roller height on universal I

i am still working on getting my new-to-me universal I refined and printing perfectly, and i’m having a hard time getting the ink roller height correct. i have a gauge to test, and if the vibrator is up / NOT in contact with the rollers, i can get the height correct, but the black knob screws are almost all the way down, or as low as the rollers can go. however, when i then put the vibrator to the down position, and pass the gauge underneath to test the height, the rollers are so low the gauge isn’t able to pass back through at all — the rollers are way too low. If I leave the vibrator down and adjust the rollers to be as high as they can physically go, they are still too low for the gauge to pass. And at that point, if I lift the vibrator, they are so high, the gauge can pass easily without getting any ink on it at all.

when i try to print (polymer plate), the negative space of the plate picks up some ink, so i know the rollers are low . . . and the type on the plate doesn’t carry the ink nicely or leave a crisp impression in the paper. kind of fuzzy. the other issue is that the vibrator, when inked up and in contact with the rollers, sometimes seems like it has too much friction and sticks a bit, even while lubricated and with good ink density.

The ink rollers are new, and I can’t vouch that they guys who put them on know exactly how they should be — they told me they just copied the old worn-out ones that were on the press when they found it, and that they used a density of rubber that is standard to use with movable type. They do work on a lot of old machines, but this is the first Vandercook they’ve worked on.

A few possibilities occur to me. Maybe the rubber is a squishier density, so the weight of the vibrator affects the height so much? Maybe the new rollers are not the right diameter? Or maybe I’m missing a screw or something that keeps the vibrator from putting quite SO much weight on the rollers?

Let me know if you have any ideas!

22 thoughts on “roller height on universal I

  1. Gerald Lange - July 5, 2012


    The core.

    Is this press “re-conditioned”? A lot of these are just cleaned up junk. Missing parts, non-standard parts, parts put in wrong, etc.


  2. blair - July 4, 2012

    eric, i was more worried that the rubber was too squishy, and the pressure of the vibrator was squishing it beyond the metal components. the trip / print positions all work fine, and i’m using the gauge to measure while the machine is in print, not trip. i just can’t lift the rollers high enough when the machine is in print and the vibrator is down in contact with the rollers.

    gerald, it may come to that, but i would be really bummed to buy the new rollers and have the same issue, so i’m not convinced yet. fritz is helping me via email. he noticed that the front roller is actually a back roller: in the photo with the gauge, you can see a flat spot on the bar that extends to the roller bearings. apparently that is for a gear! which, of course, should be on the right side (and back roller).

    you also mention: “The one photo of the roller shows that the form itself has been ground down significantly (which might cause a problem during rewinding?)” i’m not following this, but would love to understand . . . isn’t the ‘form’ the thing that you are printing? or are you referencing the block that holds the rollers, and the part that is worn down? would love to know more. the rollers are indeed very close to the bearings but definitely not touching.

    does anyone think my lack of nyliners or the small steel rider could have anything to do with this? are nyliners necessary?

  3. Paul Moxon, Moderator - July 4, 2012

    Good eye, Gerald. Blair: try flipping the form roller to see if it clears the bed bearer on the other side. This means you will have to swap the bearings, too.

  4. Gerald Lange - July 4, 2012


    Not sure if you have this fixed or not. The one photo of the roller shows that the form itself has been ground down significantly (which might cause a problem during rewinding?) and the roller itself is quite near the rail (it seems really close to the rail!!!). I think I would bite the bullet here and get a new roller set up from Fritz, just so you have a point A to start from.


  5. Eric Holub - July 2, 2012

    The pressure of the oscillator should not have any effect on the position of the form rollers IF they are correctly seated. Form rollers just cannot be so hard that roller assemblies are pressed beyond their metal components. But if the difference in roller position is actually between the trip/print positions of the cylinder carrriage, that is something else. Bad carriage settings will gve different readings on print and trip strokes.
    If the cylinder carriage has been removed and the impression bearings altered, it affects other things. Not a good idea, but often repeated.

  6. blair - July 1, 2012

    Sorry, Daniel, maybe I’m not explaining correctly, as I’m a bit rusty on terminology. I have taken a video and will send it to the general email at the arm this afternoon. The problem doesn’t have to do with lifting/lowering the lever that raises or trips ALL the rollers (the lever with the L brackets). The problem artistes when that lever is down, and the machine is set to print… All should be ok and inking properly. But, when the rider is down (as it would normally to print), as opposed to up and secured by the screw catch thing on the right, it pushes the rollers down significantly, to where I can’t raise them to a proper height.

    I tested the rollers with furniture (2 blocks of 8 picas) and they seem quite accurate. A friend has a micrometer, so hopefully I can confirm next week if they are precicely 3in.

    I really appreciate your help!

  7. The Arm NYC - June 30, 2012

    When you raise the lever to lift the rider roller, the roller adjustments are no longer relevant. The function of that lever is to trip the rollers so that they are no longer in contact with the form or with each other. Raising this lever causes the L brackets to lift the roller blocks so that the adjusters no longer make contact.

    I am pretty sure the issue is that the rubber on your rollers has been cast to a larger diameter than standard. If this is the case, they will have to be redone. Please try to get an accurate measure of the roller outer diameter and report back so we can at the least know if I am focusing on the wrong thing.


  8. blair - June 30, 2012

    Steve, they aren’t touching the bearers on the sides… That was one of my first thoughts, too.

    Daniel, I will find a different way to check, but the thing is that the height changes dramatically ONLY when the vibrator is in the down position. I am missing the small rider, which I am hoping to get fabricated here (or may order when I am stateside in a few weeks). Is it at all possible that that could be affecting things? I thought that rider was not super necessary.

    Do you think you could check if the height of your inking rollers is the same whether the vibrator is up or down? Maybe it changes on all vandercooks … Then I will know the problem is likely with the size of the roller and not due to the weight / contact of the vibrator.


  9. Steve Robinson - June 30, 2012

    Could your rollers be so wide that they are contacting the bed bearers slightly on either side? It’s hard to tell from the pics.

  10. The Arm NYC - June 29, 2012

    I think you are going to have to double check your roller diameter. I am pretty sure you will find that they are a bit larger than 3 inches. And where is your rider roller? Is it missing?

  11. blair - June 29, 2012

    daniel, it’s not an adjustable bed, and there is no bed plate. the bearers are the exact same height as the gauge.

    any other ideas, anyone? thanks again for all the help so far.

  12. The Arm NYC - June 27, 2012

    So when you put the gauge next to the bearer the heights are the same?

    Is it an adjustable bed? Or is their a bed plate on it for some reason?

  13. blair - June 27, 2012

    thanks for the thought, daniel . . . i wish that was the problem! but no, it’s a .918 gauge.

  14. The Arm NYC - June 27, 2012

    When you put that roller gauge next to the bed bearer does it match it’s height? Might it be a .928 gauge on a .918 bed?

    Daniel Morris
    The Arm Letterpress
    Brooklyn, NY

  15. blair - June 27, 2012

    photo 4, the general set up with the gauge underneath, unable to come out.

  16. blair - June 27, 2012

    photo 3, play in the oscillator, here shown in the down position in contact with the form rollers

  17. blair - June 27, 2012

    (have to add photos one at a time!)

    photos 2, to see the play in the arms that hold the oscillator

  18. blair - June 27, 2012

    eric, that was a brilliant solution to measuring the roller size! i have some 6 pica wood type, so i just stacked them 3-high and topped it with a level . . . the rollers are 3 inches.

    paul, enrique noticed that those L brackets were on incorrectly last week, so we fixed those and they are working fine.

    rlomascolo, not a silly question, it made me question whether i did this! but no, just retested, and when it’s in print, the problem exists.

    i’ve posted some photos. the first image shows the wear on the roller screw blocks; there are dents where the screw has worn into the metal. we had to put some paper between the screw and the block to get that roller to the proper height (before the oscillator was in contact).

    another thing i wondered was about the play in the oscillator. photo 2 shows the position of the oscillator on it’s arms when it is vertical; photo 3 is when it’s down, touching the form rollers. i can’t tighten those screws to get rid of the play along that axis, but wondered if perhaps it’s falling too far forward in the down position, and therefore too heavy on the form rollers.

    photo 4 shows the general setup when i can’t get the gauge to pass through. thought maybe someone might see something that stands out. (and the gauge, while handmade, is completely accurate, so pay no attention to it’s appearance, haha.)


  19. rlomascolo - June 26, 2012

    This may be a silly question, but are you sure that when you are putting the vibrator up, you are not lifting the rollers? The inking roller trip lever needs to be down when you set the roller height.

  20. Eric Holub - June 26, 2012

    Without a caliper, you can take a carpenter’s adjustable square, set it to 3″. Place the roller on a flat surface like the press bed, and compare the square to the roller. Or set up 18 picas worth of furniture on either side and lay a straightedge across them.

  21. Enrique - June 26, 2012

    I’ll lend you my caliper.. but I think a micrometer would be a better choice…
    Also, if you can post photos of the wear on your roller screws blocks…


  22. Paul Moxon, Moderator - June 26, 2012

    The proper diameter for form rollers on a Universal I is 3″. If the diameter is significantly smaller the screw with

    Lifting the roller trip lever separates the oscillator from the form rollers and also raises the rollers out range for contacting any form in the bed or the roller height gauge.

    Make sure that the upside down L-shaped bracket on the sides of the roller bearers are in the correct orientation. The horizontal section sit on top of lift arms. This piece is attached to the block by a brad, which tend to have too much play allowing it to rotate. I can’t post a photo right now, but maybe someone else can.

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