First-time Letterpress Purchase

Hello all! I am a total newbie and I am currently learning about letterpress. English is my 3rd language and so this all is so at times hard to understand when it comes to technical terms, so.. bear with me.

I am going to attend some intro to letterpress classes next week and I’ve watched some videos and tutorials but my question is: what press to buy? before I go any further:
1. I rent, so no permanent house (thus my hope to own a platen press for the future is so far impossible. plus we are going to relocate overseas in a few years. not 100% certain yet)

2. lack of a lot of space

3. not a huge budget

4. I want to be able to use tabletop letterpress to print business cards and A2 size greeting card (simple line art designs and the designs will be about 3.75x4.5)

I definitely know I don’t want a Kelsey 3x5 or 5x8 or Adana presses. My options are Kelsey 6x10, Kelsey 9x13, Craftsman 6.5x10 or Chandler & Price 6.5x10.

Any advice would be highly appreciated. Also what amount of money shall I really expect for such presses? and the last question: is it always better to pay extra and get a restored press?

thank you!


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Please say where you are.
If you think you will stay with this for some time, buy as much press as you can. Stretch a bit. The press will not go down in value. A well adjusted press in the hands of a good printer will give good results.
You would not go out and buy an airplane and try to teach yourself to fly. Similarly it is best to learn from a skilled printer. That is why I ask where you are.
Keep in mind that a press is only one thing you need. There are many others.
My friends Tom and Terri at T & T Press Restoration do extremely nice work. Their presses are not cheap, but are sold at a fair price.
A 6 1/2 X 10 Chandler and Price or Craftsmen is a good press and will do what you want.
I am a printer and printing teacher.

Get some ink on your shirt.


Hi Inky,
I am in Portland. OR. It is lovely that you mentioned Terri. I got a very nice experience speaking with her on the phone last Friday. thank you for responding to me and I agree: I need a skilled teacher for sure :)

Hi Irina,

I don’t have much to contribute technically as far as table top presses since I mostly use Heidelberg windmills. However I recently moved back to Cleveland from overseas and I know it can be tricky setting up a print studio given the nature of the machinery and their physical requirements.

That said, I have come across two places in Cleveland that offer open studios, for a certain fee per month where one can go and use their presses, facility and utilities. For example, Zygote Press and The Morgan Conservatory here are great places for artists that are on the fence and want a more hands on trial before buying a certain press. Maybe Portland has something similar to offer that way you get to print your work and by the time you figure out future plans you know if you want to invest in your own machinery or not. But I agree with Inky, presses hardly diminish in value so it won’t be a bad investment after all so long as you take care of it and maintain it.

One last thing worth mentioning is when you are working on your budget it is hardly restricted to the price of the press as you will need some essentials for operation; tools, ink, wash up solutions, a base for the polymer etc…

This might be a bit over the top for what you need but it is definitely worth checking out as a checklist of the things that you might end up needing

Good luck with your exciting venture and hope it all works out smoothly!

Shadi Ayoub

Thank you so much, Shadi! :)

Fastest, cheapest, and prob best would be to offer yourself to volunteer at a local print shop. free lessons/experience, for free labor.
Even hand operated machines can be dangerous, so be CAREFUL!

Thank you, Eric! Oh yes, those pretty beasts sure can bite!

In mid-90s I offered to work at an offset printer for free. They offered me a paid job instead. They put me on a Apple at first for prepress but realized I was much slower than their cut and paste crew so I was moved to a single color offset. Of course that could have been a predetermined course of action. Regardless it was a fun experience except back in those days you could smoke inside. That really sucked. Printing is a tough business. Learn first, worry about buying stuff later.