Ink Knives

I was hoping for some Ink Knives help. Have you experienced long time printers found a difference between Ink Knives and Putty Knives? There’s an awfully big price difference and I was wondering if it made much of a difference?
Thanks for your help!

Log in to reply   9 replies so far

Your choice! Putty knife, ink knife, paint mixing knife, even a frosting spatula works great! I like the more flexible ones when I am mixing a color!!

A thin flexible knife with a good straight ground edge, about an inch and a half wide, is my favorite. My nicest one was a gift from an ink company many years ago, but I bought one that works as well at a paint store. Stay away from the thick scrapers — the flexibility is very helpful in spreading a uniform film of ink onto the ink disc.


Mine are purchased from the local hardware store. I use a plastic 1.5 - 2 inch putty knife. I usually print on my Vandercook and a metal knife would scratch the ink drum or disk on a platen.


I’ve used metal ink knives for 40 years and to my knowledge have never scratched an ink disc so as to notice — I always draw the knife toward me handle-first so the blade slides over the surface while spreading ink. If scraping up the ink while mixing I keep the knife low and I’m careful to not let it dig in. Care is the key.


In the ‘70’s I worked for a company who owned an ink company. That ink company gave me some beautiful ink knives with rosewood handles. I still have them and use them. I Googled the company who made those knives, (Russell, Green River Works, which is now Dexter-Russell, Inc.), and from what I could tell, they don’t seem to make ink knives any more. However, I did find the company whose link is below. Their knives appear very similar to the knives I have.

I don’t mean to sound snooty, but if you like to use beautiful and well-made tools which will most likely last for your lifetime (if you take care of them), even if the cost is high, I don’t think you will go wrong with these knives.

Check the Kitchens & Garage/Basement workshops at ESTATE SALES.
The rosewood handled spatchulas in the Kitchen are rounded at the tip. The tip can be snapped off in a vice giving the knife a flat leading edge. This broken edge can be dressed up w/a wetstone (or emery paper on a piece of flat glass).
The flat-edged, pewter-bolstered, wooden-handled putty, and spackling knives found in home workshops usually need a good cleaning but are of a better quality than the spreading knives seen in Hardware stores these days. A fine-wired wheel brush on a motor makes the blade-cleaning work go quickly. Be careful — the spinning wire will badly abrade the pewter and the wood. For these I use my fingernail.

Kansas City

Lamson Ink knives are also extremely well made knives. They can be purchased from NA Graphics, American Printing and Equipment Supply and several others if you do a search on Google. They are costly but will also last a lifetime.

One other thing about ink knives: if you are going to mix different ink colors with them on a flat surface like a piece of glass, it is helpful to have two knives. Then you can wipe the ink off one knife by drawing the flat side of that knife, where the ink is, across the edge of the other knife. This action, combined with your scraping action with the flat sides of the knives, will enable you to end up with your ink batch in a nice little glob in the middle of the glass, rather than ending up with it smeared in a larger area on the glass and the knives.

Wow! Thank you all for the great & helpful wisdom and advice! It’s greatly appreciated! :)