6x10 Kesley-what do I need to get printing?

I’m gathering all the elements that I need to print on my 6x10 Kesley and I have a couple of questions on what I’ve be reading through (the web and the manual itself). I’ve been told that I need a few things, but am uncertain on the exact item. (I’m in Wisconsin, if that makes any difference).

First, my press is in pretty good shape. The only thing that (I can see) it needs is the gripper bar spring. Where could I get one?

I have a chase for it and ordered a deep-relief boxcar base last week.

I’ll need to get tympan paper. I looked through a couple of website, but am unsure of which one to get. Should I order it in rolls or sheets? What dimensions? What caliper thickness? And speaking of caliper - how does the different caliper thicknesses effect the printing? Through some of the research that I was doing, it mentioned “draw paper”. Is tympan paper & draw paper the same thing? How often is the tympan paper changed? I noticed that a lot of videos show the tympan with pencil marks on it and/or that it was printed directly onto it.

Also, I was told to get red press board. What is a good source?

I’ll need gauge pins as well. From most of the youtube videos and other videos that I’ve looked at, it looks like typically 3 are used. Do I only need to get 3? Do they break easy that I should purchase more than 3? What style/kind is recommended?

Quions - I’ll need these also. Hi-speed or not? (what’s the difference?) I’ve noticed that they come in different lengths. What is recommended for my press? And how many would I need? Just 2? What’s a good source?

Furniture - are these sold as “packages”? What size(s) are generally recommended? How many? From where?

Do I need a roller setting gauge? Is it best to adjust the roller height via the press screws on the backside of the platen or add tape to the roller trucks?

I have a Pantone Color Bridge book. Can I use this book for mixing PMS colors or do I need to purchase the Formula Guides? Once a color is mixed up, how do people store the leftover/unused ink?

Can 6x10 Kesleys diecut or score?

To get my shop up and running I know that I’ll need a few more miscellaneous items. I have California Wash, latex medical gloves and a shop apron. On my list are:
•shortening to clean the rollers first (before the California wash)
•shop paper towels
•putty knives
•brayers (what kind and size are recommended?)
•some surface to mix ink on (what do most shops use?)
•rubber bands for between the gripper bars to help pull the stock off the plate after it has been inked
•garbage can for used rags, etc.

Any other suggestions?

Thanks in advance for any & all input!

Log in to reply   12 replies so far

Are you near a major centre? It will be much more beneficial to you to take a workshop somewhere so you can answer all these questions yourself.

Pretty well all your answers are here on Briarpress, just use the search function to save everyone else time. Lots of reading to do.

Fat Tony,

Look on Ebay item # 280516080213

Andrew Churchman is selling a start up kit.

Wow, i’ve read shorter books. You really need to take a class or two. I will answer one of your questions, NO, just cause your in Wisconsin it doesn’t make a difference. Dick G.

Garbage can for used rags - ever heard of OSHA

A used Printers Rag can is made from metal and has a Lid in case of Fire.

Obey the LAW

Wow - I am quite taken back by the lack of help with my post - and the negative attack. I guess I should have bolded or at least capitalized that I HAVE BEEN READING AND RESEARCHING. I had many, many more questions that were answered because I’ve done the reading and researching. However these questions that I posted, I could not find a direct answer. Maybe for some of the questions, the answer doesn’t matter. But as you guessed it, I am a beginner and thus do not have the experiences as I assume those that have responded do to know the answer(s).

For example: my questions on the tympan paper: I did searches on “tympan paper & 6x10 Kesley”, “tympan paper & Kesley”, “tympan paper size for 6x10 Kesley”, “tympan paper rolls” and still never found the answer to my questions.

I also should have pointed out that the reason I’m asking for help now is because I AM TAKING A COURSE later this fall. In fact, I’ve been in contact with MN Center for Book Arts and will be taking private lessons that I’m able to bring along my own Kesley. I don’t think that it’ll do me any good if I were to bring along a press that isn’t up to working order. If I’m going to pay for private lessons, in addition to the travel and accommodation expenses, I better have a press that is ready to be learned on.

Dick G.: The reason that I posted where I’m located is in the event that someone would have been so kind as to name a reliable source that is was in the US vs. Europe or Australia.

And simply saying that I should have a metal trash can with a lid is a safer method and follows OSHA’s requirements would have been far more welcoming.

Since my post has received well over 100 views, I’m guessing that there are others who are also interested in some of the answers that I posted. At least one person was kind enough to email me offline and offered their phone number to discuss further some of my questions.

Don’t try to focus on reading that is about 6x10 Kelseys. Platen presswork is platen presswork and threads on general work will be well worth reading. Most of your questions are very, very basic and answers do not need to be repeated. As I posted first time around, it will be more worth your while to do the research yourself and learn from existing print material and internet info than for people to take the time to answer individual questions that are very basic.

Fat Tony
Your questions are all good questions. They are about stuff you really need to know to be a good printer and to have a safe shop. Some who responded are really nice people. As one remarked, your list was LONG. Some of us could answer all of your questions, but it would be like writing a book. I am a teacher of printing and I like to do that, but I am not going to write a book about it. Some have. There are a couple available from Amazon. One is by Polk. Go to fiveroses website. Good tutorial.
I will answer two or three of your questions. The tympan sheet is also called the draw sheet. It is a hard surface sheet made from kraft paper that has been oiled and run through probably hot rollers. It is not oily to the touch. Think of it as similar to waxed paper. Butcher paper is a workable substitute and much cheaper and easier to get.
One uses 3 gage pins. They will break quite easily if you smash them with your Boxcar base. Break real easy with a motorized platen press, but also with a Kelsey. One must look very carefully and insure that the plate is placed on the base so the pins will not be touched by the base as the press is closed.
With your small press you could probably get by with two small quoins. I prefer two on each side. You don’t need high speed quoins.
It is good that you will have a class in the Fall. One can become self taught, but you must go through an awful lot of mistakes.
Be curious and seek the answers, but also have some patience. You will get some ink on your shirt.

Fat tony, i don’t mind helping anybody, like inky says there are too many questions to answer all of them. The Kelsey presses are great presses, not as strong as other table top presses but you can produce some great stuff with them. The chase on the kelseys have screws in the sides so you don’t really need quoins, you will need something to put between the screws and your furniture like a piece of iron to keep the screws from digging into your furniture. Check out the Excelsior Press website, Alan has lots of info on letterpress. I had a 6x10 for a while, it was set up to perforate, thats all i used it for, you can do die cutting on it, but you need to keep the dies small, the more of an area you try to cut (or print) the more pressure you need to make it happen, you can break the press if you try to cut or print too much of an area. The gripper spring can be made from any old piece of wire, it only helps to pull the grippers against the top sheet. Press board, i haven’t used it in years, you can cut a file folder up and use that, some file folders are made from pressboard. Hope this helps some, i know that these are all good questions, letterpress can be overwhelming to a new kid. I’m not familiar with boxcar bases, but you must make sure your grippers and gauge pins clear the base or you will do damage to the base and your press. If you want to call me and talk about anything i will send you my phone number, i do this full time, and although i’ve been doing it now for 50 years i too still call a couple of old timers to talk thru some things that come up. Throw your press in your car and come over and we can go over the press and have you printing in a couple of days, i’m just over an hours drive south of Boston. Dick G.

Fat Tony,
You need to take Briar with a grain of salt…..about the size of a deer lick. I live south of the twin cities, you can contact me and I would be happy to answer your questions. I can supply you with most of the items you will need and give you lessons.


If at all possible, you should try to come to the Great Northen Printer’s Fair in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa in September (15-17). There may be some others from your area who are coming who could share a ride. You will surely find all the things you need, and lots of people willing to lend a helping hand. Bring your press. If you could only come for the day, Saturday would be the day to come as there will be lots of stuff being sold at the swap meet.

Here’s alink to some info about the event:

I, too would be happy to give you a hand sometime, although a further drive than the twin cities for you.

John Henry
Mason City, IA

Fat Tony, I strongly recommend Girl with A Kluge, she really knows her stuff. Dick G.

I’ll try to answer another question or two. The Pantone “Color Bridge” is mainly for simulating a solid Pantone color when printing four-color process. For almost all of us printing by letterpress, it’s much easier to mix (or buy) the PMS ink color and print with the actual color rather than trying to “fake” it with CMYK! So, to mix PMS colors, yes, you’ll want to get a Pantone Formula Guide. And keep in mind when selecting or mixing a color, letterpress puts down a thicker layer of ink than offset, so you may well want to choose or mix a shade or two lighter than you think you’ll need, it’ll usually look darker when printed.

If you’re using rubber-base ink, you can usually store in any suitable container, as it normally doesn’t “skin”. Oil-base inks, however, do form a skin of dry ink where in contact with air, so either store airtight (tube, foil, plastic, squeeze all the air out) or store in a small cup, tin, etc. with the top smooth so you can skim off the skin when you use it next.