Purchase a Kelsey 5x8 Model U—Question about Boxcar base and Quoins

Hey all!

I have been printing for about 2 years now at a studio, but I recently bit the bullet and purchased a Kelsey 5x8 Model U on Ebay. It’s in fantastic condition. I’m super excited to get started!

On the boxcar website it says that the size base generally used for this size press is 3.5”x6.5.” I am guessing this is because of the size of the high speed quoins on either side of the base when inside the chase.

My question is, could I use the 4.5”x7.5” base and just use smaller/thinner quions? I would much rather have that extra inch on the base for my plates if possible!

Also, I was wondering how the wedge/challenge quoins were actually used. I have never seen them in use before!

Thank you in advance!


image: Press


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Hi Amanda,
Congrats on the press! I wouldn’t suggest trying to print that large on a Kelsey 5x8. You could easily damage it. If you want to see some wedge coins in action come by The Arm. I’ve got a whole drawer full of them.

Remember that this is a light-duty press. It doesn’t want to do a lot of impression or print forms with heavy coverage.


4.5”x7.5” is the base size I use on my Kelsey.
Also, A Kelsey chase doesn’t need quoins, it’s locked up with chase irons and screws conveniently set in the sides of the chase, giving you access to pretty much the whole 8x5 area.

Just make sure to use something other then the traditional gauge pins (paper guides, compressible foam etc.) and watch out for the grippers.

And yeah, you’d never be able to print that large of an area, but it sure helps to have the extra space if you need to print long and narrow, or have a large but airy and spread-out design.

Ah great! I don’t need to print that large, I was just wondering if it was an option. I would love to print 4” coasters with bleed. I’m excited to start using it once it arrives and I get the rest of the things I need. It came with brand new rollers as well which is a huge plus!

It’s actually awesome to know that it has some limitations. I feel like you discover new ways of doing things when this is the case.

This press should be pretty perfect for the small space I have in my apartment! A 6x9+ would have been nice but I’m glad I found the one I got!

I’ll actually be in next week to print some invitations on the Vandercook so I’ll see you then! Thanks for the response!



I don’t see what you mean by chase irons and screws from the photo I have of my press;



image: $T2eC16VHJGgFFm5slFlVBR+UcJZgZg~~60_57.JPG

BTW, speaking of experiments and limitations, I managed to print a 10x18 poster on that little press. Took some doing, and looked rather sloppy. But case in point, can be done!

image: kelsey.png


That is so wonderful. I had some similar ideas running through my head when I bought the press!


Look at this diagram (and at your photo).

There are screws on the two sides of the chase, that you can turn to lock up the form.

Chase irons are simple strips of metal, that are used between the screws and the furniture (so as not to damage the latter).

If yours are missing, a trip to any hardware store would solve the problem.

image: chase irons.gif

chase irons.gif

Wow, great diagram!
Can you use normal tools to screw them out or does it require a special key?


A simple flat-head screwdriver.

The screws themselves are also standard, so if yours are missing, it’s easy to replace with new set screws.

Here they are on your picture.

P.S. You do seem to be missing the grippers. Were they taken off for transport?

image: screws.jpg


Are the chase irons attached?

Hmm, I’m not sure. I have yet to receive the press. I guess I’ll know more once it arrives.


No, they are simply two strips of metal 3/4 inch or so in height, that you place inside the chase during lockup.

Ahh okay, that makes sense. Thank you!

Another question, how much does your press weigh? My boyfriend is wondering how much he will have to carry! Haha! As for the gripper bars, it seems I can purchase those online. Fantastic!

Weight: about 60 lbs

I looked again, the bar might actually be in place (hard to see) so it’s probably just the grippers themselves. They are most likely just taken off for transport

Here are some other photos!

image: oone.JPG


image: four.jpg


image: three.jpg


image: two.jpg


Yup, the gripper bar is in place and properly sprung with bar spring. Nice condition overall.

Hey Dan,

Just wondering why the larger base would cause damage to the press.

Would it be okay if I wasn’t utilizing the entire area of the base, and just the extra 0.5 inches on one side?


Congatulations. I had a 5 x8 for many years. Now I have a 6 x 10. You can do quite a lot with a Kelsey. Like any piece of machinery, understand what it can do nad can’t do. Like the diagram above with the poster, sometimes you need to adjust the press and your experience to accomplish your goal. Have fun and enjoy this press. But be careful, many of us who had these eventually grew to a bigger press, then a larger press and more presses. But it has been fun.

Right now I’m living in a small one bedroom apartment in NYC with my partner so this size works perfectly for us right now! He is a little concerned about where it is going to go—but I have it all figured out, haha!

I would love to have a 9x12 C&P one day, and a two bedroom to fit it all.

While you wait for the press to arrive, this should help pass the time.

Kelsey: Printer’s Guide

Kelsey: Do Your Own Printing

Kelsey: Printing Course

Hey Amanda,
It isn’t that the base would damage it, it is that a person thinking they could print a heavy deboss from a large plate on a large base could damage it. Oprion is not wrong about anything they’ve said here (and they clearly have put in more time printing with this model than I have!), but I have seen a lot of people attempt to max out a press with a big base and do heavy-impression work and either snap a part of the press or simply get frustrated with their press and declare it junk.

The Kelseys are great little presses if you can work within their limitations, but they frequently suffer the wrath of folks how are fighting against what they actually want to do.

Accept the constraints and figure out ways to work within them while figuring out how to get the results you want and that little press is going to make you very happy!


Whatever size you decide to go with, don’t do this!


Concerning using quoins on an Kelsey, be careful. It doesn’t take much to snap a Kelsey chase. You can use them, just not too tight. Better to use the screws and irons.
Winfred Reed
Black Diamond Press (Ky)

Yikes, Oprion! Reminds me of this!

image: (photo credit John Makely/Baltimore Sun)

(photo credit John Makely/Baltimore Sun)

Thanks guys! This has all been so helpful!

My reason for wanting the larger base is that I would love to print 4” round or square coasters with bleed if needed. The 3.5” base wouldn’t allow me to do that. I doubt I’d need that space often but it’s great to have the option.

I don’t mind not being able to do a deep impression. If I need that I can always go to the studio and use the C&P or Vandercook. I’m excited to see what the press can and cannot do—I’ve always worked under the belief that limitations can actually enhance your work rather than hinder it.

Oprion, that video is incredible, Hahaha. I’m glad they got it sorted!

I’ll keep you guys posted! Thank you!


One problem with Boxcar base and small presses like the Kelsey is that Boxcar bases are much higher than the furniture in blank spaces of a metal type form, and as a result may not allow clearance for gauge pins or grippers. It is a common thing for beginners to buy the largest base they can fit into the chase, then find that with smaller press sheets they need to use paper or other thin guides, or they must remove grippers that are meant to hold the sheet against the tympan to reduce slur or keep the sheet from sticking to the form.
A round coaster would surely need a guide thinner than a normal gauge pin. The guides would definitely be placed into the area of the base, and could be no thicker than than the plate material itself—unless all packing was localized to the area of impression, in which case some thousandths of an inch would be gained.

Ah yeah parallel_imp, that makes a lot of sense. I think I will need to see exactly where the grippers lay before I make the decision of which size base to get. I can’t see myself wanting to print very far horizontally (as to hit the grippers) I would just like that extra 0.5” vertically specifically for coasters with bleed. I know boxcar also makes base “slivers” that you can add on to bases to make them just a tiny bit larger. Perhaps that would be an option for the top of my base.

You can position the grippers far apart, all the way to where your chase frame is, if the need arises. Then just stretch a rubber band between them for the gripper action. You can even go all the way, and tape on a frisket to the bars in remembrance of our common press roots. This would help if parts of the form get inked up where they shouldn’t and smear the paper. Just tape a sheet to the grippers, make and impression, cut out a window for where the ink in actually needed.

Rubber Band:


Just remember to check where everything (grippers, gauge pins) is before you start smashing. Close the press very slowly, the first time, noting the position of the elements, feeling the action, listening for strange creaks.

After doing even more research I think I am going to buy a 3.5” x 6.5” boxcar base and a 1” x 6.5” boxcar scrap base so I can print 4” coasters with bleed. I think that’ll be better than buying the larger size so my gague pins don’t get in the way.

Do you use the deep relief base or the regular base for this type of press?