Equipment in use at
                Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop
The Excelsior Press

Blog - 2019

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

Kelsey Presses at Excelsior Press Museum
Kelsey Presses - all common sizes
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New Blog for 2019

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January 8, 2019 -

Well, so it begins.
Another year begins at The Excelsior Press Museum Print Shop.

But this year won't be like last year - not so much is likely to happen in the print shop this year. Due to extenuating circumstances and family commitments and obligations, I have had to make a decision between my family's needs and those of the Letterpress Community.

As you might have guessed, the family won out. Accordingly, I am cutting back my "shop hours" to a great extent. And, although I will likely be "in" for a few hours each day - to complete current projects, keep existing promises and ship parts and supplies for which orders have already been placed, I will be avoiding - as much as possible - any new projects.

I may not be able to respond promptly to emails and messages, so please accept my apology in advance of your query.

I already have 6 presses in the process of restoration and a number of orders of type cases and cabinets to ship and many ink rollers to cast, but beyond that - and hopefully restocking some of the "Things we make here", please don't expect me to be able to respond - even to simple inquiries - as quickly as I would like.

This may change as time goes on, so be assured. I am "OK" - just overwhelmed with a variety of things which need my attention at this time. As my time frees up, I will be back in the shop, printing, making parts, restoring presses and filling orders for supplies. - and I will happily post announcements here.

- Alan



February 12 -

So. The dust is beginning to settle on some of the larger issues that faced me last month, but there is still a lot of catch-up to do, so we're still unable to respond promptly to inquiries. But we are beginning to catch up.

Watch this space for continued updates as we begin to get back to work on a more productive schedule....


February 17 -

Well, I may not be doing much here in the shop, but one of our friends just had a nice spot on NJTV News - https://www.njtvonline.org/news/video/step-back-in-time-to-this-historic-villages-revolutionary-roots/

Our friend Bob Bozzay set up the print shop at New Jersey Olde Town Village in Piscataway, NJ  last year using his father's unique old press - an actual and very rare Baltimore Jobber #4 from the 1800s - which he brought out of the basement and set up in one of the old buildings at New Jersey Old Towne Village.

We are honored to have cast the ink rollers used on his old Baltimore Jobber. These were custom-cast to fit his press using 20-durometer polyurethane rubber - with a shelf life of more than ten years and a softness and tack as only found on the old composition rollers  that printers always preferred for hand-fed platen presses, but which are no longer available.

Since Bob is a printer AND a blacksmith (and a retired engineer, etc...), in  this short news video, Bob is shown at the forge while his print shop apprentice, Rachel Lee, represents the printer at New Jersey Old Towne.

New Jersey Olde Towne is open all year, and close to Interstate Route 287 for easy access, so if you would like to see the only working Baltimore #4 Jobber that we are aware of, stop by for a visit. (You may want to check the print shop schedule first.)

February 22 -

Press Parts ready to paintWell, not only has the dust settled, and the snow stopped, but we are getting back to work - currently finishing up the long-delayed restoration of a small press for UPenn to use in their traveling exhibit about Walt Whitman. There is still a lot to do, but this press had been expected in December. Events overtook us and we had been unable to work in the shop since December. But now we are back - and loving it.

This restoration, btw, has some new features added to it. Two of them - the radiused chase corners and the oil slot for the ink disk were taken from our experience with Chandler & Price presses over the years. We also filed out the mounting slots on the base of the press. Now the press willl mount more firmly and reliable. In fact, this press boasts a number of new features in our restoration work. One of them is a new paint - a denser, strong, thin-coat paint that will prevent chipping of the paint as we experienced with the old primer-plus-paint procedure used in the past. 

The others have to do with issues that simply were not important to Kelsey when the press was built - which was mostly as a means of encouraging sales of their supplies, which is where Kelsey Co. made their money... But restoration work is different. Out goal is to earn and keep a reputation for fine work...

But admittedly not fast work, as many have learned, but quality work lasts and we believe that in the long run, that's more important. When we restore a press, it's intended to be used for 100 years or more. That's one reason we use Stainless Steel drill rod for all of our shafts. The stainless will look better and delay rust better than common steel, and is not as tough as the cast iron that the shafts run in. This way, the shafts will wear before the casting is damaged. And, with the clips in place, they will never fall out - as has happened many times in the past. It's worth a little extra expense in materials.

Since Kelsey presses have no bushings or bearing, and all rods must rotate within a cast-iron hole, this is a factor worth addressing. Shafts are easy to replace; castings not so much... And, on the shafts, we are cutting fine grooves into the ends that will hold E-clips or Spring clips to hold the shafts in place. In the early days, Kelsey simply cut common steel  rod and hammered it in, mushrooming the ends to hold it in place. Later models used a push-cap to sort of hold them in place. But they often came off. Our restorations use machined stainless steel shafts with grooves on the ends and spring clips that will never come off.

Oh, and we also did some additional grinding - sanding, actually, on our belt sander - to clean up some rough spots on the nearly 100-year-old casting. It makes it look better.

We have also set up a heat-able paint booth. Cold temps do not encourage good painting, but we installed an electric heat pad in the paint booth that lets us maintain a nice 60-70 degrees inside the cabinet to enable quality painting. We even got one of those spiffy new laser thermometers to let us check the temperature of not just the space, but the individual parts prior to painting.

We also intend to use it for casting ink rollers - which cure better at 60-70 degrees than 30-40 degrees - and the heat pad in the cabinet maintains that temperature overnight, which is better for the 18-hour cure time for the rubber. With the shop warmer now than it was last winter - the result of the newly-installed old wood stove plus two more larger propane heaters, the fuel bill is higher, but the shop is at least usable. Last winter's Arctic Blast was devastating. This winter, we can work in here. When we can get away from dealing with home and family matters and into the shop...

March 8 - Friday

Red Barn in SnowSpring is almost here! Last night, the temperature dropped to 9 degrees.... for the last time this winter! The prediction is for no more temperatures in the teens - or even the 20's more than a few times between now and next winter. It got up to nearly 40 degrees today and 50 is promised for Sunday. From then on, it could hit 50 or more every day until next winter.

There's still snow on the ground - from a bit of a 6" kicker "spring storm" last week, but it will begin melting tomorrow and will soon be a memory. Less firewood to cut for the wood stove; fewer refills on the propane tanks for the space heaters

Now, that's not to say there couldn't be a surprise in store... it has happened before - like this 7" snowfall we had on March 2, 2009 - see: http://baptistown-nj.com/snowscene.2009.0302.jpg and more of the same in 2015 - and  last year, we had 4 nor'easters in 3 weeks - set a record. In fact, we had two feet of snow fall during last March and another 5" snowfall on April 2, so this 6" snowfall is not so serious, but (with fingers crossed) it looks like it is the end for this year.

So, frosts, even snow falling on the early blooming flowers are still possible, but we're keeping our fingers crossed that soon combating the cold weather will not be taking as much time from my day as it has for the past few months.

"Ah, Spring!"

Monday, 3/11 -

Well, spring does indeed seem to have arrived. Today's big news is that the ground has thawed well enough that I could turn on the water to the shop. The line from the house freezes up when we get a few days in the teens, but once the snow melts and the little green buds start to sprout, it's warm enough to turn on the water again...

another bit of news - on a personal note:
In 1968, I had enlisted in the USAF - with plans and promises to serve as a Language Technician in Europe... Well, as often occurs in war time, I was "needed elsewhere" and soon found myself on the Cambodian border with Vietnam, loading and unloading USAF C-130 cargo planes in some very interesting - and often dangerous - jungle air strips.

Ten years ago, I created a web site about our "MOB Team" - http://8tmbob.org. Well, over the years, many of the few of us who served together have found the web site and shared their photos and stories. This week, it was John Webb - the Tall Texan - who showed up - after nearly fifty years! His photos and stories are at http://8thmob.org/member.photos/JohnWebb/index.html  So, if anyone has an interest in what I was doing away from the print shop from 1968-1972, here's my story of Vietnam...

Friday, 3/15 -

Nice and warm today. Can you believe it - 70 degrees! Now all the snow is gone and the land is waking up and stretching as the ground warms up (to 45 degrees today) and little green things are beginning to grow... Yes. Spring is coming!

And, we Got the rollers cast... for The UPenn Press Restoration well, almost. The rubber mixture is in the tubes and beginning to cure. By tomorrow night, they will have cured enough for removal from the tubes. Another day or two of curing and they'll be ready for ink... We're finally coming down to the wire with this long-overdue restoration. But it will be beautiful and will work better than it ever did before - and this press will be printing for another 80 years or more!


Well, if you find printing presses interesting, take a look at The Martin Howard Collection of typewriters! - Some are as old as our presses!

And, even more... a MOVIE! - http://californiatypewritermovie.com/
( I gotta my antique typewriters together and begin using them...)


Mobile Staircase
Well, a lot has happened since our last post.

3/16 - Saturday -  My friend Frank came over and we headed to Home Depot, where we disassembled and loaded up a mobile staircase which they no longer wanted, but which I think will be great for accessing the roof above the work shop. We'll repaint it black and it will become our outdoor "retro staircase"...

Saturday evening, we removed the cast rollers from their molds. Success. We have some nice, soft, tacky, 20-durometer rollers to use on the UPenn press.

3/17 - Sunday - The Prodigal Press has returned from its long visit to NMIH. It is now in the barn, but Mobile Staitrcaseplans are afoot to move it down to the Washington's Crossing Historical Park in PA - where it will charm and educate the many thousands of visitors to the park for the next year or so...

3/19 - Tuesday -  Spoke to Ryan at Washington's Crossing Historical Park. It's confirmed; they want it and they are making room even now. And now we are working together now on the plan to move the Wooden Common Press - aka "Old Ben" to its own long-term space for display - and use - in the park. We will print on it there - and do demonstrations.  Very exciting...


3/20 - Wednesday - more progress has been made on the UPenn Press

3/21 - Thursday - Stained and Varnished UPenn's press' base today - and mounted the handles. Tomorrow, we reassemble the entire press and .... we may be able to print tomorrow!


June , 2019
Excelsior Press Fundraising/Presses, parts & supplies Page
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