Kelsey to Pearl - thoughts??

I currently have an 8x10 Kelsey and have the opportunity to purchase a “in working condition” Pearl (which would ultimately replace the Kelsey). Before I make the investment, I wanted to be sure that the Pearl is indeed an advantage over a Kelsey. Thoughts?

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Pearl Size? Model? The Pearl will allow faster production, and depending on its size (there were 3 sizes) may do a nicer job as well, but don’t count on being able to do deep impression — both are easily broken. The Improved Pearl has a throw-off which is an advantage for production work.


It is an 7” x 11” improved pearl. And I have a 6x10 Kelsey (not an 8x10).

6x10 Kelsey is a nice press, with the pearl you won;’t have to pull the handle to make an impression, makes life a lot easier.

Not only that. (hi, Dick!) but the Pearl was made by Golding, and their engineering was light-years above Kelsey’s.

Golding used the same engineers - and engineering principles - in building their presses - from the table tops to the 12x18 “Art Jobber” presses.

Kelsey uses a totally different mechanism for making impression. Trust me; Golding’s is better. In fact, it’s the same principle that Heidelberg used on their Windmills.

It’s like comparing a Volkswagen w/ a Mercedes.. Both are very good in their own ways, and both will do the job, but the Pearl will do it faster and easier.

First of all, the impression mechanism is totally different. The Golding is far stronger and has a far more stable platen-to-bed connection.

I repair and restore these presses and have dozens of Kelseys and 6 Goldings. And, although I often defend Kelseys, and know that they can do good work, I also consider a 7x11 Pearl (#11 new series, with the impression throw-off), to be FAR more than twice the press of a 6x10 Kelsey. Better roller system (unless your Kelsey is a Model X), stronger impression, treadle operation, and generally far more fun to print with.

Of course, the Pearl will likely cost about twice what you can get for the Kelsey, but it is without a doubt a major step forward if you are serious about printing.

However - make *sure* that the press is a #11 new series - with impression throw-off. Without that feature, it’s still a good press, but could lead to some frustration - and also possible injury if you ever reach into the press to reposition a sheet that was mis-fed.

- Alan
old… very old letterpress printer - but not quite as old as DickG! ;)

BUT - The Kelsey does have one possibly important advantage over the Pearl.

With the Kelsey, you can feed ANY size sheet into it. Yes, it’s a 6x10, but the sides are open, so that you could print a sheet that was, say 12x18. Your image area will still be only 6x10, and must be near the lower edge, but the sheet can hang over all three edges of the platen.

The Pearl has sheet width limitations to left due to the impression lever and the flywheel. The right side is open, but not both sides as on the Kelsey.

The Golding “Map Press” was a Kelsey-sized press that was used to imprint corner copy on mechanical drawings or maps. It was made for that. In fact, on that press, the bed was level and when the handle was pulled, the platen came down to the bed. It’s a rare press, but they do exist.

All common Kelsey presses have “open” platens and can accommodate sheets far larger than the press size would suggest. On the Pearl, you will be limited to, say 12-13” wide sheets for all practical purposes.

Might not be important for your work, but it just came to me and I thought I might pass this interesting info along.

and, here’s MORE - If you want to get the lowdown on Pearls from the true expert on Golding presses, check out John Falstrom’s page on Pearls and Golding -

My Kelsey is a model X.

Thanks for all of the great feedback — this is very helpful! (And good point about the sheet size - on occasion I do need to have this flexibility). Also, I should mention that my clients are interested in the deep impression, so I’m looking for a press that can help me accomplish this. (I know that this is an ongoing [heated] discussion, so I rather not have this post be about old-school vs new).

I’m going to add another level of complexity to this post:

The shop also has for sale a table-top Craftsman 9x12 (asking price $3K). How does this compare vs. the Pearl (with throw off level) (asking price $2500) vs. my Kelsey?

Craftsman vs. Pearl vs. Kelsey??

Of those three, for potential deep impression I would say the Craftsman is the best choice. It has a throw-on lever (the impression handle) and is the stronger mechanism — similar to the Pearl mechanically. You should still be careful with the size of whatever you choose to print deep, as the stress can break any press if you overdo it.