6 x 9 Sigwalt vs. Kesley 6x10 model X


over the weekend, I will be looking at the following two presses. As a beginner, which would be the better of the two for the long haul? Both presses are local to me, so I don’t need to factor into somehow getting them to me.

Kelsey Letterpress 6x10 model X - $900
- new rollers
- “excellent” working condition
- new supply of ink & solvent

~ OR ~

6 x 9 Sigwalt - $500/$600 upfront
- would need to purchase new rollers
- would need a good cleaning/derusting
- unsure of the actual working conditions since it has been unused for the last 20+ years.

I don’t mind putting $$ into a press to get it up & going. However, I would be pretty antsy, since I’ve been patiently looking for a local similar table top press for over the last 9 months.

How flexible is the Kesley when compared to the Sigwalt? From what I read, you can have the paper stock hanging off of the edge to allow an overall larger printed area (although in multiple steps).

I generally like letterpress pieces that have a heavy impression to them.

Overall, Is one a better press than the other?

Help - Now I’m really confused!! Any advise/input/suggestions??

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New rollers will run you almost $100 each, There are more kelseys around than sigwalts, parts will be easier to find for the kelsey. I’ve never owned a sigwalt, but have had several kelseys, deep impression will put a lot of strain on these table top presses, the larger area you try to print the more pressure is needed. If you don’t try to print too large of an area you should be ok, just because its a 6x10 it doesn’t mean you can print that size, a form about half the size of your chase should work well maybe a little larger. Good Luck Dick G.

For me it’s a no-brainer. The Sigwalt is a stronger press and much easier to operate, The slightly smaller chase size is not really an issue since the Sigwalt will, I believe, print a larger area of actual printing surface than the Kelsey for the same amount of work. The advantage of being able to hang paper off the sides to print on a larger sheet is a biggie for the Sigwalt, though you can do that with the Kelsey also. Rollers for either will be about the same cost (check Duro Roller). Make sure you get four roller trucks for the Sigwalt if you decide on it — they are unique to that press and not as easy to fabricate as trucks for the Kelsey.

I have a 6x9 Sigwalt Nonpareil (earlier but nearly identical to the Ideal) I’ve been using as my primary press for nearly 40 years.


Is the Sigwalt more “flexible” than the Kelsey for overall print size? What I mean, say I have a smaller print area of something like 3x5, can I print that 2 or 3 different times on the same paper stock, just by moving the stock after each pass?

Keeping in mind that I’m a newbie, is it better that I start off with a press that is more or less ready-to-go?

Or is a Sigwalt that much better that it would be worth the sweat ‘n tears to get it up and going?

Since the seller is uncertain of the actual operations of the Sigwalt and therefore not sure if how much work will need to go into it, how do I know when I take a look at it.

Like I mentioned, that after rollers, the total financial investment looks to be fairly close between the two printers.

Say the scenario was that both presses were in good working conditions as it, and the chases on each are similiar, which would be the better press to get (for anyone)?

How about for a beginner?

If the Sigwalt is the better of the two, is it worth it to put some elbow grease & TLC put into it (and $$), is that the better option to go?

Somewhere on the web, I did read an article of presses to start off with (since I’ve practically have skimmed through the entire internet over the last week, I can not place where this source is from), but if I remember correctly, I did read some where that a Kelsey was on the bottom of a list of presses for a beginner. Why would this be? (that I can’t remember, and for the life of me, I can not find that web site now).

Check out Excelsior Press in New Jersey, he has lots of stuff on his website, his contact info is in the yellow pages on this site. Dick G.

Personally, I think that it is better as a newbie to get a press that needs some cleaning. It gives you the opportunity to see all the parts of the press and how they work. It was a great help to me, not just starting out but with the Vandercook I took in also. I’m not talking about dismantling the press, just give it a good spit ‘n polish.


Paper Stone Printing
Steve Nartowicz
P.O. Box 137
Chesterfield MA 01012

The impression mechanism of the Kelsey locks on impression so if you are using heavy pressure it is hard to release it — you are pulling up on the handle which tends to lift the press unless it is bolted down. The Sigwalt has a built in stop at maximum pressure so you only have to ease up on the handle to release it. Also, the longer handle and stirrup grip reduces the amount of strength needed for the same amount of printing pressure.

If you don’t care about making a showpiece of the press, you can clean the rust off with steel wool and oil all the moving parts and get right to printing as soon as you have rollers. I would suggest soft low-durometer rubber rollers — they are more expensive but a lot less trouble; composition rollers, though a little cheaper, swell in humid summer weather and shrink in dry winter weather, so you have to keep adjusting the trucks to compensate.

If you get the Sigwalt for $500 and spend $200 for rollers you still have $200 to spend for ink etc. with the price difference. For my money the Sigwalt is a much superior press and that alone is worth the trouble of cleaning it up and making it work. From the photos it looks like it’s all there (I assume you’re considering the one that has been in discussion recently) and though a little rusty it will clean up fine. It also includes some useful accessories like composing sticks and furniture.

I’d say go for it — there’s a reason why Kelseys are considered less desirable!


Bob and other Sigwalt supporters, I couldn’t agree with you more!!!! I would buy (my) I mean “that” Sigwalt that you are talking about. It is a great price for it and you will be very happy with it. Go for the Sigwalt!!!!

I vote for the Sigwalt. I have a Sigwalt 6 x 9 Ideal and it works very well. I bought it without a chase which was a problem! I like that the press is so balanced that I can leave the handle somewhere in the cycle and it will stay there. I also love the saddle handle. Mine had the wrong trucks (they had been borrowed from an offset press). I agree that fixing up a press really helps you get to know your press!

I took a look at both presses this weekend and noticed that the Sigwalt had a small hole, roughly between 0.125 - 0.25 inch, in the center of the ink disc and the Kesley did not. Is this suppose to be like this? Will it affect how the rollers will get the ink and thus how the ink is transferred to the plate?

The plate also did have a slight wobble to it - will this also affect the printing process?

The hole does not belong. The ink plate has been repaired. How it will effect inking and operation is anybody’s guess, but you may need a new ink disk for normal operation. Also the grippers seem to be missing.

Where would one be able to get an ink disc?

Where could one get the grippers? Are grippers specific to a press?

Well - I’ve made up my mind - I’m going with the Kesley. Although I’m all game for getting a little dirty and learning a press inside & out by having to clean it up and put it all back together, I’m just afraid that the ink disc issues (the hole in the center & the wobble to it) and the fact that it does not have the grippers, will get the best of me. I will admit that I’m somewhat bummed about this as it seems pretty clear that the Sigwalt is a far better press than the Kesley. If it was working. But I’ve been told that if you can learn on a Kesley, you can print on any press. I’ll be testing to see how true this is.

The ink disc’s hole may indeed not affect the printing, but the wobble might if the rollers are not able to collect the ink evenly.

And, I was a little scared of the “band-aid” fix of using rubber bands in place of the grippers. Plus, I didn’t want to take the time to remove the rubber bands to just take the paper stock out of the press, only to put them back on for the next pass. And from what I’ve gather in my internet search and by talking to the folks at NA Graphics & Platen Press, both of these key parts are not very easy to come by.

I didn’t want to spend the time & money to take a chance that the press would run smoothly. So, I’m picking up my Kesley on Thursday evening! Once I get it and the books that I ordered today, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be back on here with more questions.

Thanks everyone for your input, it has been very helpful.

It would be possible for a machine shop to repair the ink disc satisfactorily, and grippers are not hard to make — I made a set for a Craftsmen 4x6 press I had. Sorry about the Sigwalt — but as long as you don’t try heavy impression on the Kelsey it should be able to do decent printing.


I have a 3 x 5 Kelsey and a 6 x 9 Sigwalt for sale, SF Bay Area. I note the prices for both these presses bounce around a bunch. I’m not going to put them on EBay. Can somebody help me to price them correctly?

They are both in excellent condition and new rollers on both.



I have a 3 x 5 Kelsey and a 6 x 9 Sigwalt for sale, SF Bay Area. I note the prices for both these presses bounce around a bunch. I’m not going to put them on EBay. Can somebody help me to price them correctly?

They are both in excellent condition and new rollers on both.