Buying a press…what about this one?

I’ve been looking an tabletop press for my apartment for a few weeks now and all I’ve been able to find are restored presses ranging from $1000-$1900 in my area. Then I stumbled upon this site:

Based on what I’ve seen (just in my area) this is a killer deal, but I’ve also heard many stories about people picking up presses at garage sales and on craigslists for way less. It’s not really garage sale season here in Seattle so I’m wondering if anyone has any advice about buying this particular press? I’m a little cautious of the website and the fact that it’s coming from overseas but compared to the competition around here (which is rare and pricey) I’m thinking to just go for it.

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Nevermind. Looks like a scam.

While I haven’t seen any comments regarding people burned by this company, if you do a google search for the company, you will find discussion of their terms, etc., and admittedly some speculation on the nature of the company. It seems unlikely that a company in Indonesia such as this would have 34 available Kelseys outfitted with Tarheel rollers. Perhaps before committing to the purchse you might check with Tarheel to see if they can confirm that the company is above board.

I got to the payment page and they were only charging $31 for shipping and the only way to pay was by bank transfer.

Can you say ‘sketchy’?

I expected a google search to pop up with ton of scam warnings but I found the same that you did…nothing.

If you’re not interested in restored presses (and their price tags), then patience and Craig’s List could be your friend. I know I saw a $500 Pilot in Oregon or Washington lately. That’s not all that cheap, I suppose, but the seller of that particular press probably could have been reasoned with because he said that he was planning on scrapping the press if he didn’t sell it. I’m guessing the seller would have made about $20 on the press by going that route.

You might also see what you can find out about estate auctions in your area. There are deals to be had at those things too.

Here’s a link to someone loosing $600 on this scam.

Thanks for posting that! Glad I walked away.

After doing some more research, I’ve realized that restoration resources in the Seattle area are rather limited so to avoid digging a deeper hole that I can manage, I’m accepting the fact that I’m probably going to have to fork up the extra cash to just get one that’s all ready refurbished.

Check the yellow pages on this site, you might find a few shops in your area.

What restoration resources are you anticipating will be required? Lots of press restoration methods just use general hardware stuff. Look around on the Briar Press archives for the specifics. I suppose if you think you’ll be needing to replace parts then some more letterpress-specific resources would be useful if nearby, but most people will have to have some things shipped to them no matter where they are.

If you have the patience for it, the unrestored press will probably be your cheapest option. I haven’t paid more than $250 each or so for the last 4 tabletop presses I’ve bought. Of course, if time, rather than money, is the scarcest resource, then restored or currently-operational presses make sense. Finally, most of the operational presses would, if you test them beforehand, offer the added security of knowing that they indeed can print right now. You might come across some unpleasant surprises in the unrestored press market. I suppose.

Probably you’ll have to weigh those advantages for each possible press purchase. And if you’re like me, eventually excitement will win out and you’ll pull the trigger somewhere. Good luck in the press search.

Well, I’ve yet to find anyone around here who restores presses so if for some reason I get in over my head, I’d be a little stuck. Like if I decided I no longer wanted to restore it myself and wanted to have someone else do it, my only option would be to shipping it to someone and then have them ship it back.

Also, I live in an apartment so my own resources are limited…like no garage, no tools, etc. I have a friend with a shop and I’m sure he’s got all the tools that I would even imagine needing but he probably doesn’t even know what a letterpress is.

Being a newbie, I can see how this seemingly simple process could potentially go wrong and end up costing me more than if I just bought one that’s ready to go.

So yes, you’re right…definitely weighing the options!
Thanks for all the advice everyone.

If you need a piece of sculpture for your printing (in other words the press as art) a “restored” press will fill that bill. but cost quite a lot. If you just want to print, a press that works can be a little grungy but it may print better than a “restored” press. The main consideration is: are all the parts there and in good shape (not broken or improperly repaired), and is the design of the press capable of performing the work you want to do? If you’re after deep impression printing, a Kelsey is not your best choice; if you just want to print small cards and similar smaller and simpler items without smashing the paper, a small Kelsey or Adana will handle that. As the discussion recently about the “restored” presses being marketed by one entrepreneur reveals, “restored” is not always better, and never cheap.


I’d have to agree with Bob. A recently used press may be a better buy than one which has been repainted (in some cases that is all that is done to restore a press these days).

The outside appearance of the press does little to improve the printing it does.

Take a moment and check out our services. If we can help you drop us a note or pick up the phone & call.

Best of luck



If you can find an unrestored press, it is possible to restore it yourself. I agree with jhenry that most “restoration” consists of a bad repainting job. I recently got a Kelsey Excelsior 6x10 that someone spray-painted all over without even taking anything apart. Luckily I got it for $60.

But I totally understand that restoring a press can be daunting. I have been restoring my Kelsey for the past month or so. It has just been me and my boyfriend (who has access to a machine shop through his work). I am a total amateur at restoration, but it can be done right!

If your friend has (and is willing to help you learn how to use) a lathe, you can do the restoration pretty cheaply. You just have to commit to putting in a lot of hours and elbow grease.

I have been posting about my restoration on my blog. We did a full strip down to the castings, repainted, and even machined new parts. You can check it out, and maybe it will give you an idea of the work that needs to go into restoring a press:

Taking the press apart:
Sandblasting, priming, painting:
Watching paint dry:
Painted lettering:
Reassembling the platen:
(I just finished reassembling the press this weekend, so I will be posting about cutting and fitting dowel pins, retaining rings and grease later this week).
I just added a new post on:
Cutting & Fitting New Dowel Pins:

Fantastic! Thanks Alexis!
I bookmarked your site. I was contact by a local who’s looking to get rid of his C&P Pilot. Just waiting on pictures before I arrange a time to check it out and name my price.

He says the handle is broken but that seems like an easy fix.