press size vs. the item you are printing…

i want to purchase a press so that i can print invitations. just starting, but willing to learn and have a big interest in this. looking to purchase my first press, but i have been told to print something the size of a normal invitation would require a 5x8 or larger. (3x5 card is too small) however this ebay seller is telling me that i “could still manage an 8x10 letterhead” on his 3x5 kelsey. is this even possible? would it be hard to learn? i just really want to purchase a press and don’t know what to believe at this point.


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Hi there —

If your plans are to print invitations and the like, a 3x5 is WAY too small. Yes, you could technically print 8.5x11 letterhead on this tiny press, but that assumes that you’re just imprinting a small design at the top or in a corner.

What is important to understand is that chase size does not equal printable area. If you filled the chase of even a 5x8 press with a design or type for a 5x7 invitation, you would not get good results. A press this size could not exert enough pressure to get good impression on an area that large… and you would risk breaking something if you tried to force it.

I print with a Pilot (6x10) and a C&P 10x15 floor press. With the Pilot I can get decent impression on an area up to about 4.5x7 if I’m ONLY printing type. If I’m printing a detailed design or something with heavy coverage, then the printable area is cut almost in half of that. Even my big 10x15 press can only handle designs with heavy coverage up to an area of about 5x7.

It comes down to the physics of the press. Those little 3x5 and 5x8 presses were never intended to print anything larger than business cards, tags and tickets. And they were never meant for fine quality printing as would be required for invitations.

I would strongly encourage you to be patient and save your money for a quality table top press no smaller than 6x10, like a Pilot or Pilot clone. If you leap and buy a Kelsey or the like, I think you’ll find it frustrating to work with and you’ll quickly outgrow it.

Best of luck,


thanks for your help. on the hunt for something larger.

Tox- I use a 3x5 Kelsey for a lot of little jobs… and it is indeed very small. It does a great job on business cards envelope addresses, post cards, corner letterheads, and printing a two-line greeting onto Christmas Cards…. but not-so-good a job on centered letterheads, or anything bigger.

As far as inking is concerned, it’ll do a good job with up to about 30% of the chase area “in type”. This means that a 2x3” cut is about the biggest you can easily print.

Pressure wise, the same limitations apply. At 30% coverage, it does fine. At 50%, it begins to print light if you don’t take special measures…… like dampening or using very soft paper.

So… if you are looking for a small business card or label press, it’ll work fine. For a page of text, you will want something bigger.