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Presshunting: A. B. Dick 320

When I was fairly little, about 8 or 10, my dad brought home an old A. B. Dick tabletop offset printing press (they’re actually called “duplicators” when they’re this small) and set up the beginnings of his print shop right there in the laundry room of the little ranch house on Dolphin avenue. This was my first exposure to the life of a printer, and my first whiff of the unique scent of printing ink and freshly guillotined paper, which has never left me. What model it was, I was too little to know, probably a 320, 325 or 329, but I remember the scent and the sound of the little rattletrap as it worked. Somehow this is closely associated with the flavor of home-made root beer brewed in 5-gallon buckets (another activity that happened in the laundry room), so it has very pleasant associations for me.

In the past year, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for one of these old tabletop A. B. Dicks, pretty much for the same reason I collect typewriters. Find me a nice old and very simple printing press, fix it up and get ‘er working well, and then play with it. Partly also nostalgia for my 1970’s childhood, and partly because I’d really like to have a press that’s small enough to set up basically anywhere. The Portable of the printing press world, if you will, even if a 32x is actually quite a bit bigger than any standard typewriter, it’s still a darn sight smaller than pretty much any other offset press ever made. The other choices tend to require a forklift to move.

So, I mentioned a week or so ago that I’d found an A. B. Dick 320 in pretty fair condition locally, and I’ve been trying to get ahold of it, but there’s logistics issues. Primarily, the machine’s sitting in a storage unit about 80 miles from where me and the seller actually are, and what I’ve offered (and what the machine’s kinda worth, really) isn’t enough to convince the seller to drive that far to unlock the door, even though he’s pretty motivated to empty out the storage unit. My only chance at the thing is if someone else buys the other machines and doesn’t want the 320 (actually a likely scenario), then the seller has said he’d bring the 320 back to town since he’d already be out there to clear the unit – then I’d have a crack at it.

So, in the meantime, and fingers crossed for this happenstance, I’ve started gathering some data on the A. B. Dick 320. And guess what? There’s not much out there on the web. Just some videos of Mexicans printing stuff on one and a completely misleading corporate history for A. B. Dick that states the 320 was introduced in 1959. But I’m good at this finding serial number lists thing.. and right here in my paper archives is the 1970 WOMDA line book, which happens to have an at least partial age list of A. B. Dick duplicators. Here it is, along with some photos of the 320 I’m chasing, in the state it’s currently in. (bonus! Tasty original operating manual included!)

abdick-320-aFrom the WOMDA trade-in values list (second section, above) we can see that the 320 was introduced some time prior to 1953, and was manufactured at least to 1964 (the revision date of the list) and possibly even to 1970 (the date of the WOMDA line book, where they presumably wouldn’t offer the 320 as new equipment if it had been discontinued by 1970). From this data, we can extrapolate an approximate serial number age list from 1952 to 1964 at least. I do know that A. B. Dick always started series at 1, so if our rough approximation drops us to 1 by 1952, it would seem to be pretty good.

A.B. Dick 320 Offset Duplicator Age list:
##########################################
1    1952 (approx.)
20000    1953 (approx.)
40000    1954 (approx.)
90000    1955 (approx.)
140000    1956 (approx.)
200000    1957 (approx.)
260000    1958 (approx.)
321927    12/1959    (approx 60,000 made)
385601    12/1960    (63,674 – 12 mos.)
443469    12/1961    (57,868 – 12 mos.)
521259    12/1962 (77,790 – 12 mos.)
544644    6/1963 (23,385 – 6 mos.)
580000    12/1963 (approx. if 65000 made)
##########################################

I don’t yet know what serial number is on this machine, but if I do manage to get it, I’m hoping for 1950’s for sure.  Here’s hoping! (:

Updated: June 17, 2015 — 6:53 pm

31 Comments

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  1. Hope you get it! Looks about the size of an ATM, maybe you can print of some banknotes on it!

    1. No thankee! I’ve dealt with T-Men before. You don’t spend much time in the industry without a visit from Treasury at some point. Usually for printing something that looked a bit too close to currency. In my case, it was printing folding business cards that looked like a $20 bill when folded. Technically legal at the time, as it was not the same size or color and contained less than 30% of the actual face of the bill, but some idiot left a couple of them at restaurants and skipped the bill, which earned me a visit from agents looking for my customer. Never did that again, I can tell ya. (:

  2. I hope that you are able to bring the 320 home – looks like dangerous fun (watch your fingers). If you do get it, make sure you photo document the fix-up and operation.

  3. That’s a beast! I think my parents would kill me if I brought that home one day :D

  4. Many years ago I worked in an office with a A-M Multilith (for some reason I want to say it was a Model 1250). The girl who operated it did a pretty lousy job, so I ended up doing most of the work. We printed our own invoices, letterhead, employment applications, etc. For short runs, we used paper masters, for long runs we had aluminum plates made. That meant some of the typewriters had to have special ribbons. I was surprised how great the output was when you had everything running properly. I even did some two-color jobs.

    1. Oh hey, I’ve run one of those before! The Multi 1250 had that feed table that jogged the sheet right into the impression cylinder grippers, so you could get pretty good registration. The ATF Chief had a better one, but those suckers would shake themselves to bits. Always found parts on the floor after running that thing. At least the 1250 stayed together, I remember liking that press a lot.

      The best and biggest I ever ran was a couple years at the helm of a single-color Heidelberg GTO 52. That iron could nail 4 color process down to the micron in 4 passes plus one for the UV coat (back in the day when it made sense to do 4-C on a single-head press).

      Ahh yeah, miss those days.. /:

    2. I’ve checked on line, and found out it was a Model 85 I operated, not a 1250. Sorry. But it still did great work. You had to adjust it at times, to keep the impression nice and even. And you had to do a good job of clean-up at the end of the run.

      1. ahh, the little guy. Wow, that’s a friction-feeder with like maybe one form roller, right? That’s probably very similar to the 320 AB Dick, and I’ll have to commend you for getting good registration on it – that had to be tough :D

  5. A few years ago, a high school friend of mine started a little cottage business printing direct-mail cards. He leased a huge Xerox color printer that had a UV coat attachment on it. The cards had color images on both sides and were already addressed as they were printed. He just cut them apart at the end and delivered them to the post office in crates. It seemed he was making lots of money with very little investment. It’s amazing how far printing equipment has come.

    1. yep, Electrostatic Xerography and Desktop Publishing killed the industry I grew up in. Used to require craft and steel, now it’s just software and plastic. /:

  6. Hello,
    My dad had a printing shop when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. He had 4 of the AB Dick 325’s and 3 A M Multigraphic 1250’s. I occasionally try to find an old shop, just to go in a smell the air, ink, roller wash. Not many left. I wish you great luck with your press,

  7. I just turned 84yo and I have an AB Dick 320 that I bought back in the early 60s to print labels for gallon & quart cans I used in a small business I just started. At the time I worked for RR Donnely in Chicago, so I had access to paper, ink, etc free. When I retired I lost tract of the pres. Last year I came accross it in my storage area. It brought back memories from the best years of my life. I decided to bring it back to life, which I greatly enjoyed. All the parts were in tact except for the rollers. I was able to find the rollers, but I cant find the shaft for the form roller. I cant get her going without the shaft. Do you have any suggestions ??? I enjoyed your site. Ken

    1. Well, if it were me I’d call up the couple of people I still know in the press repair and supplies industry and put out the word that I was looking for a 320 roller shaft. Top ‘o that list would be Tom Jonas:
      http://tomjonas.com/
      He might not have such a part on hand, but he travels all over the southwest fixing old presses, so he might eventually dig one up. There’s also Printer’s Parts supply:
      http://www.printerspartsstore.com/

      1. MUNK, I’m still looking for a form roller shaft for my AB Dick 320. I just found the serial number (617446). Your posted WOMDA list only goes to 580000,can you tell me what year my machine is? I have decided to sell it the way it stands. Did you ever land the one you wanted?

        1. well, it is a partial list, but since AB Dick produced about 60,000+ 320’s a year back then, I would guess yours was built in 1964. (:

  8. The models I am familiar with are the 320 (blue/green color produced in the 60s) 325A and 325B ( I never laid eyes on one of these but my understanding is they had a master-insertion device and blanket washer. The models I actually ran and worked on was the 324 and 326. 324 was single form roller, 326 was 2 form roller. Those machines were beige in color and produced in the 70s and I believe, discontinued in 1984. I believe most parts on these models were interchangeable throughout the years. Very heavy units. I believe the model 310 was introduced at some point in the 70s as the 324/326 offsets began to dwindle. a lot of plastic. This unit was replaced by the 8400 duplicator . a true marvel of engineering ( NOT ) .

    I miss the AB Dick company and the amazing equipment they put out over the years.
    Very durable machines

  9. Ken Bejlovec Monk I read the blog from TIMMY in regaurds to the AB Dick 320, which I have been fixing up for a long time. Im still looking for the form roller shaft. If TIMMY reads this is there any way you could put us in contact with each other, as I have a ton of questions I’d like to ask. If you can help I would be greatfull. Thanks

  10. Is there anybody out there that owns or Knows of someone who owns an AB Dick 320 offset press (Vintage) I need some information to get the machine up and running. PLEASE HELP!

    1. Have you got the press running yet Ken?

      1. Thanks for asking Mary, No, I’m still trying to find the form roller shaft. I would love to talk to somebody that has a 320, and even get the specks as I have a machine shop that can make me one. If anyone has one or knows of someone PLEASE let me know !!!! HELP. Ken

        1. Ken – I have a 326 with extra rollers, blankets, clean-up mats, etc – should work on the 320 – or you can simply use this press.
          It’s been in “mothballs” since 1998, so it may need lubed and cleaned, but its all there with extras.
          If you’re interested let me know – I’m in South Central PA

    2. I have a AB Dick 320. It has problems feeding paper. It runs fast
      with no speed control. the rubber on the feed wheels are worn with no replacements that i know about. I use a mimeograph crank that fit. i hand feed paper and crank it through. works great! Good exercise!

  11. I should add – this press was my workhorse when I taught Graphic Arts at a Middle School in Franklin County, PA – I changed jobs and brought the press with me (I had purchased it at an auction) –

  12. Craig, I’ve had my 320 since the late seventies. Like yours, it’s been in storage since the late nineties. Awhile ago I decided to put it backin shape, which I did. It runs great, but the only thing it needed was the rollers , which I found. I was missing the form roller and roller shaft. I have the roller but can not find the shaft. If you think you can help me out, PLEASE let me know. Im 83 years old so I cant wait much longer…LOL …Ken

  13. Craig Where are you ???? I need to talk to you ! …..Ken

  14. That pic looks familiar. I started with an AB Dick tabletop duplicator in the early ’80’s. I can’t remember if it was a 320 or 326. The one feature I loved back then was the automatic blanket wash. Flip a lever and the blanket is automatically cleaned between jobs. Printed a lot of short runs in quick order.
    Can anybody tell if that feature is on the 320? Also, did Munk ever get the 320? Or is it still sitting in the storage unit?

    1. Nah, never managed to get in contact with the seller again. I have to assume someone bought out the whole storage unit. Slipped my grasp. /:

  15. munk You want mine???????

    1. Heh, “want”, sure – the main issue is always logistics, though. (:
      I couldn’t afford to get it unless you were in town (too big to ship) and I don’t really have the room for one right now. My platemaker’s also dead now, so that’s cooled my desire to have one. /:

  16. Sorry to hear about your problems, as I have some of my own! I’m still waiting to hear back from Craig from a while back.

  17. Hi, worked on ABDick range for 19yrs as field engineer in uk.
    320’s steady warhorses in schools, small offices etc. Main probs form rollers swelling at ends, rubber coming away from shaft.
    Plates loaded manually on 325, 326 etc, clamping at tail.
    325 straight edge plates loaded automatically when etching roller lever actuated.
    Keep impression cylinder clean and use good blanket.
    Good luck with form roller shaft.
    Good little machine.does what it says on can!

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