Soldan Lightning Proof Press

Greetings all.

Approximately 6 years ago I took delivery of a proof press that remained in storage (in bits) until November 2010, when it was dragged kicking and screaming out of hibernation and pieced back together using the only picture I had. The picture showed the press assembled and in situ where it had come from it’s previous owners (who I believe were printmakers).

It was fairly easy to work out where most parts went, but the press is missing a few parts and it doesn’t ‘work’.

I contacted Paul Moxon and asked if it would be possible to post this up on the Vandercook site (he agreed, thanks Paul!) to see if anyone could help identify the press as there are no markings/serial numbers on it, having already searched the site to see if anything looked vaguely similar. Given the size of the press I assumed it was British made. I couldn’t find anything. But one night whilst looking at the Vandercook site again I literally stumbled across my press…

…A Soldan Lightning Proof Press.

The first picture here, looks very similar and is incredibly useful as all the parts are labelled. But further digging here, tells me that my  press is a ‘Type A’. I am unsure if this dates it to 1904?

According to the literature, the type A can operate at three speeds. I’m not sure how as there are only two ways to ‘crank’ the press, one on the cylinder itself and the other on the smaller wheel to the rear of the press. This smaller wheel is attached to a cogged shaft that runs the width of the press. Where there should be four ‘shells’ that the shaft rotates on/in there is now only one. I can’t remember if the press came with the other three or they have gone awol.

The main issue with the press is travel. The cylinder and inking assembly will not budge when cranked. I’ve never used a Vandercook or Korrex but the videos I’ve seen show that the cranking action is smooth and easy. I’ve cleaned the press up and oiled the parts that look like they needed oiling, but this has made no difference. Before we attached the cylinder, the whole assembly would move if given a good shove. Do other cylinders rotate on an internal bearing? I ask because it looks like there could be a bearing on the main shaft. Which may be the cause of the problem.

The rollers appear to be made of wood and have long since passed their prime, both have an almighty crack running along their length. I’m sure recovering will cost a small fortune, so using inking up using a brayer would appear to be the sensible option.

On the operator side of the cylinder is a little mechanism that is attached to the cylinder grippers. This appears to link up with the impression handle. Not entirely sure how it would work but I assume you would feed, grip and then crank to print. There is a large pin that joins the handle to the feed board that is missing (labeled).

So…does anyone have any experience with this press? Is there anyone that has a video of it working (??!). I should add that I am in the UK (West Yorkshire).

The last picture shows the press fully assembled at the previous owners before I got my grubby hands on it. Under the press are the rollers.

Thanks in advance.

Soldan video

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Eric Holub
Editor
13 years ago

Very good, those are timing marks.
Deadlines indicate the printing area of a press. Putting part of a form outside the printing area may result in grippers hitting the form, or running the form off the tail of the cylinder. One can’t always trust head and tail bars to indicate the printing area if they are not original.

Paul Moxon, Moderator
Admin
13 years ago

Nick, I used my omnipotent powers to give you each others email address. But do keep us in the loop. It will be great to know that this machine will be in service again.

Eric Holub
Editor
13 years ago

There is always the possibility that the press has been reassembled with cylinder out of time with the bed. Most Ameerican cylinder presses have deadlines scribed in the bed, don’t know if that is true here.
And since the bed is adjustable for type or galley height (see that lever with indicator on the side of the press?), the linkages and stops on that mechanism should be examined.
As for the published references, I could mail them, but no scans.

Eric Holub
Editor
13 years ago

The ink table should be full-width. Perhaps what you have is the ink table support. Like the bed, the table can be raised or lowered.
The longest reference to the Lightning Press I have is in Vol. II of Pitman’s “The Art and Practice of Printing in Six Volumes” 1932 edition; this describes how the press is used and has a diagram naming the parts. Pitman also had a small volume on “Proof and Platen Presses” but not any of the Lightning material is in it. Another showing is in “Practical Printing and Binding” (Odhams, London 1946). In addition to the Soldans Lightning, this also shows the similar Harrild’s Speedy.

Eric Holub
Editor
13 years ago

It isn’t that the Lighning is simpler than most Vandercooks, it is that it is more like the earlier cylinder presses of its day than proofing presses, except for the moving cylinder and the adjustable bed.
One thing you seem to be missing is the ink plate at the open end of the bed, and that is typical of earlier cylinder press inking.

Paul Moxon, Moderator
Admin
13 years ago

Post where you wish. It’s all about sharing information and solving problems.

Eric Holub
Editor
13 years ago

http://www.briarpress.org/24664
shows what I thought might be another Lightning. Up to that I had only seen them in older printed sources. When there was some talk a few years back about the cost of manufacturing a new proof press today, the Lighning seemed to me a better pattern to follow rather than any Vandercook, but it will be interesting to hear how well this press works.

Alex Brooks
13 years ago

I am currently living near the Amberly museum, outside of Chichester, West Sussex. I’ve worked on many vandercooks in the US and UK, and might be able to help. Send some info about your location etc. and some better pics.

Best, Alex Brooks

Eric Holub
Editor
13 years ago

Get thee to St. Bride’s! The printing library in London that is. That is the only place you will find any information about the Lightning, and the source of the material you saw here. There are other references in British printing manuals (I think it was Pitman’s six-volume Art of Printing where I saw the first reference).
Until recently when another Lightning showed up on BriarPress, I didn’t know if any still existed. None in operation have turned up.
Wooden rollers would not be used as form rollers; they might be used as distributors, but they don’t have the resiliance to contact the form. I can’t imagine wood used as a core for composition except during wartime restrictions. In any inking system, soft rollers contact hard rollers (never hard against hard or soft against soft), and when this press was built composition was the regular soft roller; today it would be rubber. If the wooden rollers are distributors, then plastic or metal tube would be the modern replacement. Or could you be mistaking hardened composition rollers for wood? Glue and treacle, later glue and glycerine, is basis of the composition roller, and after decades can be hard as wood. And there would be a metal core.

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