Just when I thought I had it down - Inking problem - Help!

So I have printed a variety of things for several days now (oiling each day of course) and besides the issue of my dirty fingers the prints were coming out very well with a little make ready.

Then today in the middle of a job part of the area on my plate just stopped getting ink.

Mind you - I did about 20 in a row just PERFECT and then all of the sudden one single area just wasnt printing.

After looking closely I could see that the issue spot on the polymer plate was not getting any ink from the rollers. While the rest of it was fine. So I took switched out plates and still that area is not inking on the next plate. I put some paper BEHIND the boxcar base in that area and then that section DID ink but then it had a deeper impression than the rest of the print.

What the heck? How can one spot just stop getting ink? Wondering if anyone has any suggestions.

Working on a Golding Pearl #3 Old Style.

Thanks in advance,

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Have you checked the rollers with a gauge. Sounds like a low spot.

I need to check them - I dont know how a low spot works but it just boggles my mind that something like that would happen all of the sudden in the middle of a run.

It is just crazy!


You know, Brandi…if it were easy to get a really good print every time just about anybody could slap ink and type onto paper and become a great printer. The challenges of figuring out what’s not going right is just part of the enjoyment. Admittedly this is an easier attitude to adopt if you’re not under an economic pressure to finish on time. But then that’s why I’m a hobby printer.

Hang in there, you’ll figure it out. Or someone will help you figure it out.

If ink isn’t getting onto the plate then there’s a number of possibilities: 1) low spot on the roller that just started to hit the area not getting inked. 2) Spring tension is not holding the rollers down steadily as the rollers pass over the plate. 3) Something on the rails is causing the rollers to jump a bit at that spot. 4) something in the chase is causing the rollers to jump over the un-inked area. 5) There is some sort of contaminant on the plate preventing the ink from sticking. 6) There is some sort of contaminant on the roller preventing inking. 7) Your trucks are not round/ gunked up with ink or grease 8) the ink is drying too much on the press

This is probably not an exhaustive list. Have fun.

Arie has given you a very good list. When faced with this type of problem, only make one change at a time and then try another impression. You will need lots of scrap paper, or in this case no paper as you are looking to see if the plate is taking ink.

I would start by removing the chase and inspecting the plate very carefully. You will probably not find anything you can identify as wrong. The plate may have become contaminated and is resisting the ink. Not likely. Still, clean the plate with solvent. Blot dry and return it to the press and ink it up. I have done this and solved the problem and not known why.

Next, remove all but one roller. With roller at the bottom place a one inch strip of 20# copy paper over the form at the left edge and roll the roller up. Tug on strip and you should feel some pressure. Do this several times across the form. It should feel the same at any place and at any height of the roller. If not, you have a out of round spot, or a problem with the rails.

If you get to printing well again, and then it happens again, turn one roller end for end. If it is a roller problem, the spot will move.

Part of the fun of printing is working thru and solving these problems.


Still having random issues here. I have tried most of the suggestions - will work more today.

Let me ask you this…if I purchase brand new rollers & trucks for a huge sum of money - will these issues more than likely go away? The press seems to be in working order so it must be the rollers/trucks?

I measure each roller and truck yesterday with a caliper and the sizes from one end to another are a little off. Not a huge amount but a little. It seems like a little tends to be a lot when it comes to this game.

I do realize that some problem solving is required but I am just sure there has to be a point where things are working and they just stay working? I do my make ready, I am careful about caring for and oiling my press. I have to admit that I am not a super patient person but I am persistent.

I think the issue is that my problem solving skills are looking for a permanent solution (not including the standard make-ready). I want to be able to depend on my press.

Maybe that is just not how this works.


Tell where you are. You may find a new letterpress friend who can examine your press and rollers and help you.
You ask if you purchase new rollers and trucks will your problems go away. The answer is a definate maybe. Identify the problem very firmly before throwing new parts at the machine. This is the rule for auto repair and for press repair.
You said you measured your rollers and trucks and there was a difference from end to end. That sounds like a problem, but you didn’t say how much difference. Are the trucks all the same size, or different?
With only one roller on the press is there an uninked spot on the plate? If so, it is most likely you have a low or flat spot on the roller. Test at that spot with the paper tug strip. If there is less or no tug at that spot than at an ajacent spot that is receiving ink, the obvious problem is the roller.
Do you have an imposing stone, a formica topped table, a glass coffee table? Something very uniformly flat. Place a roller on the flat surface and a light like a strong flashlight behind the roller. Roll slowly and look. Good, round even rollers show no light leak.
It may be rollers and trucks, but you will also have to carefully inspect and measure your rails for uniform height.
Keep with it. One step at a time. You will solve it.


Hi Inky,

I am in Des Moines, Iowa. Pretty much not close enough for anyone.

I remeasured my rollers/trucks for you with my digital caliper. Here are the measurements, I have no idea is this is too off or not:

Roller 1 - Trucks are 1.32 in each.
Ends of roller measure 1.32in and then I measured pretty much every quarter inch all the way down and got measurements working inward of 1.31 to 1.28 at any given point.

Roller 2 - Trucks measure 1.31 each.
Ends of roller measure 1.32in and then I did the same as above getting measurements from 1.31 to 1.29 at any given point.

I rolled my rollers on a large piece of glass I got out of a picture frame and there is a little light shining through - a very small tiny line so again I dont know how much is too much or what a new set would look like. I also put the straight edge on them but the straight edge didnt seem so straight and there is a little light.

I build up the rails with tape but they seem to be the same height. I used the boxcar roller gauge and when I roll the thing behind there - there seems to be a very close streak of ink the same size in the middle & ends.

I am so confused. What do you think about the rollers?

Thanks for your advice,

You have two threads going and several people giving you advice. You are confused and frustrated. Take a deep breath. You will solve this and other problems in the future if you stay with letterpress printing. It is an ancient craft done with obsolete equipment that is worn. It is not like your cell phone that does all kinds of things.
I will be happy to keep working with you on the issue of the rollers with this press. I think that we are going to need several exchanges and the details may not be of general interest. (They probably have been to date) I suggest we take it to a private exchange of emails.
I am [email protected]