Oiling Your Press

Keep­ing your machines run­ning: the import­ance of oil

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 2050 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.