I need some guidance please!

I’m about to buy a letterpress and would love some guidance from the experts around here!

I’m very excited about entering the letterpress world, I have the opportunity to buy a press locally and I will visit it today and maybe she’ll have a new home, I have no idea what the model or brand is, nor does the owner. Hopefully I’ll have more info in a couple of hours.

I have lots of questions, I’ve seen that some letter presses can be used as die cutters, how do I know if the one I’m buying is for printing or cutting?
Can it be used for both? I want to print on it but if it’s good for cutting too that would be great.

I know that the rollers are missing but the owner said I can get new rollers for around $100. They’re selling the press for $800.

I’m clueless about letterpress, I’ve been doing some research but what would be the best way to introduce myself in this art when I don’t have any classes available around my city (I’m in south texas, border with mexico)?

Are there any great video tutorials or books that can really guide you to the process?

I’m sure I’ll have more questions, I really hope someone has some answers for me!

thanks :)

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Here are the pictures, let me know what you think.

The owner doesn’t know the model or brand.

He says it’s a Chandler but I didn’t see any plate.

He says it works, I didn’t test it because I don’t know what to test yet. It has a lot of visible rust. The rollers are missing.

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It looks like the Chandler & Price New Series on the museum section

Most likely a 10x15 Chandler and Price. If the spokes on the flywheel are straight then a New Series press; if curved then an Old Series press. They have a serial number on the upper left corner of the bed (under the round ink disk) and you can find the year of manufacture from that.

You’ll need 3 rollers and 6 trucks. That’ll set you back more than $100 each. $800 is a bit steep. I wouldn’t worry too much about the rust, it can be cleaned up.

There are some good books. check out the Five Roses Press site: http://www.fiveroses.org/intro.htm

I know there are letterpress printers in Texas…look on the press directory here on the Briar Press site.

Thank you so much for your insight, I thought it was a great price but after doing some research I now know it’s not.. It has a motor, do all the C&P like this one have one?

Oh and the spokes are straight so it’s the new model I guess.. but I couldn’t find the serial number anywhere

Small tabletop press prices have gone very high, but larger floor presses, especially Chandler & Price presses, as they’re quite common, shouldn’t compare. I’ve gotten them very cheaply or even free. With the increasing popularity of letterpress the prices have gone up, but a bit of shopping around and bargaining should bring the price down.

The serial number can be hard to spot and may be hidden by ink or rust. You might need to remove the chase if one is still in the press. The press should also have the Chandler and Price name cast into the plate at the back of the roller arms. Measure the inside dimensions of the chase to determine the size.

Straight spokes indicate a New Series press. Motors are the most common way of running the press although some are treadle operated. Reproduction treadles are available from Hern Iron Works. I love my treadled 8x12 and we have a treadled 10x15 at the University. Treadling a larger press is less desirable.

Arie it’s so nice to read your answers I was indeed wondering why tabletop letterpress where selling so high on ebay when you can get a motor one for the same price..

I think I’m going with a tabletop.. it would be easier to move, etc.. I’ve seen several 5x8 Kelseys on ebay with missing rollers is there anything else I need to check for those?

That’s why tabletops are higher priced. They take up less room and are a bit easier to move. Many times the smaller presses are missing the gripper assemblies and chases can be hard to find, even for the fairly common Kelsey presses.

It’s harder to get a decent impression consistently from a Kelsey than a C&P (in part because of the chase area…bigger is generally better, but also because of the mechanics), but it can be done with care. One of the finer printers I know uses a 9x13 Kelsey exclusively. Me, I’d rather use the 8x12 C&P.

If you’re determined to get a tabletop I’d look seriously for a Sigwalt or Golding 4x6 or larger. They’re pricey, but it is easier to get a good impression than with a Kelsey. Pilots or Craftsmen are also nice but even pricier.

Whatever the press make sure you get as many chases as can be found with it, but at least one.

Are you planning to print with metal type or photopolymer? If the latter then you’ll need a base, which can cost almost as much as the press. If the former, press footprint is almost irrelevant as the type will end up taking up much more room than the press even if you restrict yourself to a few faces.

OMG you’re the best.. thanks a LOT for your advice!

I’m really clueless about metal or photopolymer, but having to buy a base that costs as much as the press sounds like a no-no for me.. ugh I guess this isn’t going to be as easy as I thought..

Type costs money, too. New metal type is not cheap and used type may be in questionable condition for some purposes.

You might want to decide what you want to do with letterpress equipment before spending a lot of money. If you haven’t checked out the Five Roses Press Introduction to Letterpress www.fiveroses.org/intro.htm That might be a good place to start.

Can’t print posters very well on a Kelsey 5x8. Printing small cards or large quantities on a Vandercook may be difficult. A press run of 10000 cards on a hand fed C&P is a lot of work.

It really depends on what base you get. If you are buying a Platen Press and want to use polymer plates, then Boxcar Deep Relief Bases are in the following range:

Deep Relief Bases
Size in inches Cost
4.5 x 7.5 $150
6 x 9 $175
9 x 12 $285
13 x 19 $575

So only if you get the larger presses will it be close to the cost of the press. If you buy a table top press, it will be a lot less. For example, a C&P Pilot press these days run around $1000 - $2000 depending on what comes with it and the condition. The largest base you can get for it would be the 6x9 which costs $175.

When it comes to metal type and polymer, it’s a really good idea to have a few font sets that you like. I thought that I would only do polymer when I first started, but quickly realized that if I want to do a quick personalized stationary set for friends/family, that it would be impossible for me to do it. Polymer requires that you create the design on your computer. Send the generated file to a company that can make the polymer plate. So the turn around time might be a week before you are ready to print. With some metal type on hand, you just have to decide which font to use and you can quickly press some personalized stationary within the hour.

I want to do invitations on the letterpress I end up buying.. I definitely want to buy 1 or 2 sets of fonts but I guess my designs will be often in Polymer.. I think it would be easier to do invitations that way because of the availability of script fonts, etc..

I feel like I’m learning a lot :) yay!

I doubt you would be happy with a 5x8 Kelsey to do invitations, especially if you want to be paid for them. Time is money and it’d take a lot longer on that kind of press to get a set of good impressions than a C&P or similar sized press. and you’ll probably waste less paper on unacceptable impressions.

Do you recommend the Adana press?

There were several models of Adana presses. You will need to be more specific. Also if you are looking at ebay for presses, you want presses that are larger than 5”x3” or 3”x5”. Especially if you are planning on doing invitations. 5”X8” or 6”x9” or 6”x10.5” are good for invitations.

I saw a 3x5 Adana on ebay, I know it’s small but it’s within the price range I’d be willing to spend.. maybe I can start by doing business cards or something and then sell it to upgrade to a c&p pilot when I have the money..

I thought that might be where you were looking at. There are a couple of Kelsey presses on Ebay that are within your price range at this moment. I’m assuming you are look at the Adana one which has a Buy it now price of $795…which is way too much to spend on a 3x5. I purchased a Sigwalt #5 6x9 with several cases of fonts for $1000 a couple of years back.

My suggestion is to be patient. Seriously…just wait. I know how difficult it is to wait but a good deal will come along. When I bought my Sigwalt #5, within 2 weeks, there were several C&P Pilots available. They were all sold from Briarpress. Presses seem to come available in groups.

I’ve never used an Adana but I’ve seen folks do nice work with them. But again any 3x5 press is going to be too limiting. Platen presses just can’t print with a full chase; at best 2/3, but more likely 1/2, of the chase size is the limit of what you can print at one time. I’d go back to the owner of the C&P and offer half of what he’s asking. Worst he can do is say no. In which case you’re no worse off than you are now…looking for a press. daremo1971 is right, patience will be rewarded.

LOL daremo, thanks for your advice, it’s seriously what I needed to hear (read) I’m too impatient and always do impulse buys and end up regretting it..

Arie I’d love to get the C&P but I’m having second thoughts now.. I think it will be too much of a hassle moving it and putting it to work and the only place I can think of having it is in my living room, which has lots of space but my hubby doesn’t love the idea and I think I will end up ruining the floor because it’s too heavy.

A tabletop press would be a lot easier for now.. I will try to wait to get a pilot or get a good kelsey if I get too impatient LOL

Living rooms aren’t unheard of Check out the Front Room Press. I doubt the press would harm the floors…you wouldn’t hesitate to let 4 or 5 hefty friends sit in your living room…about the same weight as an 8x12. They’d probably not sit still for as long as the press and there are things you can do to spread the weight around and if there’s a basement you can put in some support poles.

Hello anaderoux

Living rooms are a great place to put a press, especially a C&P since they look more like furniture than machinery (at least to me!). Rich Polinski of Front Room Press put his on a very nice carpet:


I put my Vandercook on a hardwood floor, but I did make a platform for it:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2058715322/in/set-7215760327497...

Philoxenia Press also has a very homey setup:



OMG that’s beautiful! Barb your living room looks like a museum! that’s definitely the look I’d like to achieve!

I just bought a handpress that comes from UK, if I like the way things go with letterpress invitations I will buy the automatic press for sure.. anyways my handpress will have to go in my living room, my studio is already full of printers (8 to be exact)

Mmmm. A rule bender at Philoxenia. I am extremely jealous. My living room, errr shop, is about 12’ x 15’ with the joists running the short way. I have 3” x 9” x 48” cherry beams (it’s good to be a cabinetmaker) spanning at least three joists at the centerline of the 12’ run directly in line with the press (which is to one side, and directly under the paper cutter which is in the center. I supported the beams with adjustable lally columns from Home Depot, $26 each. It was quite easy and inexpensive and gives plenty of extra support just in case.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Rich, is this a letterpress too?

I saw something similar at some mexican webpage but I’m not sure what it is:


The first one is an Albion tabletop — can’t tell if it’s an old one or one of the reproductions now being made. The second one is a “copy” press, also used as a bookbinding nipping press. It’s not really good for printing, but the Albion is a nice little hand press.