making chases

One of the biggest problems facing us amateur printers is the availability of chases for specific models of presses, esp. the Kelsey presses. Does anyone know if it is possible a. to have a chase made - and what the best process might be (casting, welding) - and b. if specifications are available for chases (i.e. outside dimensions, inside dimensions, position of notches, tolerances, etc.)? It seems to me that a good metal working shop should be able to duplicate a chase fairly easily (but probably not cheaply), given the proper drawings and accurate measurements. Any insight or comments will be appreciated.

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The late John Bright, who owned Sigwalt until his death a few years ago, had chases cast out of aluminum. So it can be done. I’ve had a handful gears for the split ink disk cast for a 8x12 C&P out of bronze for about $200. There’s a lot of finishing work to be done, though. In my case, by hand and machine.

Yes, any chase can be replicated. However, cost is, in large measure, determined by the quantity demanded. To cast a Kelsey chase, a simple sand mold with an existing chase as pattern, would be a straightforward job for any foundry. But most shops are set up for production work and would probably scoff at such request. Unless of course, you convince them to tag your chase with another job. It’s the finishing that incurs yet further cost. Kelsey chases are not exactly machined pieces therefore fairly easy to complete by hand. Drilling and tapping is not outside the capability of a printer (or shouldn’t be) and is easily accomplished with drill press and plate.
If appearance is of no concern, take a chase to your favorite welding shop where they could simply weld bar stock to size using those dimensions. That’s probably the easiest (and inexpensive) route.
Dead simple is a plywood chase. It’s also the least expensive. If you’ve a router, you can mass produce to your need’s content.
I still use two pot-metal chases I cast for my 3x5 Kelsey more than twenty years ago. I also had steel chases made for the Miehle Pony (when I had such little beastie) using the expertise of a local welding shop. Of course, a trade for advertising lowered the costs considerably.
If you’d like to cast your own chases from aluminum, well, that’s a most satisfying adjunct to a hobby already demanding skill, patience, perserverance. There are many books covering the subject in great detail. The Chinese cast iron some six thousand years ago using feather bellows and common sand - no reason why you can’t do the same in your back yard. And there’s less smoke than is given off by a barbeque. But you will get your hands dirty. In my opinion

I have seen the plywood chases for larger C & P presses, and they work well. Very lightweight yet strong.

Since we seem to be running the full gamut of materials, let me mention what I have experience with. Fiberglass construction or carbon fiber construction can yield amazingly strong finished products. A foam core wrapped with prepreg carbon fiber cloth, then vacuum-bagged and cooked would be on the spendy side, but very light and extremely strong. You could do it all common household materials (plus the fiber cloth). I have seen a 7 year old pick up a carbon fiber rudder for a 60 foot boat by himself.

Fiber glass might be an option as well.

Tell us what you do, because I suspect there are many of us in the same boat.

Last thing: have you checked with Don Black, David Churchman and NA Graphics? One of them might have some chases for you.

Thanks all for the advice and comments. I’ll probably go the plywood route for now, although I would prefer a metal chase. The fiberglass/carbon construction is intriguing. I’ll check into it. Looks like I need to contact my brother, the sculptor (who does castings all the time).

The usual suspects (NA Graphics, Don Black and all) have a hard time keeping the Kelsey 6x10 chases on their shelves. If I weren’t so busy with this other career, I’d consider opening a chase-casting company!

Thanks again.

This may have been already suggested elsewhere, but why not aluminium screen print frames? Most big screen print supply shops cut all their tubing in house and can make custom orders, producing sturdy square tubed frames. All you’d really have to do is work out a deal with a supplier.From what I can tell they’d be strong enough for it and would definatly last a good long while.

I would take a piece of steel plate, of appropriate thickness, the size I wanted for the chase. I would drill holes in the corners and saw out the center. Then saw bevels top and bottom, and smooth it up and ease the edges with a disk sander. This methodology can be used to replicate any chase.

I’ve had many chases made at a local machine shop. These were milled from a sheet of steel and have no welds. You would, however need an existing chase or pattern to work from. Cast iron chases are fine, but inevitably, there could be a break at one of the corners.
Also, try Dave Churchman in Indianapolis. When I was out there a few years ago, he had an old men’s room in his warehouse that was just chases from floor to ceiling. Lots of small ones as I recall.

Craig Malmrose