Interested but don’t know what/where to buy

I have been following letterpress blogs, companies, and other sites for the past year or so. I’ve done some research, but there’s still so much I don’t know. I’d like to take classes, but it’s difficult due to other commitments and the fact that I don’t live super close to anywhere that offers classes (Riverside, CA). I might be able to do one of the classes offered at the IPM in Carson, but that’s a bit of drive (though a drive I think is worth it if I can learn).

That being said, I’d really like to jump in. Problem is, I don’t know what to buy, or where to buy it. Any suggestions for a first-timer?

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If you didn’t know how to swim, you might be able to buy a swimming pool and a bunch of pool stuff and teach yourself how to swim. Maybe.
If you didn’t know how to cook, you might be able to buy a bunch of kitchen stuff and teach yourself how to cook. Maybe.
You know what the answer is. It is better to have some lessons or see some demonstrations for swimming, cooking and printing.
Only then when you have a better understanding will you be able to make a list of what you need to buy. Ask around. You will find a letterpress printer. Most of them are nice. You be nice and you may have a teacher.

I copied two page spreads from Printing Explained by Herbert Simon and Harry Carter, Leicester, The Dryad Press, 1931. These lists were geared for small school shop publications and don’t deal with presses, but you should be able to get a good idea of some of the things you will need to start. Note: They mention setting rules which are unnecessary with the H.B.Rouse graduated composing sticks readily available in this country (US). The type amounts are for small publications and will give you an idea of how much type you will need if you ever want to print books. Some of the other items are geared toward a program in teaching which, at the time, was a viable field for young people, rather than the outmoded and precious thing it has become. The file link will follow in the next message as once again I am unable to attach a file to this message, sorry.


Please click on all sizes to make it bigger.[email protected]/3508936361/[email protected]/3508936365/

Check the online website for NA Graphics
Fritz keeps a lot of the kinds of things in stock and with his years of experience is a wealth of information, Get their catalogue and start spending all that extra money you have.

Inky: Well said, ‘nuff said. Thank you!


What do you want to print or end up printing if you had a press? Cards or posters? Both take different presses. A table top press or floor model platen press for cards and a flatbed press for poster work. My first press was a 3x5 Kelsey and then a 6x10 Kelsey. I loved the small work, however, my background is graphic design and I wanted to print posters. So, I searched for a flatbed press and found a Challenge Proof Press. Although, I wanted to print stationery and bought a Kluge.

Now 8 years later I operate a Heidelberg Windmill and 3 Vandercook presses. So, deciding where to start should be determined by what you may want to print. Beginning with a smaller press and working your way up to a larger press may be ideal but only you can be the judge of your learning curve.

Find somewhere to take classes or apprentice at a shop. Take your time and don’t rush. My mentor, Jim Irwin, told me years ago that it’ll take me at least 5 years to understand how to be a good printer. What that entails is every situation you can imagine. From ink, paper, operation of press, packing, type, troubleshooting, and the list goes on.

Since you’re enthusiastic then your on the right path, now find somewhere to take a class. Good Luck!

Casey McGarr
Inky Lips Letterpress

I’ve been involved in printing for 38 years and still find new situations and problems I have never encountered. Along the way I’ve had the help and support of a great number of veteran printers. I’ve been very lucky in that respect. I’ve know a large number of printers who learned to print on Kelsey setups in their parent’s basements. They read up on the subject with manuals, journals and technical guides. Some took classes in schools, and many didn’t, but it never was an obstacle to them. If one wants to learn, the information is there to be found. It is nice that today there are so many more resources for letterpress printers via the internet; so many more chances for contact and so much more information available. There aren’t as many old-timers around, but as a living resource they can’t be beat. As you learn, your eyes will be opened to more and more oportunities. You’ll probably find that where you start is not even close to where you end up. Get started. Today.

I am totally out of the norm. I jumped in, bought stuff and taught myself. I can say that it took a lot longer on my own than if I took a class but there were very few resources at my disposal at the time. Read a bunch, called a few people when I had questions and just went slow to make sure I didn’t break the press or myself.

All said with a grain of salt. I am very mechanically enclined and letterpress things naturally fit with my personality. Like the above advise I would recommend taking a class before you decide to bring an 1800lb monster home.

I was able to drive a couple of hours for a one-to-one training session that a gracious nearby printer offered me one Saturday afternoon. I learned more in those 4 hours than in the months of reading, culling Briar Press, etc. I hope someday to offer the same sort of training day to another person.

However, bumbling along with my press has been really significant too. I do think the jump-start training session is invaluable, if nothing else for the respect it gives you re: the capabilities of a large press (I’ve a C&P OS 10x15).