Which press?…

OK Im going to sound quite crazy but I dont know what to start with.I have become obsessed (as it seems many of us suffer) and I want to run with my obsession. I know i could start with a table top Adana or something sim, move up to a Chandler price or Arab, and then when things get really serious, perhaps a Heidelberg windmil… but how much hot water would I be getting into just starting with a Heidleberg? Im i Perth Australia, there is no one here that offers training, in fact not much in Australia at all so Its all going to be learning by feel trial and error… Would beginning with a Heidleberg Windmill be too hard and indeed quite ridiculous? (there is one available) Sigh!
Would love any advice


Log in to reply   3 replies so far

Hi Davina,

I was in your shoes about 2 years ago and bought an Adana 8x5. I am also in Australia an it was DEFINITELY the best decision I made for a whole lot of reasons.

Firstly, the desktop Adanas and Kelseys are simple, manually operated things so you can teach yourself the fundamentals of letterpress without really needing to take a class first. What you learn on the Adana will prepare you for the bigger machines which are quite often not ready to print straight away and need some adjusting. Without the experience on my Adana, I wouldn’t have been able to solve minor mechanical problems on my bigger press.

Secondly, Adanas are a lot easier to get your hands on in Australia and manuals are readily available online. YouTube has clips that will show you them in action to solve little questions you might have.

Thirdly, I came so close to just buying myself a Heidelberg windmill straight up because I thought that I should just take the opportunity of an available press. Trust me, there may not be hundreds of presses for sale this minute in Australia, but they are always coming up. Keep checking eBay and Graysonline and you’ll see that they are for sale continuously (and the prices vary greatly!). Many large print companies in Australia have old Heidelbergs that they use as die-cutters and I assure you, a print company in Perth is probably thinking about selling one soon so keep your eyes peeled and think laterally!

Lastly, here are a few things I wish I knew about letterpress printing before I bought the Adana…

1. Don’t expect a work of art on your first go. Metal type will give you a really nice and fairly deep impression (if that’s what you’re after), but the photopolymer plates will only give you a moderate one. It’s still a beautiful print, but your arms pushing on that press simply isn’t enough pressure for any major indent. Most letterpressers would say that’s a good thing, but it’s disappointing as a newbie in 2010 if you were expecting a deep, inky embossed look straight up.

2. Spend a few days testing out metal type without ink. It will teach you about how to set the machine up for the actual impression, without spending hours inking it up and cleaning it down and losing heart with loads of test impressions that aren’t great.

3. Just because the bed is 8x5 inches doesn’t mean you can print a whole 8x5 plate in one go with photopolymer. As soon as I cut my plates up and printed them bit by bit, the print was much more even.

4. Finding letterpress paper is hard in Australia (Officeworks doesn’t exactly stock it!) so check out Neil’s Art Supplies online as they will deliver to Perth. Somerset is the best one of theirs that I’ve tried. Crane won’t ship to Australia, but some commercial letterpressers will re-sell Crane stock to you. For outrageous postage prices, OrangeArt will also post Crane paper to Australia from the USA. All that effort, and Somerset is cheaper and easier to get your hands on and prints really nicely.

5. The right ink can make a huge difference. Van Son ink (which is readily available here) is the way to go.

I really hope this helps with your decision and happy letterpressing! I’m considering selling my Adana in the near future so get in touch if you struggle to find one. It’s in great condition and is ready to print.

A Windmill is an automated production press; it’s way too much press to begin with. Get a tabletop or even a cylinder proof press if you can find it and begin there.

Thanks so much! You have confirmed what I thought. I’m just impatient!!! Darn our vast remoteness!!