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


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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

Cub
                  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. He 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 Press.org" 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


HOME -> DIRECTORY -> PLATEN PRESSES - > KELSEY COMPANY > Kelsey Press Subjects




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 -

ANOTHER NOR'EASTER!!!! 
@#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
 A DAMNED MACHINE GUN!

(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...

T
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
JOB PRINTING

"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


May 22 -

Just came across this entertaining short video of Rick Holdt demonstrating letterpress printing on a sign press. Pretty impressive results... and a pleasant interlude from my own day's work...  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVz1N55C4oM&spfreload=5

And here's another - on Platen Press Makeready - and it's really, really good! Looks like it was done in the fifties... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZeTXsN4IK0


June 18 -

Busy, busy month. Been too busy doing things to report on them...

Paul Mancino, printing on Chandler & PriceWe had our big day at NMIH on June 16 - "Meet the Experts" - where I was the expert for the day and visitors got to see the entire process of setting the type, mixing the ink, pulling proofs, and then locking up the form, setting the gauge pins and actually printing post cards on the treadle-operated old Chandler & Price. Some of the visitors got to print some post cards themselves...

Here, Paul Mancino keeps his hand on the impression throw-off lever as he focuses intently on the platen while the press opens and closes to print another post card. Paul came all the way from Monroe, New York to spend the day at the NMIH Printery, and had a chance to print his own post card keepsakes from the day...

Bob lived through the transitions from hot-metal to digital composition and printing. For him, this was a strep back into a past he was already aware of, but had nver participated in himself - until he came to NMIH...



More photos of part of the group that attended our little presentation/demonstration:

Meet The Expert at NMIH - group 1 Meet The Expert at NMIH - group 2
Paul, left front, observed all of the steps of typesetting, lockup and makeready - and had a chance to hand-feed the C&P as well
Center rear are Bob Bozzay and his wife. Bob set up and mans the print shop at East Jersey Old Town Village.


June 25 Today - exciting news from Frank at NMIH - They are making paper! - Using the 30-foot scale model paper making machine that was built for the Franklin Institute back in the 1930's and restored to operating condition by Frank Sattler of NMIH. This evening, I received a text reporting that they made paper today! Success - after many trials and efforts and adjustments, the machine is now working - making paper that Frank is already printing on at the NMIH Printery in Bethlehem, PA...

June 25-
Hammond Glider Micro Gauge mechanism
Ok. I finally "knocked it out" last night... a short photo-essay page illustrating adjustment of the micrometer side guide on the Hammond Glider Trim Saw - geeky stuff, but hopefully helpful to other Hammond Glider owners....  ../HammondGliderTrimSaws/HBFGR-78Microgauge/index.html




June 26 - Mary Ellen's Shop Apron on Display at NMIHI made a post on facebook the other night - something I rarely do and certainly not often a printing-related post on my personal page. But this one was important, and I wanted as many old friends to see it as possible. Facebook's good for that...

So. Basically, it's this shop apron on the right. This is an apron that Mary Ellen made for me when she worked in the old print shop... about 35 years ago. It's barely worn, but that's because I don't generally wear an apron while working, and this is the one I kept on hand for "dress up" and photo-shoots...

But now it's on display at NMIH as an "artefact on loan" from "the collection of Alan Runfeldt".. Sitting there in the same building that houses mostly items on loan from The Smithsonian or The Franklin Institute (as well as from The Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop, of course...)

I thought it was cool, so I posted it and shared it on my facebook page. And wow, the responses we got! A number of former employees - as well as old friends of the Excelsior Press gave it likes and/or posted some very touching comments. I guess there's a place for facebook in my life after all...

June 28. Fifteen years ago today - June 28, 2003, "Alan Finally Settled Down"... after years of bachelorhood, I finally found the right girl and got married... To "my lovely wife", Cathy... Today is our Fifteenth Anniversary... and she is still putting up with me... ;)  Lucky me; Lucky US!

June 29 -
10x15 C&P at Kutztown Folk Festival
Prepping for tomorrow's big event - The opening day of the annual Kutztown Folk Festival - which is the oldest continually-running annual folk festival in the country.

10x15 C&P at Kutztown Folk FestivalThis year, one of the big attractions will be the 10x15 Chandler & Price and the 5x8 Daughaday Table Top presses - printing Kutztown Folk Festival "Go Dutch" coasters at the NMIH (National Museum of Industrial History) tent.

TV film crew arrives at 10:00 to record the set up. Should be fun.. (and hot!) Barry Mueller of Mueller Letterpress will take the first shift. I'll take over for the 2-8pm shift...

NMIH at Kutztown Folk FestivalFrank Sattler, "The Guy Who Builds Things" at NMIH made the treadle for the C&P as well as the platform for us old printers to stand on as we print...

And where better to locate an old print shop, but right near the tractors and farm equipment displays...

(South-east corner of the fairgrounds, btw - just behind the welcome center.)


June 30, 2018
Matthew Printing Coasters at Kutztown Folk Festival
Wow. Kutztown was fun!
But hot and I must admit, I was pretty darned tired by the end of the day... But we had fun and were very very Sign at NMIH "Printing Press" tent - Kutztown, 2018well received... Here are links to two short videos of our friend Barry Mueller (https://www.facebook.com/muellerletterpress/) printing coasters at the NMIH tent at the 2018 Kutztown Folk Art Festival...  Excelsior Press Video Directory
Coaster printed by Matthew at Kutztown Folk Festival
11-year old Matthew had so much fun printing coasters on the 6x9 Daughaday, that he printed the whole stack of blanks we had on the table!  And I'll bet he never forgets the experience... Same with 6-year-old Samantha who could barely close the press - but she printed her own coaster!
We had visits from old guys who took printing in high school, old printers who'd "been there, done that", and even an old Linotype operator who was thrilled to hear that Frank got the old Linotype running at the museum... a worthwhile visit in every way - and it continues all week!


July 1, 2018 - Letterpress on TV! - regarding interviews at Kutztown...

Just got word...
"story is slated to air on Wednesday, July 4th on the Berks Edition at 5:30pm. Then it repeats and will be on the sunrise newscast the next morning and then again on the Saturday Sunrise newscast from 7 to 9am this weekend. There will also be a facebook tease that will pop up on our WFMZ facebook page sometimes Wednesday afternoon before the story airs.

thanks so much for the pictures!

Karin Mallett
Anchor/Reporter
WFMZ-tv - Allentown, PA
WFMZ Reporter in front of NMIH tent at Kutztown Folk Festival

View short video -  First Kutztown Report on WFMZ
(note Frank Sattler of NMIH with the big press in our tent in the background)

As seen on tvUPDATE: 7/8/18: Apparently, lots of folks saw the long version of this report on WFMZ-tv. Frank & I staffed the tent at Kutztown yesterday and we had quite a few visitors who told us that they had seen us on this report.


July 4, 2018

Bob Bozzay at East Jersey Olde TowneBusy day, today. It started off with me delivering a fresh-cast set of ink rollers for Bob Bozzay's unique Baltimore No. 4 Jobber at his new shop in the village of East Jersey Olde Town in Piscataway, NJ - near Rutgers.

Update 7/7: Although we installed the new rollers on the press - and they at first appeared to solve the problems he'd been having, we also discovered a related problem - one of the roller hooks was not retracting as far as it needed to so that it would hold the roller tight against the form or the ink disk. Bob, a retired mechanical engineer, tackled the problem by removing the complex roller hook assembly and cleaning the tracks. And he did find the problem - debris jamming the troublesome hook mount. He fixed that, and it solved the problem! Now his old press is printing as it should - and as it did for his Dad and uncle when they ran their little print shop in the basement some 80 years ago!

After finishing up at EJOT, I headed out to NMIH in Bethlehem to join Tom Langenfelder and his presentation on Anastatic Printing - as was used in 1840 to produce an exact duplicate of the Declaration of Independence.

Then I spent some time looking over Frank Sattler's shoulder as he fiddled with the now-operational Linotype he just got working - well, mostly. The mats were not sliding down the channel as smoothly as he'd like, so he was troubleshooting the mechanism - a common practice among Linotype operators for 80 years...

Update 7/6 - Frank found and solved the problem - a small cam hanging up the "first elevator". He fixed it and now the Linotype is aligning matices as it should and working like a charm... Next step is to melt some metal and begin casting slugs - which should occur during this coming week...

Kutztown Tent signAnd then, after this already long day - and after racking up over 120 miles on the old red truck,  and visiting two museums, I came back to the shop and found this online... The interview at the Kutztown Folk Festival with Karen Mallet of WFMZ-TV .... Kind of embarrassing to see this skinny old man speaking excitedly about letterpress printing, but Barry looks good even if I appear a bit goofy, so I guess it's real. Check out the video..

July 7, 2018 -

Another exciting day manning the NMIH tent at the Kutztown Folk Art Festival. We had many visitors who told us that they had seen the WFMZ-tv report (see link above) on ourKutztown Tent visitors - with the coasters they printedworking press display.  We got "good press" and it drew more folks to the NMIH tent... We met more folks who quickly became excited about letterpress printing - and many older guys who had learned to print in high school... or had worked as printers in the past  - including a younger woman who had help her dad by hand-feeding his treadle-powered 10x15 Chandler and Price in his own basement print shop when she was a girl... We also met many, many younger folks who had never seen such a machine - and often had to answer the question "what is that machine and what does it do?" (I guess they hadn't seen the sign...). They were interested to learn what it was and what it does and were thrilled to be able to print their own coasters to take home with them...
Kutztown Tent visitors - with Larry and Chuck
Larry and Chuck, who had been manning the tent all morning, graciously stayed way past their scheduled end-of-shift to help out and continue speaking with our visitors...

And here's Frank - who hadn't even been scheduled to 'work' at the tent on Saturday, but stayed all day to help me represent NMIH and show folks how it all worked. Here, he can be seen helping one of the young visitors print her own coaster on the 140-year-old Daughaday Table Top Press. Frank. helping one of our younger visitors to the NMIH tent at the Kutztown Folk Art Festival  print her own coaster on the Daughaday press Many mothers (or spouses) took photos and videos of their own kids (or spouses) printing coasters on the old presses. Although the table-mounted Daughaday was quite popular, and was set up for visitors to "print their own" coasters, I did allow some of the others set a blank coaster in place on the C&P and pump the treadle and throw the impression lever on and off of impression as I held the flywheel and turned it slowly help them get a feel for pumping the treadle.. When the platen opened and the press had stopped moving, I told them to reach onto the platen and remove the now-printed coaster. They were thrilled and will not likely forget the experience any time soon - particularly if their mother, father, friend or spouse was taking pictures - or videos of us as we did it together...

As the crowds began to thin out towards evening and we began cleaning up, we had a rather long visit from a very inquisitive 9-year-old local boy - who spoke with a clear - and thick - and apparently local Pennsylvania Dutch accent - and who was fascinated by how the big press worked - particularly how the treadle powers this 100-year-old 1250-pound cast iron and steel machine. Although I don't think he was actually "bitten by the printing bug" - as so many of our younger visitors appeared to have been during the day, I am certain that he will remember the action of the treadle as it was pumped to turn that big flywheel and make that big old machine operate - with no external source of power...

Alan Runfeldt at the NMIH tent at the Kutztown Folk Art Festival July7, 2018 Kutztown Tent visitors - with the coasters they printed
END OF THE DAY
At the end of the day, when the visitors had all headed home, the sun was heading down and this part of the world began to cool off a bit, we closed up shop for the day. And, although we really enjoyed representing NMIH and showing folks how the old printing presses worked, and really enjoyed the visitors we met throughout the day - and revelled in their excitement and enthusiasm, we were pretty tired - at least I was... and we were both ready to close up shop and head on home... Here's Frank at the tent - and me, too... (click on any of these images to see larger views.)

We also noted - for the record - that positioning the press at the front of the tent - and exposed to direct sunlight and the heat it brought with it, did swell the new rubber ink rollers on the big press so much that we had to repeatedly add black vinyl electrical tape to the rails to compensate for the continual swelling of the rollers in this heat... Of course, on that press, we were dealing with the very delicate adjustment required by the use of the relatively shallow photo-polymer plate. The metal engraving on the Daughaday was cut deep enough that any swelling that may have occured on those smaller 1.25" rubber rollers had no detrimental effect..

And so ends our adventures representing the Smithsonian Affiliate National Museum of Industrial History - and Letterpress Printing - at the 2018 Kutztown Folk Art Festival.

And, now back to our regularly scheduled programmer, or printing, as it were, at the much smaller Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop and Press Restoration Facility... ie. "time for Alan to get back to work! ;)



So much to post; so little time....
A lot has transpired since our return from the big event at Kutztown.


Sunday, July 15 - NMIH

Bob began working on the Fourdriner Paper Making Machine as an intern at The Franklin Institute when he was quite young. Now, he helps other folks make paper on their machines... and helped Frank restore this machine at NMIH.

Here, they demonstrate the press in operation - and make paper which Bob rolls up at the finish end of the operation while Frank monitors the feed at the beginning of the operation. Although the machine is fully autmated, it still needs careful monitoring. Making paper from wet raw pulp is a pretty tricky operation.

But they did it. And they do it... Making Paper at NMIH.


Bob collecting finished paper from the model Fordrinier Paper Making Machine at NMIH
  
Frank Sattler on the Paper Making Machine he restored at NMIH

  



July 15 - Printing on a basic galley proof press can be a pain since inking is an issue and there's just no way to hold the paper in place - until now.

The photo here shows our new Universal Paper Clamp locked up in the form of the Nolan Proof Press at NMIH. Now, the paper can be clamped into place within just a few picas of the actual type form - and now, TWO COLOR prints can be made on this press with excellent accurate register.

Also shown are a set of our new "Proof Press Roller Bearers". (24 point slugs with "Roller Bearer" written on them...) With these in place, it's easy to ink consistently using a hand brayer. Without them, one side tends to ink heavier than the other, resulting in a less-than-desireable print.

These will both be available soon on our Fundraising Page.



Glenn Babecki with his Dad's Kelsey Presses
July 19 -

Glenn Babecki's father had printed with these two Kelsey 5x8s and a nice selection of hand type until his death in 1983. One is a Model N from 1939, the other and new style Model O from 1952. It was interesting to compare these two presses, since we know where their entire history and they came to us fully intact.

Glenn's been holding on to his Dad's printing stuff, since 1983, but never used it himself and finally decided that it was time to sell it to someone who would. Well, we might not use them ourselves here at the shop, but we will certainly put them back into good operating condition - possibly even do a full re-manufacture restoration - and find someone who is looking for a 5x8 - as many folks are these days. I told him not to worry - these presses have an interesting future in store for them...


Nicholas with Right Here Sign
July 20
- Our old friend of the shop, Nicholas was up to visit his folks again over in Pennsy this week, so he made his annual pilgrimage to the Excelsior Press to see what was new since his last visit...

He's been busy teaching and helping out at a number of museums in his area. He's passing on the old letterpress skills that so many folks seek these days. Good for him!

One of the things that caught his attention was this poster that we had printed a few years ago. It's part of a matched set. This one says "Right Here" but points to the left... Some folks get a kick out of the irony, but actually, it had a practical purpose.

Both signs pointed down our lane - one from the west approach to our mailbox, the other viewable from the eastern approach. Printing them was really easy, too, since the engraving that prints the arrow was "mitered for type" as they used to say - the inside was open, so setting type in there was easy and reversing the arrow direction simply meant lifting up the engraving and setting it back down - reversed this time... We used them, and then we just kept them around the shop cause they are fun...



Thursday, July 26 -

At the museum,
we're preparing for ten days of printing during Bethlehem's 35th Annual Musikfest. We'll have the C&P out front of the building and will be printing a mono-chromatic version of the new 2018 Musikfest Poster. It took some work, but Glenn did manage to convert a single-color blob of color into a recognizeable poster of discreet, idenifiable elements. See the transition below:

So. Here's what we began with. When we asked for a monochromatic version for letterpress printing in one color, what we got was the blob of red shown below.

But, after a bit of conversation about the limitations inherent in single-color letterpress printing, we came up with the image to the bottom right.

This one will make for a print-able, read-able and overall effective poster, a very much changed design that still retains an obvious visual relationship to the  original art.

The main issue was to convert some of the reverse-out image areas to black on white and to isolate individual critical elements that help carry the message. The flowers only added "color" to the original, so they are gone, as are many other less important elements of the original color design.
Musifest 2018 Poster - Full Color
Musifest 2018 Poster - First View Musifest 2018 Poster - Final
 
We may also reduce this image to 4x6 and print post cards as well as posters...

July 31
Well, it started out easy enough...
This press was recently restored and only used in the shop and that one time I loaned it out to be used at an outdoor event to print coasters... But it came back pretty much the worse for wear - even my type was smashed! How they did it, I don't know and I don't even want to ask..

But I had a couple in California who have been bitten by the bug and wanted to buy and use this press - now. This summer. I had to get it cleaned up and shipped to them...

I was just going to change a broken gripper arm spring on this press. But the spring had broken off inside of the gripper bar and would not come out. When I tried to drill it out, I was careless and ruined it. So I had to make a new one... So I made a new gripper bar to go with the new spring I had just made...

And the press was dirty - ink everywhere as well as some dirt, dust and general grime from being handled outdoors after sitting exposed  in a print shop for a few months, so I started cleaning it as well. It needed it. I couldn't ship a press like this... Then I noticed some chips on the paint of the handle, so decided to touch them up as well. But as I began sanding around the chipped areas, I noticed that the paint was very thick and the gray primer beneath it just kept making the sanding to prepare for a black touch-up not as I'd have liked it to be.

So I took it off - the whole handle - and took it over to the wire wheel - and removed all of the paint - stripped it back down to bare metal with plans to repaint it. But first, I wanted to figure out why the primered paint had chipped, so I did some tests on the handle - different cleaning prep - mineral spirits, lacquer thinner, acetone... and soap and water as this new high tech primerless paint from Rustoleum suggested. So. One side in this new paint, the other side - divided up into thirds by painter's tape - primed and painted as was normal procedure.

Next day, I took the handle out of the paint booth and tapped it along the freshly painted surfaces - gently, with a small hammer.
Everywhere I tapped the primed & painted side, it chipped. On the other side, however, with this neat new high-tech paint - no chips at all! It was better than the old process and old paints. One light coat, and it covered beautfully. This is Rustoleum's new "Painter's Touch" 2X ULTRA Cover Paint+Primer. Good stuff...

But, at this point, I figured "might as well pull off some more parts, polish the roller hook passages with the wire bristle bore brush from the gun-cleaning kit, spin the hooks themselves through a Scotch-Brite pad to make them sparkle a bit and generally remove and clean up other parts.  I'd had to remove the two mounting on the platen base and the big shaft in front in order to remove the handle, anyway. Might as well clean them up, too.." And, so it went, deeper and deeper into the spiral until the press was pretty much fully disassembled.

5x8 Excelsior Chassis & Parts 5x8 Excelsior Parts
The only new parts required were that gripper arm shaft and gripper arm spring at the bottom of the photo. But the other parts are all cleaned up nicely now, and the press is ready to go back together. But first, back to the wood working shop to make a nice 13x24" 3/4" cabinet-grade plywood base to bolt it to. And then, reassemble the press, level the platen, check the roller height and do some test prints. Then it will be ready to pack up and ship it off to its new (and quite anxious) owners...








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