Linocut Printing on a Ceramics Slab Roller

I've finally moved on from transferring my linocut prints with a wooden spoon. Fair well dreaded spoon!

I've been blessed to have a family member recently invest in my business, and offer to buy a press for me. Awesome, right?!!  In my typical frugal fashion, I wanted the best bang for my (his) buck. The traditional etching presses range from $1,500 upwards to $5,000 or more depending on size and bells and whistles. Tons of researching, pondering and thinking....then one day at work I realized my solution was right in front of me the whole time! I could use a ceramics slab roller to make my prints. 

Ceramics slab roller.

I tried a few test runs on the studio slab roller, and voila, it actually worked pretty well. I mean, it's really just consistent pressure that transfers the ink to the paper. 

With this new idea, I started researching some companies that manufactured ceramic slab rollers, and came across Bailey's Pottery Equipment. The owner emailed me back about my inquiry, and we got the ball rolling. He suggested having the rollers custom made as smooth, and not textured, as they typically are for the ceramics slab rollers. This would alleviate having a textured pattern on my paper to deal with.

I also get a whopping 30 inches in width that will enable me to do larger prints. The smaller, more expensive presses have a much smaller width in roller size. The final cost for the custom slab roller was around $700. Lumber and hardware for the table-top bed, was about $20.

Reasons for getting this press:
  • Cost - Around $700 with shipping included. Well within my donors budget
  • Size - Width up to 30"
  • New Work - My wheels are spinning with ideas for new work by using this press. Large prints, drink coasters, textile printing (?)
  • Challenge - I love a project, especially re-purposing something old or new.
  • Teaching - My thought was by doing this, I can help other lino/woodcut printers get an affordable press that works for this medium.
** The rollers are not machined to a perfect roundness. I believe this setup will be great for lino and wood cuts, but probably would not be precise enough for other kind of printmaking.

Enjoy the following photos that followed my progress. Message me if you have any questions. Thanks!

Woohoo! Boxes arrived on my doorstep.
Unpacking it.
Pretty simple setup. Just need to screw on the handle and done.
Put all together on my work bench. Now thinking about how to do the table-top press bed.
Heavy duty gearing.
The Bailey company.
Bought composite board from Lowes for the press bed.
Cutting  2x4 framing for the press bed.
Framed out, ready for the tops.

All put together on the feeding side.
Now to decide how high I want the press bed in comparison to the rollers.
I decided that about 1/8" of roller above the bed would be fine.
I had some help from my friend with a fancy table saw
to make a bevel on the edges that butt up to the rollers.
Checking height and clearance on typical block.
I simply raised the whole press by using five washers to give it just a little height above the bed.
You can see here the washers on bottom left that raised the press above the bed.
The rollers now stick up above the bed ever so slightly...about 1/8".

Here is the beveled edge hugging the roller.
Adjusted, engineered and finished! Ready for test printing!

This is my setup or sending the block through the rollers. In order.....a masonite board on bottom; my linocut block; my paper to print on; a rubber printers blanket bought on Ebay; and finally a piece of wool blanket. Works great!
My first test prints. Only took three tries to achieve a near perfect relief print.
Simply had to adjust the pressure just right.
A happy surprise. Finally achieved enough pressure to make drink coasters.
Will be filling up my shop with these very soon!


  1. Replies
    1. So you apply the ink with a brayer to the block then lightly place the paper on etc ?

  2. Thanks so much for your post. I would love to repurpose the old Bailey slab roller that my studio landlady has in storage, I think it's from the 70's or 80's. She used to make ceramic tiles with it, but I would love to use it as a printing press like you've done here!

  3. You're very welcome Rebecca. It works great, so I wish you luck!