Absolute Beginner, Probably no Local Resources

I live in a small town in northwestern Arizona, and the only print shops are the two local newspapers and a general commercial house, all offset.

I’m a commercial artist at the local hospital and am intrigued by the idea of letterpress, particularly using a smaller tabletop model, probably with handmade/recycled stock. You know, the arty sort of stuff. I don’t expect to ever make a commercial living — nor even a profit! — however, the hobby and retro aspects of the craft are interesting to me.

Unfortunately my location severely constrains my ability to get useful firsthand face-to-face information from anyone, let alone live access to anything as arcane as an actual working letterpress. (TTBOMK the last local letterpress was sold or junked some 25 years ago.)

This means I’m going to have to rely heavily on the intertubes for suggestions, information resources and so on. I can poke around on YouTube for letterpress info, but if anyone’s got some specific pointers or sites that offer exhaustive information on small letterpresses, their use, etc., I’d be most appreciative.

Oh. Books? That would be great, if there’s anything on the subject. I’d expect there’s no such thing as “Letterpress for Dummies”, but if there’s an equivalent, that’d be real keeno.


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I am a beginner too and have found lots of good, helpful info in “Letterpress Printing,” by Paul Maravelas. You can order it on Amazon.

Welcome to the club. Its addictive isn’t it?
You may want to start by visiting www.fiveroses.org. There is a ton of reference info contained there. I also beleive there is a biblilography of letterpress books.

I was lucky enough to serve an apprenticeship in letterpress printing, something I thought was normal at the time, only realizing later that I was probably the only one to do that in the last 20 years. But I also do this for a profit and support my family solely using this trade. This being said, I have never been in your shoes; starting from scratch in an area of few available resources.

But you have 4 things going for you already.
1 You have a passion to learn
2 You live in the internet age
3 You are on Briar Press
4 You may be rural, but UPS will still ship to you.

It may be worth your while to take your next vacation somewhere that is offering a letterpress class, just to get some hands on experience. And if you search the archives here you will find questions from other beginners asking things like “what do I need to get started” and the like. Many before you have started the same way, and I’m sure that they are now making more money than me! So stick with it.


Oh, and there probably is resources around you. Visit the local offset shops (preferable the oldest one in town) and ask them if they know of anybody that has any letterpress equipment they could speak to. I would bet they know someone.

Hey, thanks for the followups!

Bill: I don’t know just yet if letterpress is addictive, but it’s definitely intriguing to me. I’m glad to know you’re able to make a living at it; I’d guess you’re living in a somewhat more populous area than I am, though. ;)

Thanks again, and to Clothdog too for the book reference!

Warren- Bill is right. Once a person spends time on a letterpress, he will always be interested in it. I think it’s a Zen thing.

As far as making a living at it, that’s a different animal altogether. As in any field, earning a good living in letterpress is tough…. but it can be done. I too have done well with it, but many of my friends have gone belly-up through the years. To run a commercial endeavor, one must not only be a good printer but also a savy businessman, tireless promoter, and eternal optimist.

Since you’ve found Briar Press, you are not “operating in a vacuum”. With the knowledge base and resources offered by these fine folks, you could set up a shop virtually anywhere in the world.