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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Printing Calendars on the 8x12
                              C&P at The Excelsior Press
Printing Calendars on the 8x12 C&P

New Blog for 2018

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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

                  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 -

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.

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...


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