What is the right proof press for me?

Hi, I’m just getting started in letterpress. I have a C&P tabletop that I’m moderately familiar with, and now I’d like to get a proof press to start playing with wood type and posters. But I have two main constraints: my space is on the third floor of an old building whose elevator has a narrow door; and I live in Calgary, so will most likely require cross-border moving. (I recently brought up a cabinet of type from Brooklyn and the customs process nearly gave me palpitations, so I can only imagine what’s involved with moving up a massive piece of weird-looking steel.)

This is a hobby for me, so anything I do will involve short print runs; also it would be nice to get something for four digits, rather than five. On the other hand, I don’t want to go to the trouble of finding and moving something I’ll outgrow quickly. I’d love to get my hands on a Challenge Proof Press or Vandercook SP15, but the moving issues and cost scare me away a bit.

Can anyone give me advice on a good press to fit my profile?


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Have you contacted Don Black Linecasting in Toronto? Great fount of knowledge, first class equipment, and there are no ‘Border Bandits’ to fend. :o)

I have a C&P Pilot tabletop press, and our second purchase was a Showcard Model B Special from Dave Barabas. He’s got some newly refurbished ones up for sale in the Classifieds here. He is awesome and I love my Showcard. It weighs about 200lbs, but it’s narrow enough to fit through an elevator door. You’d just need some help carrying/transporting it.

I really like my Nolan proof press. It was a three figure purchase, I can carry it around by myself if I need to, and it’s very simple - hardly anything to repair or maintain. I have to say, I do like inking by hand because it gives me some room to play around. I also had to make a little jig for registration, but otherwise I don’t feel like I am missing out on much by not having something larger or more complex (or something that’s worth more than my car, for that matter). I usually do runs of about 20-30 posters on it and occasionally I’ll use it on a run of 100 or so greeting cards when I want a gradient I can’t get on my Craftsmen tabletop.

And I’d second the recommendation for Don Black, he’s great. I visited his shop last year and it was well worth the trip from Baltimore.

Thanks, all. I had been watching Don’s website and had fired off an email. Still hoping he might come back to me with something.

I am very surprised that you had difficulty with customs. Because of NAFTA, Graphic Arts is a protected field and you should be able to bring anything printing related across the border with no duty, no problem. I am a US citizen, but married to a Canadian. When we moved back to Canada in 2010 we brought all my printing stuff with me, no problem. Then later when I brought back type and small equipment from the Museum of Printing that I had purchased at the type sale during the Printing Arts Fair, again, no problem as it was related to the graphic arts.

And I agree, call Don Black.