Purchasing a letterpress

So I’ve decided to take the plunge and purchase a letterpress. I think I’m going to bite the bullet and get one that’s restored already to avoid any issues. I’m currently trying to decide between two presses though, and I want to get some opinions.

There’s the Kelsey 5x8 and the Adana 8x5. I actually had my heart set on the Kelsey… but as I looked into the Adana, it just seemed more modern. It’s made of aluminum and looks sleeker… maybe I’m just a sucker for that kind of stuff?

I’ve heard the Kelsey might have a bit more pressure to it for more of that impression feel on the paper… but other than that… what do you guys things? Functionally? Design wise? Any preferences? The Adana would cost just a bit more.

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From my experience I suggest you buy the Adana rather than the Kelsey. Do not buy smaller than 5x8. Larger better.
For me the best two presses are the Pilot or the Craftsman
in the 6x10 size. The best, but cost more, harder to find, etc. Good luck.

My wife and I just bought a restored Cooks Victor circa 1860’s. It’s a 6 x 9 and an unbeleivable impression. We got it through www.excelsiorpress.org and Lou’s Restorations. You might want to talk to Alan at Excelsior about the presses and what you are looking to accomplish. The Kelseys are popular but not as well built as other presses. Alan has over 40 years of experience and has everything you might need as well. Great to work with. Keep us posted as to what you get.

Good Luck!


There is an excellent Craftsman Imperial on Eb** at the moment. Its a 5 x 8 active until this evening!

I’d have to politely disagree with Dennis on the qualiy of Kelseys. A year or so ago I did a whole series of tests on Kelseys to see how much impression pressure per square inch they would put down and was quite surprised by how sturdy an d well constructed they actually are.

My study was not actually about the Kelseys per se. It was more to determine how much pressure I needed with a home-built press. So I tested several tabletop presses….. more than one to destruction. (the results are here on Briar Press somewhere)

I think the real problem with Kelseys are that they are mostly used by total newbies…. and thus get a bad rap when they fail to get instantly good results. In the hands of someone who uses them skillfully, they can print some really nice work.