SP-20 Inking issue

Hello all,

I’ve owned a Vandercook SP-20 since April of this year, and it’s been, to this point a beautiful machine. About a week ago, I started getting a strange issue that I have not been able to decipher, and is not covered in any of the books I have looked at. Here is what’s happening:

1. When the machine is ON impression, the form rollers seem to lift up when they are at about 10″ into the printing cycle (so about 10″ from the feedboard end of the bed). If I’m printing something where the form is longer than 10″, there is a distinct line where the rollers stop applying ink. I have verified this with my roller height adjustment tool. At the beginning of the print bed they are adjusted perfectly. At 10″ and beyond they don’t touch the tool.

2. This problem is confounded by the fact that when the machine is OFF impression, on Trip, the rollers maintain their proper height for the entire length of the print cycle, and ink the form correctly. The cylinder still makes an adequate impression, so it’s not moving… just the rollers.

So, the only think I can surmise is that there is something going on with the trip/print mechanism that causes the whole carriage to somehow shift part way into the print cycle. I haven’t been able to find an exploded diagram of the internal cylinder mechanism to even try to start deciphering the issue. I would be grateful for anyone with more service experience with the machine that can possibly point me in the right direction for tackling this issue.



Clawhammer Press

14 thoughts on “SP-20 Inking issue

  1. clawhammer - December 19, 2012

    On close inspection, my delrin trip bushings are in poor shape, especially the foot of the bed ones. Fritz, have you got those in stock?

  2. clawhammer - December 18, 2012


    Thanks for that. I have been quite careful to go to the end because I know there are a bunch of things that happen in the carriage at that end of the press, that said, I could be more vigilant knowing exactly what. Chalk it up to learning letterpress in the black hole of Western Canada. I’ve been using the C&P since 2004 but the Vandy is new, and there are few experts out this way. It’s not something that happens often, and certainly less than the first couple of weeks I owned it :)

    I’ll give that trick a try, to make sure that’s what’s happening, though I have no doubt you are correct. It happened a couple of times last week when I had a school group at the shop.

  3. kyle van horn - December 18, 2012

    That CLUNK on the return to the feedboard is actually your press returning on a ‘half-trip’ setting. This means you did not fully reach the foot of the press to engage the Trip eccentrics (or possibly that your nylon trip rollers are maladjusted — they’re on tiny eccentrics too!) I notice this problem a lot with students printing on our presses when they simply haven’t pushed the carriage fully to the foot of the press.

    This could be related to a broken spring possibly, but is most likely just user error (for better or worse).

    You should be able to replicate the issue by running the carriage down and carefully engaging the trip eccentric (the ring that spins around the cylinder axle, behind the hand-crank) halfway through its movement. This may take a couple of tries to figure out where that halfway-point is. Upon return to the feed board (carefully) you should be able to reproduce the clunk / stop.

    Still doesn’t fix the inking problem, but at least it’s another issue solved.

  4. clawhammer - December 16, 2012

    Paul, I think that sounds right. I’ll have a close look for the springs, and see if one is broken. When the carriage is returning from an impression, occasionally it gets almost to the feedboard and stops with a ‘thunk’ instead of returning smoothly to the starting position. It’s almost like the eccentric bearings are not returned to the right position and and the mechanism binds. If I move it forward again after the thunk, then back the problem is gone and the carriage returns to the feedboard nicely.

    Fritz, thanks for the diagram. It’s helpful to see the relationship between all the parts in there, at least.

    So nice to have all your experience helping me with this issue. Thanks everyone.

  5. Fritz Klinke - December 14, 2012

    The only scan I have posted of the SP-20 cylinder blueprint is this one:


    and I don’t think anything would be solved by taking apart the cylinder assembly. I would check that the cylinder trip springs are intact on both sides of the press as a starter, then look elsewhere. We have new springs, so those are replaceable. My scanner is down at the moment, so I can’t scan any other prints, but I can look stuff up if necessary. I would check the two upper bearings, X-2672 on each side of the press as they control racking, or the levelness of the cylinder assembly. Both bearings are supposed to be snug but not tight to the bed rail and I have a feeling the front bearing on each side is set too tight to the bed rail and that could cause the front of the cylinder assembly to lift if the rear two bearings are set too loose. Just a thought.

  6. Paul Moxon, Moderator - December 13, 2012

    It could be the carriage bearings adjustment like Eric said.

    Mike, the serial number 23766 indicates that your press has flat trip springs (X22980) so it shouldn’t be necessary to tear down your cylinder. Coil springs were discontinued on the SP20 after serial number 23378. See Sheet 245-A. I’ve seen several SP presses function with missing or broken trip springs, but slippage of the cylinder eccentric can occur and cause the carriage to get stuck.

    The floating racking is a holdover from the Universal series presses. It was eliminated after serial number 23905. See Sheet 244-A. (Kyle: this should indicate that in your shop SP20 #22466 has this mechanism, but that SP20 # 28222 does not.)

    I don’t plan to see an SP20 until late January. Hopefully you have this solved by then.

  7. clawhammer - December 12, 2012


    I looked today at the geared railing section as per your photo, and to my surprise, the SP-20 I have has no such section. The bed railing gears are all one piece from beginning to end. There appears to be a section that ends about the same spot your gear section ends that raises up a wee bit but has shims and no springs, and there is no opportunity for anything to get in there. Is this a less common style for the geared rails?

    I had a careful listen again for clunk sounds and there are none… as soon as I get a moments’ reprieve I’ll check those bottom bearings and see if that helps. I hope I don’t have to pull the cylinder assembly apart :(

  8. Eric Holub - December 12, 2012

    The parts diagrams in the SP-20 manual (copies available from NA Graphics) show some details of construction.
    There are two slightly different designs for the cylinder eccentric bearings, one using a coil spring, the other using a leaf spring. The serial number of the press would indicate which type.

  9. clawhammer - December 12, 2012

    Also… I’ll have a closer look at the sprung bits of geared railing. I haven’t looked there yet either. Thanks.

  10. clawhammer - December 12, 2012


    Thanks for your input. It sounds like you have had a few of them apart. As for the thunk/change at that point, no. There is nothing. I looked there first too, but the change is so slight that it doesn’t make a sound or is even visible to the naked eye.

    As for the trip/print tabs you sent the picture of, that’s sort of where I arrived at in my investigation because it seems to be at about the right point, but didn’t want to start taking things apart without an exploded view of the internal mechanism. Is there one out there that anyone knows of? A google search brought me nothing.

    I have started with a thorough once-over. A full clean, I’ll adjust the bearings above and below the bed bearers, and then start to take things apart. If anything else comes up I’ll be sure to post.

  11. kyle van horn - December 11, 2012

    Mike – this is a really mysterious issue.

    When the press is on Print, there is nothing in the way that should cause issues as you roll down the bed. As both you and Eric mentioned, this press idles in Print at the feedboard, and only switches to Trip when the lever is set. The one thing I can think of is the Rear Floating Rack, the sprung bit of geared rack (found on both sides at each end of the press) that assists with the trip/print transitions. My best theory is that something is perhaps wedged under the sprung portion of the rack that is throwing the carriage off kilter. This would have a corresponding issue with the bearings, but might explain why it’s not an issue in Trip (the carriage would be lifted up already and riding over the ‘bump’.

    Can you feel anything at the time the rollers lift off of inking? A knock or bump or anything? If you are, you shouldn’t.

    To answer your questions on the mechanisms on the trip/print triggers: When in print, Trip / Print is dictated by the four nylon wheels at the head and foot of the press. The wheels at the foot of the press throw it into trip as the sheet is released, and the wheels at the head of the press reset it to Print when the carriage returns to the feedboard.
    When the press is set to Trip, two metal pegs stick out from each side of press (above the washup tray) which throw the press into trip as the carriage approaches the press bed.

    I’ve also uploaded a photo of the Rear Floating Rack and one of the Trip pegs (it is recessed, in Print setting). If I was looking for a culprit, I’d see if anything was weird or off with the floating racks. You can remove them easily, just don’t lose the springs.

  12. Eric Holub - December 10, 2012

    I’d forgotten that feature of the SP print/trip mechanism. But it reminds me that the upper bearings control roller height on trip, and there is a delicate balance to be found for roller height at both positions.
    Not sure why rollers would shift moving forward on print if the carriage stays in print position, but it seemed to me that ten-inch location is just about where the mechanism would come into play.

  13. clawhammer - December 9, 2012


    Thanks… that’s a good thought. I was planning on going back and adjusting all the bearings just to make sure, so maybe I’ll start with those ones and see if that fixes the issue. From reading Paul Moxon’s book, it sounds like the SP series is ON impression at the feedboard (which is different from other models which start on trip) but I know there is some sort of mechanism that is triggered by the trip/print lever as the cylinder moves forward (the little tabs that stick out of the bed bearers below the cylinder gear tracks). I’ll keep you posted.



  14. Eric Holub - December 9, 2012

    Maybe the rollers are being lifted when the cylinder comes onto impression? And the impression bearings (the lower ones) are misadjusted?

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