Choosing your First Letterpress

Choosing a suitable press has been another steep learning curve for me and as presses for letterpress are no longer manufactured its not a simple matter to find one either. I want to progress my printing ideas on 2 ways, firstly smaller (notecard) size items and secondly larger (up to A3 size) posters/art, incorporating both linocut and wood/metal letterpress type and /or photopolymer/magnesium plates.

After much online research and chats with helpful printers it seems like the Adana 8×5 would be a great little first press. Good for multiple runs, self-inking, fairly easy to source, not to expensive and parts easily available, but it wont handle the larger scale stuff.

Adana 8x5

I also considered nipping and bookbinding presses, standing screw platen relief presses, floor-standing Model hand platens, cylinder galley proofing presses (Vandercook), table-top flat bed platen presses (Albion, Columbian) and even intaglio (etching) presses. For larger scale work trying to get the the plate ‘biting’ into the paper for a tactile impression needs the pressure capability of a bigger machine (like an old Albion ~ something my budget won’t stretch to even if I could find one). The Briar Press website discussion pages are a ‘fount’ (ha-ha) of printmaking knowledge and it has several threads on adapting an etching press (greater pressure using a roller) to print relief work (without damaging metal type or squashing plates), so this might be my solution.

So, for now I think I will be starting with the Adana. Small ads in the printmaking journals are good to watch, but you have to be quick. I have been outbid now on ebay a few times for an 8×5 but perhaps this has been fortuitous. Most of the ebay sellers are not printers and I have no real idea what condition the presses are in and whether they are in good working order. I feel I have enough to learn without adding refurbishing a press to my list of skills to be mastered! Caslon bought the rights to the Adana company in the 1980s and sell beautifully refurbished presses in perfect working order, however somewhat over my budget. So the search continues…

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3 thoughts on “Choosing your First Letterpress

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