Universal I Power Brakes

Here’s the beginning of a sad story. How will it end? I do not know. For how shall I begin my query, how shall I transmit my distress?

Our trusty Universal I automatic has lost control of itself. This press’s dilemna has been building up ever so gradually year by year, run by run. I set the press on its slowest speed and it creeps forward to the end and ends with a SLAM! I send the carriage back to the feed table and it ends with a SLAM!

I’ve had our electricians look at it with their meters & professional probes. They did replace a bad switch they detected, but the press still has such a difficult time braking. The increase braking is turned as far as it will go, and no amount of tightening the clutch makes any difference. The two horizontally adjusting bars at the rear of the press are in the same location they have always been, factory-set I assume, and hit the four switch back there at seemingly appropriate times.

What now, what now? I shall ask my Vander-brethren I say to those befuddled electricians. ‘Okay jerk’ says they. ‘Tell us what they say hotshot and we’ll order the part.’ Anybody out there willing to respond with anything remotely resembling the truth will forever have my undying admiration. For you kind sir or gentlewoman are indeed a genius and are deserving of our society’s grandest laurels.

yours in lead, ink & paper and perhaps a bit of leftover New Year’s Eve spirit(s)


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Fritz Klinke
17 years ago

The clutch assembly has a series of plates and a spring, and the spring can fail and the plates wear and or fail. Fortunately, all of this is still made and we can furnish replacement parts that match the originals exactly. The stuff is expensive, and the entire clutch assembly as a replacement item is around $300.

Often the problem is electrical, as Terry mentions. The rocker arms on the micro switches on the back panel are replaceable as well as the insert that contains the switch–fortunately, this has not been digitized and parts are still available. The next thing to look at is the set of relays on the control panel in the tail end of the press, and the originals are no longer made. We can furnish replacement relays, and they are a high amp rated item, and costly. Next to look at are the variable transformers that are inside the press that the knobs on the front panel operate. These are taper wound and were made by Ohmite, which discontinued them some years ago, but I was working on replacement ones for the Univ I today. The problem is that off the shelf ones will not work as Vandercook had a 70 V tap coming off the things and this is a special order from the factory. I do have a number of the X-18030 transformers for the Univ III presses. This is for the large variable transformers, and there is a smaller taper wound transformer that I think we have a number of them in stock. And the obvious thing is to always check for electrical continuity on the wiring, loose connections, etc.

The Arm
17 years ago

Do you have the manual for your press? The page on adjusting the clutch states the following:
“If the travel of the cylinder carriage slows up, or doesn’t move at all with the drive motor turning, or hits the bumpers too hard after all the cam adjustments have been made, a simple drive clutch adjustment is necessary, as follows:
1 – With press at slowest speed and on “impression,” run cylinder to open end.
2 – Run cylinder back toward feed board until trip cam is engaged.
3 – Adjust clutch so that it holds just enough to drive cylinder past the trip cam.

Caution should be taken not to over-adjust the clutch drive, for too tight an adjustment will eliminate the safety feature provided in the clutch.”

If you don’t have this manual I am sure NA Graphics can supply you with one or you should be able to download a .pdf of it from the Boxcar Press flywheel page.

Hope that helps!

The Arm
17 years ago

First I must preface this response by stating that I am pretty new to powered Vandercooks and neither of mine are up and running yet.
But shouldn’t you be loosening that clutch instead of tightening it? It shoudn’t carry enough force to bang like that! That’s precisely what the clutch is there to prevent! And have you had the four switches on the backside of the press tested? As I understand it, the innermost two slow the carriage, and the outers stop it. Even if it appears that the switches are being actuated by the carriage you should really take a voltmeter and be certain that they are switching. Things can go wrong within the switch that will not allow it to function properly.
That’s about all I’ve got. I hope others chime in. I think this thread is going to be very useful to me in troubleshooting the electrics of my Universal IIIs.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

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