Where to buy roller bearers?

We are starting a small college press & have a Washington Iron Press and want to buy roller bearers and get a large roller to hand ink. I have not been able to get clear advice on where/how to order them. Help? leslie

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If you are hand rolling the ink on the forme then you want some lengths of 12point rule at type high or failing that you could use 12 point spacing leads with a few leads laid beneath them to bring them up to type high . Be sure they cant get beneath your job area and that they print outside of the area of the work piece.
It is for tasks like this that the battered brass rule you have may be useful again ,turned upside down and three or four lengths side by side make a reasonable bearing surface .

18 or 24 point full-faced lead rule would serve you much better depending on the size of your intended forms, and if you are using a full sized chase. I believe both are available from M&H Type in San Francisco, but depending on where you are located you might be able to find a closer source. Brass rule is ideal, but I don’t think any is available right now. A good machinist could make it from brass, but the cost might be prohibitive to a program that is just starting.


Assuming and hoping that you have acquired at least a few lengths of aluminium girder furniture any length? but 4 (four) ems in section, on edge plus 12 point lead or rule X one length and 6 point lead or rule X one, (problem solved) you would need an engineer with an electron microscope to measure the difference between that and .918? ….. There probably isnt a machine left alive that needs that degree of accuracy, make ready exceeds that by a massive margin anyway!!!…..Option 2, I have here but not practical to ship obviously, considerable amount of plastic faced type high rule, up to 3 ems wide, which was CUT/MITERED and used as borders for certificates etc, usually picked out in second colour-looked good!….. Used as “bearers” even in mutiples, 3 ems 6 ems 9 ems a long time ago. …..This product was a progression from plastic faced poster type, and gave beautiful crisp clear impression, even when used on a big wharfedale, printing posters, with a lot of weight up?…. So bearers would be a doddle*?…. There must surely be, some lurking, unloved/unappreciated in many of your retro L/press shops, barter, trade, steal, negotiate or whatever!….. Hopefully a few memory banks may be jogged, you may just get the odd offer, “yes we have and mayhap we can trade”….. With a little expertise in hand, and a little experimenting, for example, one two or three strips/bands in one two or three colours atop a letterheading would probably make your, buddies/rivals with their “X”CAR mounted plastic plates splutter over their lunch and question HOW?…. Just a side issue, afterthought.

Deleted Apologies

18pt brass rule, Uk, Stephenson Blake, they have a www

These were supplied by Caslon Ltd via the Die Guys in Canada, which saves a lot on the shipping cost. Caslon no longer supplies these so with the last order with Die Guys I think the material came through Stephenson Blake. At least that is what I recall.


Probably find a set of 7/8”X1” brass or alu barstock from mcmaster and then, if you have a mocrometer or type height/plate gauge, shim it up with either tape or paperstock until it’s the right height for your type or plate.
Then it’s a matter of getting a good hand roller/brayer.

And fwiw, the difference between .875 (7/8”) and .918 (type height) is .043, which really isn’t that much. pretty close to some polymer plate thicnkesses that are available, you could salvage a couple strips of that and some tape would do the trick close enough for hand inking.

43.00 gets you a 6 foot length, chop it down with a hacksaw to whatever you desire it to be along the length of your chase if you will. You’ll have some leftover.


I don’t now remember where I saw it but I have seen a system for drop-in bearers for hand inking a type form on a hand press — something like locked up low strip material and strip material of the correct thickness laid on top of the spacing to get type-high. Place them on the sides of the form to be printed, ink up, remove the bearer strips, print, replace the bearer strips, repeat. My type-high gauge says a base of standard-height spacing material (a touch over 4-1/2 picas) with a strip of 12-point thick slug laid on top would be about 1 point over type high.



Lewis Allen recommended something like this in Printing with the Handpress.


As above, apologies for being buried but 4 em, 12 point, plus 6pt equals .918 to within a gnats doodle! try it out for no outlay….. HAND ROLLER ??? From 3” long X 1” in diameter up to 24” inches long X 3” in diameter and bigger, for a long long time, would never have been considered an option to purchase NEW or OFF the shelf…… Fairly simple (non) rocket science, and with necessity being the mother of invention, any redundant roller, from a table top up through to a V.M. needed just the minutest amount of expertise to convert/make! ….The roller used in its entirety or cut down to suit for length, 2 dog legs from mild steel bar 1/8” X 1” cranked cold in the bench vice, 2 holes to carry the spindles of the roller, 2 holes to bolt the handle extensions together, any refinement for the hand grip, whipped, taped, steal the handle from the “WOK” etc etc …..NOT exactly up to N.A.S.A. specification, hardly Mega Bucks….. Money saved could well be diverted to more desireable use in the initial start up stages. And Yes I have done it from a tiny one for a little Adana with a piece of glass for a run up table, up to a two hander with/from a Vertical Meihle roller ,which was just right for inking posters on a big proof press where the forme rollers were absent, it (the two hander) was heavy but in one pass inked the poster well including “screamer” main lines….INKY that was “getting ink on your shirt”, BIG TIME Get Mum on the Hot Line via a seance, She would verify.

After some searching, including discovering that Stephenson Blake now makes cabinets for butterflies, I located a source for brass rule in Quebec:


Gerald, that’s where I saw the suggestion — I used to have a copy of Printing with the Hand Press. Thanks for the reminder. I may be about to embark on a hand press book printing project and I’ll sure want that idea!



Stephenson Blake Ltd Trafalgar works Effingham Rd Sheffield UK, brass rule brass rule from 2 pt - 18pt and metric1-6mm, 660mm lengths

I use now and then the Lewis Allen way to do it. I work with a type height on 23,56 mm or 62 2/3 Didot-Berthold punkt. The main part of my furniture used for composing are made of aluminum and have a stero height on 50 2/3 Didot –Berthold punkt. When I need loose bearers I lock up two rows of furniture beside the form supported by some material a bit higher supporting the loose bearers made of 12 pkt reglets of lead (50 2/3 + 12 = 62 2/3) in lengths of 60 cm, so they don’t move during the inking of the form. It is of cause very important that the quality of the material is tip top perfect and accurate.
Gott grüß die Kunst