Suitable glue for compo rollers

I usually cast my own composition rollers following a 19th century formula - a mixture of pearl hide glue, glycerine and molasses. They work well and I can cast separate rollers for the wildly divirgent summer and winter weather here in the north. The problem is that it is getting harder and harder, and therefore costlier and costlier, to find “pearl glue,” that is, animal or hide glue shaped in little globes. On the other hand, one can fairly readily find “rabbit skin glue” in artist supply shops. The latter is also an animal hide glue, but it comes in a much finer grind, the consistency of ground coffee. My questions is: Does anyone know if the artist’s version of hide glue is the same as pearl glue and do you think it would work for compo rollers? Thanks in advance.

Denis C.

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Denis…. Rabbit Skin glue is not the same as old-style hide glue. Rollers I’ve made from it are softer, and don’t last as long. It could be that I didn’t adjust the mixture to accomodate the Rabbit Glue….. but my impressions of it were not favorable.

The last time I made genuine compo rollers, I bought hide glue from Talas bookbinding supplies…. and it was rather expensive. That’s why I invented Gummy-Bear rollers a few years ago. They actually work very good….. and if you want them harder, you can just cook them a bit longer. There are numerous postings about them here…. just do a search “Gummy Bear Rollers”.

Did you try these folks?

The company is Milligan and Higgins. I think my friend has a gallon jar of pearl hide glue, which we’ve thought to use for roller making-but we probably need a lot more glue for the job.


Thanks for the info about the Rabbit Skin glue. That’s exactly what I wanted to know. I suspected it might turn out “softer” rollers. Yes, I do recall the gummy bear roller discussion and even made some. But, as you pointed out then, the larger rollers are not quite sturdy enough for my 6x10. (The brayer I made works fine, btw). Have you tweaked the formula at all to make them a bit stabler? I also looked into Talas, but the hide glue is rather pricey.

I’ll check out Milligan and Higgins. There are a few other places on line that say they sell hide glue. For a single roller (Kelsey 6x10, C&P PIlot) I generally don’t need more than about 1/2 cup of glue (soaked in water).

I’ll keep you both informed, if I find anything cheap and good.

I have made some formula / process improvements on the Gummy Bears. If you cook them longer, they firm up some. What you want to do is reduce the moisture content without burning the mixture. They are still a small-roller type of thing, but I’ve used them on 5x8 with good results.

I have a Poco proof press and so I’m hand inking. I bought the largest nitrile brayer I could afford and discovered it isn’t quite wide enough to reach across my large boxcar base to the bearers I want to use. I noticed you said the gummi bear rollers did work for a brayer. Was that a large brayer? Could it be cast around some other material that might support it? I’ve wanted to try out your gummi rollers ever since I read about it! I recently had a problem with my Tar Heel rollers shrinking and not contacting the plate well enough on my Sigwalt. has the pearl hide glue. I didn’t think it was so expensive. So where did you find this recipe or better yet, what is the recipe? I want to make a monoprint plate out of the material like my Tarheel rollers are made from.

That hide glue really stinks. Now that I have the finished product (a monoprint plate) the smell is much less. Still, it’s just amazing that you can make such a material out of such odd ingredients. I had some trouble with foaming. I skimmed it off since I was making a flat plate. Was I not supposed to stir it as it cooked? I used a silicone cake pan liner and it separated very easily when it cooled. I sprayed it with Pam for good measure. Once I can get that smell out of my mind I might tackle the wide brayer project.

Hi, all—

For what it’s worth, I remember reading an instruction book re-issued by Oak Knoll (I believe) on a hobby press of the 19th century that contained a recipe for composition. I no longer have the book, but I remember a suggestion it made for making composition ink balls for hand inking. Basically, a shallow soup bowl was partly filled with liquid composition and a piece of canvas draped on it. When solid, the canvas and composition could be attached to a ball stock.

The press itself was something like a hand tortilla press, if I recall.

Best wishes, Brian