Composition roller care

Hi everyone,

Quick question on care for composition rollers.

We’ve got three for our Improved Pearl #11, bought from Tarheel Roller last year.

We used them for a couple of jobs then stored them in their original wooden box in climate-controlled rooms (i.e. closet). Then last week we left them exposed in our workshop for a couple of days—no AC or dehumidifier, so I imagine that it got to about 80 degrees with 85% humidity or above.

As you can probably guess, the rollers expanded so that they’re now touching when we put them on press.

The only problem now is that after several days of being inside in the AC, cool to the touch, they’re still touching on press.

I’m super concerned that they’re ruined. Anyone ever had this happen before? Any sage advice or pointers are most appreciated.


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Keep them in a dry environment, turn frequently and hope for the best. It will take a fair bit of time for them to shrink back down. When they do, oil them with plain machine oil (motor oil etc), making sure to coat the ends. Keep them in the box, stored in a cooler dry place—recoat with oil once a year if not printing more often.

I recall that, way back, printers in the UK used to take eg Wharfedale compositon rollers into their homes, overnight and at weekends, as being less variable in humidity and temp. than the works. Composition of the old gelatine based sort came in two versions, ‘standard’, as usually used in the UK, and ‘tropical’. This latter came in slabs which were definitely harder, less flexible than the standard. What the mix difference was I never knew. The slabs were shaped rather like a chocolate bar, but a lot bigger. The same stuff was used by the UK Army’s Ordnance depots in a patent crate marking system.

mikefrommontana — Thanks for the advice! I was hoping it was going to take a while to shrink. I’ll be needing your advice to oil.

harrildplaten — What a great history lesson! I was just having a conversation about what printers did before indoor climate control, especially here in the southeast USA. It makes sense that homes would be significantly cooler than factories!

Hi, MIke from Montana, In the days when a very great deal of printed matter was produced in the UK for US consumption, and you’d be amazed how much bookwork was, I recall that any job that had to be wire stitched (stapled) had to have copper plated wire against Southern US damp. Similarly in the bindery, cover boards had to be special grades and likewise the adhesives. I’m talking here of pre 1950s.