Vandercook 4 problem

I have printed a couple of projects on a Vandercook 4 that a friend recently purchased. I have had to put 4.5 picas of furniture in back of the deadline bar because if I were to put type or engraving at the deadline bar (without the furniture) it would smash. With the furniture in, this leaves about a half inch margin at the top (which I assume is normal). I am curious why this would be. Would have a previous owner retimed the cylinder or some such thing? Certainly this has no major effect on the printing–it’s just that there is 4.5 picas less space on the bed. I’m not well versed in the operation of the Vandercook but I assume this is not right. Thanks.
–Mike O’Connor

17 thoughts on “Vandercook 4 problem

  1. Fritz Klinke - November 4, 2006

    The original Dead Line Bar for the #4 was MS-143 from 1935, replaced by MS-258 as of 7/25/40. It measures 14 5/16″ long by 2 1/4 wide by 3/8 thick. It covers the scribed “Printing Line” in the bed of the press, and the leading edge of the Dead Line Bar is indicated as being the “Dead Line,” per print M-117, Plan and side view of bed, #4 machine. Thus, the line scribed in the bed of the press at the head of the bed should not be confused with the designation of “dead line.” Type placed to that line will print, but type in the way of the grippers will be smashed, thus the actual dead line is further out–2 1/4″ from the MS-144 head bar (14 31/32 x 5/8 x 5/8) that is screwed to the bed with 3 fillister head screws at the top end of the bed. It appears that the dead line is about 1/4″ further from the start position than the printing line. The distance between the printing line and the printing line at the foot of the bed is 17 11/16″. I would use those measurements to determine where on the bed things are located. Eric is correct in that both versions of the dead line bar, what I refer to as the “head” dead line bar, had centering instructions on a plate pinned to the bar. The bed plates had a line scribed at 2 1/4″ from the leading edge, to correspond with dead line bar, and the bottom dead line was scribed at 17 11/16″ from the head dead line.

    In later years, Vandercook replaced slotted srews and bolts all over the place with sockethead cap screws and fillister head screws.

    The adjusting screws in the #4 bearing block assemblies (MB-7) are not an off the shelf item, but are custom made to that particular application. Using a socket head screw in their place seems like an expedient short cut, but the sockethead screw head does not have the same profile as the intended screw and I can see where that could lead to problems.

  2. Eric Holub - October 26, 2006

    Hi Gerald. With a tight clamp and a tight reel, the topsheet shouldn’t move. The reel-shift I was talking about just lets us to re-position the topsheet so that it lies flat, before we we do a full take-up on the reel. On some models that can be difficult, like if you have that %$#&%$# pinbar and you don’t have the pre-punched tympan.
    I always have at least one or two hanger sheets hemmed under the clamp. Any makeready is glued to those, and they won’t move either. But I’ve seen loose sheets move, even under a tight topsheet.
    The old printing manuals often said to paste down the packing at the clamp edge to prevent slipping, on cylinders and I platens too. I haven’t felt the need for that. Yet. But I’ve found traces of pasted packing on presses, so it wasn’t just in books.

  3. Gerald Lange - October 26, 2006

    Hi Eric

    I think we may be talking about two different things but I must say the fact that this can be done (which I’d never thought about) isn’t all that assuring. Does that mean there is the possibility of travel during an edition run?


  4. Eric Holub - October 26, 2006

    Gerald, many of the reels have a slight lateral movement. If tail and reel started from dead center, then you can move the tail enough to cock the topsheet for a flat drawdown, without loosening the clamp.

  5. Gerald Lange - October 26, 2006


    I’ve seen bolt heads used where someone sheared the gripper bar off when it encountered the edge of a magnetic base. Made it very difficult to adjust the drawsheet. I would think the same about the allen head screws. Its not just a matter of tightening these down but being able to adjust them quickly.

    For instance, if the drawsheet is a tad loose on the far side of the cylinder, the tympan clamp has to be released but held tight, the screw on the operator’s side needs to be loosened, the clamp pressure applied at the same time and then when the cylinder is uniformly tight end to end, the screw tightened and the clamp engaged. The tightening effect is transverse across the cylinder, not direct. I’d think this would be hampered a tad by the use of an allen wrench rather than a screwdriver.


  6. Eric Holub - October 26, 2006

    Your idea of replacing slotted with allen screws is a good one in many places. I’ve seen just one instance where it was not, where the form roller adjustment setscrews on a Number 4 were replaced with allens. In that particular studio environment, the allen wrench allowed people to continually over-tighten the setscrew, resulting in a bowed carriage, which prevented the rider assembly from sitting properly.
    All it took for the eventual repair was a few whacks with a mallet, but I was too cautious to even think of that.
    It seems to me that using tools, and the Vandercook is also a tool, requires some tactile awareness. If people can’t feel when too much force is being used, like when rolling the cylinder over two sheets of 300 gsm paper instead of one, or over-tightening a screw, they’ll end up with a lot of worn and broken stuff–not all of which Fritz can replace, so be careful.

  7. Paul Moxon, Moderator - October 26, 2006

    Eric and Gerald has inspired me to add a new topic category: *Tools*. There is a related page on the website “Tools & Misc. Equipment”:

    Another item to add to your tool box is the Gator-Grip socket designed to loosen worn or damaged hex nuts and bolts from 1/4″ to 3/4″. The socket casing houses a set of small spring-biased retractable hardened steel pins to surround the fastener. As the fastener is turned the torque is transmitted through the outer pins to the walls of the socket. The manufacturer claims it is engineered to withstand over 150 ft. lbs. of torque. Perfect for those bolt heads that the last owner of your press chewed with pliers.

  8. Mike O'Connor - October 26, 2006

    I really appreciate all the comments. I will not be able to get at the press for a week or two. It is not my press but I have access to use it. Thanks again.

  9. Eric Holub - October 26, 2006

    There’s another step short of the drill and extractor, though they should definitely be in our tool kits. Using a diamond chisel (that is, with diamond-shaped point) you can sometimes turn a screw (or stub). Place the chisel against the edge of the worn slot and tap with hammer until the chisel bites into the metal, then tap until the screw moves, maintaining relative angle of chisel as screw turns.
    Also, sometimes an impact driver works where the screwdriver won’t (that’s a hammer-driven tool with a screwdriver bit in it) if the slot isn’t too bad.
    In both cases having the right weight and balance of hammer makes a difference. If all you have is a claw hammer, OK, but start buying ball-peen hammers of different weights. Then look for good pin-punches for the various pins on your Vandercook, like that big pin in the handle. Don’t just grab the nearest nail please. Lots of damage is done by careless repair!

  10. Terry Chouinard - October 26, 2006

    I’d like to suggest replacing the flat head slotted screws with hex or allen headed screws. I’ve replaced all of our gripper screws with these and keep a proper-sized allen wrench at each press. I bought them a the local hardware; very cheap, very effective. I did though have to have the diameter of the screw heads machined down a bit. Our machinist didn’t even ask me to pay, told me this job was donut money. The next job I took him I made sure to bring a box of donuts along.

  11. Gerald Lange - October 25, 2006


    I think you might have to use an extractor on the screw (drill into the screw head and then use the extractor to pull it out). I encountered this once on a press and I believe that is how we got the bent screw out. Next problem is refinishing the screw hole. If you are lucky you can just rethread (with a tap), otherwise you will have to drill to the next size up and rethread.


  12. Eric Holub - October 25, 2006

    My question is really to determine if what is on the press is the correct headbar. It is a very easy thing to lose, and if something had been improvised there, it might just be 4.5 picas less than the original. OR, this headbar had been made for use with the Vandercook celluloid register punch, now missing. (On my 325, I have to block out the headbar by 8.5 picas because it was meant for use with stereotype chases.)
    I see two possibilities at the moment: either the headbar is shallow; or the cylinder is misaligned, and 4.5 picas would be about one tooth. But don’t shift the cylinder until the headbar has been eliminated as the problem.

    Excellent point, Paul, about how best to remove the gripper bar, especially the screwdriver. I’ve seen so many screwheads destroyed by using the wrong size driver. I also keep a magnetic grabber handy when working in the cylinder, just in case.
    –Eric Holub, SF

  13. Paul Moxon, Moderator - October 25, 2006

    Bent screws can lessen the gripper clamp bar’s hold of the drawsheet and thus packing. A loose or canted gripper clamp bar may cause misregister of the sheet to the printing form — or worse, it could slip and damage the form.

    To *completely* I remove the screws, I suggest rolling the carriage to the center of the bed so that the gripper clamp bar is facing up. This relieved stress on the screws and will prevent the bar from falling into the cavity of the cylinder. Not fun. Always use a 3/8″ flathead screwdriver so as to not ream out the slot in the screw head.

  14. Mike O'Connor - October 25, 2006

    Thanks Paul and Eric. I’m not able to get at the Vandercook now. I do indeed have to add 4.5 picas after the head deadline. There is another situation I didn’t mention. One of the screws to the gripper bar seems to be bent. I can’t get it out. I can loosen it enough to just get the typman sheet in (slides hard). But when tightened the gripper bar does clamp up tight. But I suspect the screw should be replaced (this is not my press). Still, I don’t know that this has anything to do with the additional 4.5 picas at the head deadline. Appreciate the comments.

  15. Paul Moxon, Moderator - October 25, 2006

    Good point, Eric. I read the original post to mean that this press requires an _additional_ 4.5 picas of furniture after the head deadbar which is 13.5 picas wide. I asked the poster (now identified) to examine the gripper bar and send photos if possible.

  16. Eric Holub - October 25, 2006

    Generally there are scribed deadlines on the bed (head and tail), and the original headbars are marked with center mark and some instruction or warning label. Do you have an original headbar, and does it line up with a bed mark?
    –Eric Holub, SF

  17. Paul Moxon, Moderator - October 25, 2006

    On the No. 4 the gripper bar should be at 90°. If it leans forward toward the bed that would account for the extra top margin. Look closely: the cylinder gear may only be off by a tooth. If so, see my post titled “No.4 Cylinder Engineering Print.”:

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