Sunday, December 10, 2006

How much does it cost to get started?

A member of the HOW forum recently asked me how much my little Kelsey press cost, and what other costs are involved in getting started with your own small press. Here are just some of the items I've had to locate/buy so far and what they've cost:

  • Kelsey 5 x 8 Press: Donated to me by my letterpress instructor (but you can usually find them for $300-500 USD at, etc.)
  • Furniture, quoins, chase, tympan, gauge pins: Ditto (donated by instructor)
  • Recover rollers: $200 CDN
  • (Deep Relief) Boxcar base for 5 x 8 chase: $150 USD
  • 2 Photopolymer plates for first greeting card design: $50 USD
  • Ink: Some donated, plus an assortment of oil inks from NA Graphics: $65.75 USD
  • Solvent, rags, hand brayer: approx $20 USD
  • Plus paper costs and lovely taxes, duties, and shipping on everything ordered up from the States.

So, letterpress so far is not a cheap hobby or business venture, but the results (once I get going) will hopefully be: priceless.


  1. I got my Kelsey 5x8 rollers recovered at NENSCO (new england newspaper supply co.) for about US$100.

    A great checklist is here:

    Living in Massachusetts, I was also able to go to John Barrett's shop and buy the things that I didn't inherit with my press.

    I'd consider buying some actual metal faces. Typesetting metal can be frustrating but fun, but it's the kind of frustration of manipulating physical objects to do design that makes letterpress what it is. If you only print polymer plates, you are still subject to the tyranny of the freedom of digital.

  2. John Barrett's shop is fabulous!
    I am also getting started in letterpress as well! So much to learn!!!!! I'm shooting for January to get into it since Dec. is so crazy busy!!! We'll have to trade tips as we go along! (I was recently researching the troubles of not getting much impression with photopolymer and someone said to move the press bed in a bit if the packing doesn't do anything. Also, I've been recommended "Lettra" paper by Crane's several times for it's great impressionability.) Good luck and I'll be interested to see how your experiments turn out!

  3. how exciting! and you're from vancouver! i'm dreaming of a letterpress! good luck! (found you via cake and pie !)


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