Inking Problems on my Kelsey

I’m a letterpress newbie and briarpress has been such a great resource so far for learning the basics of letterpress. Thank you to everyone!

Today I tried my first project on my new kelsey. (I could hardly sleep last night in anticipation) Everything was going great. I adjusted the roller height by taping the rails, I packed the platen with pressboard, packing, and tympan, and I used paper gauges instead of pins because of the boxcar base.

Then I inked the press. I’m using van sonns rubber based inks. The first attempts at printing went as expected. I adjusted pressure with a make ready. And things were starting to look good. But then the rollers just stopped inking! (see the picture below). I tried adding more ink but that didn’t work for very long.

Any ideas on what I’m doing wrong?

image: ink_problems.jpg


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Could be many things, is the press and ink in a heated area, they don’t like to be cold, the ink don’t spread well when cold, it looks like silver ink, which would be oil base ink that dries pretty fast, it could also be too little ink, welcome to letterpress, you now know why printers drink sooo heavily. Also if there is any cleaner on the rollers it could cause this problem. Good Luck Dick G.

Looks like you need to take the wrapping off of those nice new rollers! Or is that silver ink?
Try a standard color, like black, and see how it goes.

Thanks for the comments guys!

The rollers aren’t wrapped. They’re that bright red color. Not sure what material they are. I think rubber.

There might be cleaner on the rollers. What product should I use to make sure the rollers are clean before I print?

Great advice on trying black. I’ll do that tonight. I’m actually printing with a mix of rubber based opaque white, reflex blue, and yellow.

Hasn’t your ink dried already on the rollers? Silver (and other metallic) inks dry very quickly!

You need to know what your rollers are made of before you use the wrong cleaner and ruin them. Composition rollers i think are that color, they don’t like some cleaners, check with Tarheel Roller Company, they are about the last people still making the Composition rollers. For rubber rollers you can use keroscene to get the ink off, then wash them with a blanket wash to get the keroscene off. Some say you can use coleman fuel, that should work very good, myself i use gasoline, mixed with a little blanket wash . Make sure your well ventilated, away from any source of flame (furnace, hot water heater, wood stove) . Your rollers look like the ink is dry on them, you need to wash them after you finish printing, some inks dry fast, you can’t wait tooo long to wash up. No matter what you use to clean your press, allways wear gloves, try to avoid breathing too many fumes and minimize the contact with your skin, keep dirty rags in a safe container. Everyone on the list gets on me for the gas use, but that’s what the old shops always used, the coleman fuel is more like the old gas, the new gas has all kinds of additives in it, some say can harm your rollers. good Luck Dick G.

Kerosene is the right solvent for composition rollers, and useable on rubber too. It leaves a residue that has to be wiped off before printing, but it acts as a moisture barrier on composition. Small quantities are available as lamp fuel, I think. Gas is too fast-drying to use as the primary cleaner on any roller, though it has often been used for limitted cleaning of rollers during the course of printing because of the lack of residue. Repeated use will harden the roller.
Red material could be comp or rubber. The surface will be a smooth cast surface if comp (it could show flaws such as dimples or bubbles), and rubber will have a ground surface, like velvet; very old rubber rollers can also be smooth.
It looks like the trucks are smaller than the rollers, and I would tape the trucks to the point that they are almost the size of the rollers (avoiding any extra overlaps), and the tracks to type height. These are critical points with photopolymer plates.