5 years, 5 months ago
I am graduating college and starting a letterpress business soon, and I am currently stuck on which press to go with. I’ve checked BriarPress, eBay, local ads and the like, and most of what I’m finding are C&P’s. I originally wanted to go with a tabletop platen press like a Kelsey 8×5 for space reasons, but after doing research and talking to a few press dealers I’m getting the sense that a Kelsey won’t be able to give me the impression or work area that I need. However, I’ve heard that using polymer plates (which I would mostly be doing for wedding invitations and other custom works) and a boxcar base can give better impressions than traditional lead type.
The other problem I am running in to is space. I wanted to use a spare 10×12 bedroom in my house for the shop, but the doorways are only 30″ wide. If I do use the C&P or similar press, I doubt I will be able to fit it in my house. I do have a garage space that I could use instead, with some cleaning and an air conditioner it could be a decent fit, but I’m still so unsure about which press to even choose.
My questions for the community:
1) Which press is the better option in my case?
2) Will I get a deep impression on a Kelsey 8×5 if I use polymer plates and boxcar base?
3) If I do go with a C&P, has anyone come up with a creative way to make it fit through the door frames?
Thank you in advance for your help!
Kristy BulsonParticipant@kristybulson5 years, 5 months ago
My advice is to start with a 6″x10″ C&P tabletop press and upgrade when you outgrow it.Yes, you can get an impression with a press that size, but only on a very small area. The largest area I’ve gotten an impression with a similar style/size press is about 3″x3″, maybe a bit larger. A 5″x8″ will not be large enough to print wedding invitations.You can take floor model C&Ps apart in order to make them smaller. I would suggest searching the forums on briar press for more info on that.I would also suggest, if you haven’t printed before, that you take a letterpress workshop or find a printer in your area to mentor you. The help of other printers is invaluable.Good luck!5 years, 5 months ago
Thank you for your response!
I haven’t even heard about the 6×10 C&Ps. Are they harder to find? As long as I can print wedding invitations, cards and business cards I will be happy.
I’ve been printing for about 5 years now, but not on a C&P. I’m used to Vandercooks, but not the stand up presses.5 years, 5 months ago
Thank you for replying! I will begin looking for one. I keep seeing a Craftsman pop up when I search for the Pilot. Are they comparable or should I stick to C&P? And do the Pilots give a good deep impression? Is it more of a kiss impression?Thank you!
Amelia FontanelParticipant@ameliafontanel5 years, 5 months ago
A Craftsman is a very similar pull-lever platen press model to a Chandler & Price. They were just manufactured later and into the 20th century. You can lift most table top models very easily.
You can disassemble a standing flywheel platen and get it through a tight place (says me who has one in my home basement.) It’s not ideal though, and very heavy. I used a refrigerator dolley to get it down the steps. Not fun, but it’s there and I never can move again. 🙂
Take a look at Letterpress Commons for some good advice too, especially about impression depth. Be careful to not smash your vintage type if you are going for the deep deboss. Use polymer! http://letterpresscommons.com/impression/
And they have a great schematic about acquiring a press! http://letterpresscommons.com/acquiring-a-press/
Tiffany SmithParticipant@tiffanysmith5 years, 5 months ago
I also second the vote for a 6×10 C&P Pilot tabletop press. I absolutely love mine. It’s a great introductory size. If you are used to a Vandy proof press, there is also the Showcard. It requires inking by hand (with a brayer), but we have a Model B Special that weighs 200lbs and sits nicely on a worktable in our basement shop. Between our Pilot and our Showcard, we can work on a variety of projects. The Showcard can print about 12×20 at max, but I do have to ink that by hand so I try not to do pieces that are too large because I have yet to invest in a large brayer.
Barbara Jean YapleParticipant@barbarajeanyaple5 years, 5 months ago
Coming at it from a slightly different angle, I’d suggest a C&P floor model, either an 8×12 or a 10×15. I’ve owned both, and you can’t beat a little 8×12 for kicking out business or calling cards at around 2500 iph, hand-feeding! On the other hand, the 10×15 will give you more image area and more impression strength. As for moving—oy! I’ve moved more presses than I’d care to count, and the floor-model C&P machinery is nicely straightforward. On the O/S 10×15, if it is a treadle, just lift up the treadle arm and unhook it from the crank, remove the pulley and/or drive-gear on the gear-side of the press, remove the three screws holding the flywheel-side bushing in place, and lift the whole flywheel/drive-axle assembly out. It makes it fairly easy to move a 10×15 through a standard door—still fairly heavy, but doable by one person.
I would, however, worry about the capacity of the floor if it were in a “spare room” unless that room has a concrete floor.
(Mounting the press on 2×4 boards running parallel to the flywheel and using rollers is an easy way to move the press, as long as it is over a flat surface. I’d be *VERY* nervous about stairs!)
Whatever you choose, go with your instinct. If you love the press, it will perform at it’s best for you. (I really believe that—same with motorcycles!)
Best of luck,
Gary JohansonParticipant@garyjohanson4 years, 12 months ago
I would second the floor model idea, personally. For one thing, you can probably get two 8x12s for the price of one Pilot. Secondly, if you are going into business, you are probably going to print in quantity, and at some point your time sched. will become crammed enough that pulling the one armed bandit will be just too slow. Pilots are great, I mean, heck, even Kelsey front lever presses do a great job, with castings about the size of the 7×11 Pearl. But for anything like production, no bueno. They were not made for high number production runs, and for that matter, neither was the Pilot. Great for a hobby press, though.
Pearl. . . now there’s the ideal starter press. Slightly smaller than the 8×12 C&Ps, about the same overall size of a Pilot, only it has a flywheel and treadle, and is capable of very excellent printing of wedding stationery up to A7, can be unbolted from it’s table mount (which comes with the press, having two drawers on most models), easily lifted by two people, and once the flywheel is removed, will fit easily through a 30″ door frame. And….they are about the same going price as a Pilot. They are classic presses, and have quite a following. I ran many high impression run jobs from mine, and when using Lettra or any other open sized non calendered papers, capable of leaving a very nice deboss.
davina farinolaParticipant@davinafarinola4 years, 11 months ago
I started on a Pearl. Its a lovely press. It has all the same functions of a large C&P but more delicate and less acary (not that my C&P is scary now…) Treddle driven is also a good starter feature. Only draw back to the pearl is it doesn’t open very wide when hand feeding (Ie the platen is still at around 30-45 degrees when fully open & some models have no throw off leaver.) but all fine to work with as a beginner. 🙂
Bill HanneganParticipant@billhannegan4 years, 11 months ago
I bought an aluminum Craftsman 9×13 new back in 1985. Though I have done some nice printing on it, I don’t think it would yeild much impression.
I am wondering if you would not do best getting a Vandercook.
Jennifer WildingParticipant@jenniferwilding4 years, 11 months ago
I started with a Kelsey 5×7 hobby press and found that it just wasn’t sturdy or large enough for what I wanted to do, but, like you, I didn’t have a ton of space. After a lot of looking, I went to TandT Press Restoration and got a tabletop press that was designed for people to do real work on it. It’s an 1860 Curtis & Mitchell, and it is way better than the Kelsey. http://www.tandtpressrestoration.com/ They do a meticulous job of renovating old tabletop presses and making them function like new. I highly recommend them.
I’m currently looking at a C&P old model 10×15, just because it’s beautiful and I have decided I can stand to work in the basement if I do a better job of keeping it habitable. But I’ll never get rid of the Curtis & Mitchell.
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