Help - what to buy?! (CLOSED)

Im looking at a Kelsey 5x8 because I have heard its great for beginners. I need some help though to know how high to bid on this one on ebay. It needs rollers, possibly other things. The seller isnt really familiar with presses. They are also including some type as well. Please check it out and let me know your thoughts. You can view it here:

I also have been talking to a guy at Perfection Type Inc. and he currently has Craftsman Pilot style 6 ½” X 10” press for sale for $ 1250.00 and the Hamilton stand it’s on for an additional $ 250.00. The shipping alone will probably cost me 300-400$. Im not sure if I should get something like the above or hold out for the Craftsman Pilot - its in great condition.

I havent done any letterpress before - there are no classes offered near my town that I can find. I need all the help I can get

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Here is the Kelsey with type.

image: more included

more included

image: included


image: Obviously needs rollers

Obviously needs rollers

Here is the Craftsman

image: Craftsman left.JPG

Craftsman left.JPG

image: Craftsman 6.5 X 10.JPG

Craftsman 6.5 X 10.JPG

A Kelsey 5x8 without rollers often seems to go in the $400 to $700 range on eBay. Sometimes more, I suppose, especially if they’re restored and painted. They’re nice for being shippable.

I don’t see the crack in the handle that they mention in the description of that Kelsey. Wish they had a better picture of that part of the press so that you could get a better idea of how troublesome that crack might be in the future. The handles take a lot of stress, so I don’t at all like the idea of of a crack there, even if, as they say, it doesn’t affect the operation of the press right now.

I like the Craftsmen Pilot (sometimes called the “Superior”) better than the Kelsey 5x8, and $1,250 seems like a fair price. Shipping in general is a pricey though for those 150 lb. machines. Would the Perfection Type press come with rollers?

Finally, where is your town? If there aren’t formal classes, perhaps you could meet a local letterpress printer who might be willing to make some arrangement to show you a few things. And if you ask around here, you might find that there are classes of some sort available at a reasonable distance from you

You should also consider ordering a book or two on the subject. Cleeton’s General Printing, Polk’s Elementary Platen Presswork or an earlier edition of his The Practice of Printing are good. I like the newer book Letterpress Printing by Paul Maravelas as well. They’re no substitute for practical experience but are quite helpful.

Personally, I would go for the Craftsman, It is a good press and a great size that will give you more options in the long run. This is a really fair price from what I have seen these going for! If you choose to ship it have it insured!!!! for double the amount. Also, make sure all of the components are there, rollers, chases, grippers etc. Check out this site for restored presses and their prices.
Good Luck!!!

Im in a small town in Texas. I am finding there are a lot more presses/workshops etc. on the east and west coast. I really appreciate your input. About shipping, do i have to get a freight shipping company? Or how would you go about that?

The craftsman looks to be the better machine. You might want to consider the value of the lead type. A couple of sets of lead font easily run as high as the current bid price, and the composing stick, and furniture have value also. If these things all have utility to you, being new and in rural Texas, you might consider the Kelsey deal as well. It would help avoid the inevitable cost of all the odds and ends and trinkets you need to get started. Perhaps constructing a budget would be a good place to start. That’s just my two cents…

The budget is a really good idea. Buying all of the supplementary equipment can get expensive in a hurry. Along those lines, I agree that the extras are appealing as a part of the package, but to me, that might mean giving T & T Press Restorations (linked above by Dennis) a look rather than that Kelsey on eBay with the cracked lever. I’d be pretty wary of that break.

The T & T presses seem to come with most everything you’d need to print except for some cloths and solvent for washup.

mrscavasos, I suspect that Perfection Type would at least have some ideas about how you should manage freight shipping. They probably even make the arrangements themselves. Ask them. Also ask if the press comes with rollers. They don’t seem to be in the picture. That’ll be a big supplementary purchase out of the gate if roller’s don’t come with the press. Somewhere between $150 and $200 probably. Factor that in when considering the prices of various presses.

Yes, I think the problem I am running into is in fact the budget. If i have to be ready to pay $3000 for a press then so be it. I really have a very tight budget right now thats why i was looking at the Kelsey. It would be a low initial investment and then it might be slower in starting up (to get parts or other equipment) but it also might be just as long for me to save the money for the Craftsman. With me being new at everything Im wondering if it would just be as easy for me to wait and buy something like the Craftsman that is in excellent condition. (I looked into buying the rollers too)
I guess i just need some advice on what would be the best way to start.

I would go with the craftsman. The few dollars more will pay off over time.

Also, seeing that you are in Texas, once you get your press check out this link:

He can set type for you in many sizes and styles that will cut down on purchasing a lot of foundry type you might not need.

Wow, I am so pleased with everyone’s help! I really appreciate it!

You can always go for the Kelsey and turn around and sell just the press down the road. It really will depend on what it ends up for on eBay. I found a 5 x 8 Kelsey with two cabinets full of everything needed for $75 on Craigslist. I kept what I wanted and then sold the press and one cabinet for $500, which was still a great deal. You have lots of options and patience will payoff! I browse various sites daily and look for opportunities! It is amazing what comes across your desk, so to speak!! Good Luck!

Choices, choices
I really want the slightly used BMW, but I have an old Ford budget.
The Kelsey is a good press for a beginner if you understand its limitations. One is that it was designed to print upon the paper and not to do smash printing. The new artists like to do deep impression. The press was not built for that. Someone tried too much pressure on the handle and broke it. Happens often.
The Craftsmen, note CraftsmEn is a bit more press. Well adjusted and in the hands of a skilled printer, it will print forever, if not abused. It too can be damaged if pressed (no pun) beyond its designed limitations.
What can you give up or sell to adjust the budget to buy the Craftsmen? If it is to be crated and shipped, make sure it is crated very well and insured.
Where in Texas?
Merry Christmas and get some ink on your shirt soon.


Im near San Antonio. Im looking around still for some other deals. And I think im okay with limitations right now because I just need to get myself learning. But your insights are very helpful. Dennis - thats some really great advice too! Thanks