5x8 Kelsey Chase Printing area

After asking some ?s, which I appreciate ALL the help folks give me! Here’s another. I don’t have any type yet, so I can’t tell this, but how big of an area in my 5x8 chase can I print in? Is it possible with a correctly leveled platen, to print the whole chase? I know nothing…sad to admit, but the Truth! Thanks All!!

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You might be able to get a decent kiss print on smooth paper or dampened paper of the full chase (though you do have to allow space for quoins or at least the lockup bars some Kelsey presses use) but printing that big a forme on textured paper or trying to get a deep impression, you will most likely break the press. Figure that for a decent printing job you can not print more than half, maybe less, of the chase inside area, and not that much if you want deep impression — maybe a quarter or less of the chase area.


These smaller presses will print about half of the chase with little or no problems. The more of an area you try to print the more pressure it takes to print. If you are just printing a few lines you will be ok, if you try to print a solid the size of your chase you will either break the press or start drinking heavily. I have a foiling unit on my 5x8 kelsey and i just foiled a cover that the form took up the whole chase, the type had some space between the lines, it was a little tricky but came out great. Where are you located, maybe i know someone in your area that would help you. With the name pilgrim i thought you might be my neighbor, i’m not too far from Plymouth Rock. It might be in your best interest to find a printing museum near you and check it out, they are full of old printers that you can pick their brains. After 50 years of printing i still have to call on some old guy for advice, the problem is there aren’t too many left that are older than me. Dick G.

Thanks guys! I was hoping to get a postcard size out of it, and I certainly don’t want to break anything!

So is the printable chase size rule good for all platen presses? I would be really disappointed if I bought an 8x12 CP and found out I could only print a 5x7!! Yikes!

What I mostly thought of for my little fella is recipe cards, post cards, stuff in the 3x5 to 4x6 range. Maybe this isn;t feasible, but most of my stuff would be on thin card stock and didn’t have to be too deeply pressed, just visible.

I am not in this for a business as I know my press is too small for this.

I appreciate the help and any further advice anyone gives!

Hi Dick, I am in WV, there are a few printing companies around me, but I would say they wouldn’t know a great deal about old presses, but they might, who knows til you ask huh?

I really hadn’t planned on filling the chase wall to wall, but was really hoping for 4x6, and that not full of text or graphics…what do you think about the possibility there?

Thanks, Jon

Jon, i print commercially full time, mostly letterpress, the half chase rule is not in stone, your post card size should work on your 5x8. The more you play with your press the more you will realize what you can and can not do, i remember on my 3x5 kelsey i ran raffle tickets that were 2 inches deep and 6 inches long, i ran the main part , the prizes and let the paper hang out of the press, then ran them back thru to print the stub. I have run posters on my 10x15 that i print the top half then turn the paper around and print the bottom half, you can do this with your kelsey. You say you want to get a 8x12 c&p, if you have the space you should think about a 10x15, it is just a little larger but you can do more with it, the 8x12 is a good press and i’ve owned 2 or 3 over the years but you would have trouble printing a sheet of copy paper (8-1/2x11), the problem with printing is you always want something bigger, you should be able to print post cards, if there is a lot of type or large solid art work you might have a hard time, this stuff comes with experience. Hope this helps, good luck Dick G.

Hi Dick,
I really appreciate your advice and help and encouragement! The post cards are pretty much my goal right now. I have heard about people rotating the paper and printing.

I am still gathering stuff together to get my press going. I have several illustrative blocks, need to find some type in 12 and maybe caps in 24pt. Plus all the quoins, composing stick etc. Mr. Churchman has a good starter set available I am looking into. I will need to replace my rollers and the gripper fingers were missing, so need to get that too.

Yes a CP would be nice but I need to clear out some space, so I doubt I could do that now. The only ones I see are on ebay and though the price is decent, I am sure to pay freight charges would be as much or more than the press so that is limiting too. Plus the fact I would rather see something like that for myself before purchasing.

I had envisioned buying a low end laser engraver to make up some type lines and illustrations. They seem to be very detailed and the cutting depth on my antique type blocks only seem to be 1/32” deep. So I don’t know that’s a possibility for more creativity..

I am considering trying to make up a few designs for polymer plates to send to boxcar press as well. If your shop has a website I would like to visit it!

I’m in WV, the reason for my “press name” is because we had Mayflower descendants, so I thought that would be nice.

Thanks so much!!

Jon, where in WV are you? You could try to connect with Austin Jones in Pt. Pleasant (http://printsbyaj.com). He’s pretty knowledgeable and may know where you can easily get some of the things you need.


Jim Gard printed these 4x5 cards on a 5x8 Kelsey at the annual Printer’s Fair in San Francisco.


Granted, it required meticulous make-ready, a perfectly adjusted platen and glossy stock.

For Reference…
I just ran a 4-1/4” x 5-15/16” card on my Kelsey 5x8 with essentially no problems. Also ran it on a 5-1/2” x 8-1/2” sheet as well. The back side had bleed as well. I had to get a little creative and use a tape guide for registration (instead of gauge pins) when doing the back of the card, but patience and care prevailed. This is also the first thing I’ve ever run on a letterpress… So if I can pull of this size, you should be able to handle it.

On that note, I’ probably won’t ever run anything wider than 4-1/4”

image: -1.jpg


Thanks, that print looks very very nice, This is encouraging and good photo too helps much.

How deep did you get the impression? Not asking for measurements, but is it pretty decent compared to big presses? Thanks!

Well, lets just say that I had to back off on the brown plate because it was nearly cutting through on some of the thin rules… i got a really nice impression, but i was really working the press (and myself) pretty hard. My girlfriends 110 lbs wasn’t enough to make an impression, she had her feet off the ground and everything. It took some work, and was probably not very good for the plates, but we were only running 100. I think it’s going to depend on your design as well. If you have something with a lot of type-high areas close together, your pressure is going to get distributed more evenly. This particular design had a lot of open space, so we managed to get a good punch.

I too have a 5” x 8” Kelsey and while I have done some printing on a Vandercook, I am very new to table presses and very grateful for all the help here. I hope I can go to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa to learn form some masters.

Regarding packing, am I correct that the general idea is to provide enough resistance to create an image but no so much that the impression goes too deep and loses integrity? I thought that enough regular copy paper covered by a sheet of typman will work but I see pressboard mentioned. Is this another name of book board of the kind book artists use or some other material and if so what is it? Thanks so much to all for the good help. Best - Neil

Figure IMAGE area at 1/4 to 1/5 of PLATEN area. The press doesn’t care how big a sheet you’re running, but it doesn about how much image you’re printing. If you want “punch/impression” then either pick bulky stocks that can take it easily, or derate your image area even further.

You should seriously consider getting a larger press if you intend to keep after this for any time. A larger press will give you better and more consistent results with less work. Plus it’s easier to print small jobs on a big press than it is to print big jobs on a small press.

I once printed a 10x18” poster on my little Kelsey just to see if it can be done.

Granted, It took making up 6 consecutive chases (and 1-color 6 runs) things didn’t end up lining up all that well, but it did the trick.


I know this thread is pretty old, but I’m new to the letterpress world and just read in this thread that @dickg is using a foil unit on his kelsey 5x8. If you still have that, do you mind sending me a picture? I have read about this but no one seems to know about it nor can I find pictures.

I have a kelsey 5x8 model U and I would love to use it for printing stationary & business cards mainly. I’m using photopolymer plates from boxcar but was wondering how deep of an impression I can get on it. Also, I read through other threads that the press can be damaged if too deep of an impression is desired. How can I damage it?

Finally, what methods other than the sophisticated registration gauges can be used?

Thanks everyone!