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

note: images with blue borders can be clicked
to open a larger version with more detail.

Our Wooden Press at NMIH
The Press we made - now at the Museum

New Blog for 2018

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2010 |   2011  |   2012 | 2013| 2014| 2015| 2016 | 2017Blog Index


Special Quick Links - The Prodigal Press Returns  | Extended Roller Bearers | Web Site Updates

January 1, 2018

And so it begins. Another year at the Excelsior Press. Another blog page to add to the last ten years' worth of record of some of what's gone on here over the years. I took a look the other night at the last nine year's posts and found it rather fascinating to recall all that has happened here in the shop over the past 9 years - so many wonderful people, so many neat printing presses... so much effort to move from the old barn here to our new shop - here on our own property...

Nothing of importance has happened yet this year, but the year is just beginning - with many large and small projects lined up. Lots to do... Primary thought tonight is "damn, it's cold!" - yeah. 5-10 degrees fahrenheit. To me, that's cold. Not as cold at the 35 below at Phil's shop up in Saskatchewan, but plenty cold enough for me to complain here in New Jersey...

So, no 2018 news to post here yet... BUT - last night's post - the final posts of 2017 might be interesting to some - including a 4-paragraph compilation of my own life - including what I got into besides printing over the years...

January 2 -

Excelsior Drilling & Machining MasterWell. here's something that should have been in the 2016 blog, since that's when I dug them out of Paul's barn But better late than never, I guess... My friend Paul also collects printing equipment. In fact, he bough the machining and drilling patterns from The Kelsey Company back when they had their auction, many years ago.

The collectoin does not include all parts for all presses, but there are many - for 3x5, 5x8, 6x10 & 9x13 Excelsior Models. This 5x8 body sample is from either 1957 or 1967 - since both dates are on it.

These are not the casting patterns, but are just the samples used for drilling and machining the cast parts. Still, to me, these are a treasure - something actually out of the Kelsey factory - these are the patterns used to drill *your* Kelsey Excelsior (if it's a 5x8 made after 1957) And, they will be quite useful to me as I make smaller replacement parts... Let's see if our friend Pete Wilson recognizes this piece...

January 4

                  Cadet in the Print Shop...Just what every print shop needs - a tractor parked between the Heidelberg and the C&Ps... Rough day today - no printing. Just tractor repairs and snow plowing. We only got 3-4" of snow, but with the wind, some drifts were 6" deep.

At the end of the first pass up our 125-yard lane, I hit the edge of the asphalt where it meets the gravel, and dropped the plow! After hooking up one of the little trailers to haul it back to the garage, I discovered that the locking clips that would normally hold the plow in place had not latched. All it took was a bit of a (big) bump and boom.... plow on the ground, held to the tractor only by the lift arm linkage. Needless to say, what followed was quite a few hours of tractor repair and plow re-mounting.

Now it's attached properly - and will be for the rest of the winter... In fact, now that the New Series 8x12 is at its new home in Queens, NY, we might just use the space where it had been for the past two years to keep the tractor in out of the cold... starts easier that way...

And now, the lane is clear and Cathy made it safely to work at her job as a night-shift nurse...

... and tomorrow's forecast high is 16 degrees fahrenheit at 2:00 pm... But there are only 75 more days til spring! ;)

Jan 6 -

Glovelets keeping my hands functional...27 degrees
                      at my deskBrr... still too cold to work in the shop. Plowed my way through the snow all the way back to the Red Barn yesterday, so that I could walk back there and look for a 5x8 Chase for a guy in Virginia... Didn't get to do that, though. It was too damned cold - and windy - to risk not making it back in the 5-10-degree temps - with a -5 to -10 wind-chill. So. No treks out to the shed until the temps warm up to the 30's in a few days....

Today, *at my desk* - it's only 27 degrees... warming up a bit with the propane space heaters, but not enough to be comfortable here - even with the 6 layers and heavy coat and flannel-lined jeans. I'm still damned cold!

So. Five years ago, I helped out a woman in Wisconsin with some hard-to-find Colonial-era Caslon and some other items to "set type and print like Ben Franklin did."... A few months later, I received a surprise gift from Jane - a set of hand-woven woolen glovelets - possibly like Ben Franklin would wear when setting type in the winter. It was June, so I put them away - but kept them in the same box that Jane had sent them in. For years, they stayed safe in their box - and finally found their way into my "winter clothes" shelf here in the new shop...

Lucky for me, I found them there this week - just where they should have been - and have been wearing them every day during these trying and very cold days... Every time I remove my outdoor winter gloves, I put these on right away. And, while I'm not setting any type this week (the shop is hovering around 30 degrees), I am able to sit down at my computer and type without my hands becoming numb in five minutes as they would without these glovelets..

So. On more "trick to printing in the cold" - if not actually printing, I could set type if I wanted to...

Thanks, Jane. My fingers thank you, my email inquirers thank you - since now I can answer email...

And now it's only 72 days til spring, and it's predicted to get above freezing again about noon on Tuesday.. Let's see how *that* goes... ;)

Jan 9 - Tuesday -

Spring Arrived today! 43 degrees f. Haven't seen temps like this in more than two weeks. We've been in the deep freeze since Christmas! Four more days ahead of 40+ degree weather. It's like spring! Get outside and get some stuff done! ;)

update: This faux spring lasted five days, with temps reaching 60 on Saturday, then it was winter again - but still not so cold as it had been during this winter's deep freeze...

Jan 13 - Saturday. Louis brought me a 6x10 Excelsior he'd been working on and boxes of spare parts and casting patterns. Some of these patterns will be off to the foundry next week for casting new 5x8 Ink Disks, Chases & Chase Beds, as well as some 3x5 Chases and ink disks and chase latches and perhaps some other parts that are ready to be cast. It's time to put some parts inventory on the new parts shelves!

Jan 14 - Sunday. Drove down to Chester, PA today to pick up a little press Daugaday Little Model 2x3I found on Craig's list - an 1880's Daughaday "Little Model" 2 1/2 x 3 1/2" chase platen press. I never even knew they made this model, yet here it is!

More on Daughaday Model Presses

Jan 16 -Barry's Christmas Card

A surprise visit this afternoon from my friend and fellow letterpress printer, Barry Mueller. He hand-delivered this year's Christmas Card - and boy, is it a beaut. Nice, simple layout, perfect inking and impression; a perfect example of nice, crisp letterpress printing. Barry's a printer I look up to. His designs are simple and clean, and his crisp letterpress printing sets the standard that I aspire to...

Barry's Christmas Card - colophonBarry's Christmas Card

Jan 16 - C&P Pilot Press on Student BenchA New page for the web site - a page with links to images and a pdf about the Pilot..

- Also improved organization for other pages about the popular Pilot Press...

C&P Pilot Press on Student Bench

Today, I mounted this Pilot onto a set of oak rails. This makes it much easier - and safer - to move around the shop. At 165 pounds, it's far to heavy for me to pick up any more...

Next, I'll re-mount the feed and delivery boards, check the platen level and then ink it up and check the roller height. Once everything's set to spec, I'll print a few jobs on it. After it passes all of our q.c. and "personal experience" checks, it will be time to build a crate to ship it to its new home in North Carolina... I'm gonna miss having this press here...

And, of course, now I'll have to restore the next one - another Early Series "Thorp" Pilot, made by Chandler & Price prior to 1914... That will be fun, since just the other day, I installed the connections on the compressor so that I can hook it up to the new sand blasting cabinet. Finally, after more than two years in process, I'll be able to sand blast, prime and paint press parts - and then re-assemble the restored press in my new "Excelsior Press Museum Restoration Work Shop"!

But first, I'll have to get this press all tested and checked out, and then build a solid crate for it - similar to the one shown on our "How we crate a Pilot" page...

Jan 18 - A new invention.... and a major announcement...

So I got an order for a set of our great Ipe wooden roller bearers. No big thing, it happens often enough... They are a great fall-back solution to many image problems caused by roller and inking issues. And, as usual, I wrote back and asked about just what specific image problem the customer was dealing with to require roller bearers as the solution.. I like to make sure folks get what they need as well as what they ask for... As it turns out, it was good that I asked because, in this case, there was no specific image problem to solve. The problem was a broken Chase Bed leg... Not serious:
Broken Chase Bed
"Hey Alan!  The real problem I'm trying to solve is that one of the  rail ends on the chase bed appears to have been broken off.  I  probably need a new chase bed, but I was hoping the roller bearer would fix it since I am just printing small images and don't mind losing be 1/4".  Any guidance would be appreciated.  I'm not sure if I can find a new chase bed.  Images attached. - J."

Aha! So there was no image problem, per se. That means that our standard wooden roller bearers - as great as they are - are not really what is called for in this case... In fact, the problem is a broken chase NEW 5x8
                  Kelsey Excelsior Chase Bedbed leg... And, as far as the problem of finding a new chase bed... Well, this is the first big announcement:

After years of promising to make new chase beds for the 5x8 Excelsior, we have done it!

In the image to the left, you can see the first newly-cast and freshly-machined Excelsior 5x8 Chase Bed. Yes. We finally made our first one - with more to come - and relatively quickly now, since we have "broken the ice", so to speak and made our first one. More to follow...

But meanwhile, back to the roller bearer issue and J's broken bed... The break in the bed should not affect the image. This break, however, could cause the rollers to dip a bit as they make the transition up the form and onto the ink disk. This calls for something a bit different.

For years, I have been troubled by one particular problem with the design of the Excelsior. As the ink rollers come up the form, they roll onto the ink disk. However, the angle of this change in direction is pretty sharp - and extends the roller hooks as far out as they can go - and compresses the springs as tightly as they can be compressed. The result is that additional effort is required to "get over the hump", so to speak as the rollers move up and on to the ink disk. It's a pain and is probably the  most annoying thing (well, at least for me ) about printing on a standard Kelsey Excelsior.

Kelsey solved this problem on the 6x10 - twice. The first time was when they adopted the roller mounting system used by Cook on their Victor Press - later sold by Kelsey as *their* first Victor press. That system - seen mostly on Model Q 6x10s used an elbow-spring system, to maintain constant spring tension on the rollers without that annoying load of pressure caused by the two springs and hooks... It worked quite well. So well, in fact, that Kelsey made their own, similar system, which can be seen on some rare 6x10s. (And which we hope to eventually make available to the 5x8s with an easy-to-install aftermarket system... but that comes later...)

The second time they solved the problem, they developed an improved roller mounting system for the last press they made - the Excelsior 6x10 Model X. This system is similar to that found on the C&P Pilot and other bigger platen presses. It worked quite well.

But the smaller presses - the 3x5s and 5x8s were still made using that annoying double-hook system... And I always thought that it could be improved.

Another nice feature of the original Cook's Victor are a set of roller guide rails that go all the way up to the top of the ink disk. Rails like this were used on the C&P Craftsmen presses and on at least one 8x12 that I have seen. I believe I once saw the patent for this feature - issued around 1930 or so... Daughaday presses also used these rails. Kelsey never did - but should have, in my opinion... But their chase bed is removable - and can be used as a lock-up surface, so I suppose there is a trade-off...

Excelsior Extended Roller BearerBut I wanted to find a solution for the smaller presses as well. And now I have it!

The Excelsior Extended Roller Bearer is designed to first, serve as a Excelsior Extended Roller Bearer installedstandard roller bearer to help the rollers roll over even the smallest of type forms to eliminate slur. It locks up on the form just like any other roller bearer, and is in fact fashioned on the simple steel bearers sold by Kelsey, Chandler & Price and others.

But in addition, our new *Extended Roller Bearer" design offers additional support for the rollers as they roll up the form and transition onto to the ink disk. You can see the extension sticking up in the image to the left. It helps the roller get up onto the ink disk... whether or not the chase bed leg is broken....

AND, in doing so, it also minimizes the effort required to "get over the hump". It makes the press run more smoothly! I've only made one prototype so far and only tested it briefly, but it works so well that I will make a matching bearer and do some more intensive testing. But at this point, I am very, very excited at the possibilities of the new Excelsior Extended Roller Bearer system... more to follow...

Mon, Jan 22 -

Setting the Pilot to the best height for printing

24" ferom the floorWell. I got the Pilot safely moved from the cart onto the student workbench, but then discovered that it was still too high to operate comfortably, so I did some testing with the lift-cart and discovered that the ideal height for me to operate this press was 24" from the floor. The Student Cabinet I have is only 24" from the floor - when it is NOT on the big dolly that lets me move it around the shop. But that nice, large-wheeled dolly also raises the work surface another 6" - which is OK for the Kelseys, but not so good for the much larger Pilot. The grip at the top of the Pilot handle, for example is a full 36" from the base. When the press is mounted on a 36" work bench, that puts the top of the handle a full six feet from the floor - okay for tall folks, perhaps, but not for a short guy like me...

Pilot on small type cabinetSo I went out to the "Type Shed" and found this nice little 24" high type cabinet - which places the Pilot at just the right height for me to operate...

The lift cart let me easily slide the press from the Student bench onto it for height testing, then onto the 24" tall type cabinet for printing.

Finally. Now I can do the test prints, (& get myself some new cards and calendar pages and samples for the presses new owner) and then begin building the crate that will protect this press on its way to its new home...

...In a hopefully warmer clime, some 700 miles down south...

Wed - Jan 24

I just spent well over an hour unpacking a very safely packed 5x8 press that was shipped to me from Toronto. although the carton was burst from mishandling, the press was so well protected that nothing happened to it. But it did take me over an hour to unpack it. All of that effort gave me a lot of time to consider alternative ways of safely packing a 5x8 for shipping.

Then I recalled my last visit to Gene Mosher before he passed away.  Gene was the last owner of The Kelsey Company, having taken over from his father-in-law, Glover Snow in 1958... Gene had kept the last 3x5 they built - and it was packed up in their normal shipping carton - all done with corrugated carton board. And it was stable. Kelsey shipped their presses all around the world for nearly 100 years. I think they had a better way than we do these days.

I'll be packing a 165# Pilot this week and will build a wooden crate for it. But I have a new idea of how to easily stabilize it within the crate. I'll be posting photos of that crating job - as well as photos of my new (Kelsey's old) idea on how to safely package a smaller (65#) press for successful shipping anywhere in the world...

photos and updates to follow...

Wed, Jan 31 -

Sigwalt Chicago No.11 Table Top Platen PressOh, so cool...  I just got off the phone with Paul, up in Goshen, NY. He had listed a small press for sale on Craigslist; I saw it. I bought it. It arrived last week and is a beaut. A Sigwalt Chicago No. 11.

And, in the chase, I found the last form printed on this press, so many years ago. The type had been set for a business card, well-justified and still locked tight in the chase. And, the type looks good. I decided to put a new roller on the press, ink it up and print this card. So I googled the name on the card and found that the card was for an attorney in Goshen, NY. I still don't know how long ago it was printed...

So then I wrote Paul back to inquire more into the history of this press and did he know of the attorney whose card was in the press?

Yes, he did, indeed know the attorney, and in fact got the press from him when Paul and his wife bought the attorney's house some 30 years ago - when the attorney, who eventually became a judge, was 90 years old... Who knows when he printed those cards for himself???  In any case, we'll be printing some for fun - and to share with Paul and his wife who feel as though this press found its way to a good home in our collection.... And I agree! ;)

Our new "Antiques Shelf"
- with the Sigwalt Chicago No. 11 in the top left corner - next to the mortar shell I brought back from Vietnam in 1970, and the recent addition to the collection - a very rare Daughaday "Little Model" 3x5 press that turned up in south Philly - not far from where it was made possibly 100 years or more ago... On the top right shelf is the smallest press I have ever seen. It is a real "rail" style platen press - a Baltimore Printing Press Number 4. Only problem is it can't take .918" type, with a chase only 5/8" deep...

That odd-looking device with the little flywheel, handle and pulley is not printing related. It's just something I stumbled upon at an auction and got for $3 - not even knowing what it was. But it looked interesting and, after a little tlc and oil, I got it working quite well. The handle drives the flywheel, the flywheel drives a chain around the shaft, which turns the pulley. Now, all I need is something to hook it up to. For now, it's just fun to play with... to turn the crank and watch the puller rotate at high speed...

To the left of the little wheel machine, are some large pieces of wood type and some large engravings - in particular the "Bucking Bronco Cowboy" engraving. This is one of our favorite prints - dozens of visitors have gone home with their own copies. This engraving was found in a box of spare parts that came with a press I picked up years ago. The plate was bent, the base was separated, and it basically looked like junk. But I decided to see if I could rescue it.... I flattened the plate, re-glued the separated pieces of the base, nailed the engraving plate back onto the wood and basically brought it back to life - and I'm sure glad that I had the foresight and took the time to do it. This is one of our favorite engravings... along with the one my brother gave me years ago which says "Quality of Product is Essential to Continued Success"... good advice.

Antiques Shelf at Excelsior Press

Wed, Jan 31 -

Calendar Page printed on Pilot PressWell, I learn something new every day... There is a place for soft packing when printing with metal type - like, for example, when printing with a 36 point calendar font with lines around the numbers and all. It makes for a large form - approx. 5x8 - large enough to print against a very soft packing without punching the paper too hard.

The image to the right does not do the print justice, but take my word for it - or click the link to see a larger image - the print came out well.

The form uses a 36 point calendar font (less the #6) with some very worn 36 point Sans Serif font that came with an old sign press. Believe me, that font is worn...

And this form did not print well with the normal packing of 3 sheets of oiled paper, two sheets of coated book paper and 2 sheets of bond. I was about to tear into it and do some serious make ready after I'd leveled the platen, but while leveling the platen, I considered the new owner will be using this press to print wood engravings - which are commonly printed with plenty of soft, fluffy packing between the wood and the platen or cylinder that is applying the pressure.

So I tried something new... I backed off the platen an additional 1/8" and cut a piece of coaster board to fit as packing - thick, soft, fluffy coaster board. I would never have done this for type, but I was thinking about the wood engravings and not this form. I had to print this form anyway - to test the level of the platen. I was quite surprised when I got this pretty near perfect print right off the bat. The soft packing did a fine job of bringing out the image, but did not cause the metal type form to punch through the paper. And, it did not require much pressure at all to get a good, solid print.

So. The old dog learned a new trick today....

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The second month of 2018 begins
- already. It's shaping up to be a good year. So much has been accomplished in the new workshop, so many presses and parts have finally been organized, most of the machinery is in place and working and, although I still need to bring over the Bridgeport Milling Machine and the Hammond Glider Trim Saw, and set up the band saw(s) (one for wood, one for steel), the roller casting station is done and usable, and there are fewer and fewer "obstacles to production" than there had been for the past 2-3 years. It really is pretty exciting to be back to work in a meaningful way...

Of course, there's also the Vandercook #4 Proof Press. Since Roberta's SP15 is now at its new home at Old Dominion University, I've been getting by with this nice little Nolan proof press, but it can't hold a candle to the Model 4. I need my proof press!!!

Oh yeah - and the old American-made Upland (Jotul-clone) wood stove is set in place and only waiting for the chimney stack to be put through the wall and connected... Soon, I will not have to rely on these little propane space heaters - and the $19/tank to fill them each - that's $38 nearly every other day! I have acres of woods - plenty of downed trees - good cherry and other wood - to burn, so soon our "heating system" will be augmented by a wood stove - using as local a fuel source as can be.

The really good news is that it's up to 40 degrees outside, which made it easy to warm the shop to 50-60 - warm enough for printing or anything else that needs to be done in here... And, spring is now only 47 days away!

Wrapping up the test printing on the Pilot today. I had fun last night printing calendar pages and two-sided coasters. In fact, I kept looking for different papers to print on. It was fun, but this letterpress printing can be addictive at times. I didn't close the shop and head in to the house until after 3:00 am! ;)

Next, it will be time to crate this press. I have some ideas about the crating... Since the optimum height (for me) of the bench for a Pilot would be 24", and since the crate will be just about 24" high, and since the crate needs to be very, very strong.... Perhaps it could be built to not only safely house the press in transit, but also to serve as the mounting bench when the press gets to its new home. Richard has already built a nice 35" high work bench, but I suspect that might be a bit high for comfortable printing. This will give him an option.

I also plan on trying a new idea I had for stabilizing the press in the crate... Rather than frame it out with 2x3s or 2x4s as I have done in the past, I'm designing a plywood "collar" that will fit around the press and come right out to the sides of the crate. Kelsey shipped their presses around the world for about a hundred years, and at the end, their shipping container was simply a double-walled carton with a cleverly designed insert of corrugated board that held the press in place. Seems like a good idea. Of course, the cost of die-cutting corrugated board for inserts is prohibitive, but I believe that the same goal can be achieved using a 1/2" plywood collar.

I'll update with photos showing what I described above - as soon as I have one cut out and available for photos...

February 9, 2018 - Friday

A very exciting day for this old man in his little print shop in rural New Jersey... The Prodigal Press Returns!

Loading Crew of BB Props, Little Falls, NJ - with the Prodigal PressThe story begins four years ago, when we were asked by our friend Emilano of Brendan Bri Props (Newsies) - to supply "the sort of printing press that would be found in a printing office in England - around 1750 or so"... It would be used as a prop in the Broadway Musical, Amazing Grace.

None were to be had for less than $30,000, so the answer was to fabricate a screw-drive reproduction of a Wooden Common Press. see: blog.2014.html#aug 
  • Aug 6 - Ben Franklin's Press &
  • September 17 - Deadline met - "Last Pull"
The press was built in two months and ready on deadline. Then it was picked up and sent off to the theatre, where it performed marvelously, but otherwise had not been heard from for nearly four years...

And then, a few weeks ago, I received an email from Karel van der Waarde in Belgium. She is putting together a Worldwide Census of Wooden Common Presses and wanted to include the one we built. But where was it? Last we had heard, the show had closed and it was in a warehouse somewhere.  Our new friend Seth Pilipski of BB Props took it upon himself to find this press and return it home.

Which he did. He found it,
had it picked up and returned to their Little Falls, NJ warehouse and Friday morning we received a phone call "Your press is here. Will you come pick it up?"

Alan, Thanking Seth for his effortsAn hour later, I was on my way to their warehouse with a trailer behind the truck, for the most exciting press move I ever went on.... The Wooden Common Press - coming home like the Prodigal Son! The Prodigal Press - back in the barn again...By 8:00 pm, it was back in the barn...

And it looks none the worse for wear.  A little tlc and I will begin doing some test printing on it - something we simply didn't have the time for when it was literally pulled out of my hands and loaded on the truck, heading to stardom so many years ago.

And, the first display for this prop-turned-museum-piece is expected to be at a the National Museum of Industrial History where we expect it to be placed right in front of the mural depicting this same model press.

After that, it may go on loan to the Washington's Crossing State Park Visitor's Center

But in any case, it will soon be a "printing" press and from now on, we will keep close track of it!!!

Thursday, Feb 16 -

Frank, Tara & Andria - visiting from NMIHHad a visit today from Frank, Kara and Andria -
from the new National Museum of Industrial History - an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute located at "The Stacks" on the grounds of the former Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, PA.

They came, we chatted a bit and got to know each other. We went across the road to the farm to see the Wooden Common Press and... as hoped for, they were impressed. It looks likely that it will be on display at their museum this spring and summer and that we'll be working together while they/we present their May-October display about printing in America...

Tuesday, Feb 20 -

Fun with Coasters - Stephen Daye Press -  NMIHOne of the things we discussed last Thursday was printing some coasters for the museum. Well, as it turns out, I just happened to have this classic old engraving of the Stephen Daye Press (compare with our press in photo above) - And, the engraving was just the right size for coasters.... So I made some for myself - with only "Excelsior" Imprinted. But then I felt a bit selfish, so I changed the text to read "NMIH Bethlehem" and printed some for them as well....

Postage Stamps showing Stephen Daye Pressupdate: 3/1:

It appears that we have more than one engraving of this popular "Stephen Daye" press - better known as "Wooden Common Press" press image in our collection - even some Ludlow Slugs cast for us by our friend Dick Goodwin. Those are smaller, with an 18 point image...  And, we just found - and purchased - a set of 3 mint-condition US Postage stamps that show the same style press as well.

Wed, Feb 28 -

Found an interesting link in my letpress feed yesterday... - from a member who uses the nickname "Tacitus".. He reports an organization dedicated to listing printing museums in Europe. The Association of European Printing Museums I was amazed. There seem to be 200-300 museums dedicated to - or a least focused on - printing... It also includes museums in the U.S. Quite a list. Seems like any country you may travel through will have something of interest to printers...

Thursday, March 1 -

Well, spring is coming. Still some chill in the year, and suggestions of more snow - but only a tease. Winter, as we knew it these past few months - is going away. Ground temperature is maintaining a respectable 50 degrees, which means soon it will be time to begin dedicating part of our day to gardening. And, this year, we plan on getting things started early - so that we can enjoy some early harvests. Yes, spring it is. And about darned time...

Saturday, March 3 -

Website updates: I've just finished linking most of the Kelsey-related pages to each other - and a whole list of platen press subjects. Most of the new pages also have a navigation bar at the top left to help the visitor navigate through the site. This site has needed that for years. It grew too carelessly - wasn't planned as well as I taught others to plan their sites. I kept thinking that "some day, I would fix this."

But that time has come. I have begun. The new directory includes links to important sections - more to be added, of course, but it's better organized than the old index.inner.html - which is still there, but superceded by the new directory.  The new Platen Presses page and directory are coming along well, with links to information about different platen presses and their manufacturers. The Kelsey Company pages are now pretty well linked to each other, which should make finding information easier, and casual reading convenient.

Here's the new typical navigation bar - set at the top left of all recently-edited pages


Wow! I just discovered a Google feature that will give you a full image catalog of every photo on this web site.

Here - try it: Google EXCELSIOR PRESS Image Catalog This is pretty handy. I just used it to remind myself just what's on this old web site. It's been around for about 20 years now, with 9 years of active blogging. It's becoming a resource. Use it! ;)

Google Image Catalog for Excelsior Press

Another link - to see all the 264(!!!) pages on the site in one rather long - but searchable - list... is this one - Google EXCELSIOR PRESS Web Site Pages List

Sorry, folks. Looks like my site is not "mobile friendly". Well, *I'm* friendly. Now I gotta make my web site more friendly, to, eh?....
Maybe it's too old to be friendly... hmm... It was friendly in the past. It didn't change... The world changed... interesting....

Am I getting too old to be friendly? I hope not. But times change. Maybe some people who expect faster responses mistake a slow old man with being an unfriendly old grouch... i wonder?

March 21 -

@#q$# This is the fourth in 3 weeks!!! And, every time these things blow in, they bring snow - LOTS of snow... More than I really have time for. On 3/2, we had a "last snowfall" of 4" (not bad). But on 3/2, we had 12", today, we hit 11" at 6pm and it's not stopping!

I've had to neglect the shop and all of the folks waiting (ever so patiently) for presses, parts or supplies and instead have had to spend yet another full day out on the trusty old Cub Cadet (with 14 hp and a 3' blade) , clearing the 125-yard-long lane as well as the 10x50 yard parking area and some trails across the yard to the sheds.  And, then, I had to climb out onto the shop roof again and remove that heavy, wet spring snow from the roof. Now I have impassable drifts outside the side door.

Update: 3/22 - Blue sky and sunshine today. A nice day to do cleanup of all the snow piles hastily pushed "out of the way" yesterday. But now it's begun melting and there are rivulets of water coursing through my little swales and ditches, heading down to the creek...

Update: 3/24 - just heard on the radio that the snow storms of March, 2018 may have set a record for most snow in March - going back 40 years or more.... more than 20" and 11 days of snow... Yeah, spring did seem a bit late in coming...

But it's sunny today, with skies of bright blue... and much of the 12" of snow we dealt with on Wednesday has melted away.

And NEXT WEEK - 55 degrees and sunny!!!! It's about damned time! I've got work to do....

March 24 - Student Protests - "March For Our Lives"

As a gun owner in a rural community where the sound of hunting rifles and pot shots is not uncommon, I tend to shy away from this gun debate a bit... but I guess that's actually shirking my duty as a citizen.

So. Here I am, taking a stand - not against all gun ownership, but certainly against the violence and mayhem made much more likely due to the proliferation of automatic weapons - especially, but not limited to those in the hands of people who simply cannot be trusted with them. We grew up with guns in the house - on an open gun rack in the living room, in fact, and we learned to respect them. No one ever expected that anything would ever be needed beyond a shotgun and a .22...

I carried an M16 for a year while serving in Vietnam. It was an automatic weapon and would fire on fully automatic like a machine gun... But that was in a combat situation in the jungle - not in my home town in America...

And, yes. I was only 20 years old at the time - but I had been trained in the safe use and care of my weapon. I had military training and that makes a difference. Kids - even 20-year-old kids - should not have access to such weapons without close supervision and intense military training in their use and care.

So, in honor of those brave kids taking to the streets today.... in protest of our elected leaders' sellout to the NRA and the greater gun lobby, I have a new idea for a bumper sticker to put on the back of my pickup truck - and for my dump truck with the Easy-Rider gun rack:

I love my guns, but I don't need

(and I don't want you to have one, either)

Sorry, if the wording is crude, but the subject is filled with crudeness and strong words carry more impact...

April 25, 2018Wooden Common Press at NMIH- Big Day today...

oday I delivered "The Prodigal Press" to it's new temporary home at the National Museum of Industrial History - a Smithsonian-Affilliate Museum on the grounds of the old Bethlehem Steel Plant in Bethlehem, PA.

The story begins with the return of the prodigal press" (Feb 9 post, above). This is a Wooden Common Press that master woodworker Paul Nichols and I built about four years ago. It was precisely built based upon plans we got from The Smithsonian (by way of Harris/Sisson's book on the reproduction of Ben Franklin's press by the Smithsonian in 1984.)

The press is an authentic Wooden Common Press - as was used throughout the world from about 1600 to about 1800. It is now on display at NMIH, and I am very, very proud. For me, this is perhaps the highlight of my career. The previous highlight of my career was four years ago, when we built this classic printing press.

It will be on display at NMIH from May-October, 2018 as part of their new installation: "Hot off the Press: Papermaking and Printing" On Friday night, it will become the center point of the Supporters and Sponsors Reception and Preview from 6-8 pm. After that, it will be a regular part of the display - at least until October, 2018. Once inside, it was placed directly in front of the 6' tall mosaic of the Stephen Daye Press - rescued from the walls of the Bethlehem Steel Printing Plant.

I recently came upon this old drawing of the printing room at the Plantin Establishment in Antwerp, Belgium circa 1550.  The Plantin Press at Antwerp was one of the focal centers of the fine printed book in the 16th century.

On the left are the Gutenberg-style presses of that era. Note the bracing of each press against the ceiling beams, and the banks of type cabinets on the right side of the room. Every letter of every form printed on these presses was hand-set, one letter at a time.. and on the presses, every sheet was hand-fed, every form was hand-inked before each hand-pulled impression...

Note also the large windows, allowing plenty of light into the composing area as well as the printing area.
Plantin Press Room, Antwerp, Belgium
click to see larger image

April 27, 2018

My neighbor Andy called me today to see how I was. He hadn't seen a blog post all month and was a bit worried about me. But I am fine. I have just been unbelievably busy this month - mostly preparing for tonight's big event.

But, as of tonight, the biggest, perhaps most important project of my career is completed.... It monopolized my time for more than just the past month, but during April, it seemed to be the only thing I focused on - and now it's completed and I can begin to catch up with some rest and begin to fulfill some promises that I must keep - supplies orders, parts to make, presses to restore - all that daily routine I've been enjoying so much since I got the new shop "pretty much" equipped and "pretty much" organized...
NMIH Print Shop
Tonight, I spent the evening printing on a hand-fed, treadle powered Chandler & Price - which I do quite often here at the shop. But this time, I wasn't at the shop. I was at the National Museum of Industrial History, demonstrating Letterpress Printing to a crowd of museum donors and supporters at the Reception and Preview of their new display about Printing and Paper Making. It was quite an evening....

In the background of this photo is the working scale model of a paper making machine that was comissioned for the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia back in the 1930's. It is now out of storage and Museum Preparator Frank Sattler of NMIH is putting it back into service. He was fortunate enough to have found a man who actually operated this functional paper making machine when it was on display at Franklin Institute - and who knows many of its secrets.... Soon, we hope to be making paper and printing on it at the museum...

Ed Davis' name set in Composing StickAlso added to the display were some precious artifacts from our own archive: The 18" Brass Line Gauge given to me by my friend Richard Brodney - from his own collection - in 1974. Also on display is a simple composing stick with the name of Ed Davis set in the stick. Two years ago, I helped his son and widow find a new home for Ed's Print Shop. As part of the arrangement, Mrs. Davis gave me Ed's collection of printing text books, some interesting engraving and some type - which I used to set his name for a label on the book case which now holds this precious library. I thought it fitting to include this little artifact in the display....

So. Photos of this evenings event will follow, I hope. I was a bit pre-occupied and didn't take any myself, but I have been told that photos were taken. Let's just hope that I get some good ones to share with you.

And tomorrow, I get back to work and catch up on all of those promises left unkept as I focused so closely on being prepared to help my new friends at NMIH make this evening's Preview and Reception a success.

I think we did.

Long day. Exciting Day. Time for a break, and then to get back to the routine I have been enjoying here for so long... and the relaxing pace, which, quite frankly, I have missed...

P.S. While we're on the subject of "Colonial Era Printing", here's a great article published by the Anitiquarian Book Sellers of America - the ABSA

April 28 - 7:00 am
Hammond Glider Trim-o-Saw Model BGR78
Back to the shop today
, now it's time to get to work cleaning up the Hammond Glider Trim-o-saw model BGR78 that we now have set up and operating in the new shop. This is a big deal, since I use this saw to produce many of the items I supply to other printers. Not only do we trim wood furniture to make our furniture font kits - and leads and slugs for our lead & slug font kits, but I also use this saw when manufacturing the Excelsior Chase-Base and Ink Roller Bearers and other items - which now will go back into production to fill some long-standing orders.
7x11 Golding Pearl

We are also working on this beautiful old 7x11 Golding Pearl No. 11 - which we will put back into service and print with here in the shop until someone comes along who wants it enough to pay the selling price of ... tbd...

I will be casting new rollers for it and adding a treadle and an ink fountain. I've already worked on the feed boards and some other minor items. Once I cast the rollers and mount the treadle, I will begin printing with it. This press will be a joy to use - for me and for whoever might come to try it, buy it and take it home with them...

(No worries;  I have another in the barn to take its place once this one finds its new home...)

May 2, Princeton, NJ

Compsing room - PrincetonI spent the day in Princeton in a beautiful little studio at the home of a professor of literature who already knew how to set type but now knows how to lock up the type that she sets, set the gauge pins easily and accurately  and then print the text on her like-new Kelsey Excelsior Model X.

The photo shows what must be the most beautiful non-Hamilton type cabinet/work bench that I had ever seen. Next to it is an equally impressive - gently cleaned and oiled, but not actually refinished - original Hamilton 2/3 sized cabinet with sloping type bank.

The presses are a beautiful Kelsey Excelsior Model X and a nice-looking, but effectively non-functional orange 9x12 Craftsmen Monarch press which will need some serious work to make it usable...

More on that story as it develops...

Dorman Baltimore No. 4 Job PressMay 4 -

Had a nice visit this afternoon with Bob Bozzay - who also began printing when I did - back in the mid 1960's - in the shop his father and uncle had already operated for thirty years - since they were boys.  But. The press he printed on is one I had never heard of before - a very rare Baltimore No.4 Jobber -

The press is going back into regular service now and needs a new set rollers.  They are an uncommon size, but we can cast him a set. The last set of rollers he has on it were made about thirty years ago...

Now it's time to freshen up this old press and prepare it for display in the museum at East Jersey Olde Towne in Piscataway, NJ  - an historic village made up of a collection of salvaged old buildings from around Middlesex County, NJ

It will be on display as a working shop in a building near Farley's Blacksmith Shop

Bozzay Brothers - Job Printers since 1929
Robert Bozzay's father and uncle started a printing business in their basement in 1929. -

Bozzay Brothers

"Printing that Pleases"

The press they began with was this Baltimore No.4 Jobber - a pretty much full-sized press with a big flywheel and a treadle...

... and one rarely seen today - and not to be confused with the similarly named, but very small  Baltimore No. 4 Rail Press

Bob reports that they got the press in 1929 and it may have been sold to them by The Model Press Company in York, PA. That would be interesting...

update: Bob will be presenting the new Print Shop at East Jersey Olde Towne this coming Sunday, May 20 .
EJOT is in Johnson Park, 1050 River Road in Piscataway. Very near Rutgers Stadium. 

May 8 -
Students viewing Common Press at NMIH
Frank sent me this photo of the press surrounded by students visiting NMIH.

Now, this is what the press, the display and the museum in general is all about...

A new generation actually seeing - and touching - a working printing press just like the one that Steven Daye, Ben Franklin and countless other American, British and European printers used from about 1600 all the way into the middle of the 19th century.

Although by 1800, the Wooden Common Press had basically been replaced by the more modern Iron press, they were still being built, sold and used all the way into the 1830's - and perhaps later.

This press was built in 2014, but is essentially the same as any other Wooden Common Press built between 1600 and 1830...

We no longer refer to this press as "a reproduction of Ben Franklin's Press" as much as simply a Wooden Common Press just like the one that Ben Franklin had used in England - it was just built in 2014 instead of 1725... but its construction was based upon plans that had been used to reproduce The Smithsonian's "Ben Franklin Printing Press"...  so they do have that in common....

And, to prove that this is a working printing press, Frank has been using it to do some printing - of an old form found in their C&P when they acquired it...

Tuesday, May 15 -
Rebecca Printed Coasters on the C&P
Had a great visit with Rebecca and Marvin from the Union County Historical Society Museum in Union County, Georgia... Marviin learned how to move a large Chandler & Price - easily and safely using only a bottle jack and two pieces of pipe - and Rebecca learned how to use the C&P for demonstrations once Marvin safely moves their press to its new location in the museum...

Rebecca was very relieved to learn that there was no need to "know math" to center a line of hand-set text - just fill out the empty space in the line, then physically divide the spacing used to put one half in front, the other half at the end of the line and voila! A perfectly centered line - no math or measuring required.

It was a quick visit, but we covered a lot of ground - Rebecca learned to hand-set foundry type, (centered), how to lock up the form, set the gauge pins, ink up the press, print and then wash up the press... And then we got them back to the bus depot up on Clinton in time to catch the bus and return to NYC and their flight home to Georgia.

May 18 -
Meet The Expert - at NMIH
Just got the ego-swelling flier from NMIH - I guess they think I know what I'm doing with an old platen press, since they've enlisted me as the "expert" for their "Meet The Experts" presentation in June...

Actually, it will just be me setting type and printing on the old C&P - not terribly exciting for anyone who's ever set hand type or used a full-sized C&P - or visited the shop to see it done here, but for folks who have not seen this operation before - or perhaps even for folks who may have seen the procedure at some time in their own distant past - it should be fun.

- Especially considering the great response we had from the visitors who attended the invitation-only "Reception and Preview" presentation at NMIH on April 27... (above)
click here -> to see full-sized .pdf file


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