letterpress on kickstarter?

I’ve been very interested in letterpress over the past few years and realized it’s very hard to get started with the art. Supplies, presses, and education are hard to come by. I’ve developed a new letterpress and am really considering starting a company around it and putting it on kickstarter.com. I’d love some honest thoughts. I feel like it could be an awesome product to help beginners get into the art without knowing much or spending much. Here’s a website describing the press I’ve developed: http://www.madisonavenueinc.com. Thanks for your input!

image: letterpress.png


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Considering it looks like it’s pressure cast aluminum, I kind of have my doubts about the robustness of the handle and the platen “ears” and would be concerned that these parts would fail from the shear forces involved in operation.

Would guess these are going to be made in China, as tooling costs for all those parts would seem to be tremendous ($25K+).

The last time a large scale product venture came through Kickstarter (for some sort of ink pump/mixing system) the product never happened and I think a couple large supporters really got burned.

Alternately, there is the fellow in Rhode Island who was going to make cast clones of the Pilot, but has also failed to follow through in a significant and quantifiable manner.

So far as price point? Sounds good, but it also looks like you will need to sell 5000+ units to recover your costs and provide return to investors. Doable, but it will take a significant marketing effort.

If you have a real prototype, it would behoove you to get it out in the field and let the community see it, as well as promoting it to the newfound “community crafting letterpress” market (the Lifestyle folks) as an upscale machine with greater capability.

Good Luck!

Interesting. Looks a little too light-weight for serious printing, though. I’d need a lot more information, including video of a working prototype. and sample prints. Or even better, bring one to one of the normal gatherings (Great Northern, APA Wayzgoose, etc) and let folks try it out. If this is the real deal, printers should be fairly enthusiastic at the price points mentioned.

It would be nice if you introduced yourself in more detail; anonymity is not helpful.

BTW. type high is 0.918 inches not 0.916 as stated on the web site.

Agree with above comments.

I disagree with the notion that supplies, presses and info are “hard come by”. This craft has persisted for centuries as have many presses, combined with current manufacture by Caslon. Production-machines like C&P, Kluge, Heidelberg, etc., which filled the landscape of printing-offices are still lurking for easy money in the provinces, but seem scarce in the cities where space became more valuable than presses.

I think you are to be encoutaged for what you have “produced” so far. The advice offered is sound. There is a history of < honest people who have preceded you on this path. Most important is that the machine looks a little too lightweight to satisfy what most people would want to do with it.
Having said that, there are not a lot of reliable (presumably you would offer some sort of customer support) entry points to begin letterpress at the prices you are proposing.
Given the continuing interest of people attracted to letterpress printing, your machines could be a great entry into the art/craft. If they become available as proposed, cost is not prohibitive for the novice. Once they get the full bug, they can move on to more robust equipment (perhaps a future R&D route for your business plan). Not sure what investment is required or what you need to lay out to get there, but my feeling is there is a definite niche here.
Good luck!

I have to agree with the sentiment that there appears to be a huge lack of transparency thus far. Who are you? What can you tell us about the prototype? Where is it being made? You’ve indicated that you don’t have much experience in letterpress, but you’ve designed a press? I’m sure there’s a story, and it’s probably quite interesting, and hearing it would certainly help you build some credibility.

I really echo a lot of sentiments already posted, but as someone who’s gateway drug into letterpress printing (outside of my time with a press in graphic design school) was a Lifestyle Crafts L, there is an opportunity here.

You’ll have to keep in mind that most scrapbook and crafty folks are looking for a deep impression; it’s something the L and similar devices (the Fiskar’s Fuse, for example), run like proof presses and are capable of making a decent impression into thick paper stock. They are usually marketed as letterpress, embossing, and die-cutting machines.

If that’s your first target market, you will definitely have to create a machine that is capable of similar things. Both the devices mentioned above have a larger “print area,” but they seem to have similar-sized footprints on your table top or in your craft room.

I also agree with keelan and others: please make sure to establish yourself with a reliable identity. Obviously, there’s been some controversy over the creation of “new letterpress machines” before and no one here is really interested in watching those fires burn again. :P

I think we’re all interested in hearing your answers, though.

Can you give us some indication of what alloy of aluminum you’re using? Some have better shear strength and stiffness than others and may be at least decently suited to letterpress forces. What’s going to matter is high yield strength and low ductility.

The reason cast iron has been the traditional material for presses is that it maintains form right up to its breaking point. It breaks before it bends, but it takes a LOT of force to get it to the breaking point. This means it transfers that force directly to the type and paper without losing any to flex.

2000 series alloys (Duralumin) may work, but something in the 7000 series may be better. They won’t be cheap, though. 1000 series pure aluminum is not a good choice. It bends far too easily.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Thank you for your comments. You have all been tremendously helpful. I appreciate your time and thoughts!

I tried to open up your website by clicking on it, but all I got was a solid blue screen. Waited quite a while for it and finally gave up.

The concept and idea are wonderful but the image of the press scares the crap out of me. It simply looks way too under-engineered with all the hollowed out pieces. YIKES!

I also assume that this is a computer-generated image and not of photo of an actual physical press.

With what this community has suffered through with another apparently unscrupulous promiser of presses, you will certainly need to overcome the ill-will he has created and be as up-front as possible on all details. Unfortunately this will be quite a hurdle to overcome.

After all is said and done, a REAL manufactured press that can be tested and demonstrated is going to be THE ONLY measure of wether or not this is going to fly in the marketplace. There is a huge demand for something like this so I wish you all the best in this endeavor. Word of mouth will spread like wildfire if this can be proven to be a viable press.


Site works fine for me. Are you using a current browser?

Hmm, as far as being flimsy, at 5x7 it doesn’t (to my eyes) look less robust then a comparativley sized Adana. And those are great little presses.

image: adna.jpg


The guy being referred to as trying something similar before has been trying to unload his “business” on eBay for two years. IIRC he also happens to be this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Colavecchio

Should have seen that one coming…

Basically, the biggest thing with Kickstarter is transparency. What are your qualifications, and those of your team if you have one. What is the budget for initial tooling, development, production, shipping etc.

Engineering data on the mechanism would be helpful in reassuring those who see the press as being less solidly built than older, cast iron tabletops.

Good luck, there is surely a market for this and a low-cost, easy-to-move press would probably be a very welcome addition to the printing world.


“I tried to open up your website by clicking on it, but all I got was a solid blue screen. Waited quite a while for it and finally gave up.”
Rick: that happened to me when I tried to open the website in Firefox. I switched over to Chrome and it opened.

As the original postee was asking for constructive comments, and as already been touched on briefly above, with an Adana, 8 x 5 & an Adana 2 H.S. (5 1/2” x 2 3/4” inches inside chase measurement). BOTH ON SIGHT, and with a reasonable working knowledge of Crank Pins & Crankshafts on both Printing Machines and Motor Vehicles, I offer the following:- Both the above machines have Heavy Cast Iron/Steel main frames, which take the form of a Giant *G* clamp, which has the effect, of acting exactly as that, on impression!!! I.E. ON IMPRESSION the entire thrust is taken between the *Jaws* of the *G* with the impression handle/lever working in an exactly central point of contact to the Platen???
This by way of pointing out that with side lever (one side) with probably a lot of unequal thrust operating on the Crank Rods/Side Arms, to pull the Platen up to impression, one would hope to see a breakdown/facsimile, of the bearing sleeves within the outer ends of the arms, i.e. Steel Bushes,! Bronze/Brass Bushes,! White Metal on Steel backs etc, SURELY NOT Aluminium working on Steel, and no evidence of lubrication holes??? Just for starters??

Apologies for *Jumping the Gun* if the above is only a Computer generated Mock Up.!!!
Non Intended and Good Luck.

Pardon me for being critical- I’m not actually convinced you can do what your website says you can. As someone who understands the printing process and comes from an informed point of view, the several glaring inconsistencies and lacking proper understanding of terminology/specifics of letterpress (.916? You mean .918. “Packing clamps”? You mean Tympan Bale.) lead me to question the validity of your claims more than the materials the press is made from.

If you’re going to make a sales pitch to learned folk, you really, really need to get your stuff together and be sure to correct these issues. It matters how well your press works, but coming from an informed position- rather than one where basic, basic facts of the issue at hand are lost on someone who appears to be a beginner or novice- is very important. Especially in a trade where the ones who know are pretty persnickety about terms and their proper usage; hell, letterpress coined a lot of phrases we use today off hand, and realistically you need to start speaking to that rather than blatantly getting it wrong. Cart before the horse? Maybe. But you appear to be out of sorts ;-)

conversely, the guy who makes the finest intaglio presses in the USA- Tom Conrad- probably doesn’t necessarily understand how to execute a spit bite aquatint, so I guess it’s not necessarily the most important thing in the world; but this all made me cringe, and I’m being honest with you to help you.

There is a reason why, letterpress equipment is heavy cast metal or heavy machine metal. The pressure needed to put a image from the type, engraving etc on to paper is high.

The next time you are printing on you cast iron heavy press watch how hard the machine works to get the image on the sheet.

This press might work of a few little face lines for 100 impressions, but the type of printing I read about that people are doing, this press will NEVER work.

That’s just it… he doesn’t plan on selling it to anyone here that has knowledge, its going to be the unsuspecting newbies to letterpress. Then they will come here wanting to know why it doesn’t work and quoting misinformation from it’s manual.

A light-weight 5” x 7” platen press is not what is needed for sustaining the interest in letterpress printing. I have doubts as to whether the press shown would hold up under even the simplest tasks. A platen press will only print about a quarter of the size of the platen, so what you are offering is a press on which to print business cards, or a lightly worded postcard. If someone wanted to print with heavy impression (it is all the rage) I’m afraid it would break into pieces.

It is apples and oranges to compare this press to an Adana 8” x 5”. The means of impression on a Adana is different, and much better engineered than any C&P clone. Now if someone really wanted to make a good press, a cast-iron or ductile steel Adana clone would be outstanding.

It appears Jake from Utah may have found a machine maker via Alibaba or such and is getting feelers for reselling viability . People “developing” presses don’t appear out of thin air in this field - they are known for operation, fabrication and repair; plus they know the trade.

A shiny pot-metal press looks good in a picture, but ain’t so great when the machine twists apart on the first overpack.

If you are going to make a press that weighs so little, it is at least going to need holes in the feet so you can bolt it to the work surface.

That little dogleg below the lever is an interesting addition, but it will still bounce around on the table when you try to print with it. I’d scrap the dogleg and use that amount of material to reinforce it elsewhere.

And I do hope you test the hell out of this design before attempting to sell it. I’m tired of seeing soft-boiled products brought to market because they were first introduced through a crowd-funded campaign.



Given that your response on the 11th makes no effort to answer any of the questions asked, I’m suspecting you’re abandoning this thread, and that you’re not interested in our input at all.

I don’t know anything about marketing, but I do know that listening to people and responding to them is just a decent thing to do, and when people are decent to one-another, they feel inclined to help the other person out. I don’t think any of the comments here were particularly negative or hurtful, and when you’re pitching an idea you need to be prepared for the naysayers.

It seems you were expecting a bunch of “take my money” responses, and when faced with actually having to work to convince us, you bailed out.

I would be very happy to see you come back to this thread, but if history is any indication, this is the last we’ll see of this username on Briar Press.

Folks, your input has been very helpful. I apologize that I’m taking my time to soak it all in. There’s certainly no need for me to be hasty.

My name is Jacob and I do live in Utah. I’ve spent my career so far in the more mainstream arts and crafts industry. I have been fairly successful in product development and marketing. It certainly is strange at a glance that I’ve taken an interest in letterpress. I worked with the people at Lifestyle Crafts when they developed their roller mechanism and have felt that a more traditional engineering approach could be useful. The images you have seen are photographs of a preliminary prototype. It’s a very exciting start. The parts have all been carefully designed and engineered to achieve the correct force repeatedly. However, as anyone in product development knows, the first prototype is far from perfect.

I am in no way ready to sell this product. Instead, your feedback is helping me determine whether it’s worth the investment to refine it into something that is finished and marketable. There is a great deal of time and cost involved with a product of this complexity and I need to be very judicious about my next steps.

If I do proceed and complete the product I will certainly provide more updates and information to the community. If the product is placed on kickstarter (to fund the mold creation), it will be accompanied with plenty of explanation and video of its use and effectiveness. I believe that a good product is best marketed by being seen. At this point in time I am continuing my market research and appreciating your contribution immensely. Thanks again for your input!

From an engineering standpoint a table-top cylinder press, like a miniature Vandercook or Challenge would seem to me to be more salable, and useful. Any platen press is limited by the size of the platen, and the strength of the castings. A cylinder press would be more versatile, and I think it would be a better investment overall. After an introduction to letterpress most would-be printers abandon their small presses to do bigger work, and it is the bigger, simpler to operate machines that are really in demand.