Vandercook 4 … nothing happens?

Hi, I bought a Vandercook 4 in December, and I have not been able to get it to work. The issue is this: when I throw the power switch, nothing happens. I have replaced both the switch and the indicator bulb, and I have had a local machinist come out to review the wiring, but he was also unsuccessful in diagnosing the problem. He did, however, connect the motor to the power source directly in order to ascertain that the motor itself is operational. It is.

But… I cannot seem to find an electrical schematic for the press that might (or might not) be useful at this point. I am currently set up to plug into a 120 socket. Is it possible that the press has been configured for 240? And… if so, why, then, would the motor run when linked directly to the 120 source?

Obviously, the current stay-at-home order has limited my options for assistance, but, wow, it would be so very nice if I could get this press running while I am spending so much time working from home anyway! I would appreciate any advice? Best, kg

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4 years ago

Hi, I used my No. 4 successfully for many years without the drum motor working!

With all rollers in position and down, and before you place the forme on the bed, ink up the roller train by manually rolling the cylinder along the bed to the end, back and forth a few times until the ink is evenly distributed.

Then place the forme in the bed, and start printing!

This is fine for fairly light formes – with solids, you may find that where the rubber forme rollers meet the non-rotating drum each time, you get a thin stripe on the solid.

But for most classes of work, this works well. Of course, for a longish run you will have to reapply ink to the rollers, remove the forme and redistribute the ink.

Good luck!

John and Nancy Johnson

When the machinist was there, did they use a voltmeter/continuity meter to check all the points where wire connections are made: plug side of the switch, indicator light side of the switch, switch side of the indicator light, motor side of the indicator light? Our No. 4 doesn’t have an indicator light so I don’t know how it would be wired in. I would think checking all of these points would give an indication of where the electrical connection fails. After you replaced the switch and bulb, did the light ever come on?

When you mention the machinist connected the motor to the power source, I am presuming that they wired a power cord directly to the motor and plugged it into the same wall socket as you were using to try the press. If there is a manufacturer’s plate on the motor, it should tell you information about the motor – 120 vs.240 or optionally either one.

While you are waiting for an electrician, if you have a brayer, some ink, and a flat area to use as an ink plate, You could lock a form in the bed and try a hand-inked proof print. You don’t need the oscillating roller or form rollers on the press to do hand-inked prints. An added benefit is it is easier and quicker to clean a small brayer and ink plate than clean the rollers and ink drum.


Ray Nichols
4 years ago

Here is the link to the manual from Letterpress Commons.

Not sure how long it will be before he is back around your area, but either Paul Moxon (who runs Vanderblog) or Dave Seat (Hot Metal Services) might help. You can email from their website at /

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