Introduction and Kelsey Excelsior 5 x 8 questions


I’ve lurked in these forums on and off for a few years and have found these discussions most interesting.

Now I have made a commitment by purchasing an old Kelsey Excelsior 5 x 8 press. I will now begin studying all the appropriate material I can find with the aim of putting the press to use as a hobby and see where that leads.

The press seems in quite good shape given its age. Everything moves freely and while there is a bit if rust, it seems to be entirely surface rust with no pitting.

There are a couple bent pieces. The gripper bar spring and at least one of the roller hooks are bent. Will I be okay trying to carefully tap them straight on my anvil or should I figure on replacing them?

The ink table seems pretty good, though there are a few small grooves/marks/lines. Should it be resurfaced?

The press did not include a chase nor did it include grippers so I will have to find those somewhere. I would appreciate any recommendations.

Initially I will probably try to use the press for making small woodblock prints. Eventually I would like to try doing letterpress printing.

I will try to attach images of the press to better illustrate my questions. If anyone spots any issues or problems of which I am unaware, please let me know what they are and how I should fix them.

Many thanks for any information!

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I think your biggest problem will be finding a chase - they are very much in demand. The roller hook can easily be straightened, better if you have a plastic or lead hammer to work it on the anvil so you don’t mark it in a way that might cause it to bind in the arm. You could also put it on a couple of wood blocks with the bend in between them and the high side up and tap on the bend to straighten it.

The spring is another issue — spring steel can be brittle and attempting to straighten it could cause it to break. Making grippers should not be terribly hard, and once you have them and mount them on the rod you can see how much the spring is off. I would not worry about the ink disc — if you clean it with steel wool most of the scratches will probably be minimized and I doubt if they’ll affect the inking unless they’re large gouges.

You probably also don’t have roller cores or trucks — but those are pretty readily available.


Can you find someone who lives nearby to help you get going? You have a lot to learn and hands on help will make it a bit easier.

Fritz at NA Graphics can sell you a new hook, if you can’t straighten the one you have. He can supply trucks and roller and other supplies. Call him late in the day. Fritz will talk with you about what you need.

You will need to “hunt” for a chase. They show up on ebay - sometimes sell fairly cheap and sometimes fairly expensive.

You will need to remove the rust, oil the press, and then see how well it moves.

You can download the original Kelsey instructions from Don Black’s website.

good luck and have fun

good advice from adlib. Only thing I’d add is not to try to straighten the roller hook while on the press, you could snap the cast iron that holds it. Although you won’t get it off if its too bent. For parts I’d try letterpress things in Chicopee, MA, I heard he is the guy to call for Kelsey parts, also Excelsior Press in New Jersey sometimes sells parts for these. Good luck with the press, I’ve had one since the late 1960s.

I really appreciate these helpful responses to my questions. Thanks to those who took the time to respond.

I am in central New York, USA so if any of you are nearby and do not mind helping me learn how to set up and use my press, feel welcome to let me know.

Thanks again,

Some other Kelsey literature, including the very useful Kelsey Printing Course and scans of some later (meaning 20th century) catalog/specimen material, is online at:

David M.

Thank you for this information, David. I looked at the material at your site and it indeed does appear VERY useful.

I now have some questions beyond the ones I initially asked:

Is a chase still necessary when using polymer plates?

Is a chase ever NOT necessary?

Does anyone have a 5 x 8 Kelsey chase for sale?

Thanks again,


I’ve not used this myself, but Excelsior Press’s Chase Base looks like a good alternative to not having a chase if you only plan to print from polymer plates:
Anyone using this and have some feedback to offer?

you search the archives on this website for feedback on before you order anything.

Chase periodically show up on ebay

The hole gripper set up, the rollers are new on E-bay. There are new hooks to but I would remove those and pound them straight, those old ones are nicer then the replacements. Get it some new springs from your local Ace hardware. The chase for that model is going to be hard to find. You can make or have a chase made. Feel free to look me up for help or parts.

Thank you for this information Todd.

Thanks also for the invitation to get in contact with you. I may take you up on that as I get further into my press restoration.


Feel free to check my feed back to. Thanks Todd

I agree with LetterpressDad on searching about Excelsior before ordering.

Regarding Excelsior Press; I have one of Alan’s Richlite bases. It’s a perfectly good plate base. Alan is hard to get ahold of, but he’s also very knowledgeable. I’ve talked to him quite a few times over the phone and online. He’s one of those guys who takes on more than he really should and lets some things fall by the wayside sometimes. If you need your base immediately, go to Boxcar. If you’re OK with sending a continuing stream of messages for 6 months before you get a response, Alan’s products are very good and much cheaper.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

I’ll second all that Michael writes above. Alan is very informative and can be quite helpful but the waiting time is often excessive.

Neil Salkind
bigboy press
Lawrence, KS 66044