5x8 Kelsey and polymer plates

Hi gang! I’m attempting my very first print project on my own. I’m using a polymer plate with a deep relief base from Boxcar.

Here’s my problem…when the ink rollers hit the plate, they are also hitting the very top and very bottom of the base. I’m assuming this has something to do with the roller height, but I don’t know how to adjust it on a Kelsey.

And plus my impression is inconsistent like it’s not hitting the paper enough. I tried messing around with adjusting the platen, but it didn’t work.

I think there should be a site dedicated to us beginning Kelsey users! HA! I know they’re not the best piece of equipment, however, if I decided to start “inexpensive” and if I enjoyed the process, I would upgrade to something nicer later.


Thanks so much,

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Ha! indeed, there should be a site for Kelsey users.

I’d think the problem would be roller height as well, and perhaps platen adjustment as well, rather than a plate/base problem.

Can’t offer more than this, out of my expertise. Good luck.


Hi Kym,

Boxcar Press has a FAQ on their site about rollers touching the base: http://www.boxcarpress.com/photopolymer-supplies/faqs.html#rails
I’m not sure about the design of a 5x8 Kelsey, but I print on a 6x10 Kelsey Excelsior and I can adjust the roller height by adjusting the tension on the springs via a couple of little nuts. As it mentions in Boxcar’s FAQ, you can also try adding tape to the rails.

Adjusting platens is tricky work. I have read here that some platen press printers find that they get vastly different impressions from handset and from polymer. My solution is that I have mine adjusted for handset type, and when I print with the Boxcar base, I adjust packing and makeready instead. It’s just such a chore to get the platen set correctly.


Thanks, Jessica. Yeah, I think I totally messed up how my platen sits now from adjustments in trying to get it to work. I did read the Boxcar troubleshooting and I think I did correct the roller problem. I read on the Adventures in Letterpress blog about the same problem with getting a good impression. The author cut up her plate in sections and did more passes on her runs than expected. I may try this next. Well, once I figure out how to fix my platen now that I completely got it out of wack. Haha!

Thanks again,

How large is the plate in comparison to the inside dimensions of the the chase? Kelsey presses won’t handle plates much more than 1/3 of the chase area. Much bigger than that an you’re just not going to get a good impression.

It’s definitely larger than a 1/3. I’m using a 5x8 press and the plate is 4x6.

the roller is not the problem or the plate. use some paper or tape to the impression area until the impression is come out.

I don’t think you’ll ever get good, consistent impression using a form that large in a kelsey. You would do better to cut your plate down to it’s smallest parts and print separately if you are really looking for consistent impression. If you are enticed by the deep impression printing that is so popular you will have to upgrade to a larger press.

I’ve been having the same problem with my 6 x 10 Kelsey. My plate has a lot of surface area as well and my prints look a lot like yours too. What I had to do was take a strip of paper and fold it over two or three times about an inch thick. Then I would place it under my sheet and hit it. That area would be darker and deeper. Then I would move that piece over another part and hit it again. Much like a photographer in a dark room who burns and dodges a photo. When I first tired it, it took me 41 hits to get a solid deep even print.

Of course the tabletop Kelsey does not enjoy the precision or pressure of a C&P. But it can print full chase size, produce workmanlike product, and gives creditible blacks from large solids. It just takes patience to achieve such result. The Kelsey book of instruction is posted on several sites; locate one and -