Vandercook roller dimensions…

I would like to see a chart of the dimensions of rollers for all of the Vandercook models somewhere that was easy to look up to see if your current rollers were up to par.

I’ve just had a problem with my SP-15 rollers which were about 3/32″ too small in diameter and it was creating many problems. Once I figured out that they were way too small, getting new rollers solved all of those problems. But then how do you know when you are pushing the envelope too much.

I’ve just started to work on my Universal III which came with three sets of rollers.

The rollers on it are 22 5/8″ long (metal) and the diameter of the rubber as best I can tell is

2.972″ (214 points) – both of the ones on the press now are this diameter

The diameter near the middle of the other four rollers are

2.917″ (210 points)
2.944″ (212 points)
3.000″ (216 points)
3.028″ (218 points)

As a second question, when does the diameter of a roller become too small (or large)?

Or is it more of a problem that the outside diameter near the end of the rollers is too different from in the middle and what is too much there?

14 thoughts on “Vandercook roller dimensions…

  1. Gerald Lange - August 26, 2007


    This is a far wandering from the initial topic but I would have to disagree with some of these points. The explosion in contemporary letterpress has not been because of preservative efforts but because of advances in technology. I think it is quite obvious that most new entries into letterpress practice are mainly using the photopolymer plate process in their printing. Photopolymer by itself is hardly new, it was commercially viable since the early 60s, but it would never have caught on the way it did had not the co-developments of digital type manufacture and imagesetting become available. It was quite rare to see text printed by a fine printer or “post-letterpress” printer when limited to rendering via the camera.

    That minor aspect of what Giampa did with the Lanston materials was actually quite significant. This was not only the first realistic digital rendering of historical metal typefaces, it was the first case of digital type being true to the extensive characters sets available in metal. Giampa’s work had an impact on the type industry and we are all the beneficiaries of that. Early on, I bought some of the Lanston digitizations from FontHaus and much to my horror, and Giampa’s, they were completely stripped of the extra character sets. Why? FontHaus could not realistically price them accordingly with their other foundry offerings, so they standardized them.

    Giampa may not have done with the equipment what letterpress folks were expecting (an he certainly got his share of criticism for that) but he certainly did far more than M&H did with it while in their possession.

    I am not in anyway arguing against preservation, or for that matter, Fritz’s efforts. Nor have I here. Don’t quite get this opposition. Is this list for the Vandercook community or is it some kind of fan club where certain ideas dare not be addressed?


  2. Eric Holub - August 26, 2007

    OK, Gerald, it is a digression from the specific legal point, but the future of letterpress is obviously dependant on the preservation of its past. The only new thing in my lifetime was photopolymer plates, which will matter little if the the rest of the letterpress printer’s equipment degrades. New presses and typographic machinery aren’t on the practical horizon. Conservation of the existing resources is critical.
    NA has preserved and regenerated a number of important lines of printing supply, and has continued to sell them to printers, as a sustainable business, and deserves thanks rather than digs. In my view, it is exactly the kind of responsible stewardship that is needed.
    But in contrast, Giampa is to me symbolic of those who have acquired significant remnants of the printing industry and not been able to preserve them, whatever the reason. Nothing was done with the Lanston materials except digitization. Now with English Monotype mat-making in uncertain future, and no display mat work there at all, the loss of Lanston patterns and machines becomes, in retrospect, even more depressing.
    Of course many people have gone down a similar road, gathering collections of particular presses or casters etc.; some pass them on for future use, and others leave a ruined hoard. My interest is to see that as much as can be saved, will be saved, and what is used, is used without damage, for coming generations of printers. In that I see NA as a remarkably positive example.

  3. Gerald Lange - August 24, 2007


    I’m not sure why I am being asked to choose between Gerald Giampa and Fritz Klinke, or even why I am being asked this question. My only contribution here was to question the use of the term “propriety information,” which I believe refers rights to the company that created the information. Republican loyalties don’t serve the truth of the matter here.

    Neither Fritz or Giampa can legally lay claim to the rights of a company that was not sold directly to them, or whose rights were never sold. They obviously can/could do whatever they wanted with the inventory and records that they acquired.

    I don’t know that one can actually say that Giampa “let” the equipment be destroyed since, even though he might think himself godlike, he had little control over the weather and the ocean tides. Out of curiousity, I once upon a time checked on the tidal records for that infamous day and locale and there was no tidal wave but there was indeed a destructive tidal surge, and that resulted in flooding damage to Giampa’s enterprise.

    Giampa’s legal claim to certain historical Lanston Monotype rights was settled out of court from what I understand. I don’t know the outcome but he did say once that he received an annual stipend from Monotype Imaging (Agfa). Whether this is related I am not sure.


  4. Eric Holub - August 24, 2007

    Gerald, Fritz has a much stronger case as direct successor to Vandercook (since NA Graphics purchased the inventory and records directly from Vandersons) than Giampa does with Lanston (who bought the patterns and mat-making equipment of Lanston by way of Hartzell and M&H).
    And what Fritz has done with this is to make parts available, make new parts when possible, and offer lots of free phone support. Unlike Giampa, who did some digitization then let everything be destoyed.
    Which is the better steward of irreplaceable resources?

  5. Gerald Lange - August 23, 2007


    In the spirit of clearing up misinformation there is this definition prepared by ATIS Committee T1A1 (the next on the list of your Google search)

    Proprietary Information: Material and information relating to or associated with a company’s products, business, or activities, including but not limited to financial information; data or statements; trade secrets; product research and development; existing and future product designs and performance specifications; marketing plans or techniques; schematics; client lists; computer programs; processes; and know-how that have been clearly identified and properly marked by the company as “proprietary information,” trade secrets, or company confidential information. The information must have been developed by the company and not be available to the Government or to the public without restriction from another source. [INFOSEC-99]

    My reading of the last sentence of this would indicate that the “proprietary information” was Vandercook’s. No one has said here that you don’t have the right to do what you choose to with information in your possession.


  6. Fritz Klinke - August 23, 2007

    For the heck of it, check out what the library at the University of Texas at Austin has to say on one of the threads of this discussion that has gone astray with misinformation:

    When we provide information, it is correct and accurate, taken directly from original source documents. Ray asked us for information on his rollers that I gave to him and he then made a decision on how to handle his roller problem.

  7. Terry Chouinard - August 22, 2007

    First off, Gerald. Thank you very much for the clarification.


    “Do you send an email to NA Graphics with your dimensions and then simply trust. . . ?”

    Though I’ve never tried it, I think my answer would be “yes.” I’ve talked to a handful of roller manufacturers and I must say it is hit or miss.

    I’ve noted recently that a set or two of our Uni 1 rollers may be undersized. As much as I’d like to lower them, they just won’t go any lower. As Eric suggests “some Vandercook models the gears will bottom out in the rack, on others the distributors won’t contact properly.”

    Didn’t Flannery O’Connor put it best? A Good (Roller) Man(ufacturer) is Hard to Find.

  8. Eric Holub - August 22, 2007

    In my experience 3/32″ below intended diameter would not be useable on a Vandercook, maybe not even 1/16″ under, and all the rollers I’ve seen have had diameters to whole or half-inch increments.
    The Vandercook does not have the range of adjustment that other presses have. With undersize rollers, on some Vandercook models the gears will bottom out in the rack, on others the distributors won’t contact properly.
    Yes a good set of rollers is a decent outlay of cash. But a bad set of rollers will waste more time and money in the long run.

  9. Ray Nichols - August 22, 2007

    I also still have a few questions on the floor from my original post which have gone ignored. I don’t think I’m the least knowlegable person using a Vandercook. But I bought what appeared to be an SP-15 in good shape, but the rollers were more than 1/8″ off of the right diameter and that was creating lots of printing problems. It took me a while before I even raised the question as whether or not the rollers were too far off. I got new ones and things are great.

    I’m wondering how many others there are out there like me that have no idea if their rollers are REASONABLY OK or definitely NOT OK.

    So, do you send an email to NA Graphics with your dimensions and then simply trust (not that I have any reason not to) the response when you have nothing to compare with?

    A good set of rollers is a decent outlay of cash.

  10. Gerald Lange - August 21, 2007


    Just to set the record straight. The use of the term “proprietary information” is incorrect here. That usually implies copyright, trademark, registration protection rights. When Vandercook closed its doors and sold off its remaining stock, to the best of my knowledge, none of these were renewed and none of them are current.


  11. Paul Moxon, Moderator - August 21, 2007

    Durometer rating is given in various operator manuals, and in the document “Reproduction Proofs“: where it states that “the hardness of rollers should not exceed a 20 reading on a Shore “Type A” Durometer.

    Gerald Lange in his monograph “Printing Digital Type of the Flatbed Cylinder Proof Press“:
    recommend a 20 reading for metal type and 25 for photopolymer.

    I don’t know which roller manufacturers have the specs and that use them independently of NA Graphics, and which ones respect NA’s propriety. Some manufacturers may not want to do retail.

    Everyone wants to pay the lowest price, and personally it makes no difference to me where one buy their rollers. If some people don’t want to patronize NA—fine, but NAG has the original specs. That should be worth something. Again, I don’t have the data and am not inclined to create it from scratch.

  12. Terry Chouinard - August 21, 2007

    Hi Fritz, Paul

    I’m just wanting to play a devil’s advocate of sorts here. Can you say anything about the standard durometer of Vandercook rollers? Is that proprietary?

    What would you two say about different roller companies that have concurrent data on particular Vandercook models? Company A tells me “Vandy 4, yeah, let me look it up . . . yep, it’s blah blah blah.” And Company A tells me “Vandercook Number 4? Let me check my book. It’s blah blah blah.” Same blah blah blah dimensions. So might they just be talking trash, best guesses, or what?

    Again, I’m just playing devil’s advocate. I completely respect rule of “proprietary information” and the sovereignty of NA’s ownership of said information.


  13. Fritz Klinke - August 20, 2007

    To further my previous comments, I checked with all the roller makers I use and with the core maker almost every roller company in the US uses for new cores and they all assured me that the press manufacturers do not give them specifications and they have to develop the specs on their own. I provide original Vandercook specs to the roller companies I use, but all the prints have a red rubber stamp on them indicating the information so given is “Proprietary Information” and they then respect that.

    The base fact on Vandercooks, like any other roller, is that they are final ground to a plus/minus specification as per the specifications off a base measurement like 2 1/2 or 3″ diameters, and that covers most of the form rollers on Vandercooks. Ray’s measurements are all over the place, with a variance of .111 between the two extremes. Obviously, that’s way too much.

    And I appreciate Paul’s remarks.

  14. Paul Moxon, Moderator - August 18, 2007

    I understand the desire for this information, however, NA Graphics, the owner of Vandercook, considers this information proprietory. As moderator, I will honor that. They use the specs when fufilling customers orders. I know that some Vandercook operators have been able to get satisfactory rollers without going through NA, but why wouldn’t you want to? NA Graphics owner Fritz Klinke has supported this website and blog (in actuality just a sophisticated fan site) with much other practical information and advice. It’s only right to support him. Fritz addressed this issue in a comment dated July 1:

    _Vandercook may have shared their roller specs with roller makers other than the ones they used, but I have no evidence of that in the records. But since 1975, when the business went to parts, service and supply, rollers became a major part of the business and manufacturing information has been closely retained since then. No manufacturing prints have ever been released except to vendors and we continue a tradition that all prints released to a vendor are stamped as to containing proprietary information. And I use the same machine shop that Vandersons started using in 1975 when they no longer had the plant on Touhy Avenue. I will share assembly drawings, often material that is not in the manuals, and some of that has been posted here on the Vanderblog. To give away the basis of the business is to forever shut it down._

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