Kelsey 5x8 questions

Hi! I’m new to the letterpress world and just read in another thread where @dickg is using a foil unit on his kelsey 5x8. Does anyone have pictures of what that unit looks like? I have heard of it but have not been able to find any additional information or pictures.

I have a kelsey 5x8 model U and I would love to use it for printing stationary & business cards mainly. I’m using photopolymer plates from boxcar but was wondering how deep of an impression I can get on it. I would love to get some type of depth not just kiss it. However, I read through other threads that the press can be damaged if too deep of an impression is desired. How can I damage it?

What can I use for registration other than the sophisticated paper gauges where you have to cut through the tympan paper?

I just ordered some photo polymer plates from boxcarpress and they look awesome. Are there other companies that also create plates?

Finally, what’s the best way to clean the rubber rollers?

Thanks everyone!

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Trying to get a deep impression can crack the platen and ruin the press. The Kelseys are not really made for this, they are not as strong as some presses, but if you only do a small area you might be ok, the bigger the area you are trying to get a deep impression the more pressure you need. If you want to see my shop you are welcomed to stop by and play letterpress printer. I’m in southeastern Massachusetts. If you can’t make it you can friend me on facebook, I have pictures of my shop there. A lot of people don’t like Kelsey presses, I have 3, 2 I use some, I have owned all the table top presses Kelsey made, never had a problem with them. Dick Goodwin.


If you are a person weighing anything over 150 lbs and you put your entire body weight into the handle of a Kelsey 5x8, you will eventually, if not immediately, break it. As with any platen press, several thousand pounds at the platen are needed to deeply deform heavy stock, even for a forme 1/4 the size of the printable area. If you find yourself exerting a lot of effort and not getting the depth you want, you’ll simply have to put that work on a larger and stronger press. Good letterpress aesthetics can certainly be achieved with a well adjusted and parallel 5x8 Kelsey but it’s a small machine so don’t expect nuclear strength from it.



Thanks you so much for your comments. I purchased the kelsey as a means to start learning. I’m trying to print some 3x1.5 tags and can’t even get it to print evenly but I will get there!

Dick, thanks for the offer about visiting your shop I would love to stop by but I’m all the way in Collierville, TN :-). I will look for you on facebook to see your pictures. How do I find you on facebook under?

Billy, I weight about 115 lbs but didn’t know I could break the handle by excerting too much pressure. I would really love to achieve at least a smaller impression with some depth. I love the look of it. To me, doing a kiss impression almost looks like I could achieve the same effect with a rubber stamp but of course I wouldn’t like to break my little press.

Is there a tabletop that will allow me to do a deep impression or only the bigger presses can do that?


A part of making an impression is using soft paper. Hard paper is not going to give you much. Something soft like Crane Lettra will give some impression. You may need to adjust your packing and possibly the platen adjustment to accommodate the thicker, soft paper. As others have warned, don’t put too much pressure on the press


I will buy some Crane Lettra stock to practice and see if I can get better results. Thanks for the advice LetterpressDad. Are there other stocks aside from crane’s lettra that are soft?