Some advice please…

Hello letterpress community!
I have always been interested in paper/stationary and am newly engaged. As I am currently planning my wedding, I have been looking into letterpress for invitations. It’s so gosh darn expensive, so I have been thinking that I want to make these on my own. I attended a letterpress class (just one class where I learned how to use a Kelsey press) and was inspired ! Since then, I have been looking for other ways to get more skills/time. I work full time and so most of the classes I can take will either need to be in the evening or on the weekends.

I was going to try to buy a lifestyle crafts L letterpress but those apparently are discontinued. Does anyone else have any experience with any DIY home letter presses that they can recommend for my wedding invitations? Any suggestions would be appreciated ! Thanks in advance

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Where are you located?

San Diego, CA.

I took a class at bay park press and plan to go back to learn how to use their Vandercook. My original plan was rent studio time in irvine and use their Vandercook but they are unsure of when the studio will be available as its run by volunteers. I looked at eBay and Craigslist for Kelsey presses, but they are very expensive. That’s why I think maybe a home DIY press would be most cost effective for me. Really bummed that the lifestyles L letterpress is discontinued! There are a lot of blogs and websites on how to make your own invites using that machine

adapt something like this?

Thanks for the idea Jonathan - but that looks a little complicated !

If you’re at all handy with woodworking you could make a simple press for small work, something like the illustrated. A little scrap plywood (preferably cabinet-grade 3/4 inch thick, doubled) some short pieces of 2x4, a few screws and a few bolts. Probably you could cadge the scrap wood from a cabinet-maker’s scrap bin, and keep the cost below about $10.


image: simple press.jpg

simple press.jpg

Thanks for the comment bob - but unfortunately I am not that handy with woodwork and neither is my fiancee. I have been silently looking through blogs and websites like this for a few weeks now and had to psych myself up by telling myself I could learn letterpress! I felt a lot better after my first letterpress class, with some renewed confidence. My goal is to take a full class somewhere in the spring and really start learning the craft but as my wedding is in May, I just need a crash course in how to do this now, which I somewhat feel that I accomplished but am running into some obstacles such as the lifestyles crafts L letterpress machine being discontinued and the studio which I had originally intended to print at not being sure if that would be possible. Has anyone used the evolution letterpress and had any success in making invites? Does it matter if it is the evolution machine vs. lifestyle crafts?

How about raiding the kitchen for a bread board and pastry roller.
Stick your plate to the board.
At one end of the baoard pin half a dozen sheets of news print as a blanket.
Tape your card underneath the newsprint
Pull them both back off the plate.
Ink the plate and then roll the card and newsprint onto your plate pressing down on the roller.
Same as relief printing as you might do in an art class.

You could use a wooden spoon
or if you have a little more money you could buy a speedball press at Dick Blick
“Does it matter if it is the evolution machine vs. lifestyle crafts?”

give tim a call at quality letterpress to see if he’s still teaching classes. he’s a great resource and wonderful teacher!

Why dont you ask around your friends or family for some financial assistance as part of your wedding gifts to have your invites printed by a professional.
To start learning the craft of letterpress before your wedding (stressful enough!) then get up to speed to print them so they are professional looking enought is a big ask.
Its like passing your driving test and jumping straight into a formula 1 or indycar.
I think you will be opening a can of worms and giving yourself massive stress to achieve something in such a short space of time. UNLESS, you can engage the services of a friendly letterpress printer, swapping your time for goods or anything really and learn as you go along. As in help to deliver jobs, make tea/coffee, sweep the floor, anything!
Sorry to sound negative but I have been in the print trade for over 25 years and Im still learning. I think you may be trying to bite off more than you can chew for what will be the biggest and happiest day of your life.
Good luck anyway….!

hi everyone,
thanks for the suggestions. really appreciate you all taking the time to read and comment.

i did contact Tim a while ago, he is unsure when he will have classes.

Albion, i think my desire to print these on my own is a little more than just trying to save money. when i took my first letterpress class and was able to print something, i squealed with joy. thats when i felt like the task of learning it would be more pleasurable than readjusting my wedding budget. but i definitely hear what you’re saying about the task that im trying to accomplish!

dear smileybug,
I was in the same position last year that you are in now; however, it was for my daughter’s wedding. Bought a $$ beautiful refurbished 5x8 Kelsey on ebay. After studying and studying and researching, thought best not to do the invites and ensemble myself as I realized it takes more than a whim to produce the quality of letterpress I wanted. Long story short, I found Reb Peters Press in Oakland…check out her facebook page (and on this site)…she helped with my design, then I spent the day printing my ensemble. She offers this service (for a fee) to anyone interested in pressing their own product! If you can find someone like her down in SD, I recommend it. She was WONDERFUL!!
P.S. My love of letterpress did not stop there…I am now a proud owner of 1908 OS C&P 12 x 18 :)
kawinkydink + paper

Hey Smileybug-

Have you considered traveling to another location and attending a workshop with the purpose of printing your invitations? What if you were to make a 3-day weekend, order your plates from boxcar or some other platemaker (Elum and crown flex both closer to you) in advance once you’ve confirmed the workshop/in the meantime, get ahold of pre-cut paper, and then simply bring your plates and paper to said workshop with the idea of executing a project on site (obvsly. OK this with the workshop facilitators first)?

Since it seems you’ve gotten your feet wet, some correspondence with another letterpress workshop in your GENERAL area (PACNW) would yield somebody willing to host you for your activities, and it could still be less expensive than having them printed/more bang for your buck if you feel up to the task/excited about it.

Otherwise, there is no substitute for having it done by a capable professional workshop in the field who is doing it for a living.

Either go big, go broke, or go home is my general feeling.

Plan A:
With the money you’d spend on a press, type, ink, furniture …spend that on a sewing machine to sew your own gowns, and buy a kitchen range io bake your own wedding cake.
Perhaps a friend or relative can help you with the above.


By the way, it’s STATIONERY, not stationary.

Blessings upon you in your new life.

Smileybug, Nil Desperandum, or keep in mind the saying, “Better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all”
Just for starters look up, on the Web, Adana Quarto printing press working. Hypothetically, leave off/out the (fairly obvious) Ink Rollers & Ink Disc and then state On Line, on B.P. for the alleged 90,000 + members that just with the help of the 10/12 year old Kid Sister/Brother etc, that you COULD NOT? make a working facsimile of the Adana Quarto.?

***See Footnote.

O.K. No inking mechanism, No ink, No Ink plate, No Stock, No image, etc, etc,
Unless you envisage 1,000 guests or more on the White House Lawns, NO PROBLEM, >>INK, from your well published (stateside) one tiny tube from your “Ink in tubes” supplier. INKING, One tiny Brayer/hand inker, well advertised Stateside,? INK PLATE, Begged, Borrowed, etc tiny bathroom type mirror, or better even, 1/4” plate glass from normal Arc Light, absolutely perfect,! STOCK or CARD, a block of 25/50/100, SILVER, Deckle edge card, (high St, Stationers, possibly) >>test prints to avoid spoils & experiments (generally) breakfast cereal packet carton, comparable thickness and always blank inside.!
Artwork, Image, Original etc, read Boxcar,s Impressive spiel, apparently? Photo-polymer Plate supplied, from your own computor generated file(s).
Wedding invites & similar, traditionally U.K. at least in attractive Script, (I of course would imply *Monotype* Palace Script) but apparently modern Computor typesetting systems, have not Hundreds but Thousands of Typefaces, including virtually all traditional faces Digitised

Mounting your P/P. plate, well documented, many ways to achieve type high, for the one off, Blockboard, Multi - Ply, M.D.F..etc

***Some 35 years since, the firm I worked for, supported a School that had Craft Workshops attached, they owned used and taught the pupils to operate a treadle Platen, We (the firm) supplied in small quantites, Type, off cuts of paper, remnants of ink etc.
As the Platen was the bottleneck for several students, at any one time, they, the students, average age12 years, under the supervision of the Woodworking Tutor constructed a good facsimilie of The Quarto Adana, only sourcing Rollers from the original Adana suppliers.

Before you give up too quickly, give it a little thought, it will be a terrific achievement to look back on, and even if you dont make it, you can wave the obligatory finger gestures at the *negative* experts. Good Luck. Mick.

F.A.O. The PROS, By the way, should it be, and I quote, (and buy a kitchen range (to) as opposed to (io) bake your own Wedding Cake.?? couple of Initials for courtesy Maybe. as well. ??


Are seamstresses and bakers not professionals as well?

Following your advice, the thing to do would be to sit at home and pay everyone to do things for us.

Please, don’t do your own laundry, clean your house, walk your dog or grab yourself a beer from the fridge:


All of the ‘professional’ printers who know anything about Letterpress are getting on in years. There isn’t enough business in letterpress to sustain an oligarchy of professionals as you seem to remember it anymore, so enthusiastic hobbyists (of all genders) are filling the void.

Sorry I rubbed you the wrong way, but I ‘m not quite sure what you’re trying to say!

Sorry I rubbed you the wrong way, but I ‘m not quite sure what you’re trying to say!

I printed our wedding invitations, orders of service and menus; I also designed and made my wife’s wedding dress; between us we made all the food for the guests.

Mind you - I’m not saying it wasn’t stressful…

I appreciate the suggestions and feedback.

I am touched by the response of this community. A few people have private messaged me with ideas, and I may print with a kind gentleman who owns a shop who contacted me.

I certainly dont mean to imply that I can learn letterpress in a weekend, as I know that there are people who have trained for years in printmaking and are still learning. Initially, I was hesitant to post on this website because I didnt want to offend anyone by implying that a DIY home kit could be anywhere as great as having a professional person do it. I do have an interest in learning letterpress, right now I’m just on a deadline and budget with this project for my wedding. Once its over, I plan to look for some evening classes at a community college or something. I have a day job that I have trained years for and enjoy, but there is something also satisfying about working with my hands this way and learning a skill that is very different from my day job. I hope that people on this website are not offended by those who are wanting to be hobby enthusiasts in printmaking, or at least explore the field.

Smiley got bit by the letterpress bug…can you blame her? Letterpress is fun and frustrating…please read this with a grain of salt make sure to read all the way down on this post. Look for this picture by chris.h because there are good pictures of what that press can do.

What Keelan is awkwardly attempting to compare, Stan, is the skill of a laundress, bartender, house cleaner, and dog walker to that of a printer. A professional printer. Who has upwards of 5 or more years under his belt before even considering himself as such. And being a ‘dabbler’ does not permit excuse for shoddy work - or deep impression. :o) Of course, for those having the idea that printing is simply placing mark on substrate, and might be learned in a weekend or so, well, that seems the grasp of far too many on this site. Why, there are those claiming upwards of two years cranking the handle of a tabletop press. And on weekends to boot! If that doesn’t qualify as being a genuine printer….. Too, any suggestion to really learn the Black Art is usually met with sputterings from the panties-in-a-wad crowd. Those types would have been source of entertainment in a real shop. :o)

Hi, forme. I’m glad we can share these moments.

What I was picking at is the insinuation that the baking profession, or seamstress profession is somehow less ‘professional’ than the printing profession. Somehow those two rank as “okay for amateurs”, while printing (in Stanislaus’ point of view) is somehow off limits to amateurs.

I agree with you that calling oneself a ‘professional’ after only spending evenings and weekends printing is a bit extreme.