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News 2015


Setting up our Harrild & Sons Albion: Part 2

Link to Part 1: starting explanation | Part 2: more explanation | Part 3: assembly sequence |

This is the second step in trying to set up our Albion. We made a number of changes and figure out how a few things worked that we didn't understand before. We still have one big issue we think an that relates to trying to get the platen higher.

First, thanks to the dozen or so people that offered advice and photos. Really great to have you all as a resource.

Most of the adjustments came from reacting to suggestions we received. Often we would get things to where they felt about right and the chill would drop out. That happened maybe 6 or 7 times. Each time we got a bit better at getting things organized and in place.

We believe that two photos in Richard-Gabriel Rummonds' book Printing on the Iron Handpress may be the exact press we have or its brother. We bought one of two identical presses from the Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA back in 2008. Ours has the serial number 8112 and one at the museum is 8113. Consecutive serial numbers would seem to indicate they were bought new together. Currently trying to find out if Carnegie Mellon has any information related to this.

Paul Ritscher of Devil's Tail Press, through the iron handpress listserv where we've been getting the advice for our Albion setup, offered this bit of information about the presses. "In a glance at "Porter Garnett: Philosophical Writings on the Ideal Book", Book Club of California 1994 (a book that should be in every hand-press library), Porter Garnett describes the purchase of the two presses specifically for the purpose of printing the Catalogue of the Frick Collection for the Museum of Modern Art, a project begun in 1928, and not completed until after he left Carnegie in 1935 by Bruce Rogers."

After bit of online searching we found that the University of Delaware (just down the street) has a copy of the catalog of the Frick Collection. The colophon from volume 1, "The printing ... was begun in 1929 by Porter Garnett who designed the basic format of the text, and who printed the sheets through page 168 ... The work was laid aside in 1932. Printing was begun again in the spring of 1949 under the direction of Bruce Rogers, who designed the two volumes of illustrations, and the title page, section headings, and accessory pages for the volume of text. The sheets of text were completed on the hand-presses of the University of Pittsburgh ... One hundred and seventy-five sets have been made"--Colophon of v. 1.The story just keeps getting better."

I'm not sure what the connection was between Carnegie Institute of Technology and the University of Pittsburgh, but that will get a some looking into. More on that at the bottom of the page.

Here are the two photos from Rummonds' book.

Above: This one shows the press feet/legs to the cheeks so we have a much better idea that the photo matches our press. The caption in Rummonds' book reads...

Photo 13: Pressmen printing The Catalogue of the Frick Collection on two Albion presses back to back. Laboratory Press, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, PA, 1949. (Photo courtesy of Cary Graphic Arts Collection, RIT.)

The caption in Rummonds' book reads...

Above: Photo 14: Pressmen printing The Catalogue of the Frick Collection on a Harrild Albion Press. Laboratory Press, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, PA, 1949. (Reprinted, by permission, from American Printer, March 1950.)


Bolts holding the platen on have been slightly loosened. They had been VERY tight before.

Spring was removed and cleaned. It isn't broken and seems as it should be.

The swing of the "handle" seems right (or at least a lot more right).


Need to get the bolt that moves the wedge straightened.

What is the strap attached to the bolt at the top of the "rib stay supposed to do.

Is there a way to raise the platen (does being able to move the wedge do this?). The problem is that the tympan / frisket rests on the chase so the gap between it and the platen is really, really close.

Understand better how that round bolt on the far side of the rod that connects to the "J" object works and what it accomplishes.

Above #1: On our first page description we forgot to include a photo of the "cheek stop."

Additionally, we loosened the nuts holding the platen (one showing in the lower left of the photo above) to give it a bit of flexing room. It is definitely NOT loose, but when we started this it was TIGHT as we were trying to lift it as much as possible..

Above #2: the "spring"

In the first photo at the top of the page you'll see a strap attached to the top of the "rib stay."

Question: Is this meant to stop the bed from moving too far and likely would there have been one on the other end of the bed?

Above #3: We thought you might like to see the spring removed. Next to it is a kind of washer that centers in the top of the spring. Strangely the hole in that washer is a bit off center. We don't see any reason for that.

We were worried that removing the 2nd nut might send the nut through the ceiling. Also we worried that if the spring was under pressure when it came loose we would never be able to get it back in, but the designers of the Albion apparently thought ahead on that issue. We removed the lock nut and then keep undoing the other bolt. About 1/2" before you would start worrying that it was going to explode, it came loose and you could just remove it by hand. Then the spring just lifted out. I wondered if you could compress the spring by hand. Nope. Not even a little bit which gives you a good idea of how well the leverage works on the press. Ended up being a great demonstration of how well the handle, chill, etc. leverage each other for efficiency. I would really like to see a session on "How It's Made" on making those springs.

Above #4: The print ready to be replaced. The bolt seems to be an eye bolt. The next time I take this apart this far, we are going all the way and clean the paint off of a few additional parts which will make the press look a lot better and perhaps a bit less industrial. We think that will be nice.

Above #5: Shows the bend in the bolt that positions the "wedge."

It is starting to look like that bend might be creating part of our problems getting the press set up absolutely correctly. It is also interesting that the bolt DOES NOT come out of the wedge. There must be a pin that has been driven through the wedge to hold it in, but visually you cannot see any evicence of it. The bolt can easily be rotated by hand when it would likely be close to coming out, but eventually just rotates without coming out.

Next on the list of things to fix on the Albion is to get that bolt straightened. It is worth saying that I don't think that is going to be easy for whomever does it.

The wedge is flat along its bottom and the top slants which is what changes the tension on the chill. As it turns out the wedge is not exactly centered in that indented part of what holds it to the press. Once you get the wedge loose enough to rotate it you have to be sure to get it back in the right way.

Above #6: The "wedge" at the top with the "chill" at the bottom. Not sure what you call that "rocker plate" for the bottom of the chill.

Today, we are going to try putting something on top of the wedge and under that rocker plate to see if that will raise the toggle joint mechanism.

We tried that, but that was harder than it seemed it would be. We've decided to just go for the straightening of the bolt so now that we are past Thanksgiving we'll start making some phone calls. Anyone out there willing to do it for us for a fee? Email Ray.

Above #7: Shows the wedge being replaced.

We've figured out that part of our problem is that the "frisket / tympan" was setting on the chase we had in the press. The chase has "Harrild & Sons" cast into the piece so it looks original.

So, it looks like the wedge might need to be pushed in about the thickness (a bit more than 1") of the part of the frame it is bolted to

Once we took the chase out things the bed fit much better under the platen. The problem is that even if we use furniture to position a smaller chase that fits inside the metal edge of the tympan / frisket will still be in contact with the furniture. This is the reason it appears that no matter what we need to get the whole adjusting mechanism for the platen up at least 0.125".

When we are standing at the press looking at the wedge we still aren't quite sure this is the problem, but we don't see anything else that can accomplish that raising of the platen.

So, things are a lot better. We get a more logical pull to the handle and we also have a much better idea of how the mechanism work. We seem to be getting closer and I suspect once we solve straightening that bolt things are going to fit nicely into place.

More on the Carnegie Institute of Technology and University of Pittsburgh issue, piecing together the story from Wikipedia.

The Carnegie Technical Schools were founded in 1900 in Pittsburgh. In 1912 the institution changed its name to Carnegie Institute of Technology.The Mellon Institute of Industrial Research was founded in 1913 and was initially established as a department within the University of Pittsburgh. In 1927, the Mellon Institute incorporated as an independent nonprofit. In 1967 Carnegie Tech merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research to become Carnegie Mellon University.

So, it seems the caption for the 1949 photos at the Laboratory Press at Carnegie Institute of Technology and that the overall credit for the book as being University of Pittsburgh seem OK.