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  • Patricia Heffner
    4 years, 9 months ago

    Hi all! I’m a total letterpress newbie with interest in purchasing my first tabletop 5×8.

    I currently have two letterpress tabletops for sale in my area, a 5×8 Kelsey in working order with rollers (listed for $650) or a 5×8 craftsmen without rollers but with accessories (and not used for 10 years, $750).

    I don’t know how to determine what these are worth, or what a decent price to pay would be. Do you have any tips for someone just starting out? Any experience with these?

    I’m a software engineer by day, but calligrapher by night. The hope would be to make some cards, occasional invitation suites. I am so excited and passionate about letterpress and I can’t wait to play with one of my own! Thanks all!

    4 years, 9 months ago

    Hey Patricia!

    First of all, congrats on being bitten by the print bug. Secondly, these are both decent prices. Rollers will cost you a couple hundred bucks for the Craftsman, but it’s a bit stronger press than the Kelsey. You’ll need to spend some more money though, to really get started. I’d budget for an extra $300-400 in additional supplies, depending on what accessories the seller throws in with your press. You’ll need:
    – ink
    – tympan and packing material
    – gauge pins (I recommend Henry)
    – a Boxcar base or similar if you plan to print your own designs using photopolymer
    – roller height gauge
    – quoins and quoin key
    – furniture (for locking up your form)
    – line gauge (a fancy printer’s ruler)
    – oil (3in1 is great)
    – solvent for clean-up (mineral spirits, California Wash, etc.)

    As a caveat, I’d like to give you some realistic expectations of what a 5×8 tabletop can produce. If you’re looking for a deep impression (a bite), you’ll be very limited on how large an image you can print. I have a couple of Adanas that I use for teaching, and one of them was my starter press. I limit size to no more than about 6-8sq inches, less if the image is a high solid area. For small designs on notecards, a 5×8 would be perfect. For a more elaborate wedding invitation, for instance, you may push the upper limits of what a little tabletop can produce.

    Hope that helps, and keep us posted!

    Patricia Heffner
    4 years, 8 months ago

    Thanks so much for the response! I’m a bit torn on what to do. I’ve been reading up on kelseys and they don’t seem to have the best reputation in the letterpress community! Finicky to work with, not great impressions, limitations in size.

    I’m just not sure what my ultimate goal is… playing around just for myself or for sellable results, maybe one day (in the next 1-2 years?!) doing wedding invitations or creating cards. I’m not sure if I should just go for something like a C&P 6×10 table top press/a sigwalt 6×9 instead and at least have it provide me a few years for decent sellable results before outgrowing the machine.

    I’m so excited about letterpress in general. I have a few 5×8 kelseys readily available (one at $700 with a bunch of type included, brand new rollers, etc) so I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait to actually FIND one of the other machines and also at what expense (1k+).

    I greatly appreciate your response and honesty! My interest is ever growing and filled with excitement 😀

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