Can I safely use old ink

I am in the process of starting to use a Kelsey press that I bought 39 years ago. I haven’t used the press in 30+ years (life intervened), but I hauled it around through many moves and am getting ready to use it now.

I have a lot of ink that I bought 30+ years ago from Kelsey and am curious if it is still safe to use. Mostly I’m trying to figure out if it will clean safely from the new rollers that I purchased using California wash.

Any thoughts? Thanks.

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Unless it has hardened for some reason, that ink should be fine. It’ll probably be better than any inks you’d buy today. Nobody really formulates ink for letterpress anymore. It’s all made for offset instead. It works fine, but it’s not quite the same. As for cleaning, it should come off fine with CalWash. If not, kerosene will do the trick.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Michael —

Thanks for setting my mind at ease. The ink has not hardened (it is in tubes and well sealed) so it sounds like I’m good to go. I’ll test CalWash before using it with my new rollers.

Are you guys crazy??!! That’s a disaster just waiting to happen!

Everyone knows that old ink is chocked full of all sorts of terrible chemicals like Linseed Oil, Carbon Black, hydrocarbon solvents, chalk, and maybe even Japan Drier! Yikes!

If you were to use that stuff, your rollers will shrink up like raisins, your shop will become contaminated, and the EPA will probably show up in white suits to evacuate your entire neighborhood! Even if they don’t show up, you run the risk of your shop towels suddenly bursting into flames and burning down your house. Your wife would really appreciate THAT, wouldn’t she?

No…. no… NO! You cannot use that old ink! It doesn’t matter that it worked just fine for decades before the current “Wave of Enlightenment” engulfed our trade, and the ink looks like it’s still good. That doesn’t matter. Now that we are enlightened, you absolutely cannot use such materials. You should throw it away immediately, along with your nasty old mineral spirits, non-recycled paper, domestic beer, flannel shirts, and non-eco-friendly Tuna sammiches (with real heart attack provoking mayo)!

Get a GRIP man! Even THINKING about using that ink is probably Politically Incorrect. It could cause folks to think you dislike the planet, and are intolerant of other cultures. You don’t harbor ill will toward other cultures, DO YOU? Hmmmm?

SO… please take my advise and stop even thinking about using anything except approved materials. Stick to the accepted New Standard Practice. Buy some NEW, SAFE, Politically Correct Ink….. only use Photopolymer Plates sourced from the proper vendor to print with….. and only use Veggie Oil to clean it up when you are done.

Toe-the line, Dude!

Just imagine if everyone tried some stunt like you are pondering. Before long, people everywhere would start doing their own thing and thinking that it was OK to have different opinions. THEN where would we be?

Well expressed, WCP, but most on this site will not understand your thrust. Too many one-week experts, too many illiterates, too many easily offended people this forum. And pouting and foot-stamping abound. If only such energies were but directed to actual application of the Black Art. It’s the clash of ‘feelings’ vs the real world. :o)

Thanks Forme…. but you might be right.

I’ve already gotten a few e-mails from folks who didn’t recognize the sarcasm. One guy even sent me an e-mail defending old ink…. as if he thought I was being serious.

I’ve also gotten several e-mails from friends who used to post here ( but no longer do because of the reasons you mention above) who laughed their backsides off about the “rollers shrivelling up like raisins” thing.

I guess some folks get it…. and some don’t.