reproduction cast iron parts,is there any demand?

I am exploring the possibility of casting a small number of cast iron replacement parts for the letterpress/printing industry.

Looking for candidates of parts that tend to break and for which there is no good alternatives available. Such as on model “XYZ” the right side lower arm pivot bracket wears out and is not fixable. That is just a made up example.

My thought is if I can come up with a list of the top 10 parts that break, then depending on costs, go to the trouble of casting say 10 pieces at a time. This hopefully would allow costs to be kept lower and increase availability for those in need of those parts.

Parts would be available either in raw casting form or fully machined and ready to install.

Is this a viable idea??? I do realize that I will never become rich doing this, just want to make a couple bucks, makes the wife happy, and help out this hobby.

Let me know one way or the other.



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It’s an interesting idea, I’d definitely support it!

The casting isn’t difficult…but the finish machining is quite a bit harder. I had a number of C&P 8x12 split ink table gears cast in brass…dead simple and fairly inexpensive. Making them useable…not so much.

I can tell you what parts on a C & P are most requested from my spare parts presses. I would be willing to support your efforts by buying a modest supply of these parts.


A list and pics would help.

Trying to keep costs down is high on the list.
I can cast and machine just about anything, but that doesn’t mean that someone will spend the money for a one off casting. My thought is the costs would be lower if we could do batches of 10 or so at any one time.

Also want to let everyone know that I am new to the printing hobby, most of my efforts in the past have revolved around steam engines, antique tractors and old construction equipment. Therefore I will need some help in the terminology. At the end of the day however cast iron still pours and machines no matter what machine it goes on.


Having no idea of the cast iron composition to which you have access, I nonetheless suggest that together with the casting of press parts you investigate the feasibility of chase reproduction. From comments to this site, not only have people purchased presses sans chase, but I suspect a sizable market exists for an extra chase or two from those actively engaged in serious printing. Minimum machining plus relatively straight-forward production would, in my view, prove rewarding path.
As a ‘look at me!’ anecdote by which to illustrate need for extra chases, many, many years ago when faced with a simple yet repetitive task involving multiple form change on a dedicated little Kelsey 3x5, I hied to the sandbox and cast two serviceable chases. From pot metal. Drilled and tapped to accept 1/4-20 headless/slotted stove bolts the forms performed as well as the original piece. Surprisingly, even today those castings could be used. And, if these old eyes could still differentiate between an ‘l’ and an ‘i’ in 6pt anything, I’ve every confidence the little Kelsey could still turn out a credible two-color napkin job using type locked in those two ’ emergency’ chases. Right now though, the chases form unique frames for holding photos of my greatgrandchildren. :o)

Afterthought. Narrowing the focus somewhat, a ‘Spider’ chase would probably be well-received by those attempting (or have gnashed teeth and wasted furniture) to lock a business card or letterhead type-form in a standard 12x18 or 10x12 C&P. Perhaps presenting more casting challenge (no pun) than the common chase, its obvious usefullness would have strong appeal.
And to those metallurgists out there rolling their eyes at my previous pot metal relate, well, I’ve attached a photo for your pleasure. Without the children’s pictures of course. :o)

image: Picture 010.jpg

Picture 010.jpg

What is the difference between a chase and a “spider” chase?

Looks like I need to acquire a couple of chases and see what is involved in casting/machining them.

I can work off prints and sketches,but prefer to have an original piece. For the most part I try to recreate the “character” of the original part, surface finish, degree of detail in the pattern,irregularity’s, etc.


They are called card chases in the manufacturer’s advertising..
No point in making these when you can use a smaller inner chase.

A spider chase has a small inner area for a small form, and spider-leg extensions for the mounting hooks of the specific press. It allows a lockup with minimal furniture and lockup pressure, and therefore less chance for a lockup that bows or works up in some way.
A small chase locked into a lager chase, locked vertically on a platen jobber, does little to solve problems: more material in the lockup makes more potential problems, especially if multiple quoins are placed in the same direction of pressure.

I have the original Kelsey patterns for the 3x5 and 5x8 chases, so would be definitely interested in what you may have to offer. Some of the other Kelsey patterns are floating around with various owners, like chase beds, and the like, so those are possibilities. Lutz Machinery in Arizona has many original C&P patterns but I think they were for the heavy duty models and they may still be furnishing those parts.


Or cast the ever classic ink disks for the 3x5 and 5 x 8 Kelsey.
Golding Pearl Drawer handles.
C&P roller saddles (for the self lubricating properties of cast iron—otherwise easier machined from solid).
Feed tray brackets for C&P’s.
Kluge’s have a whole raft of feeder and delivery bits that cast in aluminum, though those may be die-cast.

Sky is kind of the limit. Patternmaking is the biggest bother/expense.

Looks like there is a market for replacement parts. Cost is my main concern in this venture.
Please keep the ideas coming while I run the numbers.
I am going to stop by a local foundry today or tomorrow and chat with them. It might make sense dollar wise to have them do 25 or so pieces at a pop doing them piece by piece.

Thanks for all the ideas.


ink plate for kelsey 5x8 (later models O and U) seem to be in demand based on want ads in briar press, as well as chases

there was someone on this list a year or two ago that bought a 5x8 Kelsey, he posted pictures, the press came with about 50 chases, I wonder what happened to this, I think he was from New York City.

Two questions and a possibility:

1. Rather than making an actual pattern, is there any way to use an original piece coated in some way to compensate for shrinkage?

2. Is it at all feasible to do smaller quantities (say, four to six pieces) “piggybacked” onto the making of something in larger quantities? The reason I ask is that there are several parts for Thompson Type Casters (levers, mostly) which are getting pretty scarce. I’m equipped to machine a casting (not that I’m a very good machinist, but I enjoy trying), so a rough casting would be sufficient. There are a few of us who need Thompson parts, but not many.

3. As to patterns, one obvious possibility is making them using 3-D printing. Of course this presupposes a digital model, which isn’t quite as simple as it seems. But as it happens, my wife has recently acquired a 3-D printer for her business (a Makerbot Replicator 2X). So if you had digital models of patterns for smaller parts I’d be happy to try to run them up on it. (The official build volume is about 11 x 6 x 6, but I wouldn’t suggest pushing the limits; the machine and process can be a bit finicky.) Anything that might be convinced to output an STL-format file would work for modeling (CAD, Blender, etc.)

David M.
dmm at Lemur dot com

This may not be a common request.

I’m still looking for pair of roller arms
for my O/S C&P Pilot.

I may need to have them cast.

Anyone else have a Pilot
that’s been disarmed?

Maybe a stupid question? I am good at those.

Can chases be made out of steel, machined and then bolted together?? Is there some reason that only one piece cast iron chases are used? Besides the fact that when they were produced by the 1000’s it was cheaper.

I don’t have a problem with making one piece cast iron chases, just thinking outside the box.


The best chases are welded steel using a mortised corner.


I worked for a company that had chases made out of aluminum, they had four pieces drilled and tapped and were bolted together, they worked very well, we had all sizes, some were very large.

Cost of production of course figured large ‘back in the day’ when letterpress flourished thus the dominance of cast chase. That said, a steel chase is indeed the superior tool. However, I rather doubt most (if any) hobby printers really need a precision steel chase for a tabletop low production press. We are talking Kelseys, Pilots, et al here. Heck, plywood chases have regularly been used by some on this site in order to meet at-the-time-requirement. Mr Marshall’s generous offer is, I believe, aimed at the hobby printer; an individual that usually strives to ‘squeeze the eagle’ at every opportunity. From the comments thus far, he could well succeed in his quest of providing a much-needed source of fast-disappearing press parts. Concentrate on the basics, keeping utility, cost and performance in mind. Curiously, those attributes kept Kelsey at the forefront of home-printing for many a year. Then the ‘One-Eyed Dragon’ appeared……. :o)

The only to know is to ask.

How much “leeway” is allowed on the outside dimensions of a chase? From some searching on the net it appears that most chases have ears on the outside edges that guide it into and help align the chase to its holder. Is this correct?

And yes I am trying to help the “Hobby” printer. I have no desire to go into mass production of widgets. If my efforts can help keep some presses running, that’s great.

Is there anyone with a common chase that could take some detailed pics and accurate measurements? Measurements would need to be very accurate, ie: to 32nds of an inch.

I am ready to research the possibility of producing steel chases as a first step. Cast iron inking discs are also high on my list.

With some luck and a lot of work, we should be able to keep these jewels printing for years to come.



I am excited about this project.

I would like to add my voice to the requests for spider chases for larger presses. I’d love to have one or two for my 8x12 C&P. Thompson Caster parts might be handy, too. On a general level, chases, ink disks and lever arms all seem to regularly come up either missing or broken on tabletop presses.

You might also look into selling parts as both finished and unfinished castings. As David says, some of us have machining capabilities and can do our own. This would also allow for tighter fitting tolerances.

As to chase accuracy, I think it’s going to depend on how accurately registered the printing people want to do with the chases will be. The chases on my C&P fit quite snugly with very little to no wiggle. This has allowed me to register multiple colors with reasonable ease just by making sure I’m using the same amount of furniture and so on between the chases. I’m not sure if the chases for Kelseys and Adanas were as tightly fitted, but I would be surprised if Golding, Hohner and C&P tabletop chases weren’t. If some shrinkage were to be introduced, there would be more wiggle room which would allow more chance for misregistration.

That’s not to say I think the smaller chases wouldn’t work, I just think it’s something to keep in mind. I’m sure smaller chases would still lock into the press properly.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN


Local foundry was no go. 5,000 dollars for each pattern plus they only do runs of 1,000 and up.

Have talked with a foundry in ST. Paul, MN that is interested in runs of 50 to 100, costs look like they are doable.

The 64,000 dollar question is now………..
Is there anyone that would loan, sell, give me good spare parts so that i can make patterns?

The original part is not usable as a pattern due to the automation that the foundry uses. Thats good, helps keep costs down,



Marshall, Sir, keeping an eye on your proposed projects, I am already proceeding along the same line, in a small way in the U.K. and can offer a few (possible) suggestions as follows, I own a fairly big reasonable lathe, and a ditto milling machine, remanufactured roller stocks for recovering, trucks from aluminium, brass, industrial nylon and more.
Plundered local scrap yard(s) for manageable lumps of cast iron and successfully ripped out sections with 9 inch angle grinder and milled small arms, Copied broken originals!, had to stop short of angles on the milling machine, no SINE Vice available yet, bored spigot holes/shafting holes on the lathe, and with a little fiddle, line reamed to size with Parallel Expanding reamer(S)
Utilising ex scrap cast iron eliminated the, POSSIBLE problem of machining, Virgin, uncured cast?? perhaps this problem is old hat for yourself. Mayhap we are way behind?
Tried the same route as yourself re, cast iron castings, with virtually same results, only even more than your quotes, for one off or even multiples???
Enquired this day about casting in Aluminium, Ink Disks for our Adana Range, approx 4 inch to 9 inch, same syndrome, 75 DOLLARS to cast 4 1/2 inch disk, smallest Adana and pro rata upwards???
Then spoke with our best local metal suppliers, who will supply blanks, for machining from quality aluminium, at approx 1 1/2 inches thick and approx 4 1/2 inches diameter, for less than 8 (eight) dollars per item!!! and PRO RATA upwards!!!
If my info is duff, sincere apologies.
One thought that may be of use, YOUR Museum of Printing in North Andover Massachusetts, must surely have Massive Archives, with Tecnical data including technical drawings appertaining to all things Letterpress and print!! . Just a thought? In the absence of pattern parts, technical drawings possibly?? Best of Luck Mick

Why would you want to look at casting parts for any of the Adana range, when Caslon Ltd have most of them in stock? Since buying the Adana Company in 1985 we continued production of the 8x5 until 1992, since when we have been dedicated to keeping letterpress alive but more importantly offering re-manufactured machines, technical back-up, advice and spares to keep everyone going!

Not trying to re invent the wheel.
Did not know that Adana parts were still available. That’s Great!!
It seemed that there was a need for replacement parts for small table top presses, which is why I posted this question.

Part of the reason, to me anyway, that older methods and techniques are lost is the fact that the machinery necessary is not supported anymore. I am in a small way trying to keep those arts alive. While I will never be a “Printer” in the true sense of the word, if I can help in some small way to help pass the knowledge to the next generation, then I have helped the world of letterpress.

In the same way hopefully I can pass on some of the secrets of pouring babbit bearings, operating stationary diesel and steam engines, using manual machine tools, running a Linotype, etc.

Time to get off the soapbox and back to my 1930’s era workshop.


Marshall- where are you located? I am in NY. Can I assume you are an member? or

Live in central Iowa.
Member of OWWM, Practical Machinist, I forge Iron, Smokstak and others.

All the places where cast iron nuts hangout.

And of course Briarpress.



I saw the post about Adana parts being available, but those will not fit other brands of tabletop presses, in particular, Kelsey tabletops. I checked with Caslon. So, to the extent that you have determined a need for tabletop parts, other than Adana, the demand is likely still there


Any thought of reproducing parts now should include an analysis of what is required (accuracy, strength, quantity, etc.) and then chose the best option. Unfortunately, cast iron foundries are not as common as they used to be but there are so many other options. What is critical is to save the drawings, with these a good CAD designer can model what you need. Laser scanning has come a long way and could fill the gap between actual parts and 3D data. In addition to 3D printing, aluminum CNC would have to be a great modern option. Here is another low-tech option, this is the ink plate gear for the 8 x 12 Chandler O.S., this is the loose gear that gets lost all the time. I made a mould from the opposite (fixed) gear on the ink plate with hardware store silicone and cast it with Devcon liquid metal. It was not up to the task and broke after a few months, so I added a bronze bushing using my father-in-laws lathe, has worked well for years now.


image: IMG_0003.JPG


Neat replacement gear.
I hadn’t thought of making one out of Devcon.
Closest foundry that wants to work with small runs, 50 pieces,is 250 miles away. 2 local foundries think small runs are 2000 pieces at a time.
One question I have is…
Do most end users want a part that is as close as possible to the original or are they OK with a part that works, but is made out of different materials and/or looks modern? As an example, your part. Is Devcon based gear OK or is there a need for cast iron like the factory part?

Depends on the part, as mentioned, even making a part to get the machine going and then a pretty part later. 3D printing will be interesting to watch develop.


Marshall - Good luck with your pursuit. My other hobby is antique cars. Our parts catalogs are full of reproduction parts that are often made by people like yourself who see a need and want to fill it. I have known a few of these people over the years. Their approach is to find a way to make the parts reproduction pay for itself.

In my experience, it is interesting to see letterpress printing begin to go through the stages of growth that have happened with cars, engines and airplanes. First, there is the production era. Next, there is the rejection era (‘who wants that old stuff?’). Then there is the restoration era. Carpe diem.

Update on project.

I am still gathering info on different parts that people have a need for.
With some luck I am planning on making the first pattern for a Kelsey ink disk around the middle of Feb. Sooner if things slow down and the weather warms up.

One area that I am concerned about on ink disks is the final size of the shaft that supports the disk. So far I have found a slight difference in shaft sizes. Not a great amount but enough that I am worried about maching to the small size and finding out that the disk now has to much sideplay on a press that needs a slightly larger shaft.

If this project goes forward I will make up a set of 4 or 5 dummy shafts in different diameters, send these out for a trial fit and then machine the ink disk to that size. This should allow the press owner to receive a ink disk that fits correctly without the need to accurately measure the main casting bore for proper size.

Also looking into making both straight and treadle versions of the main shafts for C&P presses. If this takes place I am planning on making them in batches of 3 or 4 at a time, should reduce the wait time to get press back up and running after an accident.


Marshall- yes there would be a need for some press parts, but as you are discovering, the cost of setting up to produce them can be rather expensive.

I’ve been keeping my own equipment up and running by fabricating parts out of mild steel or aluminum. There is nothing magical about cast-iron…. it was simply the easiest material to mass-produce from back before modern machining practices. No, the parts aren’t as pretty since I don’t bother with the nice chamfers and rounded ends, but they work great. Then again, I don’t really need “pretty parts” since all of my equipment is in the “workhorse” category….. as long as they print, it doesn’t matter what they look like.

To answer the question about chases: yes, it is rather easy to make them out of bar stock, fitted and bolted (or brazed). It’s even easier to have them cut out of flat stock…. either aluminum or steel. Any good company with a CNC Plasma cutter can whip them out in a day, for relatively low prices. I’ve got several of them with special windows cut in them, to do the “spider chase” jobs mentioned above.

BUT thay being said, if you do set up a process to make replacement parts, I’d probably buy from you from time to time.


Have you figured out a price for a Kelsey 5 x 8 ink disc, later models (disk turns clockwise not counterclockwise as the earlier models)?

Winking cat

Do you make ink plates for Kelsey 5 x 8 - later models?



Hi Marshall. I don’t know of you still need the measurement, but my older model Kelsey 5x8 ink plate has a 0.876 inch shaft going into a 0.878 inch hole on my press. The machined portion of the shaft is also 0.926 inches long.

Don’t have prices yet.
Trying to get first pattern made so that I can talk with the foundry.
I am used to the old method of pattern making and foundry practice, the foundry now days is using newer methods for patterns and I need to make sure that what I supply will work.

They can do the old fashion method, but they warned me that cost would be 8 to 10 times more expensive. So I am learning the new method, change is good, maybe.

Any and all accurate dimensions of press parts would be helpful. I have found so far a fair amount of different dimensions for the same part, at least on Kesleys.


Here are two links to open source 3D printing using a mig welder. This technology is coming on fast it might be better
looking into this than foundry casting.
I have been told that a basic unit can be set up for about $1200.00 if you own a wire welder already.

Thanks for the links.

Have been watching 3D printers for some time now, didn’t know they were getting into printing of metal.

I have a MIG welder, so I would be curious about the costs involved with printing even a small part. My guess is that it would be much higher at this time. As more research is done, costs usually start to decrease, so this is a process to
keep in mind.