Rail tape - The war

OK - so lets’ hear it! What tape do you prefer for your rails, and why?

Masking tape? UHMW? Lets’ duke it out!

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I seldom tape my rails, mostly tape the trucks with electrical tape, the rails I would use masking tape.

I just turn the little adjusting screws under my rails to raise them up.

I use electrical tape on my rails because I happened to have a roll of it not doing anything. I have no idea whether something else would work better or not.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Gorilla Tape. Fabulous stuff. It does not compress.

I read somewhere that electrical tape on the rails caused somebody’s rollers to slip, and that this was solved by using masking tape.

M.E.R.T.’s =
Morgan Expansion Roller Trucks
Roller bearers, locked in each end of the chase. These may be fashioned out of inverted lino slugs. rules, type high hard wood or ?. Especially useful when rails are worn and bumpy.
Both of the above!
Thanks, no tape for me!

Tried electrical tape, tried gorilla tape, but they both dented after leaving the rollers on over-night. Used UHMW from Fritz and not touched the rail since.


Tracks need to be adjusted to the form height, and trucks need to be adjusted to roller diameter. Without that, all you get is roller slur.
Photopolymer requires a more precise adjustment than foundry type, but so do mixed forms. My dad used MERTs, and so did I until adding photopolymer: a hard transition, and in the end MERTS were abandoned, replaced by solid trucks. Now I keep a tape dispenser next to the platen, with .005” white drafting tape, and .0025” clear tape. Combinations of these work well, with occasional form underlays of glassine or onionskin. I install fresh tape if needed for the specific job conditions, which may be anything from handset to Lino or Ludlow slug, or several different photopolymer plates.
Nothing ruins established practices than a designer’s expectations, so either adjust methods to the job or choose the jobs that fit the method.

Hugo, I never leave my rollers on-press for any length of time, so I’ve never had a problem with denting. I also only have to use 3 or 4 strips of electrical tape as my C&P isn’t nearly as old or well-used as some of them out there so there’s not as much give as there might otherwise be. I do have to replace the tape fairly regularly as the oil and roller wash destroys the adhesive but it’s still probably going to take years for me to use up this one roll of tape.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

My press came with MERTs and I used them at first, but they gave me tons of trouble and in the end one of them literally crumbled to pieces in my hand. I bought some Delrin trucks from Fritz and started taping my rails instead. Much easier to maintain consistency in adjustment.

The problem I had with the MERTs was that a) they were very old and the rubber was hard (and as I found out, the pot metal castings were brittle) which made adjusting them extremely difficult, and b) that it was very hard to guarantee that all six were adjusted to the exact same size. Putting three strips of tape on each rail is far, far simpler.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

At one point years ago someone mentioned stainless steel adhesive tape which I think came from Grainger or a local well-stocked hardware store. I’ve seen stainless tape with adhesive and printed for measuring, as on a table saw or such. Seems like the stainless would be dent-proof and pretty impervious to solvent except at the edges.


Take this into account- the adhesive on that stuff is usually pretty thick and gummy. The steel might not dent easily, but the adhesive can compress over time.

Oh, and I’ve always used a combination of the hardest masking tape I can find beneath, and a layer of strapping tape applied quite carefully as the top layer.

I tape both my rails AND my trucks. I tape the trucks with a layer of electrical tape but the onlyt ape that works for me on the rails is strapping tape. I know it’s what Boxcar press uses and I find it doesn’t dent or compress much at all over time. I love it, and have had the same tape on my rails for almost two years. When I need to adjust up or down for a very large or small form (sometimes you need to adjust by one tape thickness to get perfect inking) I use artist tape (which is a nicer version of masking tape which won’t rip up the tape below). You can get strapping tape and artist tape in the 1/2” width needed for the rails.

I HATED electrical tape for the rails because it’s stretchy so as you tape it, it had the tendency to pull back on itself and then peel off the press. It’s also very soft, and compresses quickly. Plus, for me it’s not sticky enough, but it helped get the roller trucks up to the perfect heigh to get a full proper rotation with just two loops.