Deciphering the rollers and trucks

I just got my first letterpress with hopes of using it for lino prints.
Everything looks great except the trucks are all slightly different. Some of them have thin metal pieces that look like washers or gaskets and others don’t. One of the metal washers is cracking apart, which is weird. At first I thought it was rubber.
I’m not sure what to replace them with. I’ve seen some ugly white nylon ones on ebay, but are those the best?

The press is a Chandler and Price old style. I’m not sure about the year because the serial number I found behind the chase wasn’t among the list I found online.

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Good Luck with your new press. Can you post some pix?
What is the Serial number you found? What size is the press? Where are you located?
Answers to these questions will help the Briarpress community lead you to success with your new baby.

You might contact Fritz at NAGraphics - while he is “Mr. Vandercook,” likely he can help you with trucks for the C&P or will know who can.


The trucks with washers and gaskets sound like Morgan expansion trucks. NA is the maker and is now out of stock.
They do have solid Delrin trucks to fit the press.

Here are some photos I took of the press and rollers. I’ll have to go back and look for the serial number.
I think the press is 8x10 and I’m located in Bonners Ferry, Idaho

image: righttrucks.jpg


image: Patents.jpg


image: Lefttrucks.jpg


image: Broken.jpg


I’m also not sure what type of rollers these are. They look to be in good shape though.
I have some oil based etching ink from Daniel Smith and a selection of liquid pigments and transparent base from Akua. Would these be ok to print with?
The Daniel Smith ink is incredibly thick and sticky. Very difficult to clean up.

Etching ink and the Pigment and Aqua stuff doesn’t work for Letterpress.

VAnson makes Ink for letterpress

Yes, those are Morgan Expansion Roller Trucks, and also correct that I have none in stock. The ones on this press are well past their prime, which may have been 20 or more years ago. We offer suitable replacements. From what I can see of the rollers, they appear to be past their prime as well. You most likely have an 8x12, but the inside dimension of the chase determines the size. And excellent quality printing inks are available, either oil or rubber base inks.

Amanda, I have both trucks and the truck rubbers, if interested, please contact me.

image: FullSizeRender.jpg


My press originally came with old, worn-out, frozen Morgan trucks as well. One of the expansion plates on mine actually shattered into several pieces and was totally ruined. I cast about for replacement Morgans before going with Fritz’s solid, milled Delrin plastic trucks. I’ve had them for about four years now and have been extremely happy.

With modern rollers you really don’t need the expandable trucks. They were intended for use with composition rollers (roller composition being a mix of hide glue, molasses and glycerin). Composition swells and shrinks a great deal depending upon humidity and temperature and so pressmen needed a way to compensate for that. Modern rubber rollers don’t change the same way so solid trucks are fine.

At most, you may need to add a layer or two of non-compressable, UHMW tape to either the trucks or the rails to bring everything into alignment but once that’s done it’s fine for years.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

So if I got some Delrin trucks and some new rollers would the rollers be less sensitive to different types of ink?
I’m sort of desperate to try my new press out. Not a run or anything, just a few impressions.
Before I go and spend several hundred dollars on rollers, I’d like to try it out. You know, in case I do something incredibly stupid and wreck something.

I’m still not clear on what type of cleaner I should use on the rollers though. I got a book called General Printing that says kerosene, but I’m guessing there is a more modern preference.

I’m also a bit unclear on ink consistency. I’ve been reading other threads on the topic and as far as I can tell, I need something highly pigmented. Some people mention using offset inks..

Earlier in this thread I mentioned some super thick oil based ink from Daniel Smith. It’s basically a paste of pigment in a can. In college we had to thin it down with burnt linseed oil just to be able to push it across the plate.

So if the ink is highly pigmented and oil based, what is the ideal consistency? Could I use this ink just for a test before I start spending money on new rollers, trucks and ink? ??

And, for future printing, what type of ink would work best for type high lino blocks? Rubber, oil, acrylic or soy?

Sorry for so many questions, but I’m a complete novice with this type of press and I don’t want to mess it up.


Yes, of course you could try the press as is with the etching ink you have. Your results may not be ideal, but you will certainly get an image. You’ll find that the linoleum plates will be very forgiving of ink type and roller pressures. While the rollers do not appear ideal, they seem to have a reasonably smooth surface.

I think if I were you, I’d try to pick the two best rollers and put them in the upper saddles, matching them with the four trucks closest to the roller diameter. Leave the lower saddles empty. Your best results will be obtained as others have written, by using a litho ink designed for modern offset presses like the Van Son mentioned, but any regular offset-litho ink will give good results. The etching ink you have is probably too fluid to work well, (even though you think it is too pasty) you really need a very viscous, dense ink to get the best results. I’d hold off on buying the rollers, but buy a good tin of ink from Fritz. That way you can get some experience under your belt before you spring for new rollers.

When I began printing with my own press (this over 50 years ago) my rollers were hard and pitted, nowhere as nice as yours, and I had fairly good results, vastly improved by new rollers, but still, reasonably good images.

Make certain when you set up the linoleum blocks in the chase that you add cardstock to the base of the mounting block to bring it up to type height (.918” or approximately 29/32”). They are notoriously made at less than type high, and as such, will not ink well and will have light impression. Just keep adding paper to the base until you get good inking.

You will want new rollers eventually, but I’d advise you to jest get printing and see what you can do with what you already have.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

Thank you so much for the thorough and detailed response.
I do realize the rollers are old, but they are smooth and have some give to them. I will look into a good tin of ink to get me started as well. The etching ink I have is a beast to clean up which is why I still have a full can of it. I just kept using the looser Akua Inks to be lazy.
For my lino, I mounted my own and it seems to measure out right.
Now to finish carving, get some ink and bravely do a test. :D

You are here in the right place to ask questions. You have received some good responses. You really cannot hurt the press unless you force things and try to make it do more than it was designed to do. It is time to get in and try some things and see what happens. Get some ink on your shirt.
Cheap paint thinner/mineral spirits from your hardware store or paint store is a very good solvent. Take your ink and solvent soaked rags outside and let the solvent evaporate for a couple of days and then throw them in the trash.
Measure the diameter of your rollers. They should all be the same. Then order some new trucks from NA Graphics, or elsewhere. The Delrin plastic trucks should last for most of your lifetime. Tell the truck supplier what diameter your rollers are. Then remove the Morgan expansion trucks and throw them away.
Understand that the rails upon which the trucks run are supposed to be type high, .918”. The cast iron rails of the old presses have worn down. It is hard to add new metal to the rails to bring them back up to proper height. We add layers of tape. 1/2” vinyl tape from the stationery store works very well. Some prefer to add tape to the trucks. I don’t. Add tape, one layer at a time until the form does not print well. Then remove one layer.
Get some ink on the paper and on your shirt. Get to printing. Have fun. You will teach yourself some and you can come back here with more questions. If you can find an experienced printer in your area, it really is best to get some instruction. Of course I am prejudiced as I am a teacher/mentor.

intaglio ink is designed to do two things at the same time…be sticky enough to stay in the intaglio marks yet be loose enough for the etching plate surface to be wiped off, then be printed at about a ton pressure into damped cotton based paper through etching blankets——this is very different from letterpress and not suitable for printing linos either, it willsquash over the edge of your cut marks.. Surely a coupla tubes of relief ink are cheap enough to buy to try it out, and try also some roller reconditioner or offset blanket revivor….MeK is still available in UK for example.


There are several things you can use to clean your rollers. Mineral spirits, kerosene, dedicated press roller wash, even Crisco. Personally, I use Varn California Wash (a lowish-VOC offset press roller cleaner designed to meet California air quality standards) just because I happen to have a day job in the printing industry and have easy access to the stuff. Any of the above can be made to work for you, though.

Something else you might look into is a roller cleaning paste called Putz Pomade. Fritz at NA Graphics sells this as well. It’s very good at getting old, dried ink out of the deeper crevasses and pores of the rubber. I use it after every fourth or fifth ink change or when changing from a dark color to a light one to get as much ink out of the rollers as possible. Some of this might be good to start with since those rollers look like they haven’t had a good cleaning in years. They might need a treatment with some rubber rejuvenator as well. The two treatments together can take care of a lot of surface glazing.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Oh, I didn’t address one of your other questions. My apologies. I’m afraid I have no experience with anything other than offset/litho ink, so I just don’t know how that intaglio ink you have would work. Others’ comments on that will hopefully be helpful to you.

As Inky said, getting together with a more experienced printer may well help a great deal. Where are you located? You may find there are others nearby who are happy to meet with you.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

So far I haven’t had any luck finding anyone near me. I’m in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. It’s a very rural area. I put out an inquiry on the local Facebook page to see if there were any printmakers (of any type) in the area, but no one answered.

I dove into this hoping my previous experience with traditional printmaking would help a bit, but knowing that most things would require research.

I’m writing up a shopping list to get me started. I think I’ll give rubber inks a try and get some Delrin trucks. I’m going to look around for that Varn California Wash that Mephits recommended or try to find something similar with low fumes since I’m pregnant.
The Putz pomade sounds like a really good idea since, I’m sure they haven’t been cleaned in quite a while. The rubber rejuvenator sounds like a good plan too. I’ll see if I can find some online.

Thank you everyone. This group is amazing!!