looking to purchase this press, would it be a good buy for me?

i have come across a press that seems like it would be a good purchase, although i am very new to letterpress and not sure if it would be practical for the type of printing i would be doing. i do not want to purchase a kelsey if there are better tabletops out there. this press is labeled as a “craftsman” — are they a good brand? i only want to be printing invitation size prints on it, and it’s a 5x8. i was instructed to look for at least a 6x10 if i was purchasing a kelsey, but does that rule go wth all brands? i want a nice, even impression all over the paper i will be printing. would this 5x8 craftsman be a good choice or should i wait to see if i can find a 6x10? i would purchase a floor platen, but it would just be impossible to get into my workspace so i think a tabletop is good for now. hopefully i can get just as good results with a tabletop as i can with a floor platen.

i have attached photos of the press. please let me know your honest opinion…i need to make a decision asap!

thank you!

image: press1.jpg


image: press2.jpg


image: press3.jpg


image: press4.jpg


Log in to reply   8 replies so far

I’d think this would be a fine press. You may, however, find yourself limited in terms of the size of the form you will be able to print and get a “nice, even impression all over the paper”. Keep in mind that these smaller presses (and even many of the larger ones) are physically capable of printing about 1/3 to 1/2 of the chase size.

If you are thinking you may want a floor model then you probably will not ever be happy with this sort of tabletop. What would it take for you to fit an 8x12 floor model into your workspace? You wouldn’t regret it… and it would probably cost less than the small tabletops out there.


unfortunately my workspace is in my basement, and i have 2 sets of stairs as a major obstacle, as well as one of the sets of stairs being “windy” — not just a straight set down. i don’t need a floor press, a tabletop that will give me decent results would be sufficiant for now. in the future i will be moving and then maybe i can rent out a space every month to keep a “shop” so-to-speak, but right now that’s just not really in the budget. besides my current workspace would be in my parents’ house (i currently live there) and i do not want it to be a bother for them to get it in and out of the basement. there’s just no other space to put it other than there.

any other options, or should i just keep looking for a 6x10? i did see there was a 9x13 kelsey on ebay…expensive but also very rare. just not sure at this point.


Have you see this review by John Horn on the various tabletop presses?


Best of luck to you finding your first press!


I’ve seen this press advertised, and it looks like a fine machine to me. If I didn’t have more equipment than I’ll ever use now, I’d buy it.

Craftsmen IS still in existence, and parts are apparently still available. According to their website:

“COMMERCIAL & HOBBY PRINTERS - As factory authorized distributors or dealers for dozens of Graphic Arts Equipment Manufacturers we supply the smallest neighborhood printer to the largest National printing plants. Our experience and breadth of sources benefit our customers by offering them just the right piece of equipment for each unique task.

As the manufacturer of the Craftsmen Imperial, Superior, Monarch and Pilot hand letterpresses, we maintain a vast inventory of factory, new parts and accessories.


Craftsmen Machinery Co., 840 Main St., Suite 208, Millis, MA 02054
Phone: (508) 376-2001 FAX: (508) 376-2003 [email protected]


thanks, i have read that a few times, but i was looking for others’ experiences using a craftsmen. even if their parts are readily available, while nice, it doesn’t necessarily tell me if it’s a really good press or not.

opinions or experiences welcome.

I have a Craftsman 4x6 I recently loaned to someone who is trying to get involved in letterpress. I’ve used the press myself and used it in teaching printing workshops. It has a nicer impression method than the Kelsey-like or even the C&P Pilot type presses, in my opinion. Because of its mechanism you can print a small forme (ca. 2x5 or somewhat larger) on the edge of a very much larger sheet of paper — so letterheads on 8-1/2x11 paper are easily done on even the 4x6. As a first press is is nearly ideal, being light enough to carry easily and strong enough for good work.

thanks for your info. unfortunately the press i posted is now spoken for by someone else, but atleast i have another brand i can add to my list.

thanks for everyone’s help.

I have a Craftsmen Superior (6x10) and printed some invitations with very nice results. I am pleased with the quality of the press. Craftsmen was not the leading maker, and so finding rollers or parts becomes more challenging, but not impossible. You just need to know up front what you are getting in to.

I noticed that this press sold already. I hope you got it. Looked like the price was OK. There was a Superior on here for $500 about a month ago, so you might keep your eyes peeled for a larger press for more money.

I do think you’ll like a lever press like this a little better than a Kelsey if you plan to do any sizable runs. The lever seems like a better fit than the kelsey design. IMHO