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Inking Apparatus

The substitution of rollers for balls required a different apparatus for the taking of ink.

Mr. Edward Cowper, of the late firm of Applegath and Cowper, claims the invention of the first apparatus, for which the firm took out a patent. Mr. Cowper kindly favoured me with drawings, and the following description, in the year 1818.

“The apparatus consists of an inking roller, a distributing table, and an ink trough.

“The inking roller is made of wood covered with the elastic composition, [treacle and glue,] it is about three inches diameter and eighteen or twenty inches long, according to the length of the form; it is furnished with two handles which are fixed to the spindle on which the roller turns; the spindle passes through the roller so that when one handle is moved the other is moved also; the handles stand over the roller at right angles to it, this position being from practice found most convenient; a small leg projects from one of the handles, which prevents them from falling on the table and becoming soiled.

“The distributing table is of wood covered with a sheet of lead as level as possible; and the frame on which it stands is of cast iron.

Apparatus consisting of an inking roller, a distributing table, and an ink trough
Apparatus consisting of an inking roller, a
distributing table, and an ink trough Enlarge

“The ink trough is fixed at one edge of the table, and is composed of a metal roller, turned true, and a thin plate of steel, the edge of the plate presses against the metal roller by means of levers and weights, the ink is placed between the steel plate and the metal roller.

“When the metal roller is turned round it becomes covered with a film of ink, the inking roller is then dabbed against it, and rolled backwards and forwards on the distributing table in different directions; it is then passed two or three times over the form.

“The advantages of this mode of inking are considerable; it is much easier to use than the balls, produces better work, and saves in balls and ink not less than five shillings per week. Its peculiar recommendation is the great regularity of colour which may be obtained, and the delicate manner in which the letter is touched, advantages which render it applicable to the finest specimens of typography.”

Foster's inking apparatus
Foster's inking apparatus Enlarge

The following account is extracted from Hansard's “Typographia.”
“A more simple and cheap apparatus for this purpose was immediately got up by Mr. Foster, the inventor of the composition balls. It is a stand having its two legs and feet of cast-iron; and its top, upon which the ink is distributed, instead of lead, as in the former apparatus just described, is mahogany. Behind this, elevated about two inches, is the stage for taking the ink on to the roller. At either end of the stage is a recess for receiving the contrivance which contains the ink. This is similar in shape to the brayer formerly used; but turned hollow, with the handle and top to screw on; at the bottom are holes, and when the ink is wanted on the stage, the workman, taking hold of this bottle-brayer, moves it from one recess to the other, drawing it slowly along the Stage. In this movement the ink, by its own gravity, will issue out from the holes at the bottom, and leave a portion on the stage, more or less, according to the rapidity or frequency of its transit.

“Mr. Arding soon improved upon Foster's apparatus, by making the ink-stage of cast-iron, with circular recesses; and the whole table more of a solid form; both makers now adopt the same pattern: but the bottle-brayer has not been found to answer, as the ink soon clogs up the holes, and the wood is liable to be split by the screw at the top; and an old servant of the press-room, the common brayer, has again been found the most effective for this purpose.

“I have had several of these inking tables at work, and find a decided preference due to the last described. The mahogany surface seems more congenial to the temperament of the ink and roller, than either the lead or iron. The ink is taken better, and distributes better. A line of colour is taken as perfectly from the stage as from a cylinder, since the roller, being cylindrical, can only touch the ink in a line, and it is only giving the roller a portion of a revolution on the stage to make it take a greater quantity of colour if necessary. More of the flue and dirt, inseparable from the working of paper, is held by the wood than by the lead; and consequently, the roller keeps cleaner, and the forme works better. The table is easily washed by the lye-brush, and no further waste of ink is occasioned.

“This apparatus has been further improved by substituting a box and cylinder for the stage and brayer. The advantage of which will be, that the quantity of ink on the cylinder to come in contact with the roller, is regulated by a pressure at the top, out of the body of the ink, instead of at the bottom against which the ink must rest.

Mahogany cylinder in hinged box
Mahogany cylinder in hinged box Enlarge

“The cylinder is of mahogany, and, as here shown, moves in a box or trough which contains the ink; and which has a lid moving, on hinges coming nearly over the top of the cylinder. To the under edge of this top is nailed a slip of thick butt or sole leather. This, by its naturally elastic quality, will always press upon the cylinder according as the lid is more or less tightly screwed down by thumb-screws. This leather will also intercept in its way any filth which may arise from the depot of ink before it can reach the cylinder: and which, when accumulated, may, by unscrewing the lid and throwing it open, as in the figure, be instantly scraped away with one stroke of the knife; and no further waste of the ink incurred. No part of the ink in this apparatus is exposed when the lid is down: and only a very small portion of the cylinder at the time of working.”

A wooden table after the pattern of Foster's apparatus is now generally used, the top is covered with lead on which the ink is distributed on the rollers; the stage on which the ink is taken is not raised more than about a quarter of an inch, and at the two back corners are two recesses, one for the supply of ink, and the other for the brayer, when not in use. See Rollers.

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