New Kelsey 5x8

Hello! I am new to letterpresses and new to Briar Press. I recently bought myself a Kelsey 5x8. It came ready-to-print with a Boxcar base, and I have done some test prints with it. Works great!

I would like to be able to do some typesetting and print type, though. The chase that came with my press has set screws. Can anyone give me some advice on what I would need, minimally, to get started? What are the most basic items I would need to buy, and where/how would you recommend I buy them without costing me an arm and a leg? Thanks for any advice!

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Letterpress Things in Chicopee, MA sells starter kits that aren’t too dear. Much can be improvised, but if you want to set metal or wood type then you have to buy it. Used or new it tends to get pricy, especially for the better/ more popular type. Plates can be made from digital, but , again, that can be pricy. Ink can sometimes be cheap, if you run into a commercial printer closing down.

After the bare basics, you’re just like any collector of stuff. The good stuff is dear or you get lucky.

Furniture can be cut on a table saw( in standard pica sizes) Gage pins from small bits of metal or plastic. Mylar can substitute for Tympan paper ; so can butcher or Kraft paper, in a pinch. Wedges of wood for quoins. Paper and chipboard for leads and spacing. Almost anything flat can be printed if brought up to type high ( or cut down to it) rubber stamps for instance use plywood or M D F to mount with plastic carpet tape and shim with paper /chipboard to type high. Etc. etc.

Substituting can be an opportunity to explore the limits and/or mess things up royally … maybe both.

You do not say where you are. Many cities have, or had, businesses that catered to new printing shops; they often sell used equipment, and some have a small amount of letterpress type and other needs, even sometimes presses. Depending on where you are you could seek out such a business and see if they can help you find type and other materials. Letterpress Things in Chicopee Mass has fonts and furniture and virtually everything else you would need, and you can order online and they will ship to you. The printing museums have occasional sales of everything printing.


Thank you! I’ll see what I can get to start, and improvise from there. I know this is a long road I just got on, and things will come little by little too.

To use the chase with set screws, get two pieces of flat iron bar about 1/2 inch wide, 1/8 inch thick, and the length inside of the two sides of the chase with the set screws. Those will work as quoins to lock up. A small amount of printers “furniture”, precision cut blocks of different sizes made of hard wood, some type or old mounted cuts, and you are ready to print from type. Or you can make a composition on your computer and have a photopolymer plate made of it to stick onto your Boxcar base, but you need to know which thickness the base is. You can get ink at an art supply store that sells block printing supplies — Speedball makes a water base ink that works for letterpress. Go for it!

I also recently started working with my Kelsey 5x8, and got a lot of things from Letterpress Things, John Barrow was very helpful in explaining what I would need.

LetterpressThings, and eBay, always have listings of used metal type, and a couple of places have new type, and

I didn’t get the chase irons with mine, so I have been using quoins that I got from John, and they are working well. Stark Press has the irons,