What condition to buy a press?

Is it better to buy a perfectly restored press for a high price, or a bit rusty, used press for a much lower price? How much does it cost to clean up a press to make it work well? Is there even a big difference on the actual printing quality?


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I wasn’t willing to commit to the time involved in restoring, so I went with a restored piece. But it was restored for me. I worked with Andrew Churchman. However, I think it comes down to budget and time: do you have the budget to buy something ready to use, or do you want to save a little in the front end and sacrifice the time before you’re ready to start working.

which make and model of press are you looking to buy

6x10 Kelsey Excelsior. I have two people that are selling them, and one is used, not perfect, but works. The other is restored and good condition but triple the price.

A “restored” press in my experience operates no better than one which has a bit of dirt and grime on it. There are a lot of would-be letterpress enthusiasts who dis-assemble and paint presses and call them restored.

If the work is done by a competent workman, it will work better, but be careful you are not just dazzled with paint and polish.

I would prefer buying a press which has not been restored and cleaning myself what needs cleaning. Remember a little oil and grease here and there indicates that the press has at least been well lubricated over the years. That is the critical matter.