My C & P betrayed me

I know all I’ve done on this site is ask for help and not give much so I apologize, however I’m very thankful for all the help I’ve received up to this point.

I recently got new rollers for my 10 x 15 C & P from Fritz at NA Graphics. Coincidentally I’ve lost a few jobs since then due to really bad printing. Tonight I went out to print the second color on some business cards and after about 50 impressions my rollers stopped inking my plates. I’m using a Boxcar Base and KF 152 plates. I have plenty of ink on my disc and I’ve gone as far as taking off 2 of the 3 rollers and taking a lot of tape off my rails and still no solution. I’m ready to throw in the towell on this letterpress thing after 4 years of printing.
I’ve never had this many problems like this disappearing act of ink. Has anyone else had this problem?

Thanks for any help.

Mr. Letter’s Press

Log in to reply   21 replies so far

Hi Chuck,
Is it all or part of the plate? I’ve run into the same problem, many times, primarily with small details and with more substantial plate areas inking fine.
Have a look at the thread I started here, if anything it might help explain things.
And I agree, it’s so incredibly frustrating. Good luck!

Thanks Pearl,

Did you use double stick tape on the back of the plate?
Did you try to just put packing behind the entire base?

Chuck——I’m more than willing to help you but I don’t fully understand what is happening——
if you call me I’m sure we can solve the problem very easily. I’ve been printing on C&P Presses
(all styles) for 50+ years —— I think “I’ve seen it all”.
Call anytime between 4-10 PM/Eastern Time——-we’re in Lancaster County, PA (717) 285-3933


Thanks William, I will call you tommorrow in the morning.
I love Lancaster, I spent a few years in PA and Lancaster was one of
my favorite places. Thanks for your help.


Hi Chuck,
I’m actually using little slivers of the bags that I use for packaging, from I would imagine that any poly bag or tape will do, it just can’t be too thick or will impact surrounding areas. Just don’t use paper! It goes without saying that it will stick to the adhesive permanently — lesson learned.
I have to say that even so it’s really far from ideal and I’m considering switching to the more standard polymer since I can’t continue to work like this. I’m finding that even after I’ve tried a work-around only 1 in 4 prints are quality and I am having to inspect the plate after the rollers have passed to be sure everything is inking. It is far too time-consuming and wasteful.
Hope that helps!

Chuck and Pearl

There is a very useful makeready tape available in a number of thicknesses, as thin as .0015, from die-cutting suppliers. Great stuff. These folks are the best source for new letterpress supplies, materials, tools, and include Bar-Plate, Crocodile Industries, Die Supply Guys, Infinity Foils, Wagner Die Supply.


This has happened to me as well, on my C&P 8x12. I have the same base/plate/rollers setup. And brand new delrin trucks. The problem is not with the packing - there is plenty of impression on the paper. Underlays did not help. And only a portion of the plate remains uninked - the rest is fine.

When I originally built up the rails with tape (it needed a LOT of tape) I did it evenly on both rails - an equal number of layers. But what would happen is that, after a few runs, a portion of text would magically stop inking, especially when I was using a slightly looser ink.

However, I took off half a layer of tape on one side, which seemed to fix the problem. [Meaning, I peeled back one layer to about halfway down the rail and then cut it at an angle.] Perhaps there was an air bubble or bump on the rails. Who knows - it worked and I salvaged the job.

I don’t think it’s a permanent solution, but it will have to do until a better one presents itself.


I’ve had the same problem with my 10x15 and 8x12. I don’t think it is an issue with your press. I hand-set most of my jobs and individual type set jobs work absolutely fine. We started using boxcar base and plates a little while ago when people want typefaces we don’t have. I have had a mother of a time trying to get these things to look decent. The runs will actually get worse the longer you go. Which makes me think that it is a problem with the ink stretching out over the run and not adhering to the poly plates. The reason why I think that is my first couple of impressions will look beautiful, but then will slowly start doing the disappearing act or inconsistent inking. Impression is fine, rollers are fine. I’m beginning to think that type of plastic and rubber based ink does not work well together. What else can I think when I could switch out the plates for hot metal and it would be perfect. Get a hold of me if you want a shoulder to cry on. ITS NOT YOUR PRESS!

Thanks Tom,

Sorry for the late reply. Although the people at Boxcar Press are super nice, their product is very unreliable.
With that said, I have a few very important jobs coming up and I can’t afford to do another half-ass job because of these disappearing plates. Does anyone have a nice alternative for plates that doesn’t involve me hand setting any type?

Thanks for your reply.



Check out OWOSSO in michigan. They do magnesium plates. I’ve had no problem with their stuff. That being said, follow their suggestions about how to take care of plates (cooking oil and saran wrap). They can deteriorate if left unchecked. If you are not using them again don’t worry about it.

Good luck.


Back in my early days I always used Owosso so I will give them another shot. Thanks Tom. Do you have an email or phone number where I can reach you for questions in the future?


I’m a bit concerned reading this post as I was going to be purchasing a boxcare base and using their plates with my 10x15 C&P New Style. How common is this?

Also, good luck Chuck!


The base and the system is amazing. I would just try to find someone else who can make the plate for you with an adhesive back on it.
Good luck.

Chuck and others.

I doubt that Boxcar is processing the plates incorrectly. From the various discussions in regard to this I suspect it is the plate itself.

I have talked with my A&V rep about the plate and his comment, which I believe I have stated before, was that the plate is not designed for general letterpress applications, but is more for embossing and molding practices. Because of this, I don’t offer the plate in my own processing operations.

I have been supplying, for several years now, a metal-backed KM152 to a very prolific client who uses Patmag bases on C&Ps. They have yet to complain about these type of problems.


I don’t blame Boxcar at all so what you said makes sense. I talked to another printer who told me it’s my rollers. I have brand new rollers from NA graphics.
Maybe if I light my press on fire and throw it in the ocean my problem will be solved.

Good to know about the metal backed plates. How expensive are they in comparison to the Boxcar system?

Thanks Gerald



Harold processes steel-backed plates as well as polyester-backed plates. As I recall he charges them out at the same price. His pricing is about as low as you will find.


I’m also running a boxcar system on my 8x12 C&P. My problem is the fading of ink “moves”. I can see it “move” through a printed piece as I’m running the job. For example, the text/art at one location of a sheet will get less ink, after a few sheets pass the light inking issue has moved further through the content of the sheet and the previously light-inked text/art is now printing just fine. I’ve been wondering if this could be a sign that my Morgan Expansion trucks may need new tires.

The way I see it is if the problem is moving through the printed piece it can’t be the rails, plate, or make-ready or else I’d have the same problem in the same place. That isn’t what’s happening with me. Is everyone else’s issue occuring in the same location each time or does your problem “move” throughout the press run? I’m also running new rubber rollers (all 3) from NA Graphics. Maybe I need to look into those delrin trucks and rail tape that they sell too.

Any ideas?


My issues were similar when I was trying to use the Boxcar plates. But here’s the thing…I would get frustrated with it because it would start fine and eventually it was totally inconsistent. Under a magnifying glass the ink did not seem to be adhering to the plate properly. It was splotchy. Is it the “worn” or “stretched” consistency of the ink? That’s what I wonder. i would leave it right where it was and do something else. The next day, I’d pick up right where I left off, changing nothing…and lo and behold the printing was fine. But then eventually it would turn inconsistent like the day before. From that I have to say that it’s not my press…as all other printing with movable type is fine. The Boxcar people did tell me that the plates work better with stiffer inks.

Wow. I’ve just found all these threads.

I’ve had the same issue - the migrating light/dark spots, lost punctuation. I’ve learned to continually adjust as I print a job, mainly building up slices of paper behind the chase. I’ve occasionally added tape to the rails, but the paper behind the chase works better for me.

I print on an Improved Pearl, with a Boxcar deep-relief base and the KF-152 plastic-backed plates. Does this mean that the next time I order plates, I should go with a thinner (or standard) plate?


I have never had an issue with a Boxcar plate. I use the deep relief plates also.

What I found is that my expansion trucks for some reason or another became out of round and when 2 of them lined up together they created a high spot and no ink was transfered to the plate.

To fix it I released all tension on the trucks and let them relax for a few days. then put them back together and reset the rollers to type high.

I no longer have the issues faced before. I think one of the problems that caused the problems was leaving the rollers on the press between runs during the day. At times they sat for about 5 hours a pop between running colors and ended up with the smallest flatspot that eventually worked its way out. I would therorize that that it created a bulge on the opposing side on of those times and that was the problem.


Hi all - I am having this same problem - has anyone found a solution yet? Are magnesium dies the way to go? I’ve tried:

- taping my rails
- roller bearers
- using old photopolymer strips as “bearers”
- packing behind the base
- pulling my hair out

Nothing is working. If it is a simple switch to Owosso, I think I’ll have to make it. But, if that hasn’t solved people’s problems, then I don’t want to do that either.

Let me know if anyone has any updates.