Equipment in use at
                Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop

The Excelsior Press Blog

A somewhat frequent update of events at - and new links for the web site of -
the old Excelsior Press Museum Print shop in Frenchtown, NJ

Support Wikipedia

The type we set for Newphew Jared
to print coasters for his friends' wedding

                            Coasters at The Excelsior Press
Coasters Type Form on 8x12

New Blog for 2017

Review past blog pages - 2008-20092010 |   2011  |   2012 | 2013| 2014| 2015| 2016Blog Index


January 1, 2017

Well, another year begins.  Once again, it's not as cold as in years past, but still the new workshop is not ready to use.... Things are moving very slowly..

Although the beautiful concrete slab has been poured - and it has pex tubing installed which I will use to run hot water through to give the new shop very efficient radiant heating, there's still work to do on the roof and the walls are not up.

The new large compressor is now outside and the beautiful new heatable slab looks great, but is not yet serving its intended purpose. I did open up the side window and make a nice wide doorway into the new work shop and find it easy to roll carts in and out. Sometimes I just roll them out to give myself some room to walk around the print shop!. But soon I hope to that roof fixed and the walls up, the 220volt fuse box and power installed, the compressor powered up and the sand-blast cabinet back into place. Then I'll be able to resume restoration work at a more acceptable pace. Right now, it's still a bit slow and clumsy with too much stuff and too little workspace in the shop.

 - but we do have easy access to the type and presses, and have had some fun printing recently...


Heater for Heidelberg WindmillLearned a new trick about how to keep my Heidelberg Ink Cylinder warm overnight in the unheated shop... This rubber pad is sold as an under desk floor mat heater, but does a great job of keeping the ink cylinder warm overnight. It draws less current than a light bulb and it saved me hours of pre-heating the press to reach that magic number of 50 degrees - below which, ink turns to tar...

I also used it on the bed of the Vandercook, where it also kept the bed warm overnight and made printing easier in the morning. For the C&Ps I still pre-heat the ink table, then burn a candle beneath it to keep it warm...

February 6, 2016

Nolan Proof PressStarted on a new little project - a paper clamp system for this nice little Nolan Proof Press that came from Mr. Neice's collection. He had been a typesetter at the old Hunterdon Democrat in the hot metal days and my best guess is that's where this press came from. It's in nice shape, but these newspaper galley presses always have one major drawback for printers these days.

Nolan Proof Press with Paper GripperUnless you find one of the "accessorized" models that come with a paper clamp, there's no way to print anything other than galley proofs or spot prints, which might be okay for some block printers or artists, but for a letterpress printer to really enjoy the benefits of this convenient little press, a method of holding the paper still - and in register for two color work - needs to be added. So I added it. In addition, I made an end bar to block the far end and allow actual lock-ups of forms - without needing to use a chase.

This makes the press far more practical and far more fun to print with... What's shown in these photos is the first prototype. I may disassemble it and cut a thicker piece on a wider base to raise the clamp up to type-high and give the base more stability. But for now, I think this is pretty neat, and I'll certaibnly be doing this for the other galley proof presses that are on deck to be restored....

February 11 -

Ed Zawora with Press & PrintEd Zawora found an old Pfeiffer knock-off of the Kelsey 5x8 and brought it to me for some service and to learn how to use it.

Although most small presses were copied over the years and many knock-offs were made, only Pfeiffer and some supply house in California seem to have copied the 5x8 Kelsey.
And, it is, I must admit, a pretty much part-for-part accurate reproduction with only very minor differences.

What's most interesting about the Pfeiffer
is that it was sold from the same address as Barnhard Printers Supply in Newark New Jersey. Barnhard is where I bought my supplies when I was a kid back in the 60's & 70's, and I just wish that old Elmer Barnhard was still alive so that I could ask him about this press...

Pfeiffer was selling presses and supplies in 1935 and may also be the company that made - or at least sold - a number of portable - possibly aluminum - presses which were made to be easily dis-assembled and re-assembled as needed and were made to fit into a suit case - for airdrop behind enemy lines.

These presses were sent from the US to England during WWII and air dropped to resistance fighters in Holland, Belgium & France where they were used to counterfeit documents.
One of these presses surfaced a few years ago at a museum in Holland. The story was that it had been air-dropped by the British, so they thought it might be an Adana (a similar press made in England) . But it wasn't. It was a 5x8 Kelsey, possibly a clone made by Pfeiffer.

And, Ed's press now includes the new 5x8 9-ply Excelsior Chase Base. No need to set type or use an undersized Boxcar Base, this Excelsior Chase-Base lets Ed simply mount his photo-polymer plate - up to a full 5x8" form - in seconds and get right to printing.

In any case, Ed's Pfeiffer, long un-used and finally sold at an estate sale, is now back together and in operation printing as it was meant to...

Well, it's the end of June already...

June 30, 2017

Well, it's the end of June already
and about time to get back to updating this blog. Tonight I added a new web page - listing videos shot at the Excelsior Press and posted to my YouTube Account. There are more than listed, but at least this is a start on getting organized.

On other news, the new Restoration Workshop addition to the Print Shop is coming along slowly, but coming along nonetheless. The big air compressor and Sandblast Cabinet are already in place. Soon the re-roofing will be done, then the walls and then, when it's dry inside and safe from the elements, I will bring over the milling machine from the old barn and move the machine and carpenter shop tools currently cluttering the print shop into a space of their own - where they belong - so that I can bring in more important stuff - like some type and paper storage cabinets, the Model 4 Vandercook, a proper paper cutter and the print shop's Hammond Glider Trim Saw - and the wood stove for next winter...

It will be nice to have the shop back in order and spend time printing instead of building and to welcome some patiently waiting students who want to learn how to use the 8x1 C&P.

It will still be weeks ahead, but I must admit - I  can hardly wait...

July, 2017

Roofing RampJuly 7 - My friend Chris stopped by to help with the roof, (he's done roofs like this many times before) and we finally have the roof done - and sealed. Even with yesterday's heavy rain, the new workshop stayed totally dry. Now it's time to get back to work on the walls.

Getting this done wasn't easy - and getting the heavy rolls of roofing up ten feet onto the roof while working alone was another challenge - one easily met by using my ladder as a ramp from the bed of the pickup onto the roof. Just wrap a rope around the box, get up onto the roof and easily pull this 50-lb roll of material up to where it needed to be..

Soon, we will be able to move the Shopsmith and Atlas Metal Lathe out of the print shop and into the new shop space, clearing the last of the machine tools from the main shop and leaving only Hamilton Cabinets and Chandler & Price and Heidelberg and Kelsey platen presses, some small proof presses and smaller presses on display in the collection.

And soon, once again, my focus will turn from construction to printing, press repair - making parts and casting ink rollers, press restoration, and teaching folks about Letterpress Printing....

I can hardly wait....

July 15 - The waiting is over... mostly

The roof is done; the new space is dry. The walls are up. The studs are rough-cut 2x6's from the lumber mill across the river in Pennsylvania. The T1-11 exterior siding is in place. A five-gallon can of Red Barn Paint from Tractor Supply is ready to apply....
This new shop is just as strong and as 'old school' as the rest of the building - which was built in 1953 using old rough-cut 2x6 and 4x6 lumber recycled from an old barn in Frenchtown - in 1950.

Most of the machinery is in place - including the large high-capacity air compressor and sand-blasting and paint cabinets, radial arm saw, wood planer, belt sander, 6" Atlas Metal Lathe... And the lighting's being installed today. Next will be the Steel Planer - which will be used to machine brand new chase beds for the little Kelsey presses. Later on, we'll bring the Bridgeport Milling Machine and the Hammond Glider Trim Saw. There may also be room in the shop now for one of the Ludlow Slug Casters... The electrical quote came in a few thousand higher than our budget, so for now, we'll continue to rely on one of the generators to produce the 220v power for the Heidelberg and compressor, but soon...

The paper cutter is now in place in the print shop and there is room now to build some shelves for paper storage and to bring over more type cabinets. The shop is coming together! It is a very exciting time here at the 'new' Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop and the Excelsior Press Museum Restoration and Repair Work Shop.

Stand by for photos, which I'll post as soon as I can get "a round tuit"...

Excelsior Press Fundraising/Presses, parts & supplies Page