Please help! Don’t know where to start…

A few months ago I inherited a Kelsey 5x8.

I would love to print my own wedding invitations. I’ve read Glenn Cleeton’s General Printing and have gone back to it multiple times to check myself. I’ve read the Kelsey manual as well.

I’m using a photopolymer plate. I have brand new rollers. I’ve adjusted my impression screws, I’ve redone the make ready twice. I’ve tried adding and subtracting paper from the packing. I’m just lost.

Please, any helpful information would be greatly appreciated.

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Where are you located?

What are you trying to print? What size, what kind of image, etc…? My Kelsey 5x8 prints anything 3x5 and smaller beautifully, but, anything larger is very hard to get a good result.

I feel you, I’m like you, just bought and Adana 8-5 and I’m completely lost

I’m in the Boston area.

I tried to attach an image to my original post but it didn’t work. You may see the “invite” here:

It’s 5x7.

For reference… this is what it should look like:

Go to the Printing Arts Fair at the Museum of Printing in North Andover MA this coming Sunday. Find the Letterpress Guild table and ask - there will be lots of letterpress printers there who can offer advice or assistance. If you can bring your Kelsey and plate it would probably be helpful too…

There coild be several problems but as mentioned above, the main issue is that the form you’re trying to print is too large for your press. There’s nothing wrong with the press, but you’re asking it to do more than it was designed for.

I’d experiment by using a smaller form, say 3” x 5” as ebgoodale above mentioned. That’s about the limit for that size press. Adjust the platen and set up the packing (dress the platen) and then try and print. Once your’re printing consistently well with that setup you can try the larger form and see what happens. But I’d be willing to bet you’re not going to get it to print well no matter what you do.

It’s normal for the available space in the chase to be greater than a form that will print well on a press because furniture and quoins must be accounted for as well as the nature of the physics regarding impressional strength. It’s greatest towards the center and diminishes as you move away from that point. That’s why larger forms require more packing, to increase the strength of the impression. But there are limits to how far this can go depending on the press.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Don’t give up, yet.
If at first you don’t succeed, innovate.
All platen presses have limitations on the size of form they will print. The table tops are more limited.
Consider cutting your poly plate in two. Place half near the center of your base. Print half. Then print the other half.
Think this out ahead of time.

I agree with cutting the plate. You still might not get the results you are hoping for, but it will be more consistent. You might consider cutting out the border and try just the type. With a border around the edge like that, you might as well be printing a solid block of color, as far as the press is concerned. Borders will decrease the impression on the rest of the image no matter what size press you use.

I will be at the print fair this weekend, maybe see you there!

I was in error when I said to place half of your plate near the center of your base. I should have said to place half the plate near the center of your chase. The base should be placed to allow this, but the poly plate probably needs to be in the corner of the base to allow for gauge pins.
Again, think it through.

Thank you for all the suggestions. I’m trying to talk my Fiance into the printing fair this weekend as it’s Father’s Day and he wanted to go to Fenway for the Father’s Day Walk in the Park… we shall see.

I have cut the border off, repacked the press (after watching some helpful video clips on Boxcar’s website). I have not done a make ready yet. I wanted to post a picture to see if I’m headed in the right direction first.

So… here it is.

I know that a “kiss” impression is desirable, but I feel like the impression needs to be at least a touch deeper. Am I wrong? Can this be “perfected” (I use that term very loosely) with a good make ready? If I move the impression screws I can’t seem to get any more even of an impression.


Emily was correct about the border. Any solid material around the edge has a tendency to attract most of the squeeze from the platen. It looks like removing it has certainly helped. Your new impression looks pretty close, except on the periphery where, as mentioned, it will be challenging to get a perfect impression on a 5x8 if your form is larger than 3x5. It’s hard to tell without seeing your proof at hand, but judging from the picture you might be able to put a little more impression on the top of your copy (I assume that the large “E&B” is at the bottom of your form). If, however, your impression is even and the platen fairly level to the type, I’d leave the impression screws alone and try makeready. Your manuals have explanations; I know the Kelsey handbook has some illustrations. Just remember that making ready is the part of the printing operation that requires the most patience and a fair amount of precision. Makeready is usually used to compensate for deviations in the type due to minor wear or or other minute deviations, but in your case the makeready will be an attempt to compensate for the natural “slacking” of pressure at the bottom of your form. Use thin paper (onion skin works well) and use it fairly sparingly. The trick is to build makeready slowly and evenly so you don’t create valleys and mountains that will throw off the rest of your impression.

All that said, this is a very beautifully designed invitation! Good luck! Let us see the final product when you get it running!



One thing you might try is to dampen the paper slightly before attempting to print. I’m not certain (perhaps you did say) what paper you are using, but you will find that you get a much better printing quality if you lightly dampen the sheets before printing.

To give it a try, just dampen a sponge and wipe it across the paper a few times — not so the paper is saturated, but just very slightly moist. Again, not wet, but slightly moist.Try that, and I think you will be able to see a vast improvement, particularly if the paper has a high cotton content or is heavily sized with starch.

If your image improves, take a look through online archives as the subject of dampening has been covered thouroughly. Feel free to contact me if you want to know how I manage dampened paper in my printing on a hand-fed press.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

dcrnkovic- Thank you for the compliment! I worked on the design for a long time!

I’m going to look into dampening the paper. I will post pictures after I print tonight.

I would like to thank you all for all the great advice. This website has been invaluable the past few months for me. I look forward to sticking around and actually getting good at this new hobby of mine!

After a lot of patience along with a good makeready and damp paper, I was able to print my wedding invitations.

They’re not perfect, but I love them. I’m proud that I was actually able to do this.

Wow Elizabeth they turned out really cool! can’t wait to print something like that on my own!


Very nice indeed! Consider yourself officially hooked on letterpress printing, now that you have come through your first major project with such great results!


if that was your first time printing you have done excellent, the people on this site really seem to help and they know their stuff. if you need any help i run a small letterpress shop in southeastern ma feel free to contact me.