Holy crap. So you all know about the Magical Lee, right?
(Short version: makes papermaking equipment, is a little bit of a machine whisperer, and has tools for all occasions.)
So I’m working on this press, right? It belongs to the Boston Paper Collective, AKA my studio. (I am going to have to learn to share, though, because someone else is coming in to use it next week! Hooray! It is, after all, a community studio. Come rent our press!)
But this press had some elderly rollers. We don’t know how elderly. We’ve had the press for about a year and a half, I think, and the rollers certainly weren’t new when we got it. (The press hadn’t been used in … quite some time.) So when one of our friends pointed out a set of roller cores for sale, we bought them. The studio finally got enough money to re-cover them a couple of months ago.
This is a picture of the old rollers next to the new rollers. You may be able to tell why I am so excited to be putting new rollers on the press: that shiny one? That’s the old one. That’s glazing, from age or bad cleaning or both, and it means the rubber isn’t taking the ink the way it’s supposed to.
So the first roller switched out, no problem, pretty simple, just a matter of … oh, well, I did have to ask Lee for a tool. There are these screws that hold the bearer blocks on, and they have enormous slots. Normal screwdrivers just don’t do it. Fortunately, a bit of sheet metal and a vise-grippy-thing (I know there’s a technical term, and both of my grandfathers are somewhere in the afterlife shaking their heads and wondering where they went wrong with me, and I will probably look it up before I post this.) (So I was right. It is actually a vise grip. And a useful tool it is, too.) does the trick. (A dime works ok, but it’s harder for the vise grip to actually grip, which is too bad because it is less hard on the wrists.)
And then I got to the roller with the gear on it.
There was, to begin with, enough grime that I couldn’t tell if all the parts were there (they were). And the cores are maybe a little corroded. So I asked the internet (Briar Press) what it was supposed to look like, and one of the responses was from Paul Moxon with a delightful little diagram of a woodruff key and the gear with its little notch. And some people mentioned gear pullers.
(Back from trying the fourth bearer block again.)
Which made me feel better about doing this. Knowing something about how things fit together helps with taking them apart.
I went to Home Despot to try to pick up a spare woodruff key and a gear puller. It turns out that they don’t sell either of those things at Home Despot. Sad. (I think gear pullers are maybe more automotive?)
And of course Lee has a gear puller anyway (I should’ve known). So he got it started, and the gear came off nice and easy. It’s amazing how much difference using the right tool makes.
And there was the woodruff key! Fantastic. Of course, it was stuck in with a bunch of old grimy crap. Lee to the rescue again, though: this time with a hammer and a lever.
I took this opportunity to clean the gear. It was … well, it’s shiny. I had no idea. I think it was just straight up encrusted with ink. I hit the rails a little, too, but they’re sort of a lost cause. I’m trying to keep them clean enough that we’re not causing unnecessary wear and tear. I have no idea if that’s succeeding or not. But check out how filthy the edges of the gear were in this mid-process shot*:
Anyway, I stuck the (now cleaned) woodruff key (why is it called that anyway?) into its slot, and stuck the gear back on.
Then I realized that it was backwards, dug the gear puller back out of the tool box, took it off again, and tried putting it on right ways around. It wouldn’t go all the way on anymore. There may have been foul language. Especially when I realized I couldn’t get the damn gear back off. Even with the gear puller.
Then M, another fabulous human, walked by and I showed him the problem. He got these freaking plastic handles (he’s got a tool with similar leverage issues, and so has handles to make it easier to actually get a grip on the part that needs to move) and got that gear back off. And then he left, because he was trying to leave when I brought him in to help (have I mentioned how fucking awesome everyone in this space is?) And wouldn’t you know it, I stuck the key in again, dropped the gear on, and … it worked. The set screw went back on with no trouble, and the bearer blocks went back on with only minimal grumbling.
Isn’t that lovely?
Until I got to the last one (the opposite end of the geared roller, in fact). That sucker just will not go all the way on. I even switched it out for one of the others, just as an experiment. It didn’t work – so the problem is probably something I’m not seeing in the core, or I’m somehow managing to get the screw started crooked or I just don’t have the hand strength.
I am going to try it one more time and then go away and ask Lee in the morning. I’m sure he’ll have a tool to fix it.
That gap between the screw and the bearer shouldn’t be there. I’m stopping before I do damage to anything – it is getting late, and it’s kind of frustrating. Also, if I go home, I might be able to rustle up some dinner.
I want these rollers on the press, though! I have something to print – a poster I’ve been thinking about for months – and I’m hoping that new rollers will have fixed the egregious inking issues I was having before. (If they do, I will print SO MUCH MORE.)
* Please ignore the fact that I am wearing open-toed shoes. This is bad shop practice, and it’s only because it has been far too hot the last couple of days to even think about socks.