Comp Roller Recipes

Hello All,
I am looking for roller recipes to make up replacement rollers.

I have a friend down the line who’s going to send me a couple of recipes but I thought I’d canvas the letterpress populace to try and get a comprehensive collection of them together. (but not the jellybaby one)

The one I experimented with in the past was:
60gm Gelatine
60ml Cold water
100ml Glycerine

This had two issues that I noted (apart from air bubbles from careless pouring).

1. No matter how many times I cleaned the roller down the ink I was using seemed to skate off the surface - almost like it was hydrophobic (or whatever the oil-based ink phobia is)

2. The roller grew mould in about 6 weeks in a slightly damp environment. *Slightly* damp.

So ideally I want to experiment and would like to know anyone’s ideas.

- Simon

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The oil based phobia is oleophobic.

Can’t help you with recipes but I will be interested in seeing the ones which people post.

Here’s something from “the Papertrail”:

Check this thread:

Yes, I have this but I’d prefer to leave this as a last resort as I expect that they’re even more attractive to rats than other forms of rollers…

Makes sense, sorry I didn’t read your note on that in the post. Best of luck!

The very ingredients of a composition roller - homemade or otherwise - attracts vermin. And gummy bears do indeed make a ready-at-hand roller material. :o)
However, here is a formula simple in its making and produces a surface well-suited to ink retention: 13 parts hide glue; 3 parts glycerine; 3 parts molasses. This material will shrink or expand depending on ambient air conditions, but through experimenting, you will arrive at a mixture suitable to your surround. Have fun. Oh yes, unlike the gummy bear mix, do not eat the failed attempts of the aforementioned method. :o)

Dredging amongst the memories from way way back, I think, only think mind you that I recall that the trade (here in the UK folks like Usher Walker & Co) they added a little formaldehyde. They certainly sold two grades, one called tropical for use in the Southern US states and anywhere else on the warm side. And then the standard grade for everywhere else. It came in large fairly flexible slabs with cast shape like chocolate bars to aid breaking it apart.
The casting mould sets (many sizes of tube all strapped together) were called gatling guns. Once cast and cooled the the guns were pointed downwards &rollers were allowed to slide out slowly. Axles were held central with temporary metal ‘stars’ . In the very earliest times rollers came to bed with you, wrapped in flannel, down by your feet. Many UK rural country printers used to cast their own.

Yes indeed, formaldehyde can be added in order to deter vermin, as can borax or alum. The critters will still nibble - once. Properly stored though, rollers are safe from rodents. And never use a water-based solution to clean the rollers. Stick with kerosene (or ‘paraffin’ for the cousins). :o)

Thanks, I’ve added these to my list of possible recipes. I guess I’m looking for modern materials because obtaining hide glue is getting more difficult.

I may experiment with some eurethane/silicon casting products to see what will cast well with a good softness and tack to hold ink; something that’s cleanable and which doesn’t fall apart.

All I’m really looking for at this stage is some small adana-size rollers to make for letterpress friends.

A butyl rubber might well serve your needs. I use it for plaster casting moulds. It does shrink though. Any product having silicone ingredient will prove difficult to retain ink. Inexpensive, butyl rubber caulking is a good place to start experimenting. Hide glue is available through a number of sources: Lee Valley; reputable furniture/carpenter shops.

I’m wondering why you would want to use a gelatine roller in this day and age, as has been said they are prone to changes with atmospheric conditions and if you are a serious letterpress printer ideally you need to cut out all the variables you can. In this day and age with rubber or polyurathane rollers availabe it would pay you to use them. One of the last gelatine rollers I used was back in the early 1970’s and in hot
weather one melted on me over a 35” x 45” type forme and I spent the next couple of hours picking melted gelatine out of the type.
I use rubber rollers on my Adana, windmill and vertical miehle and would use polyurathane if there were problems with dust as they can be very good at picking up the bits.

The driver is just to be able to produce small rollers for adanas and the like. I’m experimenting with various compounds to try and find something that has a good softness, tack and lifetime. Even gelatine will work if it’s looked.

I have been grappling with recoating rollers for some time, using Davis PR1 (“Printers Roller?” Rabbit skin glue, NZealand origin, glycerine and molasses. Many recipes call for excess of water: as much as the glue will absorb. I now think this iswrong. Two vols. glue, one glyc.and 1/2 molasses. Enough water to form a gel, melt in double boiler, warm, mix and add other ingredients, then pressurise, and fill warmed moulds coated sparingly inside with release agent, eg hydraulic oil. I am now going to try cooking inner vessel in pressure cooker, to increase temp.over 100c. Synthetic rubber, & all very well, but compo rollers are still best. Good storage conditions are required, and as someone notes, oily solvents only to clean. They can be left with news ink on them. Protective coat the ends too. The ends of the stocks can be “primed” with neat glue, otherwise they tend to open up.

Your water observation is spot on. Excess liquid does exacerbate ambient condition swelling/shrinkage. I’ve not used a pressure cooker, instead, holding a temperature of 135deg.(F), stirring constantly, produces a good result. However, experimentation will lead to best product for you. Happy mixing. :o)