rollers not holding ink

I’ve tried reading through all of the posts that seemed relevant and didn’t see anything like what has started to happen to me lately.

Seems so incredible I hesitate to write it but my rollers are “de-inking” themselves. I bought my rollers a year or two ago but they sat unused waiting for other problems with my press (8 x 12 C&P) to be solved. They are vinylith rollers from NA Graphics.

As an aside, with both presses I have had uneven inking problems like others on the list. Never once occurred to me that it might be the Boxcar plates although I never had this problem with magnesium plates or lead type. Still not sure whether the polymer plates are contributing to the problem since I don’t have these problems on the Vandercook. Building my rails up has helped but, as others have said, it’s a constant fight. I think I must have 1/8 inch of “packing” on them at this point. Gotta be something wrong with that but that is a different issue.)

Anyway, back to the problem at hand, when I first apply ink to the ink plate, the rollers do their job as expected—accepting the ink and distributing it normally. After determining that I didn’t have enough ink on the press, I added more ink. It was too much but I took a couple of impressions to see if it would come down. Instead what happened is that gradually the ink disappeared from the rollers.

I should say that although there was some evidence of this problem last week when I tried to print, when I added more ink the rollers were fine. I printed the run successfully although when I look back on the job the whole thing was over-inked a bit.

Now today the air is very dry so I have a dehumidifier running but I thought the ink was drying out anyway even though it hadn’t been on the press very long. I don ‘t have anything on hand to loosen it up so I thought maybe adding more ink to the press would help (I wasn’t really concerned at this point about over-inking the press, I was more concerned about determining the problem with the rollers.) It didn’t help. In fact, the added ink didn’t distribute at all!!

Ink is Van Son rubber based.

Can’t think of any more details to give. Appreciate any help.


PS: I noticed that noone mentions roller bearers to help inking problems. I’ve relied on them for years to help avoid the rollers wrapping around the edges of the type area. Does anyone else use them?

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Refusal/rejection of ink by Vinyl rollers is precursor to them going ‘wonky’. Very soon they will either turn rock hard or melt like a popsicle.There is only one cure: Throw them out (keep the cores, of course),then NEVER - repeat: NEVER - buy vinyl rollers again. They deteriorate from inception, have all the tack of a semi truck tire, and have durometer that often changes on a daily basis. Composition is the finest ink-layer, followed by rubber. The former is finicky to care for; the latter most trouble-free. In my opinion.

wow. that STINKS!! I only got to use them once! spent a pretty penny of course.

Thank you for your quick and unequivocal reply.


Yes. I use roller bearers all the time. The rails of my 8x12 C&P OS are about 3 points short of type high and I had lots of ink slurring problems on the edges of outside type in a form. Not a problem any more.

I just started using roller bearers and they are great!

what do you use to clean your rollers?

I picked up a press that was used by a gentleman that had it since the 70’s. He pulled it from an old Catholic church. I acquired a set of composition rollers and a set of rubber rollers. With the placement of my press the humidity and temperature flux daily so I don’t use the comp rollers at all. Too much work for the short runs I do. The rubber rollers have Morgan expansion trucks and rarely require adjustment. I use these all of the time! The previous owner after cleaning his rubber rollers coated then in Vaseline, for what purpose I don’t know! I typically use Kerosene and to clean my rollers for the other presses unless they need a bit more help then I use a water miscible roller wash. The Kerosene leave just the slightest bit of an oily coating.

The rollers I purchased new for my big C&P I have no problems with. I did have an uneven consistency with the ink where it would drop out every 50 impressions but that was a flat spot on the expansion truck that caused that. Simply loosening the truck all the way and retightening it made it perfectly round again. The rollers for my small C&P with the Vaseline have a tendency to sweat Vaseline when it get humid or the temp goes over 80. It is weird but if I did not wash them thoroughly before use they would have the same problem you speak of with your rollers de inking. The rollers do however have an amazing amount of tack! They always ink beautifully!

so again, what do you clean your rollers with?

Hi! Sorry for the delayed response. I was away and then honestly didn’t know how to answer the question. It’s a good one!

I vividly remember being told when I bought the rollers that I needed to use a certain type of wash. So I bought the wash too. But the can I have isn’t labeled except to say “blanket wash” So I just don’t know what it is. But I’m 99% certain it is what I bought to use specifically with these rollers.

Can vinylith rollers become completely destroyed from simply using the wrong blanket wash? I wonder if that is the cause of their bad reputation.

Thanks for the help.

Vinyl rollers, by their very composition, are unstable, possess next to no tack, and should never be purchased. The roller washes on the market today are designed for offset presses whose rollers have much different tasking than those of letterpress. Forget the dainties; hands down, Kerosene is the best cleaner for both letterpress composition and rubber roller. Its petroleum base (and, no, Vaseline is not petroleum-based. Neither is Crisco or lard) aids greatly in maintaining roller tack by leaving a film of oil which prevents the ambient air from degrading the roller’s surface plus maintains tack by interacting with the material. The afore-mentioned household substances won’t do that. Of course it should be wiped from the roller prior to use - just as you would clean a type forme or cut before their use. Kerosene also keeps the press surfaces in rust-proof order, has a very high flash point, and there are far worse odours out there. (Gore’s rantings come to mind here) In my opinion.

I had ink-adherence problems awhile back as well, although I was using composition rollers. I replaced them with rubber and have had no problems since.

Updated. I spoke with NA Graphics (Tim not Fritz) and he was genuinely surprised and puzzled to hear about the problem. (Guess that didn’t surprise me since they were the ones who recommended the rollers. I hope they wouldn’t promote rollers with a known problem like this!)

At first he thought it was the temperature (press is in cool basement) which I can see why that would be a question. However, I don’t have this problem with the rollers on my other press.

So he spoke with Fritz and they speculated that it was a problem with using Van Son ink with Vinylith rollers because they had been getting some reports like that. Of course that isn’t acceptable to me, I have hundreds of dollars of ink that work fine with the rubber rollers on my pilot PLUS the negative reports on vinylith rollers above. This leads me to the obvious conclusion that I need to replace these rollers. Going with rubber since I have no problems with them on my other press. Although now that I think about it I had comp rollers on that for awhile and I don’t think I had problems with them either. But I like rubber.

Thanks for all the feedback!

Hi y’all-
we’ve quite a few rollers (cores anyway) that need new rubber. How do we go about getting that done?

(Located in Austin Texas area)