John the Type Snob Blog

Table Top Presses

In all my years as a professional printer, I never saw or was even aware that there was such a thing as a table top press. I can’t remember where I accidentally ran across my first small press. It was probably at an antique store and the press was probably a Kelsey. As I began acquiring more and more letterpress equipment, not purposely intending to become a “collector.” Friends and relatives would discover these presses and notify me. Without really trying, I managed to collect a dozen or so in a couple of years. Then I joined the American Amateur Press Association and the Amalgamated Printer’s Association and began corresponding with the likes of Dave Churchman, Steve Saxe, Dave Peat and other knowledgable printers and a whole new world opened up for me.

I soon learned about all the different manufacturers and sizes of table top presses. I discovered presses so small one could hold one in his hand. I found table top presses so heavy it took two stout guys to lift one. Then I was told of a deceased collector in New York City whose collection was for sale. As you can probably guess, this country boy made his way to the big city and acquired most of this collection of approximately 125 little presses. Next came personal computers, the internet and this thing called eBay. More little presses trickled into my shop. Then I started competing on eBay with this fellow in Zion, Illinois named Paul Aken. Well, I was no match for Paul who was really serious about collecting small presses and I backed off with my press collecting. I had more little presses than I knew what to do with anyway. A press comes my way only occasionally now but I do have an apprentice who is a bird-dog when it comes to finding printing equipment fairly close to home.

So it’s time for me to refine my collection, to get rid of the duplicates, triplicates or even quadruplicates. Here’s a sampling of presses that are looking for good homes.

Sigwalt 6 x 9 early round base model.
Complete but rollers are composition and are pitted. Useable, but for better printing, they should be replaced.

$800

Kelsey Model V  6 x 10
Complete with new-in-the-wrapper rubber rollers from Todd’s Presstime. Note early Victor-style roller hooks.
$750

Chandler & Price Pilot  6 1/2 x 10
Complete but real dirty, no rust, but dirty. Rollers present but need to be replaced. Grippers are missing. Did I mention the press is dirty?
$800

Kelsey Excelsior 6 x 10
Older, square handle model. Needs grippers, rollers and trucks.
$500


Kelsey Victor 6 x 9
 These presses are hard to find but not exactly rare.
Complete except for grippers. New Todd’s Presstime rubber rollers.
$1100

Craftsman 9 x 12
Complete with serviceable rollers
Has wood stand that needs reinforcing. Has counter!
2′ x 3′ footprint.
This press is heavy for a table top press.

$800