Universal I Under Rails Rebuild

profiletapersHatch Show Print, with the help of the venerable Dave Seat, had rebuilt the worn out under rails on their hand-cranked Vandercook Universal I. Worn out under rails yield uneven impression and the inability to maintain registration. Wear is caused by excessive pressure due to these conditions: 1) an unleveled press; 2) grime buildup on the cylinder bearers, bed bearers, carriage bearings and under rails; 3) overpacking of the impression cylinder; and/or 4) printing forms over type high.

hatch-uni-i-underrailsTC-stampOn all Vandercooks, except the SP series, the under rails are part of the bed casting and support the travel of the steel-cased carriage bearings. Carriage bearings can be adjusted to compensate for wear, but there are limits.

In consultation with Fritz Klinke at NA Graphics, Dave determined that these rails had reached theirs. Fritz notes:

This problem had come up previously even while Vandercook was still building these presses. The repairs made were from original Vandercook drawings and thus are an “official” fix to this problem as opposed to something contemporary that was thought up to solve this problem. Wear strips were also built into Universal IIIs and I’m trying to figure out if that was a standard feature or an option someone could order. But the Univ III bed plans clearly show a wear strip in place.

In June, Dave disassembled this press, then two employees from Cumberland Machine Co. came with a truck and portable hoist, lifted the bed from the cabinet laid it down on a skid then whisked it away. The machinist (who named-stamped the outer bed) planed the eroded, uneven surface of the under rails, then screwed in strips of 3/16″ steel to restore the original thickness.

After the rebuilt bed was returned to Hatch earlier this month, Dave reinstalled the ink drum, motor, adjustable bed tapers, and carriage. He also found it necessary to adjust the carriage bearings. The approximate cost for this project, including parts and labor was $6,000. That’s half the current price for a replacement press. This is a major repair that other Vandercook owners will face in the future, one that is essential to maintaining the precision expected from these machines.

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Our Uni III plain powered has wear strips. Our Uni I ABP which is newer does not.

The Arm
8 years ago

It is great to see that someone has tackled this intense repair! Both Uni III presses at The Arm have the wear strips as new from the factory. There are four Uni I’s here right now and none of those do.


Dave Seat
8 years ago

Also, while doing this job we found some worn shafts, broken screws and replaced all the Nyliners. It took approx. 6 hours to totally disassemble and approx. 14 hours to reassemble and make all adjustments along with a lot of testing. All seems to be working great at this point. I still have to replace the ink drum shaft as this was worn and I will also replace the wooden bushings in the ink drum itself. Then I believe this press will give another 50 years plus service as long as it is properly taken care of.

Fritz Klinke
8 years ago

The rail drawings are dated May 3, 1967, so bed rail problems took a few years to develop, but one would think on a relatively new and what appears to be a well built press that this problem would start to happen much later. But if Hatch was noticing problems pounding out posters, imagine what a company trying to produce reproduction proofs of 6 and 8 point type would start to see with bumpy bottom rails.

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