Buying and Running an Arab

What to look for in an Arab press; and how to put it together

The Arab is a mix of cast-iron frame; steel rods and brass. Machines were feted for their reli­ab­il­ity and sturdi­ness. They have to be kept well-oiled and clean. When buy­ing, look out for –

  • cracks in the frame (dif­fi­cult to repair)
  • jud­der on open­ing the platen (could be a symp­tom of sig­ni­fic­ant wear in the bearings)
  • any loose­ness of the platen: test by try­ing to pull the platen apart from the forme when closed up

The machine body was painted in ‘Roy­al Blue’ but debate con­tin­ues about the exact shade, and wheth­er dif­fer­ent shades were used. The brass roller arms were the only part of the machine to be painted ‘Pil­lar Box Red’. While the machine alone is great, also look out for –

  • manu­als or erec­tion instructions
  • addi­tion­al chases — the Arab came with full-size and ‘but­ter­fly’ chases; or even this slanted chase
  • roller stocks and bear­ers (per­haps for a third roller)
  • spare parts

Dismantling an Arab

This is a reversal of the erec­tion instruc­tions and is based on exper­i­ence. Remem­ber to keep parts togeth­er as far as pos­sible (eg replace nuts on bolt ends as soon as they are removed) and keep things in whole, com­plete ele­ments — like the brak­ing mech­an­ism — remove this as one unit.

  1. Ink­ing mechanism
  2. Feed boards
  3. Tym­pan — by remov­ing the blanket rod and wire
  4. Forme Ink­ing Equipment 
    1. Ink­ing roller bar, ink­ing rollers and runners
    2. Roller brasses — care­ful of the springs
    3. Swing­er bars which hold the
    4. Ink­ing disk and bearer
    5. Ink disk pick lever
  5. Safety Guard
  6. Arab Wheel should be loosened
  7. Spring and Plun­ger to hold the Chase on the back platen
  8. Con­nect­ing Rods
  9. Back Platen
    1. Lower the back platen
    2. Remove the bolts from the foot of the back platen legs
  10. Fly­wheel — remove with nut (may have left-hand thread)
  11. Treadle and con­nect­ing rod
  12. Frisket mech­an­ism
    1. Strap Guide Rod
    2. Blanket and Frisket shafts
    3. Frisket springs
  13. Die Plate and Bushes — this is the thing which holds the rock-horse against the platen
  14. Remove springs from the Platen Hooks
  15. Front platen — by remov­ing the rod, and col­lect­ing the platen hooks
  16. Remove the Arab wheel all together
  17. Impres­sion adjuster
  18. Eccent­ic shaft (con­nec­ted ori­gin­ally to the impres­sion adjuster)
  19. Rock horse
  20. Crank shaft — ori­gin­ally con­nec­ted to the flywheel
  21. Clutch and trip link
  22. Remove the bolts on the stays
  23. Take one side from the other

Re-Erecting the Arab

You can start work on get­ting the machine back togeth­er by fol­low­ing the ori­gin­al instruc­tions that came with each machine.


The ori­gin­al doc­u­ments that came with each Arab have been con­ver­ted to PDF files by Steve Fish­er and Ben Wein­er. The Arab Parts List should be used with the Erec­tion Instructions