Using the Ink Fountain on a Universal III

IMG_8119Im in the process of refurbishing a Uni3 that has a lot of options that are not existent on the Uni1 thats been my workhorse for over a decade. The one that has me the most perplexed right now is the ink fountain system. Does anyone have any literature on how to properly use the ink fountain or even better would be a video of one in use. Im not sure if Im missing parts or what but I don’t see where I can put ink in there without it falling straight through. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks!


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Fritz Klinke
9 years ago

I have the prints for the X-19300 Ink Fountain Assembly in front of me, plus I have a complete ink fountain on hand as a sample. The Fountain Knife is made up of X-19332 Fountain Knife Bar, X-19333 Fountain Knife, and X-19334 Fountain Knife. The bar has 9 holes drilled at 1.562″ centers that the 2 pieces of the Ink Knife are bolted to. Thus the Ink Knife is a sandwich of 19334 which is a piece of “Paper Base Bakelite” and the knife 19333 which is Uddenholm Fountain Blade Steel. I looked up the Uddenholm steel and it is a special steel used in making ink knife blades, among other things. It has a coating of Molybdenum for wear resistance. The problem is finding this material in very small quantities. The Bakelite product may now be a phenolic board item. I will see what I can find and then determine if it is at all possible to manufacture replacement blades. I sort of doubt if there really is much demand for this particular product to chase it. These are prints dated to April 1960, just 55 years ago. I had a quote for a replacement ink knife blade for the Miehle Vertical several years ago and it was over $200.


Eric Holub
9 years ago

That photo sure looks like a fountain blade to me; is it not yours?
A few presses have a intermediate material between screw and blade, but not very many.

John Henry
9 years ago

I have used the fountain on a Universal III several decades ago, on a machine which also had a ink densitometer mechanism and meter, but unfortunately my specific memory doesn’t have any recollection of how the blade was removed or attached. The instruction in the manual indicates, as Eric pointed out, that “For quick washup, the fountain blade can easily be withdrawn without the use of tools.”

The manual illustration appears to have a separate bar to which the blade is attached, which would lead me to believe (along with the manual description) that the entire blade fixture could be removed for washup. I have a similar setup on my Little Giant, where the blade is removable unlike some presses which have an entire fountain which rotates back from the fountain roll.

While I do use the fountain on the Little Giant for longer runs, I don’t have a fountain on my Universal III, and find it convenient to add ink as needed to the ink drum. One advantage of the Vandercook is the amount of ink surface in the inking system, which helps to keep appropriate film of ink on the form rollers.

Eric Holub
9 years ago

Haven’t seen the actual Vandercook fountain for this model, but any fountain will have at least an inch of blade, and it will contact the fountain roller.
Is your fountain in the out position? The manual doesn’t say how the fountain is moved for cleaning, but some swing away or slide back the fountain, some rotate and lift out, some have T-bolts for loosening just the blade, and who knows what else Vandercook dreamed up.

Paul Moxon, Moderator
9 years ago

Here’s the ink fountain diagram.

Eric Holub
9 years ago

The manual does have a paragraph and a few diagrams on knob position.
“This ink fountain, as illustrated below, is available as optional equipment. The power driven ink drum appears on the extreme right. Arrow 1 identifies the ductor vibrator, Arrow 2 the fountain roller, Arrow 3 the fountain blade, arrow the fountain adjusting screws, Arrow 5 the ink fountain. For quick washup, the fountain blade can be easily be witdrawn without the use of tools. Operation of the Vandercook ink fountain is illustrated and described on the reverse side.”
The following page describes the six working positions of the ink control knob. Briefly, the 9 o’clock position is ink off and ductor out of contact with drum; 7 o’clock position is ink off and ductor continually on drum, used for washup; then four positions from 11 o’clock to 5 o’clock with increasing amounts of ink feed by 7.5 degrees of rotation. Perhaps Paul can post the images.

This works like any other ink fountain: the amount of ink is regulated by the gap between fountain roller and fountain blade, which is adjusted by the screws. It would take a large gap for ink to fall through (worn parts might drip at the ends). Note that ink generally needs to be worked on the slab with an ink knife to get it to working consistency (and with oil base ink, to find any hickeys that might clog the blade gap).
The fountain blade is spring steel and can be “sprung” by incorrect use of the screws, and excessive pressure can score the fountain roller. The keys can be adjusted to feed different amounts of ink across the roller for the demands of the form.
I’d start by backing out all the screws, cleaning the blade and roller. Then slowly turn in the adjusting screws until they just barely touch the blade. This is ALWAYS done from center screws out; if you work inward, you will trap the blade and it will get bowed as the inner screws are tightened. From there you could use paper feeler gauges to try setting the blade evenly across the roller. Then add ink, and the amount of ink is read from its appearance on the surface of the roller, and also from the amount of transfer to the oscillating ductor roller.

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