big bunch of questions!

Hi everyone, my name is Susan and I am a hand bookbinder, but about 19 years ago a friend of mine who was clearing away her Antique store stock gifted me a (what seemed at the time) complete 6 x 10 Kelsey Excelsior press. I was very excited to try it out and even ordered new rollers from Brown Regrinding on the recommendation of a letterpress printer acquaintance….then life took its usual twists and turns and the press and new rollers sat untouched in the corner of my bindery till now. I am currently trying to get the press cleaned up and ready before I try my hand at printing. This said, I have some questions only a complete novice would ask so I beg your patience! I have been doing a lot of reading about the subject, but I have not yet printed anything!
First off, can anyone tell me from the attached picture if my rollers are rubber or composition? From reading multiple posts and discussions I think they are rubber (just because they seem to be pretty firm when I push my thumb nail into the side of roller.) But I would really like to be certain because it seems that how to clean the different roller types varies and I do not want to use the wrong product to clean off the ink.
Secondly, I suspect that my roller hook springs has been jury-rigged (or are simply missing the roller hooks). The rollers spring back with no problem but I think something is not right in Denmark. Could you please tell me if this is just a case of replacing the old springs and acquiring two new roller hooks, or was this actually a real set up on some models of the Kelsey 6 x 10?
Thirdly, my only available work space to do the printing is in a corner of my bindery in the basement of my house. I have put the press by a window (where I can get some ventilation when needed) but I am a little unsure about cleaning up with flammable liquids within 10 and 15 feet of my natural gas water heater and natural gas boiler…my question is, if I have the window open, should that provide enough ventilation so that I can clean up without having to worry about fire dangers? I would of course work sparingly with the flammables, I just wondered what other printers do to be as safe as possible in similar settings and what products they use to clean rubber rollers.
And finally, the only parts that I can see are actually missing are the grippers. Luckily the gripper bar and gripper bar spring are still there. I am going to have a local fabricator make some grippers for me. My question is, once the gripper bar spring exits the body of the press below the handle, should there be a bend in the wire (spring) so that the spring does not pass back and forth freely? I guess I am not sure how the spring action works if the bar is not impeded on that end, since it just appears to clip onto the gripper bar at the other end and unclips itself each time the handle is operated.
Thanks for any info you can provide. I can’t wait to start printing!

image: missingrollerhook.jpg


image: whatkindofrollers.jpg


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Where, in general terms, are you located? It would probably be best if you could get a little introduction from someone with a similar press, or if someone could look at your press, rollers, etc., and advise based on that.

I see Brown Regrinding is in Minneapolis, and if that’s where you are, I’m sure there is someone in the Twin Cities area which could help you. (I’m in Canada, far away).

You are at the right place to ask questions.
I believe the proper solvent that is good for the rollers and press, and is easy on the environment and the purse is mineral spirit from the hardware or paint store. It is paint thinner. It is not highly volatile, but you always want to be careful with any flammable liquid. You can take your inked rollers outside to clean them if you wish. Could also take the ink disk, but I would not suggest that for regular practice. Some folks who think they are greener use Crisco to clean off the ink. It works, but then you have to clean off the grease. Not my way.
My guess is that the rollers are not composition, Composition rollers are dark brown/black. Yours could possibly be polyurethane. They can print well for a number of years, but then in the dark of one night, they melt into goo that is nearly impossible to get off. So, print with them and remove them from the press each time. Then they can melt in the box.
Yes, it would be best to have an experienced press person come by and visit your press and tell you what it needs.

Get some ink on your shirt.

Thanks Geoffrey and Inky…I may just order some new roller hooks and springs if this set up does not suffice once I start to print. I have read that Brown Regrinding has gone out of the business of making letterpress rollers since I ordered mine 19 years ago, otherwise I would just give them a call because I still possess the original packaging with some cryptic numbers on them that might indicate exactly what kind of rollers they are! I live about 1 1/2 hours north east of Pittsburgh, PA, so I should not have too much trouble finding someone to show me the ropes! And thanks again for the helpful clean-up tips. I also inherited a box full of various inks when I purchased some type for my hot stamping press…can you recommend which kind of ink I should start out with as a novice printer? Cheers!

Your rollers are rubber, not polyurethane or composition. Brown Regrinding made neither of those types of rollers. They should be very nice to work with.

At least your rollers are easily removable, and you can transport them to a garage or outside to clean quite readily if you prefer. If you do choose to clean them inside, use the solvent very sparingly. Do not use gasoline inside anywhere near flame, as it has a very low flash point. Mineral spirits and kerosene (available in a deodorized version for use in decorative lamps) will not degrade your rollers and would have higher flash points. Mineral spirits has a flash point of 100° F. while lamp oil is around 150° F. The big problem of using solvents indoors is the potential of spills or leaking containers, which could carry the liquid solvent close to the ignition source.

Make certain you dispose of rags carefully.

John H.

Thank you John H. that’s what I needed to know!

There are some 6x10 grippers on eBay right now, pretty spendy but maybe better than someone making them? The grippers on my 5x8 are pretty simple so maybe not that hard to make.

For cleaner, I’m just using an orange based household spray that is working fine, cleans really quickly actually. I’m not sure how the rubber rollers will react to it long-term however.

There are inks that are waterbased. Friends use nothing but.

Susan, The roller saddles are correct from what I can see in the limited view you have provided. Send a side view of the press for confirmation. The gripper bar spring wire ought not to be bent. Straighten the wire and the system will function as designed. If you need grippers, let us know.

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Thank you everyone for your helpful advice!