persists, I’d spin the ink-disk 180 degrees.

The point would be to make a single change and see the effect, to verify or eliminate potential factors.

If your plate surface is really .004” below .918”, your tracks are really .002-.012” above .918”, and your trucks are really .010” higher than your roller surface (this is a very unusual configuraation), then I think you’d need at least .018” thickness of ink for it to even touch the plate surface. These measurements don’t seem to add up.
First off the tracks must be set level with the bed and each other, and it does not sound from roller gauge like this is the case.
But even if inking were right, the iimage above could result from uneven impression. It doesn’t look like there is a blind impression where the ink is light. That could be from an un-centered form or an unbalanced platen. Even a springy lockup could be a factor.


Can you please recommend what a good combination would be?
On the left side I have the rails set at .930 with the tape.
I will remove all tape and reset back the rails to no adjustment on the screws and measure everything again.
But I would really love to hear some good suggestions for configuration on size of truck and rollers.

By the way, the photo doesn’t show but the impression is really uniform, there is blind impression there.

Thanks a lot.

With photopolymer plates the trucks and rollers should be exactly the same diameter; with metal forms and their slight variations, the roller is traditionally slightly larger than the truck for firm contact with the low spots. Having trucks larger than rollers is abnormal (though I am sure I once saw reference to large trucks being used on rule forms so the rollers would not be cut).
Plate and base should come up to ,918” if all you do is photopolymer. Personally, I mount photopolymer just slightly lower than metal surfaces, which not only means I don’t have to change roller settings when I change forms, but that I can also print mixed forms. Works for me, probably not for all of you.
In your situation the tracks are the biggest question. Why are they different from side to side? Is it the machining or the reinstallation?. They should be at exactly the same distance from press bed and parallel. ten-thousandths difference must be overcome.

Try hand inking the forme in the machine and taking a pull because it looks as unimpressed as it does inked .
You should be able to physically see if the forme is inking ,it is visible as ink on the forme , if you roll the press over by hand you should also see the starvation on the rollers (a relief in the removed ink where it has been deposited on the forme).
This is a purely physical process with visible results .
Measure the height of the printing area around the block check its consistent all over . make sure the pressure on the inkers at the edge away from the problem area are not too tight on the forme . make sure you have not picked up a smear of oil in that area which does not print .

when redoing the rails what height above the bed should i shoot for? im guessing not right at .918 or there would be no ink transfer? im looking at shaving my rails down and adding shim stock or ground flat stock to bring it back level. i am a machinist and have all the tools to measure and cut it down.