Restoring Treadle-operated & Motorized Platens

On old platen presses, the parts that are most often missing are rollers, roller trucks, and treadles.

New Rollers and Trucks

The least serious are the rollers, since there are several companies that sell new composition or rubber rollers complete on the proper-sized core. The main problem here is to know what the proper sizes are for the rollers and cores, so they can be ordered.  Roller trucks can also be supplied new; they can be turned on a lathe, although here again one must know the correct dimensions. Steel is the material of choice, but somewhat less authentic looking ones turned from Delrin plastic will work on the press just as well as steel.

Missing Treadles

A missing treadle is more difficult. Many platen presses that were sold complete had their treadles discarded by printers who attached motors. A treadle discarded is a treadle lost; hence there are are more platen presses today than there are presses with treadles. A treadle can be fashioned from wood or other material that will work satisfactorily, but it will not look very good. There is only one source for new treadles (for some models of C& P presses and the Golding Pearl: Hern Ironworks. Finding a used replacement treadle is very unlikely.

Many working platen presses have been converted to use as die-cutting and numbering presses, usually larger Chandler & Price models. They are typically motorized, and have been stripped of rollers, and often the inking disc and pawl. While the rollers can be replaced, it’s very difficult to replace these other parts so buyer beware.

Pearl 8 and 11 Parts Platen Diagram

Parts diagram for Pearl platen models 8 and 11.

Rust Remediation

Many of these presses will be found rusted from long neglect. In remediation, it’s careful to note that it’s possible the original paint and primer on these old presses may contain lead. It may be worthwhile to test it with a lead paint test kit or send samples for testing if you’re uncertain and take precautions accordingly. The most basic protection would include purchasing nitrile gloves, a respirator that conforms to the NIOSH standard to protect you against lead, and isolating the clothing that you wear to do this work and wash them and yourself as soon as you get home if you cannot shower on site. This will help prevent yourself from accidentally spreading liberated lead oxides around your home. If the press is inside your home or shop, consider creating a containment area or hiring a professional. Doing the work wet and using a coarse wire brush may help prevent you from liberating a lot of fine lead oxide dust. Take special care to prevent children under six and pregnant women from being exposed as they are particularly vulnerable. There are many more precautions that can be taken, but the basics are easily implemented steps in a common sense approach for an individual.

If the press is cast iron, generous quantities of WD40 and a wire brush will remove moderate quantities of rust with adequate elbow grease without reducing the particles to a fine dust. A coating of WD40 will also prevent further oxidization of the iron during the process of rust removal. You will need clean rags to absorb the dirty WD40 as it removes those top layers of rust. These soaked rags can self-combust and should be stored appropriately in a container such as a metal can with a tight fitting lid and disposed of by a contractor or through your city’s special hazardous waste collection day.

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