Restoring an SP-20 (i.e. hunting for parts)

Hello all – –

I had the great fortune of saving an SP20 from the scrapyard earlier this Spring. However, it was not quite as complete as I remembered it being when I first found it last Fall.

Steve from Letterpreservation helped with the move.

Someone clearly attempted to dismantle it sometime in its history, then abandoned it, and the only old pressman in the shop claims that it had always looked like this. I smiled and nodded and agreed that indeed, they never had a feedboard or handle, clearly.

Mechanically it is sound, a diagnosis confirmed by Perry Tymeson a week or two back. And thankfully I work for a school with one of these which I have dismantled before, so working through guts and gears of this thing doesn’t really faze me.

That said, I’m missing a few really critical parts. Most notably, a feedboard, a crank-arm, and a paper-guide. Less critical but still important, a lock-up bar would be nice.

The rollers are rock-hard, but they are straight and true, so nothing too scary there.

The first question is, are there some surplus parts out there? I’ve already resigned myself to the fact that I’ll end up making some of these. I have access to a metal-shop and foundry, as well as fabricator friends who are always up for a challenge. I am planning on having a new feedboard cut and bent this summer, and casting my own crank-arm.

In terms of casting the crank-arm, I may do it first in aluminum (easier, immediate), and seeing if I can at least machine it properly. Friends will be doing iron pours this summer, and if all goes well, I may follow up with a re-casting of it then, (closer to traditional). I’d like to think I can machine something with some semblance to a paper-guide, but I’ll even agree that’s pretty ambitious.

Of course, I’m attempting all of this because I like a challenge and am stubborn, but if some of these already exist in the world, I’ll probably fold and just buy them.

Also, finally, if you’ve read this far, can anyone confirm that the earlier SP20s were designed pre-trip-springs? Perry and I looked at it for an hour or so and decided they were never present. The SN is 22466, made in mid-1962.

There are probably other parts and pieces missing – I haven’t had the chance to really delve into some of the nitty-gritty. I will no-doubt post again as restoration gets underway.

The photos of my trial-by-fire will be well documented here.

Thanks all.


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Eric Holub
15 years ago

All the SPs I’ve dealt with had flat trip springs, and most have had broken springs sooner or later. Why Vandercook changed the design, it would be either to make it cheaper or to make it better (and cheapness was the whole point of the SP series). The leaf springs are fairly easy to replace, but coil springs woukd require complete disassembly. Let’s hope they aren’t prone to breaking.

Eric Holub
15 years ago

Your SP-20 has a different type of trip spring, the BRS-3 (a coil spring). It is part of the X19458 (r.h.) and X-19459 (l.h.) trip assembles, last used S-N 23778. This is according to sheet 245-A

Alex Brooks
15 years ago

Congrats on your find. Fritz has had feedboards made to order, from original plans. We’ve also been working on getting some paper guides made, the more interest there is the faster it will happen. There are no side guides available secondhand, from what i know, and if you do find one it will cost as much as a new one would – $300-400 range. If you go to the trouble of casting handles, you should make a few extra, as i’m pretty sure all the sp and universal handles are the same. Good luck.

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