First Press: Morgan Co. Write-A-Sign

I’m not a letterpress novice, but not a pro either. I’m a graphic designer with a BFA in printmaking. I took a few semesters of letterpress with part of my thesis body utilizing letterpress mixed with other things, but I am a complete beginner in ownership. I’m dipping my toes in with a small press that fits in my apartment and in my price range.

This evening I purchased a Write-A-Sign off Ebay and pretty much all I know about this family of sign presses is from the two posts here on Briar Press.

The one I bought has a 14”x22” bed and comes with the set of magnetic type. The photo below is from the listing.

Given that the type is a different height, I know I’ll be limited by that, but I think I’ll try and figure out what thickness of backing I’ll need for linocuts and polymer plate. I’m wondering if it is really necessary to make the backing magnetic (this was a recommendation in another thread) if it is made to fit the same size of the glass plate.

I did see on a blog somewhere that someone was using a Write-A-Sign for monotype. I figure I’ll mess around with doing monotypes and pressure prints with this as well.

Curious to know if anyone here still has one or had one and any general tips or advice about it. Also what did use in your Write-A-Sign to print besides the rubber letters? I’d like to learn what I can while I wait the week or so for it to arrive.

image: sl1600.jpg


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I have not used one of these but have printed on several showcard / sign presses. This is similar to a simple proofing press where you ink the type and then roll your paper over it with a blanket between the roller and paper. The blanket could be sheets of newsprint, felt etc.

Lino and mylar plates can be printed by sticking them to a sheet of clear plastic e.g. Perspex and then underlaying with card to bring up to printing height. Magnetic backing is not required I use double side tape. Other materials could be used for printing from such as rubber sheet,thin plywood etc.

For the history buffs I believe the presses were first called Rite-a-Sign and later Write-a-Sign
At some time Morgan made Line-Scribe showcard presses which used normal height type and presumably dropped the Write-a-Sign.

I have no experience with this particular kind of press, but I just wanted to say how happy I am to see it pop up here! I also saw it on Ebay and was curious (but not able to justify purchasing it myself), so I hope you’ll post updates as you discover its possibilities. Good luck!

Yeah, I definitely plan to share how it goes! It will arrive this weekend and I’m pretty excited about starting to tinker with it.

This is a belated update, but I finally had time and space to start taking the press apart since the roller wasn’t traveling smoothly across the rails.

I posted about taking it apart and cleaning it out here:

Does anyone know where I could get replacement bearings and maybe rails (really just one) for this press? Specifically, I’d like to replace the bearings in the piece I’m holding in my hand in the photo.

I figure worst case scenario I can get someone to machine a new rail, but the bearings are trickier.

image: The bearings I'd like to replace are in the piece I'm holding. 

Behind it is the partially disassembled press laying on its side.

The bearings I'd like to replace are in the piece I'm holding. Behind it is the partially disassembled press laying on its side.

I don’t know where you are located but there are companies in the larger cities that do nothing but sell bearings…..just about any kind of bearing you can imagine. This is because industry uses A LOT of bearings, and they wear out, requiring replacements. Hopefully you can find a bearing company near you, by looking on line.

There are also on-line bearing companies. Here is just one which I found quickly. I don’t know anything about it.

It would probably be better if you could bring your old bearing to a bearing company so they could match it.

Hope this helps.


Well, assuming you cannot get a new ball bearing set, worst case scenario, useable bearings can be fabricated from brass, hard maple or lignum vitae. Its more of a bushing than a bearing, they require good regular lubrication, but they work.

Thanks for the replies!

I’m in Indianapolis and arguably I could reach out to Boutique du Junke for replacement parts. Which I’m going to do in a minute.

But I wanted to update on what was happening with this press and wasn’t sure if anyone immediately knew if the same bearings were used in all the Morgan Co presses or not.

Also I should share a few photos of what I did manage to print on it yesterday. I crammed some small kraft paper notebooks through it as some giveaways at a graphic designer meetup I was hosting. There are more here –

image: tumblr_pbvudtLFqn1qbt7i1o7_1280.jpg

image: The brayer, (dirty) glass plate, and instructions that came in the type case.

The brayer, (dirty) glass plate, and instructions that came in the type case.

image: tumblr_pbvudtLFqn1qbt7i1o1_1280.jpg