SP-15 ink roller and gear…

Could someone either take a nice close-up digital photo or carefully measure (wrap a piece of paper around it and measure) the circumference of both the form roller (the one that actually touches the type) and the gear that drives it as it moves across the press?

The outside diameter of my gear is noticeably larger than the roller itself (which I think is my problem) and it is creating problems with adjusting the roller height. I cannot get the roller low enough to be the correct inking height on the end toward the gear. The front roller (not sure if there is a specific name for it) seems OK.

Thanks for any help.

14 thoughts on “SP-15 ink roller and gear…

  1. Fritz Klinke - July 3, 2007

    I was looking for information for the Marriott Library in Utah today and happened across a Vandercook file that relates to the supply question. The earliest brochure I presently have that lists rollers is dated 1940 and it makes a pitch for buying Vandercook tested and approved rollers as press replacements, and that the buyer would be assured that the rollers were made to Vandercook original specifications.

    Then in a 12 page catalog dated June 1, 1967, titled “Vandercook Supplies,” they state “The technology and experience gained in over 50 years of manufacturing graphic arts equipment is reflected in the high quality of Vandercook supplies. These supplies have been designed for a single purpose–superior reproduction proofing.” Included are Repro Papers, Inks, Replacement Rollers (36 specific rollers listed, from the 6″ brayer to the 30-26 4-color press), Tympan and Cylinder packing, Under Blankets, Top Blankets, Mylar Coated Blankets, and Frisket rolls. It really does appear that Vandercook placed itself in the supply business for at least the last 67 years, more years than I have, thank goodness, and it is a tradition picked up by Vandersons who also had similar catalogs. Based on the approach to follow up on the needs of the presses they sold, I would think any of the Vandercook manufacturing specifications were tightly held. To tell someone that a SP-15 roller has a diameter of 2 1/2 inches is of minor importance. What is withheld is the manufacturing tolerances, face length, durometer, specific roller material, shoulder cuts, etc. To determine the basic roller diameter is not too difficult, and when Ray sent me an email giving me his undersize dimension, I responded with the correct diameter his rollers should be and we are now making him new rollers with new cores to solve the problem outlined in the original posting.

    That we continue with Vandercook specifications is shown in the Vandercook die cut tympan that we sell. It is die cut from dies that originated at Vandercook, that were passed onto Vandersons, and are now ours. They reside permanently at the converter for this paper in Denver and they are ours exclusively. I have a $20,000 inventory of tympan sitting on the shelves, and next to rollers, it is one of our strongest sellers. And will I let anyone else use our dies?–hell no.

    I appreciate Eric’s comments and Paul’s follow up.

  2. Paul Moxon, Moderator - July 2, 2007

    Right on, Eric. And no one shares as much substantive information in such a straightforward manner and without rancor.

  3. Eric Holub - July 2, 2007

    Do I have to point out that NA Graphics is nearly the last and, by attrition, likely the largest seller of letterpress supplies? And if it ever ceases business, we are totally screwed (except for the eBay sellers). Not just Vandercook parts, but a broad range of things that are still made for a letterpress printer of any sort, from Kelseyman to diecutter. (Do you think American Printing Equipment has enough to fill even a 8-page LP catalog these days?)
    I can’t think of anyone “promoting” letterpress who has put so much money where his mouth is. It’s easy to blog or put up a webpage. Fritz is doing something concrete. Thanks!

  4. Fritz Klinke - July 1, 2007

    There is a major difference between the pre-1975 Vandercook that no longer exists and what there is today. Vandercook manufactured presses and repair parts and essentially went bankrupt. The only viable part of the business left was service and supplies and Illinois Tool Works couldn’t justify the personnel, overhead and manufacturing space to make even a marginal operation pay off. Their 2 efforts in the offset press field were flops–the proof press was a financial failure and their offset press never made it past a prototype.

    Vandercook may have shared their roller specs with roller makers other than the ones they used, but I have no evidence of that in the records. But since 1975, when the business went to parts, service and supply, rollers became a major part of the business and manufacturing information has been closely retained since then. No manufacturing prints have ever been released except to vendors and we continue a tradition that all prints released to a vendor are stamped as to containing proprietary information. And I use the same machine shop that Vandersons started using in 1975 when they no longer had the plant on Touhy Avenue. I will share assembly drawings, often material that is not in the manuals, and some of that has been posted here on the Vanderblog. To give away the basis of the business is to forever shut it down.

  5. Gerald Lange - June 30, 2007

    Following in the mode:

    The Vandercook roller specs were given to various roller rewinders and roller manufacturers by Vandercook as a matter of course. Vandercook did not make the rollers.

    It certainly does not take much research to find these firms and contact them regarding the specifications.

    Out of deference to this list I will not mention them or respond to member emails requesting this information. However, it is bothersome that folks get botched rollers, and suffer financially, simply because the information is not forthcoming. And I will propose, this is simply bad business practice.

    I have found that, just the opposite of the prevailing old-school mentality, sharing even vital information is good for business, as it builds client trust. Sure, you might get ripped off occasionally, ahem, but why hold a burning coal in your hand? You only get one shot at this life, live it as justly and as honestly as you dare.


  6. Fritz Klinke - June 30, 2007

    I guess I’m the nefarious party who is sitting on the list of Vandercook roller specifications. Actually, the list is about 10 feet from me, but it is what is known as “trade information,” “proprietary information” and maybe some other terms that describe the trade information owned by a business that enables it to function. I’ve had this discussion with Gerald some years back and it is quite simple. I paid to buy Vandercook with the intention of operating it as a businnes that would provide me with a source of income. I did not purchase the business with the intention of operating it as a free reference library for anyone. It took me 10 years to pay off the debt incurred to purchase Vandercook that was part of the NA Graphics purchase from Hal Sterne and Tom Bell. They were perhaps more hard nosed about this than I have been. But when the time came, they had something of value to sell.

    The opportunity to buy this business was out there in 1996 and I’m the one who bit. My business partner and I put forth the time and considerable effort to move all this and reestablish it as an operating business. We built a new building to house it in about 45 days fighting snow, ice, and really crappy weather in the process. We have kept it going through lean times and have subsidized it heavily from our other activities that make healthy profits.

    I don’t give out Vandercook specifications. It is that simple. I share what is needed for operation and maintenance, and there are numerous examples of this on Paul’s Vanderblog and letpress.

    As a co-moderator of this site, I have never edited or reviewed anyone’s post before it appears. I have the access to do that, but I think Paul is doing an admirable job. When Paul and I discussed the blog initially, and my role in it as keeper of the tangible remains of Vandercook, we agreed that we didn’t like the nasty and sometimes bitter posts on other lists that really don’t do anything but reflect back on the qualities and integrity of the poster, but that everyone else shouldn’t be subjected to that. I share a lot of Vandercook material with Paul and only rarely have I asked him not to post something that could be considered trade information.

  7. The Arm NYC - June 30, 2007

    There is a lot involved in getting the rollers made right. You need to know the durometer, material, width, core specs, whether the rubber sits centered on the core and whether the roller ends need to be ground tapered in order to clear anything.
    It makes sense to me that NA Graphics would want to keep this information proprietary and provide roller making services among their Vandercook products which I could imagine are often more time consuming than profitable. But it may also help people to know whether their rollers are shot or out of spec to at least be able to reference a table that shows the intended diameter for the inking rollers of each press. The table could have a link at the bottom saying “Rollers made to original Vandercook specs can be ordered directly from NA Graphics.” This could eliminate a lot of frustration and channel some business to NA.

    Daniel Morris
    The Arm Letterpress
    Brooklyn, NY

  8. Paul Moxon, Moderator - June 30, 2007

    Gerald and listers:

    No censorship was intended. I found your comment in the spam queue and your follow up comment in the moderation queue. I have no explanation for this, but will investigate. I am continuing to learn WordPress and have just upgraded to the latest version on Thursday.

    I believe in the free exchange of ideas and information. This list is only moderated to keep discussions on point and to clarify descriptions. I have not blocked a single legitimate comment or post. Without moderation this list would be smothered in spam.

    Fritz is more of an honorary moderator, and I believe he spends less time here than he does on either Letpress or PPL. I have two other moderators, Scott Fisk and Terry Chouinard, who are my safety for when I get locked out.

    I do not ask Fritz for permission to post items and but have honored his request not to post operators manuals. However, you may note that I have not censored any comments regarding the exchange of manuals between members here. Any charge or censorship, incompetence, or irrelevance regarding this forum should only be leveled at me. This is an independent endeavor maintained and funded by me.

    I hope this clears up the matter.

  9. Gerald Lange - June 30, 2007


    No you are not. Obviously somewhere there is a list of the roller diameters for all the different models of Vandercooks. Note that my first response to this was not allowed. Let’s see if this one is. If not I will send it to my own mailing list.


  10. Gerald Lange - June 29, 2007


    No, you are not the only one. There IS a reason you cannot find this information. Maybe you will have to figure the why of this for yourself though. First thing to ask is, who does have the information?


  11. Ray Nichols - June 29, 2007

    Thanks for everyone’s help. I just ordered new rollers.

    It would nice if somewhere there was a list of roller diameters for all the different models of Vandercooks. Am I the only one fighting this problem?

  12. Eric Holub - June 28, 2007

    My recollection is that the top of the roller gear rack is level with the bearers, isn’t it? (Unlike the cylinder gear rack.) Which is the type-height, which is where the roller is set. So the roller gear must be larger than the roller diameter to engage the rack at their pitch.
    But if your roller is undersize a certain amount, and you try to lower the roller to compensate, then the teeth of the roller gear will stop on the rack and that side of the roller can’t be adjusted any lower.
    A temporary solution is to lower the rack by removing the shims under it. You might get through the present job. But the rollers need to be remade to the proper diameter (and then replace the shims under the rack!).

  13. Ray Nichols - June 28, 2007

    That tells me something for sure.

    My rollers appear to be almost exactly 2.375″ (1/8 less than yours). Gear appears to be 2.625″ (same as yours).

    Also, when I run out the roller adjustments the roller DOES NOT sit on the lifter. It appears to be something around 1/32″ short but CLEARLY short of touching. Right now it is backed up against a wall and I cannot see. Tonite I’ll pull it out and see if I can tell why it won’t go all the way down, but right now I don’t see any good reason it wouldn’t.

    Thanks for the information.

    Where did you get that schematic drawing?

    If you have a manual for the SP-15 I’d love a good clean copy. The one I got from Boxcar Press doesn’t have that drawing.

  14. The Arm NYC - June 27, 2007

    This isn’t exactly what you asked for, but should be just as useful if you have a caliper/micrometer. I measured the diameter of my rollers at 2.5 inches give or take a couple of hundredths (the soft durometer makes it a bit tricky) and the gear measured at 2.62 in diameter. Both form rollers should be interchangeable.

    When you run the roller adjustment all the way out at that corner is the block sitting on the lifter arm? (see below link) If it can’t even bottom out then you definitely have a problem there. There is also a spring that was used on some of the SP-15s on each side of the carriage to hold that form roller down. I don’t know how useful it was, but I am thinking of adding them to my press to see if it helps to keep it all in place.


    Daniel Morris
    The Arm Letterpress
    Brooklyn, NY

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