Base for a Kelsey 3x5

Hi there, I was recently gifted a 3x5 kelsey and am looking to use photopolymer plates with it. However, boxcar does not make the bases small enough for a 3x5. Any suggestions?

I am a beginner but have worked in studios with larger presses, this will be my first go at it on my own.

Very excited to have my own press and to start using it!

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Just an update on this, boxcar can actually make bases specifically for this size…I have just been in contact with them.

But any other ideas suggestions would be appreciated as well….can never have to much info!

thanks, kate

That’s an easy one….. glue the photopolymer plate to a block of 3/4” wood and then shim it up to type high as required. You can cut a LOT of 3x5 blocks out of a single piece of old wood shelving or other scrap. The species or type of wood is not really important, as long as it’s flat. Plywood or MDO Board also works fine. I’m sure you can find someone with a table saw to cut it for you, or you can do it yourself with a hand-saw. One afternoon spent cutting blocks will last you for a long, long time.

It is not rocket science…. AND it’s enviromentally friendly since you are recycling scrap wood that would otherwise be tossed out.

To be honest, I’ve never seen the need for Boxcar bases for Hobby / Artistic use anyway. (commercial use is another story, though….) Wood works just fine.

thanks winking cat, although a printer friend of mine told me using wood will really make it hard to get an even print….
I don’t see what the harm in trying would be though, right?

I appreciate your detailed response and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Kate…. wood was used for hundreds of years, right up to the end of letterpress as the major commercial printing form. I’d guess that 99% of all the cuts ever produced were mounted on wood blocks. Whoever advised you to avoid them was mistaken…. or was trying to use a warped piece of wood. With good, flat wood it’s not difficult to get an even impression, especially on a small press like a 3 x 5 Kelsey.

Great thanks winking cat, I will absolutely be trying it this weekend!

this is going to sound stupid most likely, but I’m going to ask anyway…how will the wood base stay in the chase? Do I use shims to hold it in with pressure? or “furniture” which I’m still not completely clear about.
I never had to think about this part of the process before….
thanks for bearing with me!

This is not a stupid question at all. It’s a fundamental part of letterpress that must be learned.

“Furniture” is the term used for small pieces of wood or metal that fill the space between the block or type and the edge of the form. For a 3x5 press, I use little pieces of poplar ( 1/4” x 3/4” x 3” long and 1/8 x 3/4 x 3” ) from Home Depot…. but for your needs, almost any little blocks or sticks of wood will work as long as they aren’t taller than 3/4”.

To hold the block in place, you simply put the block in the chase, fill in the gaps between the block and the edge of the chase with furniture, and use the set-screws to lock it down. It took me longer to tell you about it than it does to actually do it. For printing with metal type or in a larger press it is a little more complex, but not much.

ok, that sounds about what I was thinking would need to be done…just wanted to be sure. Thanks again!

no problem…… helping new printers gives me the opportunity to repay those who taught me years ago.

So, I got my wood block at the hardware store today and installed it and seems to fit perfectly…and I had a polymer plate from an old class I took and figured I’d try it out this afternoon….just to see what the impression would look like with no ink….and there is no impression….I tried adding packing…no luck…it looks like there should be an impression made, as there is solid contact between the plate and paper….but nothing. Am I not pushing hard enough? In the past I’ve never had to push so extremely hard to get an impression, so it seems something is off.

…i hope one day I can figure it all out and be able to pass on the knowledge as you are doing! ;)

Kate, This is not a problem. If the block is making firm contact with the paper, it’ll print ok. You may or may not see any impression in the paper, depending upon the area of type, the relative hardness/softness of the stock, and the hardness of your packing. Photopolymer plates are rather soft compared to metal type and may not be able to press into hard paper.

If it does not print well even though the pressure is fine, then the block may not be “type high” and is not getting ink from the rollers. That’s easy to correct. With the block in the press, lay a ruler across it going from rail to rail. The type should be the same height as the rails. If it is not, then you need to shim under the block with chipboard until it is. Making the block “type high” is the starting point. Once that is right, it’s easy to set everything else up.

I know it probably seems like a lot of trouble now…. but it’s like riding a bicycle. Once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy.

It’s works, it works, it works!!!! Oh, I am so happy!!! I was not applying pressure to the correct location when I was pushing the handle down…therefore it was not “clicking” — Once I realized this, I corrected it and now have just the loveliest impression! Now for the ink…

thanks again! I am sure I will have many many more questions!!

I know this is a relatively old thread, but I’d love to hear how everything is going with your Kelsey 3x5 Kate K. I have just bought the same little press and am excited to get printing! Heading up to North Carolina next week for some new rollers. Any tips or advice for someone 6 months behind you would be much appreciated!

I see this thread is 4 years old, but can anyone share what the board thickness should be in order to match a deep relief base thickness? I am going to try this technique with my little press as well!

This page from the Dolce Press has all the measurements needed for making bases for different kinds of plates.

Basically, you need to know the thickness of the plates you’re using. You then subtract that thickness from type-height and you have your base thickness measurement.

It’s often not a bad idea to take a few thou off from that base thickness measurement when you mill it flat. A bit too low is far easier to account for than too high as a few sheets of paper behind the plate base in the bed solves the problem.