Hatch 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.
On 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.