Acquired an Excelsior Mercury Model 5x8 need info.

I just acquired an Excelsior Mercury 5x8 press. I t seems to be in good condition. The rollers have been keep in oil, and I am not sure of their condition. I am interested in using the press to print wood engravings. If anyone has information about the press, I would appreciate hearing from them. I would also like to know where I might get new rollers.

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Hi John,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you didn’t exactly pick the best press to try to print wood engravings on. The Kelseys are simply not known for their high quality and the fact that it is a platen press as opposed to a cylinder press also works against you. With the Kelsey you will be trying to impress the entire image surface at the same time, which may take more pressure than the Kelsey is designed to give.

A cylinder press, such as a proof press, applies the pressure only to a minute portion of the image at any given moment as it passes from one end to the other, thereby being able to excert much more pressure against the wood engraving to produce the superior print.

Thanks, I appreciate the comments. I had a feeling that was the case. I might try it once, experimenting with thinner inks. Now I am printing my engravings with a rice spoon which is good but slow. I will try to set the screws behind the plate as tight as they will go to see what kind of pressure I can get. I would like to be able to print many copies fast. A cylinder press would be good but I am sure they are expensive.

Hey John! I have the same press. If you want basic care/operation instructions, Don Black Linecasting Service has a copy of the original Kelsey manual on their site:

If you are looking for rollers, you should check out the Briar Press Yellow Pages. NA Graphics sells the original Kelsey rollers or you could also have your rollers recast at a company like Tarheel Roller and Brayer Company:

Thanks for the information. I will check it out. The rollers do need to be replaced. Does the press print well and have you had any experience printing wood engravings? In fact if there is anyone out there printing wood engravings on a letter press, I would like to know about it.

Hey John! I have only printed with type. I think the Kelsey is a good inexpensive press to get your feet wet with, but you will want to upgrade to something nicer if you get really serious or want to start a business. I’ve found that my arm gets tired fairly quickly so I don’t know if you will have better luck getting ‘many copies fast’. I have gotten print results that I am happy with, but I only use the press for personal purposes.

hi john,
i am getting the same press…any luck with the wood? also, does anyone have success with polymer plates on the kelsey 5x8? i have been a designer for a few years and am finally going to start printing my own stuff…would love any feedback!

Hello, I am a wood engraver as well. I bought I 3X5 Excelsior Kelsey & Co Printing Press. I was unable to get satisfactory results.So I sold it. I am looking to purchase a small cylinder proof press( maybe a Nolan). Does anyone know if this will be adequate for printing wood engravings of fine quality?

Updated. I just bought a Nolan, and woodcuts are one of the things I’ll be testing soon. I imagine the results would be good, as the presses they use at my college (California College of the Arts) for relief printmaking are SignPresses (or similar), which are more or less the same as Nolans.

The cylinder moving across the block distrubutes even pressure, and while the pressure isn’t nearly as much as you get with a Vandercook (or an etching press, for that matter), I’ve seen great results. Nolans, Vandercooks, etching presses: anything with a cylinder is good for woodcuts, especially those with substantial black areas. Same goes for polymer, I imagine… if your plate is just text and text-weight graphics, a low-end platen like a Kelsey should work fine, right? Type is type.

I’m a bit off of the original topic, but good luck, John! Definitely experiment with your inks, and ink as much as your detail will allow, and you might get away with it.