I am on the hunt for my first letterpress. After reading through the posts on this awesome forum for nearly a week now, I have decided my first will be a table top.
I found this one on CraigsList. It’s 2 hours away from me. The gentleman is asking $1200 for it. He says he has never used it. I’m a bit nervous because it looks like it could use some TLC. I have heard many people on here recommend a Sigwalt or Golding for a table top press. I’m wondering:
1) Is the price he is asking fair?
2) What type of press this is this?
3) I realize a photo can only tell so much—but does it “appear” to be in decent shape? (I would take a look at it before I buy it, of course, but I’m just trying to gauge if it’s worth the trip!)
Any help or insight would be so greatly valued! I’m excited about this new adventure and so thankful for this forum!
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The press is a Sigwalt Ideal and appears to be in good condition and complete, though of course you’d need to have new rollers cast on those cores. I’m guessing it’s a 6x9 judging from the scale of some of the parts. The ink disc looks clean, and the only “flaw” I noticed is that the grippers need to be adjusted or tightened on their shaft — they should stand up off the platen when the press is wide open. The Sigwalt is, to my mind either the best or second-best press of its size (maybe second to the equal-size Golding Official of which it is a copy). It is a very strong press and because there are no side arms in the way as on the Pilot-style, you can print part at a time of a much larger sheet — for a 6x9 press it would theoretically be possible to print one color on a 12x18 sheet in four passes!
I think the price is currently fair, though I believe I paid $25 about 30 years ago for the 6x9 Ideal I used to have.
1)Trucks (roller bearers) not correct.
2)Handle has either been removed from shaft (3rd photo) and not completely put back on or ???
Thank you for the information you two!
@Butch — Just so I can learn (I’m a very visual learner) what is incorrect about the trucks, specifically?
The handle is not all the way on the shaft.
The trucks should be trunnion style. See attached picture.
T & T Press
I’m wondering if these are easy things to “repair”?
I find myself torn between purchasing a press that needs a little TLC vs. one that is ready to go. I’ve heard many veterans on here say the best way to get to know your press is to tinker with one, but it’s intimidating for sure.
I appreciate the continued help/insight!
Handle…loosen the bolt at the bottom. Seat the handle where it belongs and tighten the bolt. Should be good, unless the hole on the stub has been elongated.
Grippers can be adjusted.
The trucks can be made. (trunnion style)
Advantage of the press found…location and price.
Press that has been restored… it’s restored, ready to print.
There should be a cone-shaped hole in the shaft where the set screw for the handle engages — remove the set screw to see if it has a cone-shaped end. Line the handle up so the screw aligns with the “divot” in the shaft and tighten the set screw — that way the handle can’t slip. (It’s also possible that the shaft isn’t all the way into the press but I think that’s less likely.) I believe John Falstrom (listed on Briar Press, I believe) makes the correct roller trucks from Delrin. I would advise getting the rollers from Ramco in California — high quality rubber rollers for a good price and quick delivery. I think if the asking price for the press is within your means you can hardly go wrong, and if you decide later to upgrade or give it up you should be able to sell it for the same amount. You’ll have trouble finding a similar press “ready to go” for that price — most are double.
I’m going to do something here that I usually don’t do. I speak frankly, perhaps because I seeing more and more people buying things that they don’t understand. I want to see people get involved in this hobby but unless you have someone who understands a bit about mechanics it’s not wise to think that the people selling these items know anything more than you do. I use to tell people, “If you don’t know the difference between skunk and mink… don’t buy mink”.
In my opinion the press is overpriced for one in it’s pictured condition. Numerous past discussions on this site and others have addressed the subject of price. Past “sold” searches on ebay will give you what others consider a fair purchase price, but not necessarily a wise purchase.
Why does the wood on the handle look so new compared to the rest of the wear on the handle and wear on the press? Seldom does the wood need to be replaced unless abused. Since the handle was probably off, which usually isn’t something one does unless they are doing a restoration, why wasn’t it put back on properly? Does it require hammering to get it back on the shaft? Hammering a handle back on the shaft can damage the other side of the press unless a counter pressure is applied to opposite side. Stirrup handles were only installed on Sigwalts with 5x7.5 and 6x9 chases.
New (steel) trucks can be machined for $50+/- for each… you’ll need four. If roller cores are not bent, a pair can be recast for $200+/-. Diameter of rubber will usually be 1/8 larger than the trucks. This rule of thumb may need to be altered by verifying whether or not the height of the rails is type high (.918) to that of the bed. The gripper bars may or may not be a simple matter of adjusting. They are spring activated and the cast piece, attached to the rod which holds the grippers, is easily broken and not easy to find replacements. Can’t determine from existing pictures.
Ebay and craigslist have put a multitude of restoration projects in the hands of those wishing to make money by reselling when they know little of what they are offering.
My words are not meant to discourage but instead I encourage you to research all that is existing on the internet and in libraries. Learn from people in or near your area who own decent equipment. My observation has growing concerns that so few people, new to this hobby, seem to be willing to do the needed research when so much is available… and so easy. I too am a visual learner, and a google image search will provide you with most of your comparisons on just about every press that exists. There will always be presses offered for sale so why not take your time to learn first and react slower. My apologies in advance if this advice doesn’t apply but I’m sure there are many out there to whom it does.
As you can see, there are many concerns that need to be addressed if you want to buy a fix-up. Without the hands-on help of someone who understands, I suggest you find a table top press that is proven usable, even if it requires a greater investment. It’s good to stick to a Golding or Sigwalt… the larger the better.
I admire that you spoke frankly and highly respect that. I can’t thank you enough for speaking up. It means you care, and that means a lot to me.
I am excited, naturally, but certainly not in a rush. (Hence my posting here before buying!) I want to find the right press. Sadly, this press doesn’t feel like the “one”. It’s too much of a gamble for me personally, but only because I don’t know how to “fix” anything on a press—yet! :) Plus, I have just one investment to make, and I don’t want to waste it.
I am a graphic designer (10+ years). I’ve been designing for letterpress for several years now. I have learned things along the way, and I also have a background in printing. I have practically read this forum “cover to cover” in the last week, purchased a book, and have exhausted YouTube of its letterpress videos. I am absorbing everything I can like a sponge. I can only read so much before it’s time to put that newly acquired knowledge to the test. You know?
For me, it’s just like Driver’s Ed. I took tests, read books, and watched videos. That knowledge helped me learn the basic rules of the road and safety. That’s just half the battle though. The other half is knowing your car, learning how the pedal feels beneath your foot, changing the oil, and so on. I’m very visual and hands-on.
What piqued my interest about this press originally, was because I knew it was either a Sigwalt or Golding. I am told they are hard to find, and because this one was local, I thought it was silly not to investigate it more. I looked at several photos before posting here, but there are so many different models and angles, it was hard for me to compare the one I found to others. I consider the folks here experts, so I wanted an outside opinion. Because of the good folks here, like yourself, I now know how a handle should sit, how the grippers should look when the press is open, and what trucks are appropriate.
As for price, I looked on eBay, online, and through past classifieds here. The prices varied greatly depending on location, condition, and year. It was impossible for me to get a grasp on what a fair price was for this type of press today. If I wanted a Kelsey, there’s plenty of comparison pricing for those, but I don’t want that type of press. A Sigwalt was harder to find information on.
Anyway. Not that I had to defend myself, but I felt it was important for everyone to know I’m not looking for an easy ride or for someone else to decide if I should buy a press or not. I’m just trying to round out areas where my knowledge is currently weak—price and parts.
Thanks for all your replies.
@ Vettelove, as someone who was recently in your shoes, I thought I’d chime in. I’d been wanting to get into letterpress for the better part of two decades, when finally, cash and courage aligned with a great opportunity to acquire just about everything I would need to operate a small shop in one fell swoop.
The one bit of advice I have though, and I’ve been incredibly lucky to have this, is try to find someone local to you that has experience printing and knowledge that they would be willing to impart you with - for a fee or beer or whatever. Having someone to turn to with questions and potentially someone to help get you set up and troubleshoot those initial set-ups is immensely helpful.
Concur with Anchor
One could perhaps teach self to fly an airplane, or develop any other skill. It works better and faster to get some instruction. Maybe more fun too. Most of us old printers have a little or a lot of teacher ego. We also enjoy perpetuating the craft.
Get some ink on your shirt.