Lubricating the gear teeth on the Vandercook No. 4 impression cylinder

Gear teeth on impression cylinder, before and after cleaningHello. I am a newbie in the process of restoring a Vandercook No. 4, SN 18794. My husband, who was in aerospace mechanical engineering for many years, is providing advice and much moral support. He was surprised when I told him that the procedure for lubricating the impression cylinder gear teeth was to apply a light machine oil to the racks with each use. He thought this sounded wimpy for such a massive unit, and actually when we purchased the press these teeth were gummed up with some sort of heavy, and very dirty, grease. From my classroom experience and in the documentation I’ve consulted, the light oil, applied frequently, seems to be the way to go, though as you can see the gear teeth in the “after” photo do look dangerously clean. What is the rationale for this?



(The complete project is being documented, for the benefit of other newbies, at )

4 thoughts on “Lubricating the gear teeth on the Vandercook No. 4 impression cylinder

  1. Fritz Klinke - September 3, 2007

    Barbara–You pretty much answered your own question, plus grease laden cylinder gears and bed racks are easily touched with either hands or paper in the process of using the press, and could really make a mess of your efforts. These presses are doing just fine without grease or subtantial amounts of oil on these particular parts.

  2. Barbara Hauser - September 3, 2007

    Thanks for your comments, Ray and Fritz. Fritz, or anyone, can you help me understand why there is no need for lubrication on the gear or racks? It just doesn’t seem right to have metal-to-metal contact with no lubrication, especially with something as heavy as the carriage. Is it that the bearers take all the weight so there’s really no load on the racks? And maybe the machine was designed for very light lubrication in general because a lot of oil or grease would attract all that paper dust flying around in a print shop? Restroring this press has made me appreciate how well it is engineered; there seems to be a very good reason for everything.

  3. Fritz Klinke - September 2, 2007

    The main gears on the cylinder and the corresponding gear racks don’t really need either oil or grease, and a very light coat of a machine oil will help keep things from rusting. Light oil on clean bearers where the main cylinder bearings go, but that’s it. No where in the Vandercook literature or on the blueprints is there mention of lubricating this gear and its rack.

  4. Ray Nichols - September 2, 2007

    First off, great effort. This should be fun to print on.

    Second, very nice doing the photos. That should help give others the incentive to clean things up a bit.

    Thanks for sharing your effort.

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