One my my worst nightmares just happened. I was cleaning the ink drum of my No. 4 and carelessly let the rag slip with the drum rotating. I immediately switched off the power and hoped to see the rag on the shelf below the drum. But it is nowhere visible. I fear it may be tangled in the chain because I heard and felt a slight, soft “thunk” as the drum stopped rotating. The rag is a piece of thin flannel about 12″ × 8″. Maybe I deserve this for using old pajamas. Any suggestions?


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9 thoughts on “Rag disappeared into my No. 4 — help!”

  1. As a follow up, I was talking to Bill Berkuta yesterday and he said he was able to retrieve the errant rag from Barbara’s press on a recent visit. He removed the cover plate that covers the space in back of the ink drum and pulled the rag out with no difficulty.

  2. The original problem was a wimpy rag, so I suggest something substantial the next time, like a towel, or a real shop towel. A hefty rag will jam up such that it can be easily removed without having to have the fire department standing by. I think I read something about this in our Vandercook files–I’ll have to check. Good thing it wasn’t the cat.

  3. Another thing to try before burning is to see if you can grab an end of the rag and pull. Maybe long needlenose pliers, maybe a custom-made hook, but you want to see how much can be removed manually before burning. But in any case it isn’t much cloth, so it can’t get hot enough to do any damage to the press. Just don’t let the fire spread beyond.

  4. Barbara Hauser

    I SEE IT! It is indeed wrapped around the gear nips at the cylinder end. The cylinder does not move at all; it’s as though it were welded to the press. Is burning it off really something that people do? I’ve managed to free up a convenient little tag of fabric that’s just right for igniting. What sort of precautions should I take, aside from clearing the area of all solvents and having a fire extinguisher handy? There’s quite a bit of old grease in there. Couldn’t the flame travel the path of grease and set my whole press on fire?


  5. I’ll add that an essential diagnostic tool is the dental mirror (and the larger versions sold in hardware and auto supply stores). If you don’t have a straight line-of-sight, need to see around a corner, use a mirror, and don’t forget a bright flashlight. Modern LED lights are small and bright and cheap.
    This could let you know what is happening around the drum gear.

  6. From the pictures, it clearly isn’t at the gearbox end of the chain. That leaves the cylinder end. Try to turn the cylinder or pull the chain against the normal direction of travel and see if it moves. If the rag is caught at both gear nips, you may need to remove the chain.
    The chain has one removeable link, and if that is accessible the link can be removed and the chain loosened. If that link is inaccessible, maybe it would be easier to loosen the gearbox than the cylinder.
    Sometimes it makes sense to just burn off a caught rag, but you have to see it first.

  7. Barbara Hauser

    Thanks for your quick replies, Eric and Paul. “Fished out without too much trouble” sounds like my kind of solution.

    The rag wasn’t in the drip tray, so I’m hoping I can locate it by removing the housing around the gearbox, as Eric says. However, I’m not sure exactly what or where this housing is. Here are a few photos showing the places where I can see the chain:

    I took off the little plate at the feedboard end of the chain (last photo) and peered down the length of it, but I didn’t see the rag (maybe too dark in there). With the power off, I have tried to pull the chain, but it doesn’t budge. Is something “in gear,” and if so how do I get it out of gear?(And just to make sure, “pulling it backwards” means to pull the top section of chain in the direction from the feedboard toward the bed, yes?)

    By the way, during my restoration, the ink drum is one thing I did not remove, as you can probably tell from all the gunk in there.


  8. If the rag is in the chain pass way of the bed casting, as Eric suspects, then it could be fished out without too much trouble.

    I know of a recent incident, where the rag was wound around the drum sprocket on a No. 4. There’s not much leeway to walk the chain off on that end. Then, you may need to remove the drum. I seem to remember that you did this as part of your restoration. But if not, this is done by removing the bolts that pass through the bed casting on both ends. But before doing so support the position of the drum (so it doesn’t fall unto the shelve)by blocking it underneath or using straps held from above. Then you can lower and angle the drum sprocket off the chain. It’s less daunting than it seems. Two people can do it.

    See this earlier post, with a Vandercook blueprint of the drum and link to a Flickr set where an engine hoist was used on a No. 4 old style to lift it up. I don’t think that’s necessary for your later model.

  9. If the drip tray is present under the drum it may have dropped there. The tray is held in place by four screws, easily removed.
    More likely, it might have been pulled toward the gearbox, and I remember vaguely a sheet metal housing around that, also easily removed, to see if that is the case.
    With the power off, it should not be hard to pull the chain backwards to free the rag if it is pulled into the gear nip.

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