Cold ink

What can you add to ink on press to increase the flow? It’s about 55 degrees in my shop today (New Jersey) and I’m getting rather sparse coverage. I’ve got the heat on but this studio just doesn’t get that warm in the winter without it costing me a fortune in electricity! Any suggestions?

I’m running a Heidelberg 10x15, FYI. The form rollers are old, but do fine when the temperature is warmer.

You can see an image here:

Log in to reply   10 replies so far

You want a magic ingredient to add to your ink. I have none.
What you really need to do is heat your press and the pressperson. I have a shop with an 18’ ceiling and the roof is not insulated. It would cost a fortune to try to heat the place.
I can heat a much smaller part of the space.
I build a crude framework of 1x2 and 2x2 lumber around the press and typesetting station. It is screwed together. I cover the sides and top with plastic sheeting. There is a vertical overlap in the front for entry. An electric heater is placed inside. It heats the press and ink and makes them happy. I take the whole thing down in the Spring.
You would also benefit from keeping the ink and rollers in the warmer house when not in use.
Get some ink on your shirt.

I recall someone posting once about something you can add to your ink to help loosen it a bit if too stiff (in my case, b/c of the cold), so that’s why I asked the question. I have plenty of ink on my shirt and under my nails. I’m cranking the heat tonight and hopefully it’ll be more hospitable to ink flow tomorrow.

How are you heating?

I suggest overhead radiant heaters. Radiant heat warms people and things… not the air, which will mostly heat your ceilings. So, while your air temperature my still be cool, your work and workers can be functional and comfortable.

A pocket infrared thermometer can be used to check the temperature of your ink-train. ;-)

sometimes I run an electric heater close to the press I’m running, warm ink and presses make for happier pressmen.

ink reducer, most ink suppliers have their own make, google ink reducer to find some, a fan heater is a good idea too,


Throws off quite a bit of heat….maybe more than needed.

image: light.jpg


image: photo(2).JPG


image: photo(1).JPG


Watch those heat lamps. They will cook your rubber rollers (DAMHIKT). I keep one on my Windmill and aim the light at the bare ink drum. When I have to deal with cold ink, I set it atop the ink drum (1 lb cans) and within 15 minutes the ink at the top of the can is soft and ready to go.

Preheating the ink also reduces the amount of skin you take off when taking the dried skin off of oil based ink.

My shop is fairly large and sometimes quite cool. I have used a small electric cup heater (just a heated pad on which you may put your coffee cup to keep it slightly warm. Just put your metal ink can on it while you are setting up the form, and the ink will warm up sufficiently to flow better.

Of course that effect is only temporary, and you would have to use other means as mentioned, to get the cold iron of the ink plate up to temp. I have heard of folks draping an electric blanket over the press a short time before printing to help warm it up. That would provide a gentle heat.

John Henry

Shackleton’s 1907-09 Antarctic expedition took a table top Albion press and type, and a lithographic press, and printed to occupy the polar winter and to raise morale. The four expedition members who acted as printers noted some of their difficulties:

“Dust from the stove fills the air and settles on the paper as it is being printed … If anything falls on the floor it is done for; if somebody jogs the compositor’s elbow as he is setting up matter, and upsets the type into the mire, I can only leave the reader to imagine the result. The temperature varies; it is too cold to keep the printer’s ink fluid; it gets sticky and freezes. To cope with this a candle was set burning underneath the plate on which the ink was. This was alright but it made the ink too fluid, and the temperature had to be regulated by moving the candle about. Once the printers were called away while the candle was burning … When they returned they found that the plate had overheated and had melted the inking roller … it was the only one on the Continent and had to be recast … So much for the ordinary printing. The lithography was still worse.”

I used a portable space heater to heat up the metal rollers on the press and also kept the ink in a heated bathroom overnight. The ink was like creamy flowing butter this morning, not the sticky, gooey mess from yesterday. Much improvement.