Vicobold Press
Vicobold Press

Most let­ter­press machines, from Adanas to Wharfedales embody the tech­nol­o­gy of the first Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion. They use a ‘total loss’ lubri­ca­tion sys­tem, the thick­er the oil the longer it stays where need­ed — they should stand on a drip-tray to catch waste oil. They need reg­u­lar lubri­ca­tion at every point where two parts rotate or slide across or through each oth­er. Even a hum­ble Adana has around thir­ty such points, the thirsti­est of which have spe­cial oil-holes. Else­where, such as the ink-disc spin­dle, roller arms and bear­ings need just a care­ful­ly applied drop every thou­sand impres­sions or so. Lit­tle and often is best rather than risk an excess splash­ing or drip­ping onto the rollers or paper to spoil your work.

Sewing machine or cycle oils such as 3 in1 are far too thin to ade­quate­ly cush­ion the bear­ing sur­faces, espe­cial­ly those loos­ened by years or decades of wear. Buy a good pump-action oil-feed­er can from a tool shop and use, prefer­ably a ‘straight’ SAE 30 grade oil or the bud­get-price 20/50 or thick­er engine oil sold by Hal­fords and some super­mar­kets. We don’t need the high per­for­mance addi­tives in pre­mi­um grade oils.

As a mod­ern, ‘house-friend­ly’ alter­na­tive, those con­cerned about the messi­ness of con­ven­tion­al oil might try the syn­thet­ic lubri­cants, some of them Teflon-based, which are sold in tubes or aerosols for lubri­cat­ing cycle chains and bear­ings. These are rel­a­tive­ly dry to avoid attract­ing road dust and the white grease vari­ety smeared onto acces­si­ble parts and forced into the oil-holes is a long-last­ing, clean lubri­cant — quite splash-proof! Do, how­ev­er, ensure such grease is forced well into any oil-holes.

Remem­ber that, although many of us bought our press­es cheap­ly enough, let­ter­press equip­ment is no longer in pro­duc­tion. Even the last Adanas, assem­bled to order from remain­ing parts, each cost more than the price of a pop­u­lar com­put­er. Machines allowed to run dry will tear apart their work­ing sur­faces or even seize sol­id and,if you have to rely on pro­fes­sion­al help, such ‘arthrit­ic’ cas­es can only be rec­ti­fied by crafts­men whose charges reflect their skills.