Overwhelmed on where to start

Hi everyone!

I’m a graphic designer out in Long Island, NY and have recently become very interested in learning the art of letterpress. I am very much a newby where that is concerned and I know there are lots of seasoned pros on this forum so please go easy with me lol I have many questions. I plan on taking a class at The Arm in Brooklyn very soon, so I’m excited about that. I have this thing about me that when I’m interested in learning something I get this drive in me like I need to learn everything about it. Not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing lol But anyway, any tips anyone can give me on where to start would be awesome.

My long term goal would be to have a small business out of my garage or in a shop, but as far as short term goals, I would really like a small press (as I currently do not have much space) that will allow me to do business cards & invites.

Is there a major difference between an C&P Pilot vs Kelsey? Which is better for beginners? What is a decent price for these? Or does it make more sense to just save and spend more on one that’s ready to use right out of the box?

I have also been reaching out to local letterpress companies offering to help out so I can learn the ropes but haven’t had anyone take me up on it. Anyone know of anyone else I could ask?

thanks in advance

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Your decision to take a class at The Arm is a good one. You will learn some basics and get a chance to see what type of press with which you might best start. You can pump them for information about how to start out on your own as well.

Between the Kelsey and the Pilot, I’d pick the Pilot every time. It just has mores uses in an advanced shop, whereas, the Kelsey might get you started, but you’ll tire of its eccentricities in time. I have been a letterpress printer for over 50 years, and still use my pilot for certain types of work.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

I would suggest you come in for that workshop before worrying too much about buying a press. Once you’ve tried out some different machines and have a better sense of their capabilities you will be able to make a more informed decision.

We have some LI printers that drive in to print stationery jobs. Many are happy to commute in for use of the Vandercooks. Some decide after a while to set up something at home like a Golding or C&P Pilot and maybe a Kwikprint for basic foil stamping, then come in to print larger pieces on our machines when they need a bit more power.


thanks for the replies!

Daniel, I look forward to that class and taking my first step on this journey.

Hi Jackie,
I’m an offset printer with more years of experience than I would like to admit. I got the urge to print with a letterpress and purchased a Golding Jobber #6 (8x12) a few months ago and I’m very happy with this press. Treadles easily and with a small footprint, this press will print just about any image that will fit into the chase. I would prefer this press or a Golding Pearl over a table top model. I think the required floor space would be the same.
I would suggest that you google Don Black Linecasting and check out his Help section. He has an entire article titled “First Press” and I found that to be very informative.
Good luck!


You mentioned that you were on LI. Here in WestchesterCounty we have a group of hobby letterpress printers know as The Westchester Chapple. The group was started in 1960 and is made up of 15 shops. Most are local to Westchester but with a few renegades that have moved further away after belong members. The Chapple meets about 4-5 times a year at members homes for general meetings (cocktails and dinner) and a tour of the shop. We are holding our annual Wayzgoose on December 4th, where we bring together our yearly calendar.
I highly recommend you spend some time with Dan at the Arm, he’s terrific.
If you’d like to learn more about letterpress and the Westchester Chapple contact me at [email protected].

In reaching out to letterpress outfits are you saying you physically showed up and expressed interest or did you email them? Twenty + years ago I walked into an offset shop and offered to work for free to get experience. They gave me a paid position even though they were not actively hiring. Only other advice would be to start doing research and reading on aspects that interest you.