I’ve been working on and off for several months cleaning a Vandercook 4 that I purchased this summer. The press had been unused and in an Iowa garage for 5 years.

My problem: the cylinder carriage moves easily down the track in trip mode, but gets very tight in print mode once the cylinder trip rack (hope I have this name correct, I’m using a diagram from a different Vandercook manual) is in its uppermost position. I can print, but I’m really pushing, not rolling, the carriage. Once the trip rack is down again, the carriage rolls back easily.

I’ve cleaned and oiled and re-cleaned and oiled everything that seems related in the area, but to no avail. The upper roller (across the cylinder trip rack from the cylinder trip gear) rolls freely before the trip rack lifts, but not after, but I don’t know if that’s a problem or not.

I’d appreciate any suggestions for things to try.

Thanks! Sara S. in Iowa

5 thoughts on “Vandercook 4 cylinder carriage problem”

  1. Thanks for the photo, Paul. I put the trip rack area back together today. As you undoubtedly already know, there’s only one functioning gear/trip rack fit, so it was correct before it took it apart. It’s cleaner now, however, and the cylinder carriage has loosened up a bit. It’s still not great, but I’m going to print something and see what happens with some additional use.

  2. Thank you Paul and Fritz for your responses. I examined the roller bearings and the carriage bearings this weekend and found them all to have clearance approx. equal to a sheet of 20 lb bond paper, so I think the press is okay in that regard. I did find some new gunk to clean off the outside of the carriage bearings, and I did that.

    Today I disassembled the trip rack from the plate that sits outside of it and cleaned them individually. When I reassemble is there an adjustment I should check for for the trip roller placement? And, is there a max. height for the trip rack to reach in relation to the top of the outside plate? It hasn’t been quite reaching the top. Any tips for this area would again be much appreciated.

    Thanks! Sara S. in icy Iowa

  3. Based on the several Vandercooks I’ve looked at, a common problem is cranking down hard on all the bearings concerning the cylinder and bed rails to the point on SP-20s in particular that grooves are cut into the bed rails. Lighten up–all of the settings I see in original Vandercook assembly drawings allow for some play as Paul has indicated in his post. Aside from bearings going bad, over tightened bearings on bed rails cause the most problem. With the current deep impression fad, additional stress is being put on cylinders and bearings that was never imagined by the Vandercook engineering department. It is important that all bearings have the same setting–impression bed rail bearings, roller carriage support bearings, etc. Some of the non-main bearings are designed solely to stabilize the cylinder and keep it from rocking, like on the SP series, so those should never be set hard against the rails. Your press will give a sigh of relief if it has even a few thousandths of wiggle room as Paul noted.

  4. It may be that the two roller support bearings have been over-tightened against the top rails. Loosen the eccentric nuts and roll the carriage to the middle of the bed. Place a shim equaling.003″shims between the bearings and the rail and retighten. You can use paper, but I like strips of brass. The adjustment is not as critical as the carriage bearings.

    If this doesn’t easy the movement of the carriage then it could be that the carriage bearings need adjustment. But first check that the bearings and rails are clean, and that none of the bearings are broken.

    For adjusting the carriage bearings, I usually quote Fritz:

    We have typically set the impression bearings with the cylinder on print positioned in the middle of the bed. Set the bearings too tight to the upper rail and the cylinder will not turn, too loose and it will allow for movement in the cylinder when printing, so we have used paper in the thickness of .003 to place between each bearing and the top rail, tighten snugly to the rail with that paper in place, then roll cylinder off the paper and it should be about right. It may take more thickness in the paper, probably not less, but should be the same for all 4 bearings. This can take some time and experimentation. The bottom bearings are not as critical.

    I find that brass shims work better than paper.

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