Proud new owner of a letterpress

Hello! I have been skulking around on this site for awhile now, with a dream of one day owning my own press. Yesterday that became a reality, much sooner than I thought and in a ‘meant to be’ way if you believe in that kind of thing. I have exactly zero experience so I really appreciate the wealth of knowledge here, and the breadth of perspectives! What an amazing resource this site is, I know I will be coming here even more now!

My press is a Craftsman platen press, Superior, 6.5” x 10”. For the last couple of decades it has been sitting unused under the stairs in a home just a few blocks away from me, and it’s in beautiful condition (at least to my untrained eye).

It came with a bunch of extras and all the original documentation, including the bill of sale, brochures for both the Superior and Imperial models, and the instruction booklet “How to Print”. There is also a Printers’ Supply Book from The Kelsey Company. I am wondering if any of that might be of value for the museum (I am willing to scan it all), or is it not vintage enough?

Thanks again to everyone for creating this wonderful place!

~ Nikki

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There have been a number of reprints of the Kelsey manuals including one on Don Black’s web site and NA Graphics apparently sells a printed version.

Have fun with your new press.

Okay, thanks Arie! And I do indeed expect some fun (and frustration, too I guess)!

Nikki, Congrats on your new press! The Craftsmen is a fine machine that should last you for years….. or forever!

That little “How to Print” book is also a nice find. It shows you just about everything you need to know to get started.

How are the rollers? Did you get any type or blocks with it?

aka Winking Cat Press

Picked up the same press last fall, only a mile or two from my house. Great press.

Thanks for your replies and it’s nice to hear that you guys consider it a good machine!

Yes, Dave, it came with some type (five small drawers, all nicely organized and labelled), and a cardboard box full of blocks and tools! The rollers appear to be in great shape, and the owner would have told me if she’d had any problems with it before she stopped using it, so my hopes are high. I’m planning to take my time getting familiar with it, and do any maintenance on it that I can, and then I’ll move forward from there!

Thanks again!

Welcome to those who have the addiction.
You have a fine press. Properly adjusted it will serve you well.
You have to be a bit smarter than the press. Not a lot, but a little. You must understand how the press works and what it needs from you to allow it to do its job.
You can read the books and train yourself as others have done.
As a teacher of printing I always suggest that beginners seek a teacher to get started faster and better.
Get some ink on your shirt.

As a learner with a book and not much else you will find how much patience you really have ,or not .
when you have put up your packing and locked in your first job ink the forme (type ) then before you pull the impression lever stop the machine, put the impression on and take your first print winding the machine by hand , this way you will prevent the worst risk you will encounter in the learning curve , if you find the press gets stuck you will not smash it if you were over packed or some other error ,once you have successfully pulled your first proof you will have a physical idea of your packing thickness in relation to your stock thickness (Paper) , once you have that little step over you are on the road to learning a process that every now and again will throw you challenges ,for many of us that is what keeps us at it .
You will never stop learning ,printing is very much affected by the environment ,keeping it stable will be important and of much help . Always be aware of the limitation of your machine ,you will soon find them ,the hard bit is learning when to stop pushing the old girl ,be aware these are old and quite fragile in real terms , any work you do to the machine ust be done with care to the cast iron its constructed from ,mallets and copper hammers are used long before you should take a steel hammer to it .
Never have things hanging on walls above the machine , nor on shelves overhanging it ,any objects dropping into the machine by accident will do serious harm to it ,sod you .(before someone asks ,what about the operator !!)
Unfortunately you have to put your hand in these as they run !! Set your feed board correctly ,A so you can not trap your hand between the board and opening platen , B most importantly set the feedboard so that when you are feeding you are unable to reach into the platen when it is between 1/2 and 3/4 closed , you should not be able to reach far enough into the press to close it on your fingers , you should set this distance when you have found your comfortable “stance ” for feeding ,this adjusment tailors the machine for you and allows you to be in safe charge of its use , printers rarely caught there hands in machines set this way ,it was most likely when they went onto a different machine than usual and the reach was different to what they were habitually doing on their usual press . This adjusting up for the feedboard is probably the most important thing you should do for yourself with these presses .
Its a tool that commands respect and looked after will do you proud!!

Thank you so much for your notes inky and Peter - I read them twice and I take it all to heart!

There are a couple of operating presses that offer workshops, about four hours’ drive from me. I will make the investment to attend a workshop to help me get started, it feels a little bit daunting right now! I definitely want to start things well with my press, AND keep my fingers!

Thanks for sharing, and for helping me feel even more excited!


I have a Superior press as well. It is a very reliable little press.
I have posted some Craftsmen information, and would love to have a scan of your document if it differs much from my own.

You’ll find that Craftsmen is still in business, and sells rollers and some spare parts. You can contact SherwinMarks at 508-376-2001 or smarks -at- He has been very helpful in the past.
If you have a set of original rollers, you may want to have them re-cast instead of replaced. Try I’ve heard only good things about them.

Let me know if I can be of any help

Hi boundstaffpress! My document has the same title, but appears to be the newer version - yours is an “instruction book and catalogue” whereas mine is just an instruction book. Some of the pages are the same but it is different enough that I will definitely share what I have. I also have a 5-page document “Superior Press Parts”, which has left and right views of the press with labeled parts, and a parts list with numbers. I will scan that as well.

Thanks very much for the contact information and the suggestion about the rollers!


I really like the intro in my manual, it reads as follows:

“Certainly the complex order we have created for bringing the abundance of our society from producer to consumer could not exist withut the printed word. The printed word educates, amuses, cajoles, inspires. The printed word - this miracle of paper and ink - is the basis of our knowledge and understanding . It is our link with the past, our key to the future.”