To restore or not restore

when it comes to antiques they say not to restore or even clean them. I know a dirty press works just as well if not better then a clean one. My experience with E-bay is they sell for way more painted and cleaned up. This was a good example of that, this press was on E-bay the same time as that late model red 5x8 Kelsey everyone was bidding on and I was the only bidder on this press? My question is am I really taking away the value or even the history of it by bringing it back to its original condition well ok some ruff casting ground down and a little more polished on the bare metal, I would paint it black. This is my latest find a complete pre 1900 Kelsey 3x5 boat tail self inker a good amount of the dull black paint left and a nice coat of rust. It will be a display, Do I put it in the blast cabinet or let it age gracefully.

image: boat tail 003.jpgsmaller.jpg

boat tail 003.jpgsmaller.jpg

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Antique collectors will argue that an antique in its original painted condition is more valuable than a restored item. I think the best rule of thumb is to look at the overall condition and try to determine whether the piece of equipment will continue to deteriorate in its present condition, or can be used as is with mild cleaning.

I have restored several presses, but usually the presses I restored had been painted over the original paint, or repairs necessitated an overall restoration. Rust can really destroy a press if it is left to pit working surfaces. In my restorations I discovered that early painting practices offered a finished varnish coat over lead-based paint. Over the years the different expansion rates of the two coatings can cause the paint to flake off, exposing the cast iron which rusts easily. Since lead-based paints have become so difficult to find it is nearly impossible to do spot restorations that are compatible with the original coatings. Modern paints do not act the same, and the high gloss additives in modern paints are not compatible with the mellow, nearly flat colors found on old machines. Unfortunately paints manufactured and sold by one modern manufacturer are not always compatible to paints made by another, which forces one to use only one manufacturer’s formulas.

I personally would rather have a press in original condition, but if it is in bad enough shape to need the protection that a new coating of primer and finish paint would offer, I wouldn’t hesitate to do a complete restoration. Repainting a press with fancy metallic colors to jack up the price on eBay is a choice, but I would prefer to have a press that looked original.[email protected]/3334677330


I have a Kelsey of the same type, though a larger one.

Mine had been repainted a terrible tan color, which was flaking off and was fairly rusty when I got it.

I got as much of the old paint off as I could without taking it apart. I was restoring it in my living room, so it wasn’t very tempting to try to disassemble, also spare parts for these aren’t exactly easy to come across. Once the majority of the paint was gone, I covered it in rust-inhibitor and started printing.

I soaked all the working surfaces (platen, chase/base, ink-disc) in evaporust.

Let it age gracefully after cleaning it up. Not because of its worth but out of sheer aesthetics.
I do not have a single ‘restored’ press, and personally wouldn’t want to buy one with a shiny new paint job.

Somebody should do one in a screeching teal color…I’d like to see that. It might look cool but I still wouldn’t want it; but I guarantee somebody would.
The worst has to be painting a Kelsey in Adana red, though…or anything close to it at any rate.
I’d rather have one restored in black if at all…maybe an older restoration.

That’s a pretty old Kelsey. It deserves to keep what it has after being able to keep it for this long.

I see it from a practical view , if you are going to utilise one for work you clean up whats necessary to help keep your hands clean while using it , most modern paint wont with stand the chemicals you use in daily cleanups so newly painted is a bit of a wasted effort and expense !
As for the value as an antique ,once you have a repair it has a lesser value anyway.
You could go for what motorcycle restorers call oily rag restoration , polish it over with paint flat compound and just wax it regularly after . Then you still have originality and a slightly better looking press that hopefully wont have lost value .

i’m with Peter, i use steel wool on the bed, platen and ink disc, the rest i wipe down with oily rags.

Great subject Todd,

I am also a firm believer in preserving original finishes whenever possible. Determining what is original can sometimes be difficult however. I have acquired presses that look old and are black but not original paint. Some repaints may be very old themselves. In those instances I have carefully removed the newer paint and in some cases revealed some pretty amazing original decorations beneath. So, sometimes you have to do more than a wipe down to get back to the original finish. This certainly looks original and if it were me, I would not be painting it. I do not like rust as part of the preservation however. I find I can eliminate almost all rust with Evaporust without harming whatever is remaining of the original paint. After derusting there is often a lot of cast iron that is without paint and would be prone to rusting again if something is not done. Regular oily rag wipedowns or waxing is one way as others have mentioned. I have come to appreciate spraying with a satin finish clear coat. It protects the unpainted surfaces from rust, and enriches and protects the remaining paint and decorations but doesn’t have that just painted look. I was told or read somewhere that this is an accepted method of preservation, but, I cannot attest to the accuracy of that. Just my two cents.


looks like letting it age gracefully, is the winner. If there was more of them around It would not bother me to polish it up. I did think it was the somewhat more common 5x8 when I bid on it. I was surprised how small it was when I opened the box. They must have known I have a thing for small presses. I think I will just rub it down with oil, I think it will take off just the right amount of rust to keep it looking old. Todd

One small point, Evaporust *will* remove certain coatings, so it might be worth trying on something that won’t be visible before hitting large parts with it. I stripped a small press accidentally by using Evaporust to remove rust. Saved me some time, really. =)

Instead of covering in oil, I would suggest using a paste wax such as used on automobiles. It will protect the surfaces better than oil, and it is not as messy.

I have to take back a statement I made. I do have a couple of presses that have been painted over. One is a 5x8 Craftsman (Boston) and the other is my Poco “0”. Both are grey and I would very much like to redo the Poco in black.
I bought the Craftsman very cheap and don’t really like it because the platen has got a pretty severe dip in the center.

I was thinking of my Kelsey’s, the Challenge and C&P that are original.

I do believe you’re making the right decision on this one.