Composition vs. Rubber Rollers

I recently acquired a C&P 8 x 12 that needs new rollers. I have cores and trucks for it and will likely be investing in a boxcar base. My question is which rollers should I go with — composition or rubber?

Also, does anybody have experience with Tarheel Roller or would you recommend getting them from NA Graphics?


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i’ve never dealt with Tarheel, but never heard anything bad about them, they are about the only ones in the country making composition rollers, myself i like rubber better, they last longer, get the softest rubber you can.

Best Rubber Rollers around, my opinion
Best Service
Best Price

Ramco Roller Products
241 W Allen Ave
San Dimas, CA 91773-1439
Phone: (909) 592-1002

T & T Press Restoration

Go with Ramco. Adrian and Jayne are great.


Personally, I find that composition rollers generally perform better then rubber, give a more even inking (and and require less ink on the disk), are more forgiving to typehight difference between elements. Smell nice too. On the other hand, they only last for a couple years, are very susceptible to environmental changes, swell up, shrink down, develop multiple pits, become sticky, deform if left on the press for any length of time, are harder to clean (especially once the pitting starts).

What’s the average lifespan for rubber rollers (used infrequently and stored indoors)?
Composition ones start to disintegrate after about 4 years.

I love my Tarheel composition rollers - they’re a bit more delicate than rubber, but also much softer. Having said that, NA Graphics is one of the most reputable dealers around, and their products are first rate. I don’t think you could go wrong either way.

#oprion - my composition rollers are over 5 years old - and no noticeable deterioration so far. Of course, I store them in the box when not in use.

way back in the 1960’s we used 2 different kinds of composition rollers, a summer and a winter roller. Bill is right, they print well but do swell and seem to get hard after a while, i haven’t bought composition rollers for at least 20 years, the last pair i had on my c&p fell victim to mice, they ate right down to the core in the center, last summer my composition rollers on my kluge stuck to the ink disc on a hot humid day, but these rollers have to be around 20 years old. I prefer rubber, around 20 durometer, i run my presses daily and the last time i bought rollers was 10 years ago. My last rollers came from Rhode Island, Roller Craft, but everyone i have talked to lately can’t say enough good things about Ramco, i chatted with him and my next rollers will be from tham.

Received a new set of rolls from Ramco about a month ago and they are great. It is the only place I will buy rolls in the future. I have had the same set of rubber rolls in my Golding jobber for the past five years,they are still in great shape.

Don’t use composition rollers with photopolymer plates, it will only give you grief. Tarheel knows this, and on their website recommended rubber rollers for photopolymer and composition for anything else.

Everything above is good advice but I would add that if you intend to go with Photopolymer then get rubber or pvc rollers. I say this because composition would give problems because they swell, and you would be adjusting rollers a lot of the time. With rubber or PVC once set well rarely touched again.NA Graphics has great rollers.
If I was printing type, old blocks, or say linocuts/woodcuts I would love get some composition rollers. they carry ink so well. PVC is a great compromise but they may not be available in the USA.

I also have experience with Ramco rubber rollers. I have purchased over 20 sets from them for my own collection of presses, sales of cores and trucks I make, and press restorations done for resale. I am very pleased with the quality and price of the product and the speed and congeniality of the service.


Thanks for all of the great replies! I’m going to give Ramco a call today and see about ordering from them.

Thanks Again,


As did I. Stored in a wooden box, in-house, only cleaned with kerosene and mineral spirits, never left them on the press, gave a thorough wash-up after each print job. In four years small pits started to appear. In five pits covered pretty much the entire surface of both rollers. Another half-year, and the rollers swelled up and started sticking to one another in the carriage. To tell the truth, even swollen and hole-ridden they printed better then rubber ones, but this was clearly the sign to let go, when one of the rollers tore-up on the disk.


Well, now that you mention it, there are some small pits, so I guess I should start saving for the eventual purchase of new rollers.

An important maintenance issue with composition is that they should be coated with machine oil when left unused for any period of time. This takes just a minute and will allow for much longer storage. I’ve got Tarheel rollers that have been stored (in a box) for the past 5 years and they are ok. It doesn’t hurt to recoat them every two or three years. If concerned, Tarheel does make a “all season” roller compound, which while not quite as soft, is still softer and more receptive of ink than rubber.

Tarheel contacted me today and said for the time being they are no longer offering composition rollers.

I wonder if they have run out of molasses?

This started as a older post. I would say the days of Composition are gone unless someone can buy the system and start it up again. Rubber manufactures have been working to better understand the needs of letterpress with blends of rubber getting softer. A lot has to do with roller maker what they are buying and giving you.