Hey everyone,

I co-run a community print shop in Saint Louis, MO. We have facilities for letterpress, intaglio, and screen printing. We were recently given a vandercook no. 4 to add to our lettepress equipment.

When we showed up to pick up the press, it was being moved out of a basement with a backhoe (giant construction machine that looks like a bulldozer). A wall had been knocked out so that it could be removed from the building. Unfortunately, it was not only covered in drywall and brick mortar, but had also been taken apart and was missing the inking drum that sits in the bed of the press and the motor.

I am making good progress on getting the parts replaced, but there is another problem: the carriage is stuck in the middle of the press bed, and will not move. I have cleaned it a little and I can’t see anything stuck in the gears. I have some photos here… any ideas?

if more photos or photos of different parts help please tell me — I know almost nothing about the mechanics of this press, any help would be great.

13 thoughts on “No. 4 Cylinder stuck”

  1. Hey Everyone,
    The press is all back together and is working perfectly… we pulled the first print last night. turns out the carriage bearings were half the problem, and a couple of half ground up rocks stuck in the gear teeth were the other half of the problem. All in all I’d say that despite the warnings these machines are not difficult to take apart or put back together.

    thanks again everyone

  2. My friend and I have begun to take everything apart, and it looks like the press is in great shape. There was quite a bit of sheetrock dust stuck in the gear teeth (i could only get to it once it was disassembled), and the carriage bearings had to be cleaned and repacked.

    Now I guess we put it all back and hope it works after that…

  3. Steven, I know a little about this press and printed a quick proof on it a few months ago without a problem. At that time the cylinder was moving easily down the bed. I’m just offering this as an fyi — it hasn’t been jammed for long. An unfortunate moving method, that beast of a backhoe! …Sara S.

  4. Steven, I have recently rebuilt a # 4 and had similar issue that turned out to be the the threaded sleeve that holds the ink drum. The sleeve was protruding out too far and caught the bearing assembly, given that your press is sans ink drum you may have the same issue. I tore the cylinder head completely down but if you do not want to approach it this way try taking off the “bumper plates” on the leading edge of the carriage and, with a flashlight see if this could be your issue. If you have to pull it apart a digital camera will be your best friend when putting her back together.

  5. Paul, thanks so much for your help… I’ll let you know what happens. I’m sure I’ll get it figured out eventually.

    also thanks Eric

  6. Ok, I talked to someone who works in a commercial shop close by and he seems to think that this problem has to do with the rollers that are located on the side of the press behind the bumper plates… I am trying to avoid taking this thing apart. Everyone has told me “DO NOT take it apart.”

  7. So if it’s not square and clearing any obstructions won’t allow it to correct itself then the you will need to lift the carriage. First you will have to remove the vertical cylinder rack and then the carriage bearings. Simple, nu?

  8. This may be a log shot, but I did once see a No. 4 that was jammed on a 12 pt. slug left in the gap between the gear rack and the bed bearer. The flange on the cylinder was pressed against it. The slug was forced out, in fragments, using a long thin bar and a hammer.
    Straighten out a coathanger and sound the gaps on both sides for foreign matter.

  9. It’s possible that the carriage was reassembled, but unlikely given its position on the bed. Someone would have to know that the gear rack on the 4 is split in two sections on either side, remove a section, roll the carriage off, reassemble then roll it back on. They would immediately know it’s stuck. But perhaps they called it a day and never came back to it.

  10. Eric, the cylinder is not square to the bed, the side with the handle moves about half an inch and the other side won’t budge. that part was never disassembled though.
    This morning, first thing, I borrowed a shop vac and got rid of every bit of dirt and whatever that I could see, then did the wd40. I am afraid there is something stuck that I can’t see or get to.

  11. That overhead view of the cylinder–maybe it is a distorted image, but it doesn’t look as if it is square to the bed. Can it have been reassembled a tooth off on one side?

  12. The first thing to do is clean all the drywall and other crud from the gears and racks. Start with a vacuum cleaner then spray a very liberal amount of WD40 and proceed from there.

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