Equipment in use at the Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop

The Kelsey Excelsior Press
The OLD Kelsey Excelsior

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: My wife has a small invitation/stationary business and is currently using a laser printer and would like to branch out into using a printing press. I may have a chance to buy up a excelior kelsey table top printing press - can you tell me if this is a good press or can you recomend another for a home buisness?

The quick answer is "yes", the table top Kelsey presses are great little machines for starting an invitation/stationary business. These presses were used world wide for over a hundred years for this and similar purposes.

However, there are limitations that you should be aware of.

1. First of all, almost no table top press has sufficient impressional strength to produce the "deep impression" that is the style these days. The press can print well, but cannot 'punch' the paper to make that old-style super deep impression. There can be some impression - sufficient to show the 3-dimensional effect of letterpress, but a most designers are using heavy and expensive Vandercook Proof presses or 2,000 pound commercial platen presses to achieve those results.

2. Second, the smaller presses have 1 1/2" rollers which limit the amount of ink that can be transferred to the form in one pass. This can be overcome to a certain extent by 'double inking' - rolling the ink rollers across the form two or three times before inserting the sheet to be printed.

3. The third - an least important limitiation - is that hand-feeding a table top press is slow. You can reasonably expect to print maybe 5 -10 pieces per minute, compared to 20/min on a hand-fed motorized press or 50 pieces per minute on a large automatic feed letterpress like my 2000 pound Heidelberg Windmill platen press.

4. And, the fourth and final limitation is the print area/sheet size that can be pracitcally accomodated.

For example, a 5x8 Kelsey table top - the most popular and easiest to find - can theoretically print a form up to 5x8", but in reality, only about half of the form area should be used for optimum performance on most jobs. A 6x10 gives you much more latitude on image size. There are also a few 9x13 Kelseys out there, but they are rare. I know of one which may go up for sale soon for $1200-1400.

The ideal press for what you want to do would be a 6x10 Chandler & Price Pilot press, but they are really hard to find and are now selling for $1500-$3000 or more - IF they can be found.

The other presses in this catagory were made by Golding, Sigwalt and Craftsman.

If you have room in a garage, however, a 1200-pound cast iron 8x12 Chandler & Price platen press would be an excellent choice. I have some of these for sale for $1,000, and moving one can cost up to $1,000 as well. But they can also be found for less - MUCH less - IF you manage to stumble upon one near to you in some old  print shop or garage. They are often found in homes where the printer has passed away and his widow - or children want to "get rid of it" for almost nothing just to get the house sold. This happens often.

To get a really good idea of what might work well for you, I'd suggest either a visit to my shop - if you are within striking distance of Frenchtown, NJ 08825, or - AND  visit to the forums at There are 25,000 members of Briar Press at last count, from all over the world. Post a query there and you are likely to be overwhelmed with opinions.

Collection of Kelsey Table Top Printing Presses
Kelsey Presses
3x5, 5x8, 6x10 Kelsey Early Style, 4x6 Craftsman Victor, 6x10 Victor