Need recommendations on start up equipment

Hi! I’m interested in getting into the letterpress business, as we don’t have a lot to choose from in my area and I love it. However, there is so much to choose from and consider! I’m hoping this community can help.

I’m looking to start off producing business cards, wedding invitations, greeting cards etc. My biggest problem is I have a “go big or go home” mentality, so my first instinct is to get the windmill kind. But I think this would be a mistake. I want something that will last, I will use for years, and provides exceptional quality. So my question is this: what equipment do you recommend I get to start?

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A 10x15 hand fed floor model platen and a good paper cutter will be capable of producing what you’ve listed. Then make sure you have all the supplies and small tools.


Is experience equipment?

Keyword Production, let’s assume they know how to run all the stuff needed:

You desire to have a real production? Start with Type, if you proffer your own wares, you can design with Type only, otherwise you will need an imagesetter, Platemaker for Polymerplates and a Computer and software to design.

Running production on a handfeed get’s old soon, at least a windmill 10x15 or Gt 13x18, if possible with Foiling attachment as it will come in handy, get a electric guillotine with micro cut, challenge , Polar etc.

I run true production jobs and that is what I have on the Floor to be able to meet deadlines and not sit and wait until a Plate walks thru the door.

As you have stated that you are just dipping *Your Toe in the water* you would not go too far wrong in acquiring a Table Top Machine, initially and for a reasonably modest sum, be up and running fairly quickly with your stated aims.!

The minimum would seem to be, Table Top press, small selection of stock, (wedding invites, business cards, greetings cards, all of the shelf, in small quantities,) No need for a Guillotine, until the path is mapped out!! small selection of Ink,s some type, and/or Mounting base for P.P. plates and source for same.

Acquire the rudiments of Locking up, Positioning, Packing Impression, Ink distribution, and make the first one or two efforts *The learning curve*

Virtually all of the above would NOT be wasted, just a progressive scaling up, from an informed hard earned position.

And as has happened here U.K. over many years, 95% of new devotees who have adopted this route, even after scaling up from a tiny installation to a Full size Platen, (A) can not bear to part with the first machine, & (B) eventually realize that, the Machine does not just sit unloved in the corner.

But turns in well, i.e. for overprinting One Line on a business card, One line (second colour) address/R.S.V.P. wedding invite, and especially short run,Tag Labels, with eyelet holes, Beer mats, Place mats (already die-cut circular)

O.K. you can wash up for example, for a 50 run but with the baby machine in the corner, there is no need.! . . RUN ON with the Auto fed and rip of the odd 50 at the same time.???

O.K. fair comment to initially acquire EVERYTHING that *might* be needed, and it is a big *might* but if it all goes south that is a big investment to consider.

Have a few paying jobs In the Can, and then start scaling up.!!

Good Luck.

What presses do you know how to run?

Do not get anything right now, that you never used before. If you only used a 8x12 or 10x15 hand feed get that and learn everything you need to grow your business.

If you pick the type of press you understand first, it’s easy to grow from that point.

The best mistake I have done, was jumping into a rental space in my budget and out grew it in 6 months.

Now, I stressing myself out over moving my C4, Ludlow, 8x12,V-50 and saw etc.

So, before you jump, think thought what you want in equipment down the road, and find a space that your budget can handle.

There is a lot of capacity. It may make sense to focus on design and customer service, and send your prints to be printed elsewhere. Like with us, for example!

With respect! I stand by my entire post as above, especially in view of the original Cry for advice, including the absence of ANY machine at all.
Starting with a table top, 95% of the time holds good, always possible to sell on (without loss) maybe loss of face, maybe loss of the odd blackened fingernail, but that,s about it.
The learning curve lasts forever, and is built on as the Skill develops.
Jumping in, with for example a Heidelberg Platen, would be/is fraught with many dangers, (unless you have access to a tame teacher) you will not just lose a fingernail, more luck the upper right arm or the side of the head.

On start up, sending the work out, would seem to be a retrograde step, A. the skills required will not be acquired, B. even if one puts 5-10% on top of outwork, it would seem to be NO profit from the start.! + C. if the know how has not yet been achieved to instruct the Print Farmers the Novice will still have to *Carry the Can*

Bite the Bullet, make a few mistakes, very soon speak from a position of informed strength.! and THEN on-wards and upwards.?

Perhaps refer to the 2 posts above, Mine at 15 45, and the good buddy,s (A.D.) 18 14.?

Both basically implying the same procedure.

Mick, you make a valid Point, but this sounds less like a quaint Hobby Interest. She could go to Foil And Die in Kansas or Denver, forget which City their in and would be sufficient in a short time to run a Windmill.

Some people want to come up hard and fast and they just need to have the cash to do so.

Typenut, appreciate your post, and the desire by Tricia Mc. to *jump in feet first* noble objectives, Yes of course but hardly advisable, to Steam In, as a novice unless an experienced reasonably well qualified third party is looking over the shoulder.
At least for and past the initial minefield, which upwards of One imperial ton HAS TO BE.!!

My apprenticeship was from 1954 - 1960 and long before even pushing the start buttons we were obliged to spend at least 3 months, respectively, in the Proof Reading room as Copyholder, 3 months (where applicable) in the Hot metal casting dept, 3 months in the Composing room, 3 months in the Machine room, and 3 months in the Finishing/Bindery dept,s.
Then we could be put under the wing of a Journeyman in whichever dept was applicable.

The trainee Girl apprentices normally only did 3/4 years, but still were obliged to have a working insight into most aspects of the trade, especially those that would end up, as hand feeders on big Wharfedales, (generally) They, the Girls made excellent feeders, probably the gentle touch floating the BIG sheets down the feed board,s.

In the case of finishing/bindery staff higher intensive training was the norm, because of the potential dangers from sharp Art paper, loading into the feeders, danger from the Knives and Buckle folds on Big Camco/Brehmer folders, until mid to late 60,s although H. &. S was in its infancy ear defenders were not in common use.

Also way back when, even the comparatively small Production House,s only had, say 2, 4/5/ fold machines, to fold (in one pass) 32 pages at a time, the scream from that number of close contact STEEL rollers was unbearable.

Even to a Monotype Caster apprentice, who could handle an ear battering from just 3 Machines at full tilt.?

Perhaps (with hindsight) those dastardly apprentices should not have spent so much time, allegedly, chatting up the Girls in the finishing.

N.B. even into the mid eighties, it was still fairly common to see recorded in the, obligatory, Accident Book staples through delicate fingers etc. From Monotype Boston & Worseley Brehmer stitchers etc.

Generally, since 80,s a thing of the past, when combined finishing machines, Stream Fed, with built in Stitching heads, Drawn on covers, 3 knife trimmers, batching facilities, etc, + acoustic hoods, Many Many times faster, not exactly silent but the piped music from the Tannoy can be heard.

Here U.K. usually either Heidelberg, or Muller Martini, binding lines.
The hardest 2 operations are, A. feeding as many as 5/6 Hoppers with folded sections, and equally, boxing the copies out of the 3 Knife Trimmer,s.

Apologies for my Seminar, but may give the New Devotees something to think about, might even help the learning curve,s.!! for a few.

Point 1:
“However, there is so much to choose from and consider! I’m hoping this community can help.”

Point 2:
“I want something that will last, I will use for years, and provides exceptional quality. So my question is this: what equipment do you recommend I get to start?”

Point 1 -
You gotta consider your budget VS available items. How much do you have to spend or would you like to allocate? This will dictate your field of available purchases, alongside of course what the market has to offer. If you have a higher budget, going through an equipment dealer might be a good idea. Otherwise, unless you’re experienced with equipment enough to evaluate it’s capabilities and condition, you’re looking at possible problems.

Point 2-

I think your experience will speak to this, and you attitude towards machinery/equipment, but you’ll need to cover three bases:

You should be looking at platemaking options if you’re not in possession of a good library of handset type. Most of your clients are likely going to want to bring their own designs, unless you’re offering very niche services and designing with type. So, you’ll have to start out with service bureaus like boxcar or crown flexo or concord engraving, get a photopolymer base- but eventually, looking into a platemaker is a good idea if you plan to do enough printing and your business takes off.

What are you printing? Posters? Cards, Stationery? Handbills? Menus? The imposition size of your usual work will dictate the kind of press you look for. I have always felt comfortable with vandercooks, and hand-fed platen presses like Chandler and Price or Pearls.
On the other hand, not everyone is dextrous enough to feed accurately and it takes a knack and rhythm; so, perhaps consider an automatic feed machine. You might turn out better work with a bit more control than your hands can exercise, but that depends on your mechanical ability.

Post press:

You will need a paper cutter. You’ll need to for before and after printing, but after printing is probably more important for you to have your own cutter. Learn to use it and learn to use it well. I think it’s a good idea to start with a lever-style, non motorized cutter if you dont have experience with them. However, if you’re doing a lot of cutting eventually, a mechanically assisted or motorized cutter is of great use. The more you spend on these, the better they help- and unlike some of the equipment you can end up with, cutters hold their value quite well so consider it an investment which you’ll recoup by selling someday.
In fact, most equipment should be viewed as such in my opinion; you’re really only ‘renting’ it until you sell it, hopefully at an increase in value while also having made money from it. Take the proper maintenance precautions and keep it in working order, and this is entirely possible.

Good luck!

TriciaMc it will help us if we knew more about letterpress background.

If you just have a love for it, start with a good table top press.

Thanks so much for the feedback. I have extensive printing experience in industrial printing, but not a lot with letterpress. But I’m extremely passionate about it.

I’m in no rush to get started printing, just doing some research and putting together my business plan so i stay on track with my mission and budget when I start acquiring equipment and taking on clients. Right now I’m building my budget. My goal is to start purchasing in the spring/summer so I’m up and running in the fall and by the following spring be in full swing.