Casting Gummy Bear Rollers

[note added July 2010: When I originally posted this topic two years ago, I had no idea how successful and popular the process was going to be. Since that time, I’ve recieved literally hundreds of e-mails from folks all over the world who have made and are using Gummy Bear Rollers on their small presses. The response has been overwhelmingly positive…. and for one simple reason: They work!

Of all my crazy ideas, I think this one is my favorite! ]

OK…. I realize that most of you guys are going to think the entire idea to be crazy, but this last week I cast- up a set of rollers for my Kelsey 3 x 5….. using GUMMY BEARS as the composition…. and the dang things print pretty good!

The idea came to me after spending several days working with old composition roller formulas from “Moore’s Universal Assistant” from the 1880’s. Apparently the hide-glue of yester-year is different than that of today, because I failed miserably. To make matters worse, I smoked up the kitchen so badly that I’ve been banished to the basement for all futher roller-making experiments.

As luck would have it, on last Friday I happened to leave a bag of Gummy Bears in my car all day while at work. When I started to go home, I discovered that they had melted into one large Gummy Ameoba. Not being deterred by such things, I started to eat it anyway… and found that once cooled to room temperature it was about the same hardness as a Composition Roller.

Even my limited intellect could grasp the signifcance of this, so I went to Walmart, bought $10 worth of Gummy candy, melted them in a double boiler, and cast them into rollers. I found if you cook them for a few minutes, the resulting rollers are a bit harder.

They are rather odd looking…. being 4 different colors all swirled together, but they work like a charm! Of course you can’t use them with water-based ink, and need to make sure you don’t leave them on the ink-plate…. just like any composition rollers. BUT hey, for $10, they put down as good an ink coverage as anything I’ve used on a Kelsey. ( I don’t think i’m going to cast any for a C&P, though. )

So there you have it…. Gummy-Bear Rollers for a 3x5 press. It might sound crazy, but it does indeed work.

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:-) You can’t beat printers when it comes to resourcefulness and ingenuity. ~Barbara

This is the best thing I have heard in a long time. I wonder if you could print with an edible ink and just eat the rollers off the cores when you are done? Maybe not, but I still like the thought of it.


I didn’t consider the edibility of the rollers later! Wow… what a concept. I will admit that I ate the off-cuts after I trimmed the rollers to length. I figured the small amount of rust from the cores wouldn’t kill me. I probably need the iron anyway!

Your serendipitous moment saw (re)discovery of a common formula used in many a country shop during the latter part of the 19th Century. Gummy Bears contain those ingredients as well although proportions likely differ (hopefully!). A reason the candy worked was the addition of gum arabic to the mix of sugar, glycerine, and water. A touch of alum - as preservative - held the mice at bay. Not often used for press rollers because of pressure and heat problems, proofing brayers were well-suited for such material. You are to be congratulated for such asute observations and turning a messy mush into a useful material.
As for your difficulties with the hide-glue formula, try adding some grain alcohol to the initial swell water; it aids greatly in amalgamating sugars.

Forme- thanks for the tip. I’ll try that. One of the problems I had was the intial hydration of the glue… so that might solve the problem. One recipe in “Moore’s” calls for 1/2 shot of Rye. After working with the formula for a few days, I was assuming that the Rye was not to be added to the Composition, but rather to ease your disposition after the goo went lumpy.

Letterpress + Gummy bears = Two of my favorite things!

You are brilliant!

I know I’d just pull them off the press and eat them like a corndog!

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY


If that’s your style you’d want to melt these into rollers:

Please tell what you used for a mold/form and how you centered the core. Were you able to cast the roller to the same diameter as the trucks?

Inky…. that’s the easy part. Since the trucks are simple steel wheels, I used them as the ends of the mold. For the mold itself, I rolled drafting vellum, which is a thin but strong paper, into a tube the same diameter as the trucks. The trick is to paste the leading edge of the paper so that there is no loose flap inside. Then I used a few layers of tape to keep everything together. Apparently, Gummy bears do not sitck to drafting vellum, since the paper pealed right off. I suppose you could also use thin acetate, or metal.

To pour, you slip out the top truck, pour in the goop and then slip the truck back in. The only trouble you’ll have is getting it in without crimping the edge of the paper. I botched one roller that way. You have to be careful. If I were going to make a lot of rollers, I’d make a tapered wooden “truck” to prevent this problem.

The end result did have a tiny seam line where the paper overlaps….. but that is easy to fix by rolling the roller over a warm (not hot ) pancake griddle for 1/2 a second or so. The end result is a nicely round and centered roller, the same diameter as the trucks.

Over the week-end, I also cast a brayer and a set of rollers for a K. Star 7 x 10….. and they turned out fine.

Winking Cat have you thought of gummybearr ink balls

James- I haven’t tried GummyBear Ink balls. I made a nice leather covered ball for my Hand-press that works very well….. so I didn’t see the need for a gummy version.

winking cat press
Thank you for the prompt reply on the mold. That too is simple and ingeneous.

What does one use to wash up gummy bear rollers? The solvents don’t affect the gummy? Your simple (simply brilliant?) mold method makes me want to try my hand at casting rollers too (possibly something more traditional than gummy, though)!

Gilly- that is a very good question, and something I should have mentioned in my original posting.

Gummy Rollers are water soluble, just like any other composition roller. Therefore you cannot use any solvent that contains water. This includes many of the low VOC and “enviromentally friendly” press washes now on the market.

What I use is plain old mineral spirits. The rollers seem to be totally unaffected by it…. and they wash up well. Crisco also works, as does corn oil, soy oil, lamp oil, and/or kerosene.


What a great experiment! I have been (successfully but somewhat expensivley) casting rollers into under-the-sink drainpipes for my 6x10 Kelsey for a few months, but getting real hide glue and even glycerine has been a problem. I will be running out to Target tomorrow to get my supply of gummy bears. If my multi-coloured rollers hold up in this northern climate (Minnesota) , I’ll be happier than lark! I’ll let you know! Cheers!

- Denis

OK….. after using Gummy Rollers for a while, I’ve discovered a drawback to them: Mice like ‘em!

I’ve seen a field mouse or two outside my shop for years but didn’t think they ever got inside, and I’ve always left them alone. They are kind of cute with big ears, unlike rats who are mean and ugly. BUT this “live and let live” mouse policy might have to come to an end since they’ve crossed the fine line that is the threshhold of “annoying”.

I’ve only had one mouse attack so far, and it was apparently by a little guy, but he did some serious damage to one of my 3x5 rollers, gnawing a large hole right in the middle of it. It’ll have to be recast.

Right now, I’m debating the possible cures to this problem. I could either A- add something like alum to the mix to make it unpalatible for Mr. Mouse… or B- I can go after Mr Mouse and let him be an example to the rest of the rodent community. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

You might try just storing your rollers inside of a mouse cage. Keep them out instead of in! Add a humane trap along one outside edge and you then have the option of “relocating” the little pests to a less urban setting.

One final note about Gummy rollers- they work best on small presses like a 3x 5 or a 5x8. I’ve made numerous sets for all size presses in the last few months, and found that I like the smaller ones best. My 6 x 10 (1.25 dia) rollers did not turn out so well. Once you get larger than about 3/4” in diameter, the composition is too soft to stay round… they tend to go lumpy after a few hundred impressions. With smaller ones, this does not seem to happen.

winking cat — amazing! can you please (please) post a photo? I’m so curious to see what they look like.

Oh my!!!!

Costco sells a really big bag of Gummy Bears I think for around $5.00.

Has anyone tried the stuff dentists/orthodontists use to make an impression of your teeth? I think its a powder they add water or something to, then it turns rubbery very quickly.

Thank you for posting about the gummi bear rollers. I will probably try this.

I bought a really clean Kelsey 3x5 to have some fun with and make myself some unique business cards. Well, I didn’t realize that rollers would cost me another 150-200 bucks, and my plans have stopped in their tracks.

I still need type and ink but this could get me started.

Just want to add that I appreciate that NA & Tarheel are around and offer their support, I just can’t afford much right now.

WOW! Amazing. While I had heard stories of printers casting their own rollers a hundred years ago and had a great conversation with my friend Lou this week about how he makes his own rubber rollers, this gummi-bear solution is certainly one for the books!

Keep us posted on how these rollers hold up. And keep creating out-of-the-box solutions… No wonder that cat keeps winking… ;)



I tried your gummy bear suggestion today (only with Iceland Wine Gums) and I can’t seem to get them liquid enough to pour. I’ve melted them in a double boiler and they’ve turned into a delightful composition type goo, but not pourable into the mould.

Should I add a little glycerine do you think?


Matt, I don’t know about Iceland Wine Gums…. but they do sound tasty.

If they are too thick to pour, then one of three things is happening: A. they are not hot enough Or B…. they don’t have enough water in them. (or both) Or C…. you cooked them too long. The longer you cook ‘em, the thicker they get. Thick is not bad though, since it will make a stiffer roller…. as long as you can pour the mix. I’d try adding a teaspoon or two of water into the mix before you melt them…. and see if that helps.

I don’t think I’d use glycerine since that will result in a softer roller.

Alternatively, just go to your local store and buy gummy bears or worms. The worms seem to work best for me.

Well, I finally got a chance to try this out. I went to Target and found several candies with gummy in the name. Haribu said it was the original and there were gummy worms in a store brand. When I heated the store brand it was very thick and hard to manage. Then I tried the “original” one and it worked much better. I decided to make a monoprint plate first (like the gelatin monoprint plate but more lasting). The cheapo gummy plate did work pretty well. If I press my finger on the surface it stays indented for a while. Is that ok? The “original” plate is still cooling but seems to have the same consistency. My composition rollers have more spring to them. What I want is to make a large brayer to ink on my Poco. The brayer I paid a fortune for turned out to be about an inch to narrow. I wonder if it would be possible to cast over a wooden rolling pin?

Winking, stop this crap, what are you thinking, folks are expending money and energy on this.


What’s wrong with experimenting a little, if the chinese didn’t experiment we probably wouldn’t have moveable type, or maybe poly plates would have been invented hundreds of years ago. carry on Winking Cat, i’m behind you, just don’t ask me to send you my gummie bears. Dick G.

Gerald…. quit being a mean old curmudgeon. Gummy Bear rollers work quite well in the smaller sizes (especially for 3x5 or 5x8 presses) … and all of your mean-spirited “do it my way or it’s wrong” attitude doesn’t change that fact. Just because you wrote a marginal book on PP plates does not mean you can dictate what others in this movement do, or what they post in public forums.

I’m going to continue to experiment with Gummy Bear Rollers, Lazer-Engraved Blocks, Hand-Made Wooden Presses, Wooden Bases, Hand-inking and Solar Exposed PP Plates….. and I’m going to continue posting my results, and discuss them openly on this forum.

If you don’t like it, tough turkey!

Boys, boys
You are at it again. Please behave yourselves. You both have good stuff to contribute to this forum.
Please keep your personal exchanges of unpleasant comments to yourselves. Private messages for your personal exchanges, please.

well he started it! (hehehehe)

Are the rollers permanently sticky from the sugary stuff in them? And bravo for experimentation!!


forgot that part about composition rollers, Devil Tail brings up a good point, i am the proud owner of a 10x15 comp. roller feasted upon by mice, with gummy rollers mice will be the least of your problems, my wife and kids love gummie bears, they have never tried comp. rollers. still i want to try these gummie rollers myself. Dick G.

Does treacle taste good?

Portraitpainter- yes they do get sticky if they get wet. However, if you clean them with mineral spirits and keep them sprayed with PAM when you aren’t working they stay sticky-free.

Paul and Dick….. scroll up a few dozen posts. Mice love ‘em! When I first started with the Gummy Roller thing, I lost two sets to our furry little cousins! There is an easy solution to the problem: a cat. Ever since my first incidents, I let Spooky into the shop…… and viola! Problem solved.

mmckenzie, you can’t use gum drops. THey don’t work. I’ve made gummy bear rollers a few times and only the translucent, gummy kind work. The harder gum drops aren’t quite the right combination. I tried it with DOTS gum drops, thinking I’d get a harder roller, but I had the same problem as you: they don’t melt right, they just turn to glue.

Also, I made my molds by wrapping drafting velum around the trucks and core of an old roller. The first set failed because it stuck terribly to the vellum. Take care to dust your vellum with some cornstarch and this problem is eliminated.

Try again! I’ll see if I can’t find the photos I took of my rollers. It was quite some time ago, when I was trying to cross Batman and Betty Crocker by making ice cream with dry ice, and rollers out of candy. :)

My first attempt at casting gummy rollers resulted in an incredibly sticky, gooey substance that wouldn’t separate from the wax paper mold (not that it would’ve been much use if it did)

I was trying to cast a roller for my new Sigwalt Chicago #9.

Steps taken:

1. Wrapped the wax paper around the trucks and secured with tape.

2. Melted the gummy bears in a double boiler

3. Removed the top truck and poured the substance through a funnel (the paper mold got a bit cringed at that point)

4. Returned the top truck and held the mold vertically for a few minutes until the contents solidified a bit then left it to cool off in the freezer (standing vertically)

5. Attempted to remove the wax paper, only to discover that the contents were soft (though cold), and glue-like.

Oh well, back to the stove.

image: 4766292359_0b3c9f6640_b[1].jpg


Oprion….. Looking at your finished roller, I’d say you are 99% there. For your first try, it’s not too bad. With a few tweaks, you’ll be up and running.

First the mold part: Wax paper doesn’t work. It sticks to the gummies. (I see you learned that the hard way!) I use drafting vellum, sprayed with PAM…. and others use drafting vellum dusted with cornstarch. Acetate also works pretty good.

Second, the pouring: make a little stand by drilling a core-sized hole in a piece of wood. It’ll make your life easier. Also….. the crinkling part while trying to re-insert the truck is indeed a pain. I made a little tapered “truck”…. but the regular trucks can be used…. you just have to be careful.

Third… and most important….. the softness of the roller: Gummy rollers are soft by their nature. This is why I’ve limited my use of them to 5x8 size presses. BUT they should not be gooey or too soft to use even in the summer. If they are too soft, then their moisture content is too high….. either from humidity, the particular gummies you are using, or undercooking the mixture. To fix this, you need to cook the mixture longer in the double boiler.

Finally…. after you’ve cast your rollers, let them rest for a few days to cure. Gummy rollers tend to firm up after a week or so in a low humidity environment. I’m not sure why, unless the surface is drying out. If you live in a humid place give them a spray with PAM. It prevents them from soaking up humidity.

Thanks! I’ll keep trying.

oprion (& winking)…

Yes, indeed, some kind of oil or grease is the trick, both as a releasing agent for the paper mold and - especially - as a preservative for the rollers when not in use. Back in the olden days we ALWAYS oiled the rollers with 3 in 1 oil before putting them to bed.

As for sticky gummi bears, you might try this, especially if you are casting a larger roller. Add one package of unflavoured gelatin to the batch for every ten ounces or so of gummi bears. Follow the package directions: soften the gelatin in about a teaspoon of water for three or four minutes, then melt it further in another two teaspoons of very hot water. Don’t add more than a tablespoon of water total or you will have too much moisture again. When all of the gummis are melted in the double boiler, gently stir in the melted gelatin and cook until thick, but not so thick that the mixture is hard to pour. Be patient with the setting time after casting, letting the roller rest upright at room temperature in as dry a place as you can find. 24 to 36 hours works up here in the northland. As soon as you remove the mold and flatten the little ridge (see above) oil up the roller with some Pam or light machine oil and let them cure for two days, as winking suggests.

I have run quite a few impressions with two gummi bear rollers on my Kelsey 6x10 model X, including 3-colour coasters, and have been pleased with them. If you keep your rollers oiled with light machine oil in a tightly lidded box you have a good chance of repelling vermin, too.

Let us know how the next batch turns out.


I wonder how swedish fish would do…

Onemangerpress…. the bigger question is how do they taste when fried up?

onemangerpress…. I haven’t tried swedish fish, but I have tried lutefisk… don’t bother….

: )

I can’t afford new comp (or rubber) rollers, so I’ve been eyeing this as soon as mine degrade away completely.

So in about six months I’ll chime in…


I guess I’m not the only one who finds the idea of this more than a little strange, (bielerpr) and while I wouldn’t go with anything like this, to each his own…

Tim….. you are right, on one’s first casual glance casting rollers out of gummy bears does seem to be a bit wierd….. and might could be viewed as a “fringe element” of letterpress printing.

BUT if you consider the facts, it’s not strange at all. As Mr Forme has pointed out, a Gummy Bear Roller is nothing more than an old-style composition roller created using an easily available raw material. Chemically, they are very similar to the old formulas listed in “Moore’s” and other reference works….. and they handle and print just like more traditional compo rollers.

So… why would one cast their own rollers in the first place? Well…. for starters they are very cheap. They cost perhaps 1/10th of what a vendor supplied roller will cost. That in itself is a BIG inducement to try them. Also, by making your own rollers, you can learn a lot about how things were done back in the 1880’s.

And face it, it’s fun to experiment and learn how to do things for one’s self! Who wants to just print with the same old store-bought rollers, PP plates, and Lettra paper all the time? That get rather boring after the first few weeks.


“Winking” is right… the molasses/glycerin/glue formula of the 19th century is not that far off from the food grade ingredients in the gummi candy. That’s why the gelatin seems to work, being not that different from bone glue. Whle I use gummi bear rollers with success, I still prefer the look, feel and performance of the traditional compo rollers. For the short runs and not too demanding formes I deal with on my small tabletop presses, the gummi bear solution works fine. If I were still printing on my old C&P, I don’t think I’d attempt it.

And, of course, there’s the fun of making things by yourself that actually work. My own home-made roller cores work well on the Kelsey, but a bigger press would probably be too much for them.


I get it…it’s neat to do things by hand with traditional methods from the 1800’s… all I’m saying is it’s not for me.
I didn’t come into letterpress through graphic design or as a hobby, it not just something to have fun with in my garage, not that there is anything wrong with that. I have several clients that I have trained and helped set up garage/hobby set ups.
But I was an apprentice for 2 years and it took me lot of learning to even get on press. Now I have a shop with 7 presses and I run them all…I run a production shop and as Denis said above..a Gummi Bear roller is good for something….just not for me.
I think there is always room to improve, after 25 years I still try and learn something new everyday.

Like I said…to each his own….

Yes. With my Model No 3 actually came a brass roller-mould, so I had to try it out (especially as I had no working rollers).

In my search for the right recipe I’ve put four extracts from 19c texts on my website: http/ for your entertainment and, as you say, gummie bears contain the active ingredients!

Eventually I bottled out and got them covered in rubber, although funnily enough, even Bottcher had to have three goes at getting the right consistency.

Just tried gummy bear rollers for my 1881pearl ended up sticky. followed instructions melted bears, made mold stired bears till melted then poured into mold.
mixtured appeared a bit thin, should I have heater a bit more.
looked at all suggestions but nothing about when to take off heat.Can some one help

Good Morning Kid,

Were your rollers too soft? or too sticky?

To make them firmer, you need to keep them heated for a little longer to drive out some of the moisture in the gelatin. I’d love to tell you how long, but I can’t since all Gummie Bears are not created equal. I cook mine for 15 minutes beyond when they melt, and stir them to keep them from going clumpy.

STICKY Gummies are a different problem. Stickiness is caused by surface moisture on the roller. With that, it all depends upon the humidity inside your shop. IF you have an air conditioned shop, it’s easy to cure: just let your rollers cure for a few days to let the surface moisture evaporate. After about a week, the surface will go leathery….. then they are ready to use.

If you have a very humid shop, then you’ll have to do a little more work. I run into this problem all the time, since I live on the Gulf Coast. I’d recommend curing them somewhere dry and warm….. your closet maybe… for a few days until the surface is leathery, and then applying an oil coating to keep the moisture from attacking them.

If you have rollers that are both soft and sticky….. then you either need to cook them longer, OR find another brand of Gummie Bears. When you are looking at them in the store, select the ones that are harder, rather than softer…. and buy the cheap ones. I’ve heard that fancy ones don’t do as well.

AKA Winking Cat Press

Dave Thanks for the help will let you knkw how I go


Dave one more question
use vellum paper for mold have been leaving paper on rollers for 24 hours should it be longer or shorter

Here is page 3 now the question do you want the entire thing there are fonts and pictures of there presses I believe it was printed about 1960 there is a 1965 calendar but I dropped out of printing and earned my living as a radio man.

image: Kelsey P3 002.jpg

Kelsey P3 002.jpg

Okay, I really have to do this:

This is 100 percent on the dumbest, naivest, what were you thinking scale.


Yes, well, Sidney:

Briar Press limits the size of photo files that can be posted. So if you have something you’d like to share that requires a larger file size, you need to post a link to a file-sharing site.

You might have a look at Check to see whether your catalog is already included, and if not, consider uploading it there.

In any case, this thread may be the last place someone looks for a link to the Kelsey catalog. Perhaps start a new thread with a title something like, “Kelsey catalog.”


Yeah Sid…. listen to Barb: this particualr thread is about Casting Gummy Bear Roller, not about old Kelsey Catalogs. You are diluting the Pure Essence of the Gummy, dude.

Im still trying to work out if the cat is winking or its eyes are distorted due to trying to control its laughter !!!

its his eyes that are distorted not from laughter but from eating all the extra gummie bears. i heard that he buys 10 pounds of gummies to make one pair of 3x5 rollers, that would leave about 9 pounds of gummies to eat.

that’s the beauty of the gummy bear roller concept: if you mis-cast a few rollers you can always just eat ‘em! (BUT I’d caution against eating rollers that you’ve printed with. The residual ink and mineral spirits tends to throw the flavor off a bit)

Sid, not to worry, i enjoyed seeing the old catalogue, gave me something to look at while eating my gummy rollers.

I notice there are no green ones in the pot!
Winking cat ……
If this works based on the principle of the original gooey rollers then would you not be able to clean the ink off your old rollers cut and remelt the goo and just re cast the original material ?? I know absolutely nothing about rubber , no not even those strange uses …..

Actually Peter, you are right. As Forme pointed out a few years ago, Gummy Bear Rollers are chemically the same as the composition rollers of yesteryear, and can be melted and recast a number of times.

And like old compo rollers, they have similar problems: they don’t like water-based ink, or high humidity; Mice will chew them up; and they’ll develop flat spots if you leave them on the disc too long.

BUT in spite of their problems, they are really neat for two reasons: 1. they are something you can do yourself, at home….. and 2. They are CHEAP, CHEAP to make. A nice set of 5x8 Kelsey Rollers will set you back about $5….. and you’ll still have some Gummies left over!

Peter Luckhurst on 6 Feb 13 (13:10)

Im still trying to work out if the cat is winking or its eyes are distorted due to trying to control its laughter !!!


I have always thought the same. Amazing if just a hoax. Makes you like why bother? if folks are that naive.


Gerald ,
I have seen some of the crankiest things work in printrooms , it is the outlandish idea of using jelly babies that makes me watch this post rather than attempt it .
Having said that, as i wrote the other day i dont see why you would not just re utilise the original goo (we call them treothene) . I may be tempted to do it one day but i dont think i will try with jelly babies though !

Gerald / Peter….. While I too think that the idea sounds crazy on first glance, the truth is that Gummy Bear Rollers are not a hoax, and actually work quite well in smaller sizes. I’ve been using them on a 5x8 for about five years now….. and so have a number of my fellow printers and printmakers. They are a viable alternative to spending several hundred dollars on factory-made rollers….. which in todays economy is a lot of money.

Peter: treothene? Really? where is a small / amateur printer supposed to get 6 ounces of an obsolete roller making material? If you know of a source, then post it. If it’s a viable material, I’d be glad to try it. I’m not shy about trying new materials and methods.

If after reading all of the discussion you still don’t get it, them maybe you are too tightly wound and need to loosen up a bit. You are starting lean toward curmudgeonery again.

Well I guess I will try Gummy Bear rollers. I bought about $5 worth of em. I have 2 sets of rods that have been around for 50 years only a piece of string that was wound around the rods is still there. Do you replace that string? I have cleaned off both sets of rods and will get the paper tomorrow. Thanks for all the info.

Oh one other thing it was not mice that ate it it was roaches. They ate holes in the first set while I was in the Army and I replaced them but over 50 years they ate it to nothing but the rods.

Doesn’t Tarheel Roller & Brayer still make composition rollers? from the very smallest presses to well, even the larger Vandercooks. Not all that expensive from what I can tell. Best of all, they are made correctly, no fuse, no muse, and you can get back to what you are actually here for, printing. Shouldn’t these folks be supported? you know, before they go away?


What is the size of the Kelsey 5X8 rollers? My trucks are 1 and 1/8 around but I see them quotred at 1 and 1/4

(1”) - 3 x 5 Kelsey
(1 1/4”) - 5 x 8 Kelsey
(1 1/4”) - 6 x 10 Kelsey
(1 1/2”) - 7 x 11 Kelsey
(1 1/2”) - 9 x 13 Kelsey

I must have the wrong gummy bears. when heated it does not pore they just become soft and sticky. I tried a microwave last melts to a point but does not flow. Boiled all over place when I wasn’t looking I will put paper under Pyrex bowl next time.

Sidney….. not all Gummy Bears are created equal, but most can be used successfully. I’ve never used a microwave, so I can’t help you there. But for the not melting sufficiently problem, here’s the solution:

1. use a very slow melting temp. I use a double boiler. If you try to melt them too fast, you drive off all of the water, and they do what you described.

2. if they melt to a too thick consistency, all you have to do is add a little…. just a very little…. water, and let it disolve into the melted mixture.

3. use a softer Gummmy to start with. In my experience, the worms actually work better

When the mix is melted right, it will pour about like honey.

now he tells us worms work better, since i’ve tried this i have ate 10,000 gummie bears and gained at least 50 lbs. all kidding aside i only tried this once, the rollers didn’t quite make it but were close, i don’t think i cooked them enough, although the mice were happy.

Heck, I thought Sydney was making a fairly good case.



I’m actually quite surprised by your attitude towards gummi-bear rollers. While there are many ‘proper’ alternatives, I think this kind of amateur experimentation is healthy. Not everybody is interested in letterpress to turn a profit, or to get on with printing. Some people are interested in the technology of letterpress as well. If you’re content with keeping things status-quo, what point in time have you selected as the point where development should have ceased?


No clue who you are, but I have never not been interested in the technology of letterpress. WITF do gummi-bears have to do with that?



It’s about experimentation. Advances in technology don’t drop out of the sky, they come from science and experimentation. While gummy bear rollers may not be the next big thing in ink roller technology, the thought process surrounding the making of them might lead to something innovative.


And for some reason you think I am incapable of experimentation or pursuing advances in technology?

Personally, I don’t find substituting an iffy formula for making composition rollers (which have been around since 1812) all that experimental or furthering the cause, especially since there are tried and true roller manufacturers still out there. If this improved printing in some manner, sure. But it doesn’t.


HA! HA! I think someone has got someones Goat.

I figured it out, Gerald just don’t like gummie bears.

Yup, doesn’t take more than arrogant stupidity to do that.

I dont think Keelan has stalked you on the net yet Gerald !!

have certainly done my research on Gerald, that is why I am baffled by his continued insistence that this entire gummy bear roller thing is sheer ‘arrogant stupidity’. It seems to me that someone who posits themselves as an educator would be open to experimentation.

Like I said before, gummy bear rollers are probably not an ideal alternative to traditional composition rollers, but the act of experimentation is what is important. You’re so wound up in calling us all idiots that you can’t seem to see that.

Keelan….. you might as well be argueing with a piece of moldy cheese. Thinking about it, the cheese is probably more open-minded about things that vary from it’s very narrow cellophane wrapper.

Actually, that attitude is not surprising to me at all. It is typical of what I’ve seen in many, many acedemics, college professors, pseudo-intellectuals and so forth….. especially in California, and on some parts of the East Coast. For whatever reason, they always try to establish a “Priesthood of Knowledge” and attempt to belittle or shout down anyone who fails to see things their way.

I think it comes from spending too many years in an environment where the only people they are exposed to were other college professors, mindless followers or students who dare not challenge them. They develop a sort of “Superiority Complex”, and actually start to believe their rhetoric.

It’s funny….. but the old adage: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” is totally applicable here.

Have you SEEN the prints Gerald did with Aaron Horkey?!

Pretty sure the man can ‘do’….. I’ve seen them in person and will attest to that!

(though I cannot speak for his cranky nature, I know the man can crank a press well and it doesn’t sit well for you to suggest otherwise.)


I’m not-affiliated. I teach part time at a couple of art and design colleges. That doesn’t make me an academic. If I was I wouldn’t be here, like most academics I’d be afraid of saying something that would come back to haunt me.

You once told me in a private post that you don’t give your name out because you didn’t want your clients to see your posts. And you’ve mentioned here that you have students. What’s up? Winking on Briar is just your fun place persona? Don’t have to be accountable because no one knows who you really are?


@Dave. Really? That old trope about those who can’t do, teach? Really? Gerald can print rings around almost anyone on this list, and his years of experience give him the right to his own opinion, which is also shared by many of us.

My personal opinion is that if we as printers fail to support the other businesses that make up this industry (plate makers, roller makers, &c.) we will find that one day they too will no longer exist. Gummy bear rollers are not the same as composition roller no matter how much you whine that they are.

I’m happy for you that you believe that you must re-invent printing by building your own presses, and making your own plates and rollers, more power to you, but do not assume that because we don’t that we, in your words spend, “too many years in an environment where the only people they are exposed to were other college professors, mindless followers or students who dare not challenge them.”

Gerald has taught for years because of the love of his craft, just as I taught book arts for several years at a University although I have only taken one college course in my entire life. We give back because we respected our teachers who felt they were passing the torch - not re-inventing the wheel. What one does well in his/her life should be respected, something with which you seem to have trouble.



Please knock this nonsense off. For god’s sake, I encourage experimentation and advances in technology at every turn. I was literally crucified by traditionalists for bringing out my book on photopolymer plate printing and even further for putting up the PPletterpress list.

Yes, I do not encourage the re-inventing of over 560 years of technical printing progress, because frankly, I do believe that is idiotic. Our predecessors knew what they were doing, period, the progression makes sense. It may have happened differently but it certainly would not have been regressive, or it would have failed.

I would not in any way trust in the proclamations of the contemporary D[ope]IY crowd when it comes to letterpress printing. You really cannot re-invent the wheel.


Gerald might come on as a grumpy old guy, but i know deep inside he can’t be to grumpy, he has been sharing his knowledge here for years, and one thing you can say about him is that boy sure can print, One day when i’m as old as him i hope i can print half as well as he does. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and we must all respect that. Dick G.


I read today that anyone born in 2013 had a life expectancy of 150 years.

Wow, at 66, looks like I am going to “live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse.” That quote is from the first youth movie, can’t recall it’s title, cause, ya know, I’m old.


I’ve already started getting my replacement parts.


Well, if folks live to be 150, half the population of the earth won’t even know who they are.

The movie was Live Fast, Die Young (1958). Memorable.


Paul, i’ve heard that you have been rebuilt from the bottom up, just need a wash and wax and your as good as new. Gerald i’m a lot younger than you at 64 i’ve been lucky, most of my closest friends never made it to 60, i guess growing up next power lines and beside the town dump took its toll. Back in the 1960s the power company i heard dumped that asian orange on their lines to keep the brush down. We always ate the berries growing under the power lines and played in the hazardous waste at the dump, good times.

to dickg

Is it really true that asian orange (Agent Orange) was used in public places in U.S.A.?


To others, I think this is not the forum for deep (dangerous) discussion on ethics and attitudes.

By the way, one of our best friends was a lecturer in Pittsburgh.


I never checked into it, i don’t remember the leaves falling off or drying up like they would if they used this stuff, others told me they tried it on the lines next to our house, the worst thing was the town dump, they would burn the dump every night, i can still smell that smell. I didn’t mean to start something else, you are right lets stick to letterpress.

Gerald, you said

” I was literally crucified by traditionalists for bringing out my book on photopolymer plate printing…. “

Yes you were. I knew you back then, and I remember it well. It was unfair to you, and I know it was tough, but eventually your work was accepted. Actually, if you remember correctly, some of us encouraged your work and helped push it to the forefront. Nobody here doubts or questions your technical abilities. they are excellent.

BUT look at yourself now….. you have become just like those who crucified you years ago. Instead of encouraging experimentation, you try to suppress it…. I can bring up countless instances in the last five years of your telling people “that won’t work” when in fact the subject at hand had hundreds of years of working practice behind it.

Instead of an open mind, you now have a closed one. In your way of thinking, if it’s not high-precision mid 1950’s technology, with a few changes that you deem acceptable, (like pp plates) then it’s wrong.

You also said…. “Yes, I do not encourage the re-inventing of over 560 years of technical printing progress, because frankly, I do believe that is idiotic….”

Taken at it’s face value, then you are saying that folks like Ian Robertson who used Gutenberg handpresses are idiotic? All of those were home-made. Or Steve Pratt who made replica presses was idiotic? They were “reinventing 560 year old technology” too. I know you think that a wooden proof press is stupid, because you’ve said so here on Briar Press….. What about typecasters? Are they idiotic too? What about roller makers? why are store-bought compos automatically better than Gummie Bears? Chemically they are almost identical.

So why are all of these ideas stupid, but your use of an obsolete Vandercook is not stupid? You are being hypocritcal here….. saying that the use of obsolete technolgy is stupid, while at the same time making a living using obsolete technology. You are nowadays the epitomy of what you yourself used to rant against when you were younger. You’ve changed, my friend….. gotten old and inflexible. It’s a shame.

I used to have a lot of respect for you and your work. Now, i still acknowlege your techincal skills, but my respect for you as an individual is strained.

As far as who I am, I’m nobody. I don’t claim to have invented anything, nor do I claim to be the Great all-knowing Guru and Grand Arbiter of what constitutes Fine Printing. Instead I just report what I’ve been working on that might interest others, and encourage folks to experiment with both old (making wooden presses and rollers) and new (the use of lasers to carve woodcuts) technologies….. and every now and then I challenge the Gurus, Grand Arbiters, and nay sayers who tend to throw a wet blanket on everything..

Never argue with fools. They simply drag you down to their level, then beat you with experience. This site is not a forum for exchange of ideas, rather, it is a corral of orthodoxy. “It can’t be done” is cast in stone. Or polyplate as the case may be.

Forme…. once again you are right. Discussions about unorthox methodologies with some folks is futile. It’s the same sort of mindset that crops up when folks debate religious matters: some simply can’t grasp the concept that there isn’t a single “Path.” or that they may be incorrect. In their minds, that would be blasphemy.

If Gerald and company don’t get it, then they just don’t get it. It’s pretty obvious that they’ll never venture outside of their pre-prescibed way of thinking….. oh well, that’s their loss.

@ Forme. I guess your comments work both ways. I find the group of people who cast off the ‘“orthodoxy” of 5 1/2 centuries of printing and get their panties in a wad over rollers made from candy to be incapable of understanding that some people find it to be a total waste of time and effort.

Paul, i find all this about melting gummies made me think (probably the first time in a while) could you melt old comp rollers and recast the old material?? I know the old timers used to recast their own rollers, would they remelt or use new composition material. This interests me cause i have a lot of table top presses and simply can’t afford new rollers for each one. I did try the gummies once, one roller didn’t look so hot but the other one came out pretty good but when i tried to ink the press (a 3x5 Kelsey) i couldn’t get the rollers to take ink. Then the mice came, yummie gummie rollers and pms 347, they had a feast.

@dickg. Yes, you can remelt old composition rollers and make new ones. The type foundries used to sell roller molds, but I have never seen one. John Bright used to make rollers for his Sigwalts using PVC pipes. I gave up on composition rollers when I lived in the south, they swelled too badly. I could hardly get a job printed before they were unusable. I think the investment in rubber is best.


From (former) experience, rubber-covered rollers proved the least troublesome, and the longest-lived. However, composition-type material gave the best inking. They were very susceptible to humidity change though: winter they shrank, summer they swelled. Thus, in the ‘olden’ days, two sets (appropriately used) were kept at hand. Re-melting for casting anew was tricky. Trying to recover as much material as possible often led to an ‘over-melt’ condition that dramatically altered the balance of glue/glycerine/carrier. And guessing as to replenishment amounts often turned into a ‘Skunk Holler” brew pot. But in a country shop, with newspapers selling for 5 cents apiece, filled in counters were placed a distant second to keeping overhead down. :o) And from that (former) experience, there was more than ‘gummybear’ materials used to keep the ‘out’ basket cleared and the till filled. One never knew what would serve until it was tried. Heck, the under packing on my Pony Miehle was green rollerblind material. ‘Unorthodox’ perhaps, but it did a great job. As tympan underpacking an ordinary bedsheet was used on a couple of jobs. I was complimented on the pattern introduced on a poster printed using wood type. The actual tympan was flax seed box liner. Better, in my experience than ‘traditional’ oiled packing; less expensive by far, and it ran longer with less second-side set-off too. Never know what works until you try it. Re-invent the wheel? Why not? From Egypt to the last Daytona race that’s done every day. :o)

Press man have and always will find something that works in a needful moment , me i will use rizla papers to patch the back of one lettr at a time if thats quickest and will live out the run .
i see the point of the post in that it drags the old methods out of the dick gs of the world , I know the dis advantages to the goo rollers too ,it is this that makes the post cringeworthy . However if the job requires you use soft rollers then so be it . I have split jobs to two runs for the want of soft rollers ,unfortunately i have a preference for rubber due to easy care and hard wearing .

Well, I’m not going to enter into the traditional versus experimental stuff flying back and forth, or the pros and cons of gummi bears versus worms, etc. I just want to say how much I LOVED reading all of these posts (except when winking and gerald were going at it)…I laughed until I cried imagining the side conversations about gummi bear rollers…if you use soy based ink, can you lick them to clean them, and get some protein as well as sugar, etc etc etc…
Best laugh I have had in some time…wish I still had my kelsey to give it a try! Any gummi bear suggestions for a poco O?