total newbie: should i get this press?

Yeah, I’m new. Hi! I hope it’s okay to ask for advice re: deciding on a first press.

I’d like to start practicing letterpress, and I’ve been eyeing this Kelsey press on eBay:

Just trying to figure out if I should go for it, or hold out for something better (I heard Kelseys are just “meh”)? Sort of leaning toward the latter, but anxious to start printing. I could afford something nicer, but do not have room far anything other than a tabletop at this point.

Bonus is that this press is located within driving distance of me, and it looks like it has some nice rollers.

My friend has a larger platen press, and she said she could teach me some more on that, while I am looking for my own press. Maybe I should just do that and hold off?

Advice? Other presses I should be looking out for? Seems like there are Kelseys out the yin-yang, and everything else is a little tougher to come by…

oh, forgot to mention - the eBay auction ends tomorrow…so I need to make a quick decision. Which I’m terrible at!

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You can do fine work on a Kelsey press. I do not know how this press got such a bad rep. If it is in your price range go for it.

That’s a nice press and set up. Good luck I hope you win.

Since you only have room for a tabletop press (now), go for it. It’s not easy to find a tabletop press larger than 6x10, so there’s no point in holding out for a “bigger” tabletop press - it could be a long wait! You could hold out for the better quality of a C&P Pilot - smoother action, stronger press - but they’re getting harder to find and often very pricey. Kelseys have limitations, like any press, but this looks like one of the better setups. If you don’t pay too much for it you can probably sell it for the same or more if you move to a “better” press later. And if you get it now, you’ll be enjoying it right away!

I saw that this ended, did you win the bid?

No :(

My printer friend said not to go higher than $400, so I set that as my high bid. I can imagine these go for much more than that, but she recommended that for a first press, more than that would be too much.

Put up a wanted ad on Craigslist the other day, and I have one response so far. 5x8 Kelsey with rollers, chase, springs all intact and in good condition - he says it comes with a bunch of type, furniture, leading, and ink. Says he spent last summer refurbishing it, but then never got around to using it. No price discussion yet, so we’ll see.

Good to hear that Kelseys are better than their reputation, because they do seem to be one of the more affordable options.

They can be, but I’ve found a lot of people who are more interested in selling Kelseys (in particular) to make a quick buck.

(Particularly presses that are broken or incomplete, hoping that it’s only going to be used as an ornament — I’ve seen outrageous prices for presses that aren’t 100% in working order.)

just starting out too and i am also looking at kelseys. is it a bad idea to start with a press that is missing its rollers? i know of a place i can get them, but are they hard to install? i am trying to find a press that is in working order and all i have to do is put my rollers on, apply a little ink, and start printing. i don’t know much so i would rather start with a press that is in working order and then learn from there.

thanks so much!

IMO the rollers should be the least of your worries. Chances are you’d need new ones (or need to recover the cores) anyway. Rollers are very easy to install. Very intuitive.

Happy printing.

Kelseys are nice little presses, in spite of some vocal opinions to the contrary. I’ve printed with 3x5’s, 5x8’s and 6x10 table tops… and an old 7x11 Kelsey Star and they all will put down a great image. They are not as fast or smooth to operate as other presses, but once you master the fundamentals, they work just fine.

About the rollers: when buying a Kelsey press, do not worry if the rollers are good or not. Most of the time, you’ll need to buy new ones anyway. NA Graphics and other vendors sell them online. Installing them takes about 30 seconds.

There are several pdf copies of the Kelsey Owners Manual available online. Don Black Linecasting has a copy on his site. Just Google “Kelsey Owners Manual” and you’ll find it. Reading over the manual will answer 90% of your questions.