restoring a kelsey Star 7” X 11”

Hello everyone,

I recently acquired a free Kelsey Star that has some major issues, the first of which is that it’s in rough shape. I mean, the press is practically barking it’s such a dog. It’s missing its rollers and cores, doesn’t have a chase, and the treadle pedal is snapped in half and needs to be brazed together.

I run a studio for a college, and we have two nice platens, a couple vandercooks and a table top, so I’m no slouch with maintenance and the occasional broken bit. I must admit, however, that this little press has me overwhelmed.


How should I go about removing rust? Scotchbrite and WD-40?

Should I take the whole thing apart and rebuild it?

How should I make a skid for it (It’s not sitting on anything but its feet)? What kind of wood should I use?

Where can I get roller cores? Rollers? A Chase?

Thanks for your help, in advance. I’m a hobby printer, classically trained in stone lithography, so forgive my vocabulary if I said something in a brutish way.

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My suggestion would be to clean the press a little, braze the treadle, make up a set of cores and trucks and get low durometer rubber rollers made, and get a chase base from Alan Runfelt and dedicate the press to photopolymer — you’re probably going to have a VERY hard time finding a chase for that press.


Why would you want to put the press on a wooden base support? It was meant to sit on the floor on its own four legs. If you are extraordinarily tall, however, you might wish to do so to make it easier to feed.

Is it an old style Star or one of the later ones which looks like it is a press on a stand?

Bob is correct in saying that a chase will be hard to come by, but you should be able to get one welded up to fit at a local welding shop made out of steel bar stock.

I am always reticent to suggest taking a press apart unless it is in very poor shape. If you do, carefully mark the parts and position.

John Henry

Yes, I don’t think I’m going to take it apart. I’ve attached pictures; to me, it looks like an oldstyle according to your description, but I can’t find enough info online to certainly say one thing or another.

The skid was because It’s going on a wood floor in my apartment and I wanted to distribute the weight evenly so I don’t wreck my landlord’s house.

Why would I want to dedicate this press just to photopolymer? I don’t understand.

Someone, somewhere has got to have chases for this guy. I have seen some restored presses online.

Man, this press is turning out to be like a free kitten.

image: star_back.jpg


image: star_front.jpg


My 10x15 c&p sits on 2x4s, I have several small presses that I can’t find chases for, I make them out of the plywood that they make die-cutting dies from. Your press doesn’t look like there is too much rust, I just saved a 3x5 Kelsey that was left outside for quite a while, it was rusted solid, nothing moved, I kept soaking it in liquid wrench until I could move all the parts, took months to free everything up, then I used fine steel wool on the platen, ink disc and bed, haven’t printed with it yet.

Rub it over with fine wire wool and any metal polish that smells like ammonia , dont go mad just get the grease off then liberally wipe it over with a wax polish to keep the surfaces sealed , go over the whole press lightly and it wont look so rough .

Thanks for the cleaning suggestions!

@dickg, It appears this was sitting in a barn for a long time (I was pulling hay from gears). everything moves, but with great difficulty. Liquid wrench will help dislodge gunk, too? I’m more concerned with getting enough dirt and grime out at this point to see if everything works properly and it’ll print. Yikes.

Thanks, Peter, too.

Nice little press!

For grime, I use WD40. It is a better solvent than lubricant, in my opinion. It will also leave an oil film to protect clean metal. A gallon can and a spray bottle (sometimes included with the gallon) are a good value and handy for big jobs and small.

WD is not a great penetrant… for joints and threads I use PB-Blaster or Liquid Wrench.

Another thing that works to free rusted parts is keroscene, I use wd40 also, when everything moves well i’ll wipe the press down with a rag with some oil on it. I have a 8x12 c&p that was pulled from a horse barn last year, I don’t think i’ll ever get the hay out of it. Liquid wrench will loosen up everything, just don’t force anything, go slowly, take your time and you’ll be ok. I’m not a fan of stripping old presses down and making them look pretty, I leave the 100 or so years of gunk in there and just clean where the paper and type has to go, cast iron breaks way to easy. If I can i’ll post a few pictures of a couple of my rescued presses waiting to be restored, compared to my presses yours looks brand new.

Diesel fuel is a great degreaser, lubricant, plus rust remover; and far less expensive than the much touted WD40s et al. As for the ink disc, well, the tried and true vinegar/lemon mixture does wonders. Avoid - unless absolutely necessary, and then only on unfinished surfaces - the use of any abrasive wheels, sandpapers or steel brushes. And if using steel wool ensure the fine strands do not become trapped in oil holes or bearings. Amazing what a magnet will pick up after you’ve ‘cleaned’ a piece of metal with steel wool. :o) Pay particular attention to the oil holes of the press. They accumulate dirt quickly and clog easily. Diesel cuts through such gunk very well. Moving stiff parts without ensuring proper oil flow is a sure way to scar precision surfaces, and cause sloppy movement from scraped bearings. A source of compressed air to facilitate cleaning of holes and crevasses is invaluable. Disassembling a press is a very tricky business; aged pieces have a habit of snapping unexpectedly, and as noted from many contributors to this site, unless restoring to museum quality, not really necessary for operational use. But enjoy the process; understanding how the press functions by working on all its parts gives deeper appreciation of the printing art.

Great. I’m definitely not taking it apart. After further research, I see that the feed bars are missing (and the feeder board but I can make that), as well as the paper grippers. Is there a way to get those parts? Does anyone know of any parts presses or people that sell them? I just saw that someone is selling a Kelsey Star Jobber in White Plains on this list, and by the description, it’s more complete than mine. Anyone have a parts list that perhaps could be used to fab new parts? I’m excited to get this thing up and running! I found a guy to braze the cracked treadle for me locally. Here’s a picture of the refurbed press so you can see the feed board action:

image: Star-Job.png


Check out Excelsior Press in New Jersey, he sometimes has parts for these Kelsey presses, another one is Letterpress Things in Chicopee, Massachusetts, he has parts from time to time.

Thank you! I sent emails out to a slew of folks, including Alan at Excelsior.

I’ll keep y’all updated if you care enough to check in from time to time!


I’m attaching 2 screen captures of the page from Kelsey’s “Printer’s Course”. The pics label parts, but don’t give too much detail, I’m afraid.

Good luck
- Denis

P.S. If the pictures don’t load or if you’d like a bigger versions, I can send you a pdf file.

image: KelseyStar2.JPG


image: KelseyStar1.JPG


Hi Denis! Thank you! I would love love love a larger PDF. If you don’t mind, you can send it to me at JudithBaumann(at)gmail(dot)com. This is incredibly helpful!

My press is the bottom model. Do you know the difference, ie old style vs new style?

Judith -

Got your message from my web site. Yes. I can help.

I have the same model and I do have the one set of feed table arms, for my press, plus rollers, etc… We can use mine as patterns to make you a new set and I can make you a set of rollers and trucks as well.

We can also make a chase and/or or an Excelsior Chase-Base for that press.

Thanks to Dennis for the great illustrations. The lower drawing, btw, is *our* press, so keep that one. The other one is of a larger jobber Kelsey sold at one time.

There are a few models of the Star, but ours is perhaps the most common - and is the one I used to dream about while perusing the old Kelsey catalogs when I was a kid back in the ‘60’s…

Yours is not in bad shape, either. Very little rust may need only cleaning and some deep oiling. You can clean most of what I see there with Scotch Brite Green pads and WD-40, Liquid Wrench or something similar. I buy it by the gallon and find it very handy.

For tougher rust, I put on my rubber gloves, open the windows and spray “Prep N Etch” (from Home Depot) onto the worst rust. In 3-5 minutes, the rust can be removed quite easily using a wire brush or one of those thick, tough coarse Scotch Brite pads (save the little green ones for finishing work)

Vinegar & Lime juice are great for soaking parts, but it takes 10+ hours to work. For spot cleaning, Prep ‘N Etch works fast. Just be careful not to leave it on the steel for long; it will “stain” the steel and turn it black. I spray it on; scrub off within a few minutes then I rinse with plain water to neutralize the acid in the P&E.

I have more on how I restore the little presses at

On the larger presses, I use a drill bit, a screw, a bolt or some threaded rod to remove paper dust and other debris out every oil hole; then I flood/flush each hole with WD-40. I finish up by doing a final and thorough cleaning of each oil hole using q-tips. Once the holes are clear and oil flows through, I go to a heavier (30 weight) oil for daily oiling.

And thanks to DickG and Bob of AdLib Press for suggested you contact me. They were right. I can help and look forward to helping you put that old press back into service.

One reason, btw, that I keep so many presses in my collection is so that *someone* has parts that can be duplicated to restore presses in need of parts that have been lost or damaged…

I’ll be in touch.
I’m posting an image of old Kelsey ad for *our* press.
The full-sized image is at

image: KelseyStarAdvert.jpg


BTW - One major drawback of the Star is the lack of an impression throw-off lever on most of the ones that have survived. But it was an option offered in the ad above, so it must have existed at one time.

If anyone has one *with* the impression throw-off assembly, I’d like to see it - and see if I can duplicate it so that we can make these presses safer and more productive to use.

- Alan

Judith -

I am the person selling the Star Jobber in White Plains, NY. Looks like you have a lot of help already but if you need anything please don’t hesitate to call.

646 957 5295

Thanks so much, Alan and Matt. I will be getting in touch with both of you!


I have a Star that I use regularly and have had several parts worked on/replaced over the past 10 years. Also, recently had a machinist make a new chase for me. It’s a wonderful, reliable press and I love it. I would love to find grippers for it, if anyone knows where to find for this press. I live near Letterpress Things and, apparently, this press is just an odd size.

image: IMG_3842.JPG