How to allow a safe hands on demonstration?

I will be demonstrating my Kelsey 5x8 printing press at an event and I would really like to allow guests to print a small card as a souvenir. I know it is a small press, but there will be children so I am slightly worried about crushed/pinched fingers.

Any suggestions on how to safely allow people to print at my booth?

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Make certain the press is firmly attached to whatever table you are using. I have done this by attaching the press to a piece of plywood and then clamping the board to the table where used. You don’t want it falling on someone;s foot.

As to piching. etc., I would make certain no one else is within arms distance of the press (except the operator). If you are there to observe while operating, I think it will be quite safe.

I have done this several times wioth no il effects.

John Henry Cedar Creek Press

I do the same thing at art fairs with a Craftsmen 5x8. Lots of pinch points, but no injuries yet. I have more problems with ink where it isn’t wanted, and letting go of the handle and the platen slamming open.

It’s a lot of work dragging this thing to shows and keeping an eye on it, but all of the excited faces seeing something as primitive as a tabletop press outputting sharp prints, that “looks like it came off a computer” is worth the risk. For me anyway.

Bring a crate or step for the shorter children. Make sure it’s sturdy, or someone will want you to have a handrail.

I do hands-on demos all the time with an old Excelsior 3 X 5. John’s comment about having it solid is a good one. I also tell the kids to use both hands on the lever. That way you can see where all the appendages are!

Thanks for the suggestions, the event went great and the demo was a huge hit!. For anyone interested in the future, here are a few things I learned:

1. Choose your ink wisely. I used Southern Ink which has a longer open time than oil base but dries faster than rubber base. I was afraid of ink drying on the press, but I had so much traffic, I don’t think this would have been an issue. I would choose a faster drying ink so there would be less smudgy fingers and unhappy customers. Adjusting the design of the print to have less inking area also helps.

2. A single roller is fine, at least for my press. I was using a newly restored Kelsey 5x8 that I had not fully adjusted so I had a few strong customers who threw the bottom roller. The single top roller worked perfectly fine and made operating the press easier for new printers.

3. People have very different strength levels. Some people were very soft and light, trying not to break anything. Some people slammed the handle down like a hammer, so just keep this in mind when setting up your packing, adjustments, etc..

4. Placing the paper yourself helps with the speed and safety of the demo. People who have never even seen a printing press have a hard time understanding immediately what is supposed to happen. It was easier for me to place the paper and just tell them to pull down on the handle. Less explaining and fewer confused faces.

5. People REALLY like printing their own souvenir. I had a steady stream of demos happening for the full 2 days of the event. There was often a line of people to do the demo. This didn’t really translate to a bunch of sales (I only had a $30 12x18 poster for sale, so that might have been the issue), but it attracted a lot of people to the booth.

6. Always have 1 person to run the demo. I had 2 people in my booth and this was the bare minimum. 1 person to help with the demo and 1 person to explain the process, answer questions, and manage sales. Any time one of us had to leave the booth for food, restroom, etc. it was very difficult to manage the demo and other aspects of the booth. I had several instances of people trying to print without instruction while I was tending to a sale.

Overall I was very happy with the event and glad I could introduce letterpress to so many new people. Excited to do it again next year.

Don Buerer
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