How do you know if you need new rollers?

I have the gauge that sets roller height from BoxCar Press.
The further down the rollers roll down, the thinner the stripe is.
The farther up, the thicker the stripe is. Does this mean my rollers are warped?

The person who I bought the press from says he thinks they are Rhino rollers and are about 6-7 years old.

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I think you mentioned in another post that the rollers are composition. I’m guessing there are exceptions but from all I’ve read and heard composition rollers usually need to be replaced after about two years on average, even if maintained properly, sometimes sooner. They shrink in winter and swell in summer and if left in a horizontal position can sag on the cores making them non-concentic. After a while these factors, in addition to actual use, simply take their toll.

Of course, I suppose some people may get by for years but I don’t think that’s the average situation. In any case, it seems to me it’s more than likely that your seven year old second hand composition rollers probably need to be replaced. While I understand that it is generally felt that composition rollers work the best at applying the ink to the form, modern rubber rollers come very close and have perhaps now become the standard on most presses. Rubber rollers have none of the shortcomings of composition and are, at least in my opinion, more than acceptable replacements for composition. They certainly work well for me.

Check to see if they are still truly round; that they are centered on the cores with no sag, that they are of the same diameter over their entire length; no holes from bugs, mice, etc. (they like the glue and organic material); no splits, blisters, depressions, flat spots; etc.

I don’t think you can go wrong getting new rollers even if they are a bit expensive, especially if you’re going to print items for sale.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Rich you rock. Thank you for responding to my plethora of posts. I so appreciate it. I am actually shipping my rollers out to get them replaced with rubber. Just sucks, I was hoping to print my friends invites and now I may have to source it out because my press is not up to speed yet. Booooo

I know how you feel. My first press which I got two years ago was a Chandler & Price 8x12 which I completely restored. But the rollers that came with it, though rubber, were very old and not up to par. Also, it had Morgan expansion trucks on which the rubber tires were pretty shot. So while I did a little printing on it, mostly small things, I spent most of my time setting up my shop.

In a back-handed way that proved invaluable since last Fall I traded my 8x12 for a 10x15 that has good rollers and trucks and since my shop is now very complete and organized I have been printing fairly often and have several projects cooking, including a “zine”, or what I like to call a miniature periodical (I’m somewhat 19th century).

You’ll be up and printing soon! Let us know how you’re making out with the platen, packing and rollers.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

thanks so much rich…do u think i would have to replace trucks at all? you are so nice. i am very eager, and fell in love with letterpress a long time ago. i thought since i am an artist i would be able to pick this up fairly easy on the platen press…boy was i wrong. i am just hoping that once i do receive the rollers things will pick up. im now nervous ill need trucks though too.

in the mean time i think i am going to remove all the springs and soak them in simple green solution. there is a lot of grime built up and perhaps ill just try to clean it up more!


“The further down the rollers roll down, the thinner the stripe is. The farther up, the thicker the stripe is”

After 6-7 years you may or may not be in need of new rollers, but the symptom you describe above might not be the direct indicator….

General roller condition aside, if you are getting a bigger stripe at the top vs. the bottom of your presses bed you should be looking not only at the roundness of your rollers & trucks, but also the height your presses rails.

Out of round rollers and/or trucks should repeat a pattern of “thick” & “thin” ink stripes as the roller reciprocates while traveling the length of the bed/rails. Assuming your description of decreasing stripe thickness from top-to-bottom is accurate & you were able to test for this (by checking with your roller gauge at multiple increments along the length of your bed/rails - on the same spot of the roller) it says to me your rail height isn’t consistent (or that your rollers would have to be changing size as they travel up/down - which we know they aren’t).

You might do some digging around here on briar along the subject lines of rails (height and/or “taping”) & trucks (solid vs. adjustable & sizing), they’ve been hashed over more than once & should give you a good heads-up for dialing-in your inking once you receive your re-covered rollers.


I don’t know enough about Golding presses to know about the correct truck or roller size. I do know that, like many C&P presses, the truck and roller size should not be the same, in spite of some things you may hear. I would contact the Golding-Guru who can probably give you the exact specifications for the trucks and rollers for your particular press.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

thanks guys so much for your help. i really appreciate it.
i went ahead and contacted ramco rollers (who by the way are sooo nice) and hopefully will receive new rollers next week. i may or may not need new rollers but the composition rollers i had were 7 years old.

jason: i did tape my rails—but i am guessing some places need more tape than in other places (assuming this is the case when i receive my new rollers)

rich: i am contacing the golding guru…hopefully he will have some words of wisdom for me!!!

I just came across your previous post which seemed to have the steps leading leading up to this discussion

“so i just noticed that the trucks are not full rolling down the rails…they roll down part of the way and then are almost “lifted up” and then hit the rails again….any advice?”

“Still having inking problems. I spoke to the man who sold me the press. Said the rollers were rhino rollers —composition rollers that are about 7 years old. So I think I might replace them.”

Did you find what was causing your trucks to loose contact with the rails (and was this with or without your base/plate/chase loaded in the press) or did your focus switch to rollers? “Lifting” as mentioned is reason for concern - if its a mechanical issue (like your roller hooks binding as mentioned by others, not your form/plate lifting the rollers up) this could very well be a contributing factor to your “roller setting” problems (if not the major issue itself).

I think the best thing I could say, would be to encourage you to look at your inking system as a whole.

First alleviate any mechanical problems if they exist.

Next since you’ll be starting with fresh rollers, find the appropriate sized trucks (with rubber rollers which don’t swell consider investing in solid trucks which are more accurate) - account for both your ordered roller size and your actual press. I have no specific Golding knowledge but if your particular press was manufactured with rails that were not .918 high (or close to) then it stands to reason your trucks will be a different size from your rollers. However, if your rails are (intended to be) near type-high (.918) then your rollers should be very close in size to your trucks - assuming an exact rail height of .918 (same as your printing surface) - only allowing enough differential between truck & roller size to create the desired “ink stripe” on your roller setting gage (rollers maybe 1/32”-1/16” larger max. to keep the circumference, or linear distance your rollers & trucks would “unroll” fairly close to each other, preventing other potential inking problems of rollers wiping/skidding).

Your goal is to lay a fine layer ink on the surface of your plate/type and not ink the sides. Within reason, all the components of your inking system need to be in the correct relationship to each other for this to happen. Once this is achieved then you should be able to focus on your impression.

EDIT: I was reminded of this article when I saw it mentioned in another post. This has some good, comprehensive information regarding roller setting.

rollers should be replaced every 2-3 years depending on how much you print, the condition they are in, etc…