Identify Kelsey 5x8, Can’t find any Image Matches on Google

Hi everyone, I’m new here of course. I’ve been wanting to get a letterpress for a while. I’m a graphic designer for a sign company and have ended up designing wedding invitations several times for family members. I took several years of printing in fine art school, but it was mostly etching on a large flat bed printer. Anyway, I’ve come across a Kelsey 5x8 on Craigslist that seems like a good deal and is only an hour drive from my house. There are only two low resolution images to go by. One problem is I can’t tell if something is missing in the back where the roller bars connect to the body. Would anybody more knowledgeable than me tell me how these could connect to the body of this press? It looks like there’s a zip tie on the part that holds the roller bars. Thanks for any help in advance!

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Sorry, this second image should have attached to the post.

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It looks like in the first photo the left side roller arm is broken, with the part zip-tied on and one roller hook missing, with the remaining one bent. Unless all the pieces of the broken roller arm are there it might be pretty hard to repair it or find a replacement. Otherwise the press appears complete with chase, but you will need to get rollers and roller trucks, which are readily available for this very popular size of Kelsey.


Thanks Bob,

Yes the guy selling it sent better pictures after I asked. That is exactly what happened. The part that holds the roller bars on snapped. Can it be braise welded back on? Some other better method to fix? We have a welding shop at my workplace. I don’t care of it isn’t pretty. I just want it to function.

Thanks for the info on the other parts. I found a place to get new rollers and trucks. My other problem will be getting replacement roller bars and springs. Our company engineer thinks they can be replaced with some standard parts. He said they look like standard eye hooks (think that’s what he called it) and tension springs. Does that sound correct in your estimation? We have a sandblasting booth. While this press isn’t very rusty, I’m not sure how much cleanup it needs. Any thoughts on that.

Thanks again for the input, it’s greatly appreciated.

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looks like it was either dropped or damaged in shipping, like AdLib says unless all the pieces are there its going to be hard to repair and it looks like they are not there, I’d pass on this one.

Thanks but I’ve already agreed to buy it before I realized it had that broken part. I wanted to find one close enough to me to pick it up in person. I would have nought there would be more of them near the Atlanta metro, but it was the only one. So I’ll either have to fix it, or sell the parts out. What other parts are missing that you can tell?

Roller bars
Tension Springs
What else?

Ask for a photo of the other side of the press. I can’t be sure if the broken roller arm is missing a piece between the part on the press and the piece with the bent hook. If the two existing pieces fit together correctly the repair can be brazed and should be OK, though you should remove the arm from the press for the brazing as it is best to heat the whole piece to reduce heat stresses in the metal.

It would also be possible to make a filler piece and braze it in — the only critical measurement is the alignment of the hooks across the press to the rollers are parallel to the top of the chase.

The roller hook may even be available from someone with a broken and unrepairable press, or a good blacksmith could make one. The inside of the hook part should be flattened to provide more surface contact with the roller core. And the spring should be available from a decent hardware store. You could also check Grainger.


Thanks Bob and dickg for the advice.

I showed the images to the metal working guys here at my job and they know someone that can fix the broken part for me. The guy that’s selling it said the other side looks intact, but he doesn’t know much about the press at all. He didn’t come out and say it, but I’d bet it’s from an estate sale. He said it’s been in a basement for about 50 years. All I can do is take his word for it. I’m getting it for $265. So not a horrible amount to take a risk on.

Of course I’d love to get it back working, but at the least I can either hand ink and press (slow I know) or sell the parts off of it. Excelsior Press has listed that they have roller bars, but the site hasn’t been updated in several years. Thanks for the tips on the roller bars though. I’ll do my best to get this machine back up and running. If anything, I’ll at least be able to learn from taking this project on.

Hope y’all have a great day.

You’re right — $265 is an OK price. If you can raise Alan Runfeldt he may be able to turn up a replacement roller arm intact, or at least the roller hook. The bet one can be straightened to work OK. You’re definitely well inside the ball park. Good luck!


If you decide that it can’t be fixed, you should be able to sell the chase, chase bed, and ink plate on ebay for enough to recover your investment, or maybe even make a little -

if you decide keep the press, you can get trucks, roller hooks, and rollers from Fritz at -


Thanks again everyone. I have the press now. The guy actually cut $20 off after I got there to pick it up. So even better!

The ink plate had been split in half before, but was welded back together. The weld job was done really well though as there is only a very fine hairline on the face. There are three roller bars. The one that’s in the picture here is bent a lot more than the ones that are on the right side. So technically only one roller bar missing, but I may end up replacing all of them if it can be done cheaply and easily.

I can’t get the press open more than maybe three inches. Any rough ideas what the problem is? It’s pretty grimy, but not much rust at all.

The other pieces that I can tell right off that are missing is the Chase and Gripper bars. I will need to work out where to get those. Of course the rollers and trucks are missing, but I can get new replacements for those. Will let everyone know how the journey goes as it comes.


Gripper bars are easy to replace. The photos you showed earlier show a chase sitting on the press bed — are you sure it’s missing? If it is the seller kept it back or sold it separately.

Someone mentioned earlier that NA Graphics in Colorado have roller hooks as well as rollers and trucks.


I think you’re right. I think I was confusing the Chase and Chase Bed as one part. But I see that they’re separate. So that makes one less part that I need to fix / replace. Thanks for letting me know. I have a lot to learn going forwards. Should be fun though.

I just noticed that in the first picture you posted at the beginning of the thread the platen appears to be installed, but in the last photo you posted later, the platen is not visible. Note that the platen would come within about 1/4 inch or less of the top or outer face of the chase. The platen is, I believe, between 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick and rectangular, with the movable tympan bales along the two long sides. Be sure you have that platen — it will be harder to find than some other parts.

The press should open so that there is about 6 inches of space between the top edge of the platen and the top edge of the chase, with much less space between the bottom edges. It’s hinged at the bottom and opens like a book. Don’t force it open further until you check to be sure some part isn’t catching or binding somewhere. When the press is fully open the handle should be nearly vertical.

You might want to look at a photo of a Kelsey in the BP Museum.


Siggy, back in ‘79 when I was first interested in printing, I went to my grandfather who had been a printer for years. I told him I wanted to order me a Kelsey Press since it was small and I thought I could learn on it. He advised me before I done anything to order a Kelsey catalog and a Kelsey 21 lesson printers course. He told me to familiarize myself with all the parts and pieces of the press and to memorize what each part looked like and what it does. To study the course, and answer each question at the end without cheating. Learn everything I could about it. Well, it was good advise. I studied every night after work like a school boy. Several months later, I went back to him and told him I thought I was ready. He took over to his Kelsey and started asking questions as to what this and that was, what it did and so on. We then picked out an outfit from the catalog to order. And no, he didn’t buy it for me. I worked and saved my own money to order the press outfit. Well, when my press arrived, I unpacked it, set it up, distributed the type, set up and printed my name and address, etc. on a card all in one afternoon and evening. How, because I prepared myself ahead of time. The reason I’m telling you all of this is, if you would get you some Kelsey info and one of their 21 lesson printers training course, and study and study and learn all you can before you do anything it would make things go a lot faster in getting yours up and running.
Too many people get in too much of a hurry to start printing and get the cart before the horse. They go and buy an expensive press thinking “oh, this is easy”, and then they want to know why this “thingy is squealing” or something is locked up or broke. I’m not saying this of everyone, but it happens almost on a daily basis. If only they would take a little time and prepare themselves then a lot of problems could be avoided. This is not to discourage you or to put you down. It is meant to help you. You can start here and get some info on the Kelsey. If I can be any assistance to you let me know. Good luck on your printing journey.
Winfred Reed
Black Diamond Press (Kentucky

@Bob, Thanks, yes I’m pretty sure I have the Platen. I think the Platen Back Spring and pin are missing from that to attach it to the Platen Back making it easy to remove. I think he (the guy I bought it from) took it off to try and take a better picture of it since it’s not opening easily for now.

@Winfred Thanks to you too. I’ll definitely take my time learning how to operate this press. I’ve made intaglio etched plates for a flatbed cylinder press in school. I took about two years of printmaking, but I’ve never done any letterpress. It’ll be neat to try and set some copy by hand though. My experience in school was all rub on letters, rubylith and hand inking with a rapidograph and some cold press board. I’ll look at the info you’ve provided.

Quick question though about plate making (instead of set wood/metal type). How do all of you typically make your plates? Do you use photopolymer, linoleum, wood or metal, other? I know it can depend on what appearance you want on the final print, but I’ll need to create some plates to practice with. Sadly all my etching plates I made in school are now missing after 20 years.

If you have a specific image you want to print I’d suggest getting a wood-mounted magnesium plate made — Owosso in Michigan does fine work. If you just want an image to test the press with a linoleum block will do fine, though you’ll need to shim it to type high. The problem with photopolymer to start with is that it’s expensive and very fussy about inking. You could also pick up some type somewhere and use that, though to lock it up you’ll need lead and slugs and furniture — none of which are hard to find and for a 5x8 press you don’t need very much. You wouldn’t be able to use the etching plates on the Kelsey anyway.


Ok, I will check them out. I’ll probably mostly do linocut and woodblock for a while as it’s pretty cheap to do a bunch of them for test printing and I have a nice set of carving tools. I don’t have the room for etching plates. We have a photopolymer machine here at work, but I wouldn’t be able to use it much.

I agree about the metal type. I’ll check around the Atlanta area first to see if I can find any local, and then may look online if I don’t find something that suits me. I’d like Baskerville or Frutiger in metal type (or wood even) if I could find it.


To identify the approximate year of your press, check out this chart of Kelsey presses:


For some reason the link I posted above is not working properly.

Google this:
Circuitousroot Find Your Kelsey

and it will be at the top.


Thanks for the info Steve!

I’ll check the press when I get home for a serial number and match it against what you’ve provided. We’re out of town for a week. Hope you have great 4th (if you’re in the US that is).

Ok well from memory and matching it against some if those illustrations, The best I can tell, I either have a 1904 Excelsior (A) or 1924 Excelsior (A). There are only two lines of copy for the logo with no third line model name tag line. The logo arches up and then back down. So that narrows it a little bit. Any idea what the difference are between the 1904 and 1924 models?

Will still look for a serial when I get home. May help identify it some.

Ok I’m really guessing the 1904 one, because my model has the goose neck upon the right side. I guess the illustration could have been reversed though.

Siggy -

As Bob suggested “if you can raise Alan Runfeldt, he may be able to help you.”

I think I can. But sorry to say, not very quickly.

What you need is the old style Roller Carriage and old style Roller Hooks. Your carriage has a cast-in striker arm and is meant to mount the old-style roller hooks.which are of a thicker stock than the new style hooks I have made until now. I am gearing up to make the old style hooks for a 9x13 and will use the same set up to make old style hooks for the 6x10 & 5x8.

But the bigger issue is that broken roller carriage…

I recently showed this common-failing part to my foundry man and he said that he could cast them for me. But our plans are to make the new style carriage. I believe that it will fit your press, but I will have to confirm that by taking a close look at the different models I have here.

I have not made a new resin pattern for this part yet, but could use one of the cast iron parts which I do have on hand as a pattern to cast a duplicate which will cool to 1% smaller than the original - which should not be a problem with this part.

Accordingly, I will be bringing one of mine to him so that he can cast a duplicate on my next monthly visit (scheduled for 7/29). The casting should not be difficult, but the boring of the mounting holes and the roller hook holes must be *perfect* for this part to work properly.

The roller hooks are not a problem. I make new-style roller hooks pretty often, and I am setting up to duplicate the thicker old-style hooks as well. Your press came with the older style - thicker and flattened before bending.

I have not made this style yet, due to the need to flatten, then grind the ends of the steel rod before bending. But, you can use the newer, less expensive, and most importantly -available - hooks on either press. The main difference is diameter, so the part I plan to make will accept the standard “modern” roller hooks which we already make.

But. Delays… delays…

I am in the midst of moving my restoration work shop from the print shop to a new building - which I am building on my own property, and I don’t expect to be set up to machine it until some time in the fall.

However, if you have access to a good machinist who can bore the needed holes perfectly, I can get you a raw casting of this part to work with as well as a set of (new style) roller hooks and springs that will *not* be authentic to your older model press, but will work just fine.

If you can wait for me to be set up to do the complete production, I will be making these parts. The Kelsey world needs them. I have already cast new chases and chase beds, but the machining still needs to be done on them.

My attention these days is focused on the new work shops as well as my own barn for the print shop. We’re just at the point of leveling the ground for a foundation - my friend with the backhoe/loader is coming tomorrow, in fact.

After that, there’s still a month or more (probably much more) before I will have the building in place and my machinery installed and operational.

But I can get you a raw casting and may be able to have another machine shop do the milling.

Let me know if you are interested (and can wait a few months) and I will put you on the list.

- Alan
(contact form on the web site)