Buying a tabletop letterpress

I have taken one letterpress class and fell in love with it. I would like to purchase a tabletop letterpress so I can print business cards and other small stuff. I just don’t know what to look for. What shall I look for in classifieds? What is a must-have and what isn’t?
Thank you!

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You should visit a museum and check out some of the presses. Depends on where you’re located, Excelsior Press in New Jersey sells used presses and supplies, there is Don Black in Canada also Letterpress Things in Massachusetts. Check the yellow pages on this site to find someone near you. Good Luck Dick G.

First thing is to read five roses description of equipment.

I have a Craftmen Superior table top lever press similar to a Pilot and love it. I also have a small Signpress proof press similar to a Showcard or Nolan. It is terrific as well. Each press has it’s limitations, and I soon found that I wanted a larger press.

I personally prefer the Pilot style press over a Kelsey style because of the ease of pulling the handle. Completely depends on the number of impressions you will make. Kelsey presses are more available and often sell for less.

If you have the space, You will find that it is more economical to purchase an 8x12 or 10x15 floor model. It will cost you some to move the press, but a nice Pilot can sell for more than $1500. I bought my 10x15 floor model for $200. We asked kindly, and a local lumber yard loaded the press with their fork lift, and another kind person unloaded the press. Both for free. It took a couple weeks to set up the free part.

Think long term, and be patient looking for a nearby deal. Tell all your friends and relatives about your experience in class. Ask if they know anyone interested selling a press. I found my 10x15 this way, and a free cabinet of type plus 300+ lbs of free ink.

Every beginner should also know: You can always print small on a big press, but your cannot print big on a small press.

Good luck, Justin

Thank you all! This is great. I am more excited now.
Some offers include new rollers and some don’t. Some include quoins and some don’t. Does it really matter what comes with the press? I am guessing I can buy missing parts…

rollers are expensive, they can cost between 80 and 150 dollars each, where are you located, there are a few presses for sale in my area, southeastern massachusetts. Dick G.

What’s for sale in your area, Dick?

there is a 7x11 (i think) Pearl, a nice 10x15 c&p with some type with it, and a pcoc proof press. Dick G.

I am in Salt Lake City, Utah area.

Hello also looking for presses in Massachusetts would be grateful if anyone know of any, I made the silly mistake of buying a B Grauel Model B3 an offset press… Likely difficult to retrofit for letter pressing?

much thanks


You are very fortunate, if you live in MA, since you have John Barrett’s “Letterpress Things,” in the Springfield area. You will need to contact him for the next open date..


Dave G.

Has anyone bought the Adana? Looks great and easy to use are you able to use polymer plates on them?

Actually, you CAN print big on a small press… sort of. You just have to print the top half of the sheet, letting the bottom half hang over the platen. When you are done with that run, you set the press up to print the bottom half, flip the sheets over and do the second press run. I do this quite often with printed forms that I use at my day job. It’s a little cumbersome, but it works. As I got my Craftsmen Superior for a hundred bucks, I figure I can roll with it.

Please take amount to take a look at our website:

We restore and sell Tabletop Presses.
We ship domestically and internationally.

Tom and Terri
T and T Press

I strongly suspect that there’s one letter ‘s’ too many in the above link - try

If you are still looking for a tabletop I may be willing to part with my 5 x 8 Kelsey Model U. It is a great starter press.
If you are interested let me know. I am in Prescott, AZ not too far away.

I say go for a Kelsey 5x8 and stay with us Briar Press members, by that I mean stay away from Ebay presses for now. I use Ebay for parts to restore old Kelsey and Sigwalt presses. Briar Press member decoletterpress sez they have a 5x8 Kelsey. Give ‘em a call. rhd83 asked if the Adana Press can be used with photopolymer plates? Of course it
does, but the Kelsey can handle a photopolymer plate too. We Briar Press members like to brag about our Craftsmen Superior and Imperial presses- but you know what? I still love my old 5x8 Kelsey…

Keep in mind the “OTHER” type of presses. Flat bed proof presses are very simple to use and give you the ability to do wood block or lino cuts.

“Keep in mind the “OTHER” type of presses. Flat bed proof presses are very simple to use and give you the ability to do wood block or lino cuts.”

Agreed. Kelsey’s are great (I’ve currently got three of ‘em) but there are a lot of advantages to a flatbed press like a ShowCard, or Line-o-Scribe. While they are slower, and require hand-inking, they will print a larger area and put down a stronger image when you are printing with large type.

Hello all! I am a total newbie and I am currently learning about letterpress. English is my 3rd language and so this all is so at times hard to understand when it comes to technical terms, so.. bear with me.

I am going to attend some intro to letterpress classes next week and I’ve watched some videos and tutorials but my question is: what press to buy? before I go any further:
1. I rent, so no permanent house (thus my hope to own a platen press for the future is so far impossible. plus we are going to relocate overseas in a few years. not 100% certain yet)

2. lack of a lot of space

3. not a huge budget

4. I want to be able to use tabletop letterpress to print business cards and A2 size greeting card (simple line art designs and the designs will be about 3.75x4.5)

I definitely know I don’t want a Kelsey 3x5 or 5x8 or Adana presses. My options are Kelsey 6x10, Kelsey 9x13, Craftsman 6.5x10 or Chandler & Price 6.5x10.

Any advice would be highly appreciated. Also what amount of money shall I really expect for such presses? and the last question: is it always better to pay extra and get a restored press?

thank you!


Well, if English is your THIRD language, you are one language smarter than I am. Don’t get discouraged. Youtube has lots of videos available and you can stop them and replay as you get your dictionary out for an obscure term.

I too rent. I’m in an old farm house in Wisconsin. The former dining room is now the print shop. I have a small table-top platen press, but small is relative. My press weighs more than a hundred pounds and I would not want to pay for overseas shipping on it.

I guess if I were you, I would not be too anxious to purchase right now. Wait until you get more settled before you buy something that can’t easily be moved. You can often find places like the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, WI that have presses available for use. They offer classes and you can learn plenty without owning a press.

If you really want one though, look into making one with plywood and a hydraulic jack or maybe a screw jack. Such a press will not be especially fast or convenient, but it was good enough for Ben Franklin and Johannes Gutenberg before Old Ben.

Good luck!

Where are you based Irina, that might be useful to know in order to steer you in a direction…

@Daleraby, thank you! I actually speak 5 languages but only fluent in 3 :) I am hoping to visit some more printing museums when this quarantine comes to an end.

@Thomas Gravemaker, I am in Portland, OR

OK, good to know that. Going by your name, I thought you were based in Europe and wanted to suggest to look around there. But it’s easier for you to look around in the States…

@Thomas Gravemaker, you are correct, I have a Greek name and yes it does help to be in the states because it’s much harder to find presses in Europe.

Seems like the left coast of the US is a Mecca for letterpress. I seem to see all kinds of letterpress-related stuff over in California. That’s just about the only reason I would have to ever visit that state…. well, maybe to see an actual redwood growing. That would be nice.

@Daleraby, I am surprised you think the west coast is a Mecca because I barely find anything here. Everything I find is always on the opposite side (typically NY, MA) and also in the Midwest
I will continue looking

I think that actually, the continental US being as big as it is, the odds are that if anyone at any location in it is looking for something specific, it will probably be far away rather than close to his/her location.

I see all kinds of stuff advertised around San Francisco that I would be interested in. There’s stuff for sale, classes offered, and even an actual type foundry there! You couldn’t pay me enough to visit though for reasons related to stories I’ve heard from a former resident.

Now that I am retired, there are good reasons to pay more attention to what is going on at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum located about forty minutes from me in Two Rivers, WI.

Before I was retired, I could never make any of the events there because they were always scheduled for when I was working. Now I could make them…. except for this damn virus.

Ah well, maybe next year.

I agree. The virus made everything so tough. I hope you get to visit the West Coast and attend some great events :)