Monday, December 18, 2006

Questions from a future beginner...

Rita from Indiana had some questions for me about letterpress, so I'm answering them here in case anyone else has the same questions.

I’m considering buying a 3x5 Kelsey and using it to make some cards for friends. Except, I’m not sure if the 3x5 can handle the greeting cards. Do you know?

The 3x5 refers to the size of the chase that would fit into your press. 3x5 is quite small, and is probably too small if you were thinking of using say a Boxcar base with photopolymer plates, but it is a good size for doing small things like business cards, and smaller greeting cards. You will be limited by the size of this press, but if you just wanted to use say metal type for small designs on small cards, then it would be ok.

Though I've only just started with my 5x8 Kelsey, I've already found the size to be somewhat limited for some of my ideas. Personally, I don't think I would buy a 3x5 as it is too small for what I would want to print.

Did you regret getting your Kelsey?

Absolutely not :) I am very happy with my press. But, going into it, you have to know that you won't get the same results, or have the same amount of room for your designs as you would with a larger press. When I took my letterpress course, we used large letterpresses (ie. Chandler & Price Oldstyle) which had a large chase and allowed for deep impressions if you wanted it. A table-top press is just that: small.

Would you buy a different type of letterpress?

If I had more space, and wasn't a beginner, I'd love to have a larger press. But, because the only room I have for letterpress equipment at this time is in my basement, I can't really have anything too big or heavy. Some of the larger presses weigh hundreds of pounds and you need forklifts and such to move them. Until I have a bigger house, with maybe a ground-level detached garage, I can't really get much bigger than what I have now.

So far, just getting myself set-up with the little Kelsey has been quite a bit of work, so I'm really not ready for a larger press right now anyways :)

If I got a Kelsey, can I put it in my office? I have carpeting in the office. Is it dirty? Should I have a canvas covering underneath it? What do you think? I have white walls? I’m afraid of ink blotches and stuff.

Yes, you could put a Kelsey in your office, as long as you have a sturdy table for it (it is best to screw the press into the table so that the press doesn't lift when you actually give it some muscle) and room to move around. The press itself isn't a dirty mess, but the grease from oiling the joints/levers/moving parts can be, and so can the inks and whatever you use to clean the rollers etc. My basement is unfinished, so I can be less careful, but I'd be afraid to use the press near a white [or any nice] carpet, just in case some ink went wayward.

If you would use it in an office with carpet, I'd be sure to put cardboard or other covering all around your work area, and maybe even some paper to protect the walls or other things you wouldn't want letterpress ink to land on.

I am learning that you really have to be organized and clean to keep everything sorted out and not get grease or ink everywhere. It is also necessary to wipe your hands frequently to avoid transfering inks, grease, etc. to your plates and other areas it shouldn't be.

I hope this answers some of your questions Rita, all my best to you!



  1. Hi Erin,
    I'm new to blogs so don't know if this is a valid way to ask a question as well as comment. I can't believe I stumbled on such a useful post by accident! That answered a lot of questions I've been chasing around in my head. Another question (and this will show how green I am): is it necessary to take classes or a course to learn to use a letterpress, or can it be learned (with determination) from books. If so, any you'd recommend? As a business owner and mother of a one-year-old, I can't manage to get outside the home for classes. But I'm dying to learn. Any advice would be so much appreciated!

  2. I would love to know whether or not to use pre-cut card stock to print cards or buy larger sheets and trim them. Erin (or anyone), what have you done in the past?

    Thank you!

  3. Someone has just contacted me about a 5x8 Kelsey Letterpress they have for sale. It is mounted on a cabinet, includes 24 fonts of type in type drawers, supplies, ink and the press, all for $500.

    I would be a complete beginner, but am interested. Is this a good price or should I keep looking? It is in my neighborhood, so I would not have to pay shipping.

    I'm planning to go take a look at it right away to see what condition it's in, but I'd love to have some help evaluating if this is a reasonable, great or not-so-great price.



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