Want my first PRESS for invitations


I really want to get my first press. I don’t really have any experience outside of a workshop I did a couple of years ago (on a C&P tabletop 3x5).

I’m a little afraid of taking the plunge because I’m afraid I’ll accidentally get something that’s not right for me. Mostly what I’ll be printing are wedding invitations (usually 5x7).

I’ve been looking online at some of these Adana 8x5’s and a C&P 8x12 - the Adana sounds a lot easier to handle because it’s smaller & more mobile - I really don’t know how I would get a really huge and heavy piece of machinery down my basement stairs!

I also don’t know what fair prices for these different presses are.

Any thoughts or advice is much appreciated!

Log in to reply   25 replies so far

You want a ‘printing press’, to print, using a technique that is called ‘letterpress’ !


Thomas is being perhaps a tad cruel but I get emails like yours every other day and it takes every cell in my body not to respond similarly. Basically, if you won’t do the homework it is difficult to appreciate your passion. Passion is crucial yes, but it should lead to other things. Read the books, take the workshops. Research. Study. Learn. The information is all out there. Don’t depend upon the click here internet to solve your problems.

I waited six long years of intensive printing before I dared offer my services for commission work. Today, folks fall in love with letterpress and without any acquired skills or knowledge are willing to sell their services to others!

Note that I am quite aware that brides only want the “letterpress look” and are otherwise unconcerned. But it is a bit disturbing to note that new comers to the field are so completely unaware of letterpress history to the point where they can’t even communicate with the correct terminology. And it is an unfortunate clue.


Kate, you’ve been a member on this site a long time and have asked and received some good information in the past, check out Excelsior Press in New Jersey.

I did not want to be cruel in my response, but handing Kate the right terminology… It’s important for people to get to know the vocabulary of the printing industry.


To try to answer your question - on average, you will find tabletop presses of a reasonable size to as more expensive as a floor model platen of a similar size. Getting started, you might expect to spend about $1000 -$1200 on a press plus another $500 to $800 all of the attendant supplies and equipment (base, ink, rollers, tympan, etc.)

An 8x12 C&P is a perfect size for 5x7 work, and aside from the problem of where to put it, you will never regret having it. Unless you plan on really short runs, operating a tabletop press can be a challenge to your shoulders and upper body. Running 300 invitations in 2 or 3 colors on a hand press can be a daunting experience, where a treadle or motorized platen press would make this a relative breeze.

To be successful, you will need significant press experience - there are many initially frustrating aspects of makeready, press set-up, and technique which you need to get out of the way before looking for commercial work. Gerald is correct that it takes a lot of time to get the process down to where it looks effortless.

Best of luck!

Thank you Bill, for your helpful comment.

I would like to start out by saying that I do know the terminology - I just wasn’t paying attention to what I was writing. The best way to find a model on ebay is to type in the word “letterpress”, and since I was just doing that before I posted, I had it stuck in my mind. So thanks a lot to the terminology police for lecturing me, judging me, and not addressing my question at all.

Also, thanks for telling me to research and do my homework and all that - I thought that’s what I WAS doing, by asking questions in the newbie section of a website dedicated to letterpress.

I’ve been doing wedding invitations for 5 years, doing all my own flat printing. I know if I bought my own “PRINTING PRESS” I would be practicing for a long time before I would be utilizing it for invitations.

Bill, have you ever had experience printing a 5x7 card with a 8x5 press? I think an 8x12 would work out better for me, I’m just curious what kind of results an 8x5 would yield.


Just check out the Excelsior Press website (thank you DickG).

Someone should email them and let them know they’re using the wrong terminology:

“We do custom letterpress printing of cards, posters,invitations, prose, poetry, small books and pamplets - all printed on our classic cast iron letterpresses…”

You’re welcome. 8)

I printed some 5x7 Christmas cards one year on a 6x9 Sigwalt, so that kind of qualifies. A Sigwalt (or Golding) is beefy enough to give a substantial impression, and in my opinion, has a smoother action than most Kelseys. My biggest problem was getting enough ink on the form - I ended up making two roller passes for each impression - which is tedious on a table top press. An 8x12 press will have - due to it’s larger form factor - better ink coverage; and most floor models have a throw-off so you can more easily double-ink if you still need to.

So, in summary - the cards were fine, but it was a lot of work.

There is supposedly a formula somewhere for calculating the optimal impression area for a given platen size - and it is heavily weighted for ink coverage. Smaller platens don’t do heavy coverage - or large images - very well (that’s what cylinder presses are for).

Does this help?

Or just double print with a floor model handfed platen- slightly thinner ink and two impressions yields a nice result as well.

Kate, it seems like you ought to look out for a Golding Pearl; some models come apart into three pieces pretty easily and can be transported down some stairs without much trouble. If I recall correctly there’s a pedestal portion, an upper mechanicals portion, and a flywheel. You disconnect the treadle and then take the thing apart and two man could carry it.

I also believe they come in a 6X9 model that would do what you want- I think I saw one at The Arm a long time ago that was being lovingly put back into good working order (it’s sold, if you were wondering).

I recommend looking for a press like this because it affords you the floor model perks and the tabletop portability.

Best of luck to you;

Goldings are more prevalent on the East Coast, and New England area (so the inevitable question of “where are you located?” comes up). By now you probably know there are several reputable sources of used equipment.

Among them are John Barrett in Chicopee MA, Dave Churchman in Indianapolis IN, Don Black in Toronto (Canada); and Museums in N. Andover MA, Houston TX, and Los Angeles CA.

Kate, the Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA is having its annual open house on Fathers day weekend, on Sunday, they run a bunch of old presses and you could check out different presses, they have plenty of them. You can also visit John Barrett at Letterpress Things in Chicopee, MA, he is only open every other weekend but he is worth the visit, he has some presses for sale most of the time. Most presses will only print about half of the chase, then you have to know what you are doing, not that you can’t print a full chase but it takes practice and experience. Like Bill says the small presses don’t do heavy ink coverage or solid forms very well. i just foil stamped a cover 5x8” on my 5x8 Kelsey, it was a full chase and not easy to d, but it can be done. I’m sure you are closer to Excelsior Press in New Jersey, he has about every press on the planet and would most likely love to show you them. You would be more than welcomed to come to my shop and see a few persses run, we run windmills, a kluge, 10x15 and 8x12 c&p’s, a few kelseys, a golden, poco proof press, most likely a few more, i’m in southeastern MA, if you were heading this way you would have to pass the Golden Guru of the northeast, John Falstrom in Lyme, CT, if you pass him a short distance you will see Letterpress Things, so making it here might be impossible but the offer stands. Dick G.

Enough good stuff has probably already been said. That does not stop me.
All of us oldsters think of ourselves as teachers and teachers correct and instruct. Here on the forum it is much less like it would be in person or in the classroom. We do not know the experience or mental disposition of the correspondant. It may have been a bad day at the office for either.
Thomas and Gerald both made valid comment. From their standpoint, they thought it was positive and hoped that it would be helpful. Just as with textbook or instruction in person, one has to sort it out and keep what may be of value.
I think from the rest of the comments you see that the largest and strongest press you can afford or accommodate will be best.
Get some ink on your shirt

Hi all, thanks for your comments.

I have recently found a totally refurbished 8x12 Golding Jobber for about $2500. My gut tells me they are over-asking. I was thinking that it should be closer to $1500, but I’m not sure (lack of experience).

I think this might be a good press for me - the place I did the workshop at did all their invitations on a Jobber.

What are your thoughts?

What does “totally refurbished” mean? If it’s been stripped and repainted, $2500 may not be a bad price, considering all of the work involved. If it just means new rollers and some degreasing, maybe not such a great deal. Have a look at John Falstrom’s site:


John restores presses and is the go-to guy for all things Golding.

Hi Bill,

That is a good question. The press has been restored, and from the pictures appears to be in pristine condition with paint and detailing. I emailed the seller with a few questions, hopefully they will get back to me soon.

I am going to email John from perennial designs. Thanks for the link!


To all:

Seems like the most-frequently-asked-question in this kind of discussion is: Where are you located?


P.S.: Southern Aussies are perhaps a little less brusque than I am. — A.

It is good that you ask questions. We are pretty decent on tech questions. Price and value are judgement matters and we are less good at this. The good price is that which the buyer and seller can agree to in open negotiation - and a price that either would be willing to go around the table and stand in the other’s shoes. Pretty idealistic, huh.
Is that newly painted Ford on the used car lot a better value than the same year Chevy also for sale at the same price?
Maybe — or not.
A Golding is a fine press. Is it in good mechanical condition as well as having a new coat of paint? We used to call a coat of paint a California overhaul on cars. The proof is in the printing, not the appearance. In some old commercial print shops the press was filthy everywhere except where the ink and paper went. It was well lubricated and there was oil on the floor. The printer was interested in good printing and a reliable press. He wasn’t running a museum or a used press lot.
If you think the press will suit your needs, offer a price you would pay. What do you have to lose? If you believe you will be successful and will be in this for a long time, think of the cost per day over that time. Of course you can only use that approach if you have the money to spend now, or take a loan as one would do for a house. I don’t suggest a loan for a press.
You will get there and get some ink on your shirt.

“I would like to start out by saying that I do know the terminology - I just wasn’t paying attention to what I was writing. The best way to find a model on ebay is to type in the word “letterpress”, and since I was just doing that before I posted, I had it stuck in my mind. So thanks a lot to the terminology police for lecturing me, judging me, and not addressing my question at all.”

Note to myself. Try to discern before you comment on a question whether or not the OP isn’t paying attention to what he/she is writing.


I assume that the 5x7 for the invitations is the measurement of the paper itself, not necessarily the measurement of the area to be printed, right? Measure the size of the printing area on your cards. If you’re using something like 1” margins all the way around, you’re printing area would be more like 3x5. Seems to me like that’d be well in the range of the larger tabletops.

If you’re planning to spend $2,500 anyway, why not find yourself a nice C&P Pilot, CMC 5x8 or 6x10, Sigwalt Ideal, Golding Official, Adana 8x5, or the like? The right Kelsey 6x10 at a good price can also provide some solid printing and valuable experience. You’ll probably have a fairly easy time reselling the tabletop if you need to size up or if you decide this letterpress thing isn’t for you.

You’ll also have an easier time moving a tabletop down your basement stairs than you would a larger press. If you go with the Jobber, please make sure you have a realistic plan for that part of the process. I don’t know what your basement stairs look like, but I’m having a hard time imagining any set of stairs on which that could be managed.

On a related note, the Jobber won’t be significantly less dangerous once the move is complete, either. Your professed lack of experience suggests to me that you might not know just how dangerous those flywheel-driven platens can be.

Like yourself, I’m pretty new at this. I’m sure the voices of experience here can speak more to the pertinent safety issues. I only use tabletops, so I’m not your guy on that. There’s also plenty of info in the forums on the safe operation of hand-fed platen presses. As I recall, the most recurrent advice is: Get some training before risking your digits.


Hi Gabriel,
Thanks for your input and another point of view. Maybe you’re right about starting out with a smaller tabletop press - easier to move around, less dangerous, etc. Seems like it would be a little less of a commitment if things didn’t work out. Very valid point.

@Inky - I heard back from the seller of the Jobber and he said that he’s only used it only once or twice in many years. He also said that not everything is included to run the press - but that he has everything I would need for sale. A little vague, sounds like there are parts missing - or maybe he could mean something silly like ink.
But like you mention - the press is beautiful - but he really hasn’t been using it. Makes me hesitate. I would rather have a filthy old thing that works and prints well…

@Alan - I’m located on Long Island, NY - a trip up to Chickopee is feasible for me (3 hours away - and only 25 minutes from my best friend). Same for Excelsior (about 2 hours away). Maybe visiting those places is my best option.


I was just at Letterpress Things in Chicopee, Mass. for the first time a couple of weeks ago. John had at least a dozen tabletops at his Chicopee location, all for reasonable money. It seems that he keeps his larger presses at the new location across town. I’ve never been there.

If your Golding Jobber is the restored one on eBay for $2,500, then the listing suggests to me that the “everything else needed to run the press” is stuff like furniture, type, ink, quoins, tympan, etc. Just ask the seller if the press is complete. It’s a beautiful machine. You’d definitely be paying for its beauty though, so take that into account.

There are certainly deals to be had on eBay, but I think most would agree that it’s easier to overpay there than in some of the printing-specific venues mentioned in this thread.

A couple of other places to consider if you’re interested in broadening your search:

-Have a look at Bindery Tools, LLC in Central Pennsylvania. Might not be as close to you Letterpress Things or Excelsior Press, but they have some nice stuff (including large presses like the Jobber) for reasonable money.

-If you decide to go the tabletop route, T and T Press Restoration has a substantial listing of restored presses with starter kits and seem pretty experienced with shipping. I think the owners post here from time to time.

I think this has probably already been emphasized above but bears repeating: Perhaps a visit to someone else’s shop or a class at one of the NYC or NE studios might clear up some things for you as you weigh your options. The Arm in Brooklyn runs classes regularly, though they aren’t the only ones.

Hi Kate,

I am going to guess the gentleman you found the Jobber at is the avid collector and restorer in New Jersey who recently listed his lot a few times on ebay. I have to think at least a few got Falstrom excited. Assuming its the same guy, the quality of the detailing is in the eye of the beholder. I noticed he seemed to monogram and family crest each piece - less appealing to me than keeping them historical, but to each their own.

That said, his Jobber was as complete a one as I had seen, fountain and counter etc. It did look to have been repaired on one of the roller bearers. I recently picked up a Jobber 6 from Brubaker over at Bindery Tools and it was in usable but unrestored and incomplete (in ways I didn’t care). I forget exactly what I paid, but I can look the exact price up - it was around $1500. I then spent more moving it and adding a variable speed drive and motor to my liking. It all adds up. $2500 does sound high, but if it’s all there, you like it, and it’s ready to go as you would set it up then it may be worthwhile.

Knowing what I know now - only a little - I wouldn’t trade my situation for a better more complete press. I learned a lot and know the press better than I otherwise would. The pauses in progress offered time to study and what you see over and over is that people end up with a press they want and are left to sort out how to move it, get it running and make it theirs.

Good luck,

Hi guys,

Thanks for your comments - I think for now I am going to pass on the Jobber - I really don’t need a beautiful press at this time, and I certainly have more important things I could spend the extra money on.

I think I will pay a visit to Letterpress Things in Chickopee when my schedule clears up. Hopefully he will have a tabletop for me. (A tabletop will also be less of a shock to my husband when he finds it, lol) Once I find a tabletop and get really comfortable with it I will consider getting another press. In the meantime, I will definitely look to take a refresher course at one of the shops near me.

Thanks for your input!

If you can get a smaller treadle press I whole heartedly recommend that over a table top any day. After spending this week printing 500 two colour stationery, on an Adana 8x5 (my treadle press is awaiting new rollers.) I got a serious work out, in uncommon heat in the UK!

Adana’s are ok but if you want the heavy debossed look which everyone who visits my studio, asks immediately about. You won’t get that look easily without loads of packing or damaging the handle.

I was a bit like you Kate, then I just jumped in, and haven’t looked back. In my eight years of printing, there is a set of rules you stick but most of the time, it’s working out what works for you and getting the results YOU want.


When I got my first treadle press about 30 years ago I got my baptism under fire. I contracted for numbering 12,000 circus tickets which had been printed 4 up (by me on a Heidelberg windmill, two colors both sides). I was forced to number them on my 7” x 11” OS C&P because of the four numbering machines I owned one had to be manually turned over at every hundred count. To make impression the press had to be pumped four times for every impression (10” x 15”s take six pumps), making a total of far in excess of 12,000 pumps on the treadle, considering inking and start & stops, plus the regular run. It took two weeks to complete the job, and I was never so happy to see a job out the door.