Universal III washup unit

I’ve been told by a lot of people that the Universal III washup unit is useless. But, I want to make mine work. The problem I have is that the scraper blade will run into the automatic inking cylinder and causes damage to the cylinder. Any suggestions. BTW I am looking for a return tray and a counter for the Univeral III too. Anyone got some leads?

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Paul Moxon, Moderator
11 years ago

The thickness of an SP15 doctor blade is .030″ I imagine the SP25 is the same.
There are a surprising number of vendors online. This one looks promising: http://www.flexoconcepts.com/products/doctorblades/

Please let us know how it goes.

11 years ago

Hey guys,

I am currently looking for a new washup blade for my sp25. I called NAgraphics but they do not have them. I tried contacting Perry Tymeson (suggestion above) but had no luck. Does anyone have any alternative sources that I could get in touch with for blades for vandercooks?



Paul Moxon, Moderator
16 years ago

Great idea, Elisabeth! I own a No. 4 which does not have a wash-up unit, but next time I’m on a Uni or SP where Crisco is a policy I’ll try your method.

Elisabeth Long
16 years ago

I am a great fan of the wash-up units, but I’ve used them in a way that doesn’t entail pouring solvent on anything. I start the cleanup process by putting some Crisco on the rollers (yes, i’m one of those!) and after it is distributed engage the wash-up tray which then eliminates the lion’s share of the ink. Final cleanup can then be done with a solvent soaked rag which has significantly less work to do by that point. This method at least avoids the mess of loose solvents flowing about the place, but takes significantly less time. I should point out that the final step is, of course, to clean out the washup tray itself! The crisco in the ink makes this an easy task.

p.s. If anyone knows of the whereabouts of an available wash-up unit for an SP20 I’d be very interested! The one thing my press is missing…

Gerald Lange
16 years ago


I agree 100 percent with Paul on this one. There are far too many scratched drum cylinders that have been caused by this mechanism. This practice might be okay for those who actually pay attention to the tray and clean it out at the end of the day but there are those listening to these recommendations who will not, and we do need to keep these Vandercooks alive and well.

By the way, according to the manual, the return tray was not offered on power operated Vandercook IIIs.


Terrence Chouinard
16 years ago

My two cents.

I completely agree with Daniel on this matter. The automatic wash-up is entirely practical. The wash up system does a great job getting 90-99% of the ink removed from the rollers quickly. In short, yes, use a blotter in the tray and replace the blotter frequently, after every two or three clean-ups. [I believe Henry Morris issued a book once illustrated with rather colorful blotter sheets from his wash-up unit and sold the “artwork” as some fantastic artist of Eastern origin. God bless America and the Almighty -ahem!- Dollar!]

An undamaged wiper blade is critical. Mechanically speaking, the units on the SPs are “eh” at best. Remember these units were made at the cheaper end of the spectrum.

My tip for cleaning up with the automatic wash-up is simple. I adapted the knowledge I learned from cleaning up a Heidelberg cylinder; you clean half the press at a time. I begin with very, very little solvent applied to one end of the distribution rollers while the motor is running and then engage the wiper blade. I let the press wash work for 30 seconds or so, then add a bit more, and (wash, rinse) repeat until I’m satisfied. The end without the press wash/the still inky end provides traction so the solvent and the blade can do their thing. Once that end is clean I then apply a modicum of wash to the other end. The clean rollers provide traction. It should go without saying that one ought to be moderate with the solvents and using small amounts repeatedly is key to the effective application of this technique. Plus I always do a bit of hand clean-up.

I’ve seen many presses equipped with the wash up system, never to be used because a) the operator didn’t know how to use it, b) someone told them the system didn’t work or worse, c) that using it meant you were lazy printer and didn’t care about your press. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose, but I say if R.O. didn’t mean for us to use it, he wouldn’t have put it there.

Duncan Dempster
16 years ago

I too got the impression that auto washup was more trouble than it was worth. When I first started work on our SP20 said unit was badly misaligned and caked with dried ink, so I wrote it off. Later, I decided to tackle it and turned out I simply had to pull out the nylon (?) blade and scrape off the ink, and then i reversed and remounted it to take advantage of the virgin edge. I now consider it a pretty efficient and essential feature of the press. I think it cuts my cleanup time and solvent use considerably.

Duncan Dempster
University of Hawaii, Manoa

The Arm
16 years ago

I love the automatic washup and use it on the presses in my studio and also on the four SP-15s at Cooper Union. As Eric mentioned, it is important not to use too much solvent or the rollers will slip. The Vandercook manuals show a squeeze bottle with a pipette tip for solvent application.

If you put some kind of absorbent material in the bottom of the tray all you will only need to wipe down the blade after each use and give the rollers a final once over with a rag. I find this is much more efficient than going at it with a bunch of solvent soaked rags.

It is very easy to forget to wipe the blade and disengage the unit after you finish using it and for this reason we make a habit of storing the washup units on the bed of the presses when we are preparing to close up shop at the end of the day. This allows them to be easily inspected before we turn off the lights.

If you need a new washup blade and NA Graphics aren’t able to supply it I would suggest you contact Perry Tymeson. He had no problem sourcing the ones we fitted to the presses at Cooper. His contact details can be found on the “links”:https://vandercookpress.info/links.html section of this page under Mechanics & Riggers.

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

Eric Holub
16 years ago

Yeah, sounds like washup blade is missing, or badly msiadjusted. There is a screw that the tray sits on, which adjusts pressure against the drum. Also, dried ink can build up to the point that it prevents the blade from flexing, or scrathes the drum.
However, using the washup attachment successfully requires a light hand with the solvent. If the rollers slip, it is because too much solvent has been applied. On larger presses it is common to apply solvent to one side, then the other, alternating as the solvent is removed.

Paul Moxon, Moderator
16 years ago

Most wash-up units are useless because of the poor condition of the doctor blade, a strip of nylon attached to the tray that is often missing. Like many Vandercook operators, my objection is that this method messy and wasteful. Messy, because solvent poured directly onto the rotating oscillator flows over the form rollers and reservoir drum splashing diluted ink onto adjacent surfaces. (Undoubtedly you can see this on your press. Perhaps exacerbated by a careless or indifferent operator back in the day.) Wasteful, because in my experience solvent reduces the friction of the form roller rubber against the oscillator and ink drum, so that the rear form roller will hesitate and not properly spin. Thus I need to add more solvent to squeeze off the ink and inevitably I end up wiping the rollers and drum with a rag and more solvent. Conversely, I find I use less solvent by pouring it onto a square of a folded, clean rag and forgoing the wash-up unit. Still, your mileage may vary. I know printers who love their wash up units.

Copyright © 2024 vandercookpress.infoTheme by SiteOrigin
Scroll to top
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x