Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Refurbishing the Drive Motor for the C&P

It's been somewhat difficult getting out to the shop to do some much needed work on the C&P's drive motor. Just Life getting in the way, I guess. But this week I had a few days off and some spare time. Thus, this most recent installment.

When I purchased the press, the former owner who is himself a professional, and no slouch on Letterpresses, gave me a head's up on the condition of the motor, which was no surprise to me. The deal I got on both the initial purchase and the subsquent hauling more than compensated for any added expense in restoring the motor to, at very least, safe operation.

The motor itself is about one horsepower, single phase, and probably about 40 years old. No doubt I will be facing bearing issues, but at this point it works, albeit a little noisy. I've set the motor up for minimal pressure on the nose, just the weight of the motor itself, which provides just enough traction to turn the flywheel.

Somewhere along the line the protective cover for the motor's wiring harness and starter capacitors went AWOL, so years ago a piece of cardboard was cut and duct-taped over the wiring utility box. An SPST (Single Pole Single Throw) switch is utilised to power the motor off and on, which came screwed into a mis-matched switch housing and held together, if I recall, with an oversized wood screw! It was . . . scarey.

In a prior post you will find photos of my having somewhat disassembled the motor and painting the surfaces that showed signs of rust. I put on two coats of grey Rustoleum, allowing about a week between coats. Today I re-installed the painted sections, and re-wired the electronics. This evening I smoke tested the motor, and she fired right up. The new switch works, and is mounted into a proper housling. The wires to the switch and power outlet run thru flexible metal 'snakes'. I had to custom-fabricate the cover for the utility box, they are not to be commercially found these days. Fortunately I have the tools. After the plate goes back on, I have to fabricate a mount under the feedboard for the switch. Then she's ready to go! All the press itself needs is a good dusting.

So, that was my Tuesday! How was yours?

By the way, if anyone has any inquiries, please - inquire away! I don't bite, and it's great to help somebody out. If you are interested in Letterpress but are sorta intimidated by the larger mail-groups, feel free to join Florida Letterpress. The purpose of this blog site is to provide an educational service to others similarly inspired to learn this flavour of Typography, to help others along as they grapple with their own presses, plates or designs, perhaps to provide some motivation, encouragement or advice as propriety demands, and also to talk up Letterpress! I have a really soft spot for newbies, novices, beginners, whichever term may apply, so remember: the only dumb question is the one un-asked.

Good Providence in all your endeavours!



  1. well, since you asked, i do have a question (or two). i have acquired a pearl no.11 and it is in need of a paint job. the task of taking it apart to paint it scares the dickens out of me. is it possible to keep the press whole and paint it?

    or, is it even necessary to paint it provided that there is no rust? (humidity is a problem where i live)

    love your blog, by the way. it's very informative.

  2. The whole point of painting for me was to protect the press by halting the rusting process and preventing further rust activity. Since I live in Florida, humidity is a constant battle regardless of having both a dehumidifier AND an air conditioner in the shop. I do not believe that dis-assembly is always necessary . . . or always a good thing, for that matter. In my case, I broke the Pearl down as far as she would let me, literally. The connections were pretty obvious, and I photographed everything for reference sake. But even still, I did not, for instance, remove the platen from the shaft it pivots on. I did not remove any of the internal linkage within the main frame. I didn't need to: it wasn't rusted. In those cases I degreased, cleaned with a brush, and hosed her down. The main drive gear was very securely mounted with a key that would not budge, and a probability existed that I could actually damage the shaft by forcing the issue, so I left it on, painted around and behind the gear, and that was it.

    If I needed to paint and had no worry about having to get in and grind out rust or do the naval jelly thing, I would try to remove only the main flywheel, the ink disk, the external springs, the chase clamp, maybe gripper bars, any woodwork like the feed board, stuff that could get in the way which I could access. The rest I would just go ahead and paint. But I would use Rustoleum and a brush. There is a primer for iron which fills in dibits and irregularities, I hear some folks giving their presses a coating of this first, then the regular colour.

    But should you paint at all? If you have no rust issue and you don't mind the way it looks right now, ----- I'd say no. And many Letterpress folks are more than happy to have their prized machines bear all the earmarks, dings, dried paint and discolouration usually found on 80 thru 140 year old presses which have served faithful duty for many, many years. It's even a point of pride for many very talented artists, printmakers and Letterpress folks.

    One fella contacted me and told me instead of paint, he used shoe polish for his Hoe & Co. Washington. Sent photos. Heavy black pigmented shoepolish can really make wrought iron look like . . . wrought iron! Not shiney, not dull, but with that certain patina.

    So there's a lot of ways to go. But to repeat what I think is your main concern, that of completely field stripping your press, I don't believe it's always necessary, or even always good for the machine. One guy I knew that restored automobiles from the first two decades of the twentieth century, who sold his products on the DuPont Registry once told me "fix what needs fixing, restore what needs restoring, and do a decent paint job on the rest." There's where I come from.

    The Pearl is a wonderful machine, and is designed very similarly to the Heidelberg Platens of later vintage, believe it or not!

  3. Wow, Thank you so much for all of this information. I know that this will probably end up saving me a whole lot of time. I really like the idea of keeping some character with the press, so for now I think I will stay with the motto, if it's not broke, don't fix it.

  4. Hee. I'd agree with that. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. :>)