New kickstarter letterpress printer- whats your opinion?

Hello Kismet, thanks for sharing this Kickstarter campaign with us.

I just looked over the video and pictures, and my first impression is positive. The design looks like an upside down version of a self-inking sign press.

If the production models are well made, I don’t see any reason that it would not work for beginners, or other folks who don’t need a higher volume machine. It is certainly better than the little plastic sign press currently on the market, or the dubious recreation of the Pilot Press that made the rounds a few years ago.

It does appear to be a bit slow for any sort of production work, and I don’t see it as a press for professional printers… but for printmakers and hobbyists, it looks like it might have some promise.

It has some positive looking qualities, but lest we forget- this is a kickstarter.

One could always pull a “TerranceChounnard” and just, you know, never deliver:

*(Disclaimer: I have blood in that race as I contributed to it and I have yet to receive ANYTHING.)

Or even a SAGA like the ZPM espresso maker-

which kickstarter actually realized was TERRIBLE PR and finally has done something about -

So, my advice for those of you looking to invest your savings in this, be wary of the format and go gracefully forward with your hard earned dollars and cents.

I agree, it looks like it has potential and honestly, there are times on short runs I don’t want to deal with the cranky old press in a very cold shop. If I can run 200 pieces on a machine that doesn’t drip oil and occupy a large area I would be happy. It depends if the registration works well and the depth of impression is what my clients like. But I too would wait until they get funded and then opt to buy a unit if it delivers what it says it can. Also my students at the colleges I teach would love the opportunity to try letterpress and this unit would make that possible.

I watched the video, it does not show how you load type…

Or maybe im blind… Lol

There’s another video down the page that shows loading a photopolymer plate but nothing about how to load type, no. It mentions that there are interchangable chase and plate base parts for the press. At a guess, I’d say the current prototypes only work with photopolymer. It’s still an interesting idea. I like the interchangable inking carriages and the compact size. I don’t like the idea of having a chase of antique type turned upside down.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

The inking roller diameter appears very small. Would this not result is poor ink coverage over any form area which is wider than the diameter of the roller face? It does not appear that the two rollers make contact with anything but the plate surface. Not even each other. The shown user applies globs of ink directly to the rollers. How does this design distribute that ink evenly?

How is it possible that the images like the bottle print shown were printed on this unit without serious ghosting and/or ink globs? Or is the secret all in the video editing?

The method of placing the photopolymer plate only puts pressure behind the type high portion of the plate. My experience is that unless you can press down even the non-printing portion of the plate, this will result in edges curling up and also getting inked and marking the sheet.

I am also eager to know more about the mechanism that pushes the platen upward to meet the bed. What amount of force is it capable of producing? How rigid is the mechanism? If it actually applies real pressure, how many impressions will this thing survive? What happens when the image area is not centered on the sheet? It seems massively under-built for what is essentially behaving as a platen press.

Is there a letterpress printer local to where these folks are set up that could go and see their machine in action? If they are open to this, it would be a great opportunity to alleviate some concerns and get some community support. If they aren’t, then I’d be wary.


If/when it works with a proper chase for metal type…beginners best be getting their lock-ups right, placing it upside down like that!

pics don’t show how the integrated gauge pin system works or how it would be adjusted.

~I assume trade secrets apply to the gauge system.

~The method of placing the photopolymer plate does not apply much thought towards bubbles. There’s no way to use metal backed plates that I can see. Can one remove and exactly re-position the “base plate” mentioned to work bubbles out of the floor of a plate? Could one apply magnetic material to said base-plate to use metal backed plates in the case that one wished?

Inking system- Agree, not substantial looking rollers. Why not more of them? or is there a way to automatically feed the ink without the print mech firing, like trip inking? It seems like this press works similarly to a little kelsey and about serves the same purpose as a 5x8 model U, but with less weight. I’d like to see it end up with larger/more rollers. Sacrifice a bit of the light-weight mindset and trade that for some more function.


~I am assuming a bit here, but I want to say the impression toggle looks a bit like an air cylinder but could be hydraulic. According to this website,
if one had a 1”bore/1”rod on a cylinder and put in a standard 120 PSI air pressure, one would get about 92 lbs of force. Spread that out over a 10x15 platen and you get .613 lbs of force, but likely unless the platen doesn’t deflect at all you’ll see a lighter amount of pressure at the outside and more in the middle (where the cylinder is). So, the setup looks like it would be weak unless a considerable air cylinder or hydraulic cylinder were used. a 2” cylinder, for example, could deliver about 2.5 lbs pressure per square inch by the same PSI input and platen size.
Depending upon the platen size and imposition area, the press might be able to exert some force on start forms, but might have trouble with thicker blocks.


There are so MANY questions but at first sight, there is a promising glimpse of an almost-too-clean looking machine delivering capable looking results in a framed setting… To me, this is like “iPrint V1.0”, with many improvements to be made along the way, but it’s a good start towards making a campaign. I just wonder what will happen with the actual production of the machines themselves.

Ink dial

Looks like a ratcheting Dial which closes or opens to allow a certain amount of ink to be extracted. Like the Cardboard Disk which comes with Inks, after you cut the plastic inside the hole, and push the disk down, you can extract a measured amount of ink.

I agree that we need to see more details about the mechanism in order to do a proper assessment of this machine. I too have a few questions about the amount of pressure it can put down.

From what we can see on the web-pages, the mechanism doesn’t look either hydraulic or pneumatic to me….. so maybe it’s a screw device of some sort?

However, that being said, it is obvious that the designer has put a lot of work into this project…. I’m interested in seeing how he has solved all of the various problems.

Just from what I’ve seen, a crowed bulletin board, & easy copy made. Reminds me of my kids and their art projects.
From the heart and well intended. But there is only so
much space, room to display and store all that’s made. Their interest will fizzle, there will be no hands on challenge, no feel of metal or wood type, it’s all digital and no value from historical equipment, made into projects. AND—- So here we go again, The computer and copiers destroyed the printing industry and now the rebirth “Hiccup” of letterpress is being attempted on. I just think somethings are better left untouched. There is so much not being taught or incorrectly taught, this unit would just take all the need to know “the how and why” away. It’s all “just push that button”

I’m not familiar with the Ink Dial problems…. but I am familiar with press scams of the past. While these incidents are unfortunate, I think that we’d be wrong to assume that this particular person is anything other than sincere just because others have screwed us in the past.

Does this mean that I’m going to donate to the campaign? Probably not. I’m not one to invest money with folks I don’t know. But, I do hope he succeeds and brings this machine to market.

To the creator,

This looks like an interesting press and I’m very intrigued by what might be “under the hood” of this nice looking machine. I don’t really think that for any of us here speed is an issue, but for a relatively high priced desktop letterpress, the attributes of precision, inking and strength of impression definitely are. This video shows the printing of a letter sized print “Cheers to Craft Beers” which has an image of a large, solid jug with reversed type. This kind of image would be very challenging for even the most powerful flywheel driven platen press (of similar size) and would would require at least 15,000 to 20,000 lbs overall pressure to deliver the needed 300 - 400 psi for such work. Additionally, the inking looks completely even in the printed piece which seems an impossible feat given the small diameter of the rollers in the sparse roller train; severe ghosting and depletion would be a realistic expectation with the advertised configuration. How is inking controlled? Can one expect to reliably match large solids to a PMS book as the video suggests?

I have no objection to the inverted arrangement of this press and am a proponent of keeping the printed piece static throughout the printing process …my own home-built press works quite well exactly the same way.

So as an experienced letterpress printer and press designer/builder myself, I applaud this effort and ingenuity but at the same time must ask the following 3 questions:

1: What mechanism is at the heart of this press? Hydraulic? Pneumatic? Mechanical?

2: What is the estimated or claimed maximum platen pressure?

3: Is the well produced video unadulterated and true to the actual performance of this letterpress?


Billy White

A bit late in the day, the office duplicator using letterpress printing came and went a long time ago. e.g. the Dapag (1943) further down the discussion list.

Somebody has built an upmarket version of one of those little crafting plastic boxes that print stick-on lettering and shapes sold by the local crafting shop.

On a proper letterpress machine you can handle a variety of papers, a variety of relief printing media, adjust the pressure, adjust the inking, adjust the registration, etc.

If you print plates only in fixed postions on standard size stocks and thicknesses then this is for you, if you are serious about letterpress printing don’t waste your money.

Uh, Billy.. I could be Mistaken, but I don’t think this is Kismet’s video?

My mistake. I should read more and talk less. I’ve edited my post and I will now post a duplicate to Slate Press’s Facebook page.


Great machine, wish I had one!

I was looking around the resell shop today and saw a old letterpress machine.

I started to get it, to use only for setting test on bond paper. It very limited, so only two colors of ink, Black and Red.

And only one font, but it a good letterpress machine and I only need to learn know to use it for setting short stories.

I posting a photo of this very old letterpress machine, to see if it worth getting instead of this new machine shown in the video.

image: letterpress.jpg


LOL … greater houston,
and it is also digital !
Depending on the operator’s skills, it can take a one digit input ( like me ) or up to a ten digit serial input. Also, get the scanning attachment with it. It is a stand like contraption with a clipboard to put the manuscript on to before digitizing it in to this machine.

If I remember rightly it is called a typewriter. :)
It has a choice of leading when you push that lever on the top left.

Is there really that big a market for something like this (the letterpress machine, not the typewriter)?

You mean, the mechanized potato-print machine?
I think every kindergarten would want one. I think that the inventor is targeting the wrong audience!
iPotatoPrint and tiny iGutenbergs in creative action with edible inks.
After class, they can have coloured hash browns for lunch.

Platenprinter, it must be letterpress if it can insert leading.

To Arm NY (Dan? Apologies, I can’t remember for sure): If you play the main video at 1:43, you’ll see a very quick flyover render of the ink train. It’s shown as a three-roller gang; two forme rollers and one distributor roller below them. one second later there’s a rather over-atmospheric shot of the designer looking serious down an ink train unit which he’s holding by the bottom bracket. You can see the distributor roller below the forme rollers. So while the rollers are small, there is at least a distributor. Too small to really act as a reservoir roller, though, as it appears to be the same small size as the forme rollers. Rather sad since there’s obviously space for a larger roller down there.

I’d also like to know how the impression mechanism works. The speed and movement look to me like hydraulic or pneumatic but it could be a fast linear actuator either driving the platen directly or operating something like a knee joint. The slight rocking of the platen as it reaches impression bothers me a bit. Perhaps they’ll include guide-rods in the final design.

Also, I may have spotted their “integrated gauge pin” system. There’s a raised lip visible on the outside edge of the platen. You can see it most clearly in the third video down the page. The lady printing carefully places the cardstock against that raised edge as she loads it into the press. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s similar lip on the upper edge too. I think that may be their gauge pins. If so, that would be rather disappointing.

There doesn’t appear to be any way to adjust makeready/packing, nor do they mention the possibility anywhere on the Kickstarter. I guess your type/cuts/ppp/paper all better be perfectly flat and of even height!

There also doesn’t appear to be any kind of gripper mechanism. What happens if your heavy ink coverage causes the paper to stick to the plate inside the machine, I wonder?

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

It is a fun machine for children in art class to learn on.

Not really a machine that a person can make money printing on.

But, children could have a lot of fun learning about printing using the machine.

I am pretty sure that they would have a 1-800-555-1234 type help line to assist on how to remove the stuck paper and how to remove the Reflex Blue ink from under the nicely polished finger nails in that pristine environment with naturally scented and VOC free cleaners.
But, I can see a sideline business here too. Delivering pre-inked roller cartridges to the customer, then sending them back for washing and re-inking for the new job. All done with bicycle couriers, with minimal carbon footprint on the environment. The office stays clean and the waste is disposed environmentally friendly. You would not want to flush the waste down the office toilet, right? The cartridge supplier would have that other Kickstarter gizmo, the Ink-Dial, guaranteeing the perfect PMS colour match on all possible stock without any wasted ink. Even roller-cartridge time-sharing would be possible.
This way the designers would have more time to gaze at their creation pinned up to the cork board.

iUtopia !

Here comes the rant;

I genuinely hope this kickstarter fails. There are so many unanswered questions and it’s solely because these people are NOT printers. They are described as an inventor and his wife, ‘who enjoyed their letterpress wedding invitations’. Why would these people think that inventing a machine that they know nothing about was a good idea? It’s obvious they have done some research, but not much. It makes me so mad and also makes me feel sorry for them; if they had spent hours in a print shop learning the ins and outs of a machine and executed this one better, maybe it would be something that could be successful and that I could appreciate.

I agree the PSI question doesn’t seem to be answered anywhere on their kickstarter. What is causing the pressure? How do you expect this tiny machine to apply over 1000lbs of pressure? I’m sure it’s doable (cause SCIENCE) but they don’t answer this question because they didn’t build this machine themselves, they obviously outsourced it.

How is this inking going to cover more than one print at a time? Are folks going to have to re ink between each pass? how do you get it to ink evenly without running the rollers a few times?

It doesn’t mention any adjustments to packing. So what if they automatically print that awful deep impression look that so many ‘crafters’ want these days? How could you adjust it so you are gently kissing the paper instead?

*of course you can’t ask these folks any of these questions unless you donate to their kickstarter*

This machine is obviously not for anyone who is trying to get something done in a timely manner; from what the video shows it would average probably one print per minute. The sheer fact that you all you have to do is push a button kills me a little on the inside. As ALL printers know, it is hard work. I feel like we have all earned the title of a letterpress printer but putting the work in, learning our machines, pulling the flywheels, inking the disks and rollers, putting literal blood, sweat and tears into this.

*end rant*

This isn’t a machine for you. Or “us”. This is a machine for the iPhone user. For the person who purchases Tom Hank’s typewriter app for their iPad. For the designer who spends all day in dreamweaver and doesn’t want to over think letterpress, and doesn’t want to pay anyone else for it.

I posted some basic questions on Slate Press’s Facebook page 3 days ago. So far no response.

Hello All – My name is Steve, I designed and built the product you’re discussing.

I’d like to apologize for my slow response. In addition to running the Kickstarter campaign (and our day jobs), my wife and I are expecting our first child in a couple weeks and have been busy preparing. While I can’t promise real-time conversations, I will work on responding quicker.

Thank you for your constructive feedback and questions.

Lots of questions around the pressing mechanism:

The design is based on a friction screw press – a tool used in metal forging. It generators a great deal of force, without many moving parts and without stressing motors or gears. I haven’t attempted an accurate psi calculation of my design. I haven’t calculated the psi because it’s a feature I planned to proof with the prototype and adapt as needed. It’s a function of the disc diameter and the motor speed (both of which are fairly easy to modify).
I appreciate the comment on the impression depth. This isn’t designed into my prototype, but I believe I could fairly easily create an adjustable impression depth feature by integrating a “stop” into the screw press. I’ll look for an opportunity to incorporate this feature into the production model.

There were also some questions around the stability of the platen:

I didn’t outsource the design or build of this machine – with the exception of a few large CNC milled items (I don’t have my own CNC), I hand built both prototypes (in our 2nd floor condo). The relative stability of the platen in the video is more of a result of my hand fabrication abilities than the design on the pressing mechanism. The platen is on guide rails. I will look to improve the stability but will also leave the machining in production to the professionals.
There were also some questions on the ink rollers:
There are three of them and the machine would benefit from larger roller. There is absolutely space (which one of you caught) for a larger roller system in production. I do plan on making this upgrade. Again, I really appreciate the feedback – that will make for a better product.

Gauge pin system:

The machined grooves on the top and side of the platen are there to ‘receive’ the gauge pins. The gauge pins are made from spring steel and wrap around the platen (kind of shaped like a “C” with a lip on one end to receive the paper). There’s a “block” attached to the upper half of that “C” – the block slides into that groove and can be relocated based on the size of your paper. The gauge pins (spring steel and blocks) work together to orient and hold the paper in place.

Concerns over production:

I understand there are lots of hesitations around supporting kickstarter campaigns, given some fairly large failures. While this is my first kickstarter, I have spent my entire career in product development and manufacturing – I have designed, built and launched a number of industrial products and am comfortable with my supply chain (nearly all of which I’ve worked with previously). I know this means little to those of you with serious concerns or scar tissue from past kickstarter experience (“that’s what they all say” is what you’re likely thinking) but I do have deep experience in product development and manufacturing. I hope you will keep an eye on our product in the future as we transition from a prototypes to a production machine.

I believe I captured the main points/questions throughout the post. Please let me know if I can address anything else.

Respectfully, Steve

Forgot one question, does it take metal/wood type and how would someone load it in the machine?

Presuming you have done your market research sterry what are the potential sales of what is a variation of established technology and what would be the price of a unit?

Thanks for taking the time to respond to us here.

A successful design for a roller assembly would require one of the rollers to oscillate in order to even out the ink as it is depleted in certain areas of the inking system from heavier areas in the artwork. The Vandercook presses use a crescent and worm gear. Is there something in your design that can achieve this result?

Have you tried printing with artwork that is less centered that the designs you have shown? How does this machine behave when the artwork is heavier near an edge or a corner?

How rigorous will your testing be on the prototype? It might be good to put it through a thousand prints and see what becomes loose or fails. Given your experience in machine design I suspect you already know that, but it would be good to know the level of failure testing to which the design will be subjected.


@platenprinter – prices are available on our KS page.

@aseries – thank you, I did miss that question. The metal/wood type can be loaded in through an access door (~17” wide) on the back on the machine. There are dovetail like guide rails in the machine that will receive either the chase or baseplate. Both are then locked into place with a spring mounted latch, ensuring a consistent location.

@The Arm NYC – I’m right there with you on the worm gear. In addition to incorporating larger rollers in production, I had planning on oscillating the lower/center roller with a solenoid or worm gear (I’m going to test both options, but I expect the worm gear to ‘win’).

Again, hand built this prototype, so when printing off center the platen rocked a bit. This is a result of my fabrication abilities. I do expect the professionally fabricated version (machined with CNCs) to be substantially more ridged.

We’re currently testing numerous features on the prototype – carriage travel and the pressing mechanism, but have allotted a fairly significant chuck of time in our production schedule for failure testing. I also designed the press with longevity in mind. I’ve minimized the amount of parts that will experience wear. But when necessary, those parts (like the slide bushings and screw press bearing) are all commercially proven components (the bushings and bearings are all heavily used in machine tools and other industrial products).

Once our failure testing is complete (we plan to test each wear component to failure), I plan to incorporate those details into the products manual (and can post here as well). I plan to offer those wear components for sale on our website or/and can direct people to the manufacture and they can purchase them directly.

Maybe it’s been suggested, but is there a way to ‘trip’ the impression so your inking system will be able to make a pass without printing? This is a common practice on vandercook presses and even some operators of platen presses will ‘trip’ ink, pulling the impression lever every few prints.

Additionally, will you be building in any kind of an ink train reservoir? If you look at how the inking system on most presses is equipped, there’s a part of the system which retains a certain amount of ink. The Drum on a vandercook, the disc on a platen, etc etc; It’s an element which keeps the pressman from needing to add ink every print, in addition to the oscillation/distribution of a roller moving back and forth. Your train has a total of three rollers; I think there may be a lot of concern over that, and whether it could be robust enough.

I’m sure it is a great idea and will appeal to some. But it has all the soul of a washing machine. Letterpress tamed and sanitised.

I agree that this product has been aimed at the Apple Design led hipster market. But I think it is well designed and relatively clever and very much of its time.
Traditionalists are going to hate it because it essentially looks like any computer peripheral.
I appreciate it has flaws and limitations but it is the Prototype model. Steve has essentially got off his backside and invented or rather reinvented something for the modern market. I don’t think things like this should be discouraged because something bigger and better could come from this.
Just imagine the response Adana got from the traditional print world as did Kelsey when they started selling presses to ‘Amateurs’ God forbid!
This is the same thing with a different hat on. Some will hate it some with love it just like Apple and PCs. But its a new spin on traditional letterpress which may bring a younger generation further into print which is good for all.
I think we call it progress.

What is the market price?

I see it as a letterpress press for an Artist, who will design their work and print a hand full of cards, or posters on a limited basic.

But, if the cost of this machine is very high, it will not sell.

Well said, Albion Press.

Nothing against progress. But in pushing things too far I think we lose sight of what was attractive and interesting about letterpress in the first place. For me the journey is as important as the destination. But just a personal thing and certainly no offence intended.

Good luck to Steve in taking it further.


With due respect for your efforts in mind I must ask again, what was your anticipated overall effort of impression for this design? Does the encased flywheel weigh 8 lbs? 10? 15? Surely as the designer you must have calculated the potential pressure of your machine before moving forward with the prototype. There is no point in softly side-stepping questions regarding this important feature when bringing a new press to market ….and asking for financial support in doing so. ….and asking $2,250 per unit.

You did specifically state that the Slate Press was marketed towards professionals and perfectionists so as a press designer, you must certainly know that pros and artists, when considering the purchase of an expensive and worthy press, will be primarily interested in claimed and demonstrated values of actual performance, both in real numbers and unaltered imagery.

To make a deep impression of the “Cheers to Craft Beers” jug image on double thick Crane Lettra would cause even a Heidelberg Windmill to clunk and jump in protest. So approximately how much pressure does your press currently generate?


I think the whole reason for offering Letterpress printing to the public, is the workmanship of the printer (the real person) to offer the public printing on equipment from a time period that has pasted.

All this machine is a fancy computer looking machine that means NOTHING to the public.

The public can push a button on their computer and get something printed.

It’s the skill of a real person using old Letterpress equipment turning out items of true craftsmanship.

I wouldn’t give the public too much credit…

One thing we haven’t seen is the cleanup process… and a machine covered with inky fingerprints after a few uses. Presses and operators have been known to get ink on them.

If cleanup is anything like on a traditional press, I won’t be surprised to see users of this new press printing digital and pressing a blind hit on the paper to give the (ahem) impression that it is letterpress work.

On the other hand: if cleanup is easy and tidy, there could be be some new relief printers slowly turning out quasi-handmade goods. At some point though, those folks may dig deeper to discover how much faster and easier the authentic process is.


A Tippman Clicker press is a good comparison with a similar scale.

Comparing the two, it gives me doubt that the Kickstarter press will be able to generate the impression strength needed.

You could use the Tippman press to deboss a digital print easily enough. Just set the photopolymer on the base and register the paper to it. You could use a laser transparency sheet on top to align the digital print to the photopolymer plate for fairly tight register.

Now that I think about it, I could probably sell the heck out of that on Etsy.