Universal III – Gripper Bar Questions

As a result of a plumbing mishap a few weeks ago I have had to clean and re-lubricate the gripper bar on my Universal III AB. In the processes of doing this I’ve run into a few questions and potential problems, and I want to get clarification if I can before I do anything incorrectly. I would appreciate any information as my review of the .pdf manual I have, nor Vandercook Presses 2nd ed. have cleared my admittedly muddled understanding.

I have posted this photo of the removed gripper bar, there appears to be a rather thick 3/4″ dia washer/roller with a fillister head machine bolt+nut possibly missing at position (A) which is present at the other end of the arm. Any thoughts?

(B) these threaded pins have a nut (Jam nut?) and look as though they can be adjusted? would this alter how high the grippers open?

(C) small holes which are painted with red enamel which makes me think they are lubrication points for the grippers? They were previously caked with black gunk, I had assumed they were set screws all this time until I cleaned them up to find empty holes.

I don’t want to take disassembly/lubrication any further than this until I am more confident in what I am looking at.

Thank you for your time and expertise.

-J.Lay

6 thoughts on “Universal III – Gripper Bar Questions

  1. Eric Holub - June 23, 2022

    Powdered graphite is fine. I already use the Dixon flake graphite to lubricate Linotype spacebands, which are treated much more frequently than your grippers need, but the idea with each is to apply graphite but leave the minimum as a working layer. After applying the graphite, I rub the spacebands on a smooth wood block, that’s the “polishing” that removes excess graphite. Too much lubrication is a problem with many lubricants, but with graphite, aside from possibly marking paper, it absorbs moisture from the air and gets gummy.
    After a good cleaning of gripper stems and their holes, and a first polishing with graphite, you might get by with an occasional light application of graphite with a toothbrush to renew lubrication.

  2. Jeffrey Lay - June 23, 2022

    Thanks for the reply and for pointing out the part number for the roller MR-68. I will get a better copy of the manual asap. I have some deep divots to have filled on the form roller blocks so I will take the cam as well. I am concerned that my adjustment of the fulcrum could have caused excessive pressure on the removable cam/follower as a result. I will cautiously experiment with adjusting the threaded pins upward a bit and see where that gets me.

    I hit a snag this morning trying to remove the gripper stems/springs. The blocks that are attached to the end of the gripper stems, which push against the springs, appear to be connected through the stems with a pin. Used some penetrant WD40 overnight but I can’t budge any of the pins (fairly firm strikes with hammer/punch). Not willing to overdo it. How critical is cleaning up the grippper stems? Am I misunderstanding something perhaps?

  3. Paul Moxon, Moderator - June 23, 2022

    I agree with Eric that you should use graphite instead of oil. In my haste (while traveling) I was noting that they are indeed oil holes. I use graphite on all the various styles of grippers that Vandercook made.

    Ssd for the gripper opener cam, a local machinist should be able to fill the gouges and NA mach have the follower. In this instance, the part is MR-68 Roller (Sheet 211-A of the manual).

  4. Jeffrey Lay - June 22, 2022

    Thank you Paul for the photo and the confirmation that a X-4252 washer is not supposed to be present at position (A) as well. One less cause for concern.

    I have been referring to a photocopied .pdf manual for Universal I and III which was given to me with the press purchase, the one which was on Boxcar cir. 2008 I believe. Apparently it is lacking in some regards as this sheet is not present, for example. I will try and source a more comprehensive parts list/manual for the Uni III specifically.

    As for whether the pins can be adjusted to push the grippers higher. I reached out to Perry Tymeson years ago and he generously walked me through a fulcrum adjustment which fixed the issue at the feedboard end. However I’m looking for alternatives as the removable gripper cam and the cam follower are quite worn (cam is gouged in fact). The cam had slugs glued behind it when I bought the press, and has always been loose in its holes (I added thin nylon sleeves to the pins and steel Accu-Shim tape over the cam in what was intended to be a temporary stop-gap) Once I removed the slugs and shim tape, the grippers no longer open much at the end of the stroke, naturally. Thinking out a solution that doesn’t involve making the wear worse over time.

    Glad that they are indeed oil holes. Sad to say I have never oiled them. Eric, I appreciate you getting into the process on this. I am printing and have used graphite blown under the gripper mushrooms, and as you have indicated it has made a mess.

    I have never disassembled to clean but I assume the process is not dissimilar from what is described on pages 20-22 in Paul’s Vandercook Presses 2nd Ed.? I am being far more intrepid than I have been in the past and will attempt it. Would powdered graphite (or even coarser ground graphite I have for illustration purposes) + jewelers polishing cloth/buff wheel at low rpm work in lieu of polishing with flake graphite as I have these on-hand.

    Again thank you for bearing with me. I appreciate the information.

  5. Eric Holub - June 22, 2022

    If you are printing and not proofing, I wouldn’t use oil in the oil holes for the grippers. You may get oil stains on your final product as it migrates up.
    It is a lot more work, but I remove the grippers and polish them with flake graphite, an old composing room practice from Linotypes. But just squirting graphite powder at the grippers may be dirtier than oil, and humidity gums up loose graphite.

  6. Paul Moxon, Moderator - June 22, 2022

    (A) I have reviewed sheet 211 of the manual which shows the gripper bar and a screw is not present at the location.

    (B) I’m not certain about adjustment at the point you indicated, but reached out to Universal III owners

    Also, look for wear on the end of the square block at the right end of the push rod (X-2766).

    (C) Yes, these are oil holes

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