HOME -> PLATEN PRESSES -> EXCELSIOR PILOT
Looking for a
fine table top letter press?
You have come to the right place.
We believe that
during the past few years, we
have restored and sold more
table top platen presses
than any one else involved in
the letterpress community..
And now, we are working on a new
The Excelsior Pilot 7x11
( a work in progress )
No, not a
6x9 like the classic old Victor, not a 6x10 like the popular
Excelsior, not even a 6 1/2 x 10 like the premier -
Chandler & Price. This press is a true 7x11" chase
size - like no other table-top platen press available
in America today.
Similar in size and capability to the 7x11 Golding
March 11, 2014:
Due to some nasty and not entirely
well-founded commentary on Briar
Press - one post which specifically
references this page, I figured that it was time
to add some commentary to this web page which
should quell some gossip and stem the continuing
requests I receive for details on the Excelsior
So. Here's the story:
Before serious health matters limited Louis
Colavecchio's ability to operate heavy
equipment and handle heavy press parts, Lou
and I (Alan Runfeldt) collaborated on
designing a new bench top platen press -
one which would not only match but exceed the
qualities and capabilities of the most popular
of the benchtop presses - Mr. Thorp's Pilot
Press - first manufactured by the Cleveland
Type Foundry c. 1880, subsequently
manufactured for many years by the Chandler
& Price Company (until about 1964),
replicated by Craftsmen Machinery in Boston
and American Printing Equipment in New York...
That press is the Excelsior Pilot described on
this page and it is the result of about three
years of painstaking work and very close
attention to detail. The result is indeed an
excellent printing press.
Lou had been restoring presses for a few years
already and, with a background in foundry work
and precision machining, was able to make
arrangements with a local foundry and a local
machine shop to have unavailable spare parts
cast new and machined to use on his press
restorations. Unfortunately, the foundries and
machine shops Lou was working with in Rhode
Island were closing down due to lack of work.
On the one hand, that was good for Lou, since
they could make time to do his simple one-off
sand casts using patterns that Lou made
himself - drawing on years of experience as a
mold maker in his youth. And, machining the
parts to Louis' specifications resulted in
many new parts being made for presses he would
buy and restore. But, the down side was that
both the foundry and machine shop went on
reduced schedules themselves and could not
produce the parts needed to make more than one
of the new Excelsior Pilots. And, at that, it
was very expensive and barely practical to
produce and sell for the target retail price.
That one press was made and sold to a hobby
printer in Virginia, who uses it only
occasionally, and has printed some nice pieces
with it with no problem. She does not
participate in Briar Press' online
discussions, so the folks at Briar Press don't
believe her press even exists and have had a
fine time attacking Louis - and me as well -
in Briar Press' public forum - particularly
making fun of the "plastic printing press"
which is actually the assembled cast resin
patterns meant for photographing only.
While it is true that some of the presses that
Lou (who is not a printer) restored with new
parts and excellent paint jobs caused
frustration for a small number of his
customers, most of his customers were very
pleased. Many of his buyers came to me (in New
Jersey) with their presses for lessons and
sometimes adjustments to their presses to "set
them up" for optimal performance - things like
leveling the platen, adjusting roller
height and general use of the small printing
press- something Lou was not skilled in doing,
and which he believed was a skill the buyer
was responsible for. I agree. Everyone who
owns a printing press should indeed know how
to level their platen and adjust their
rollers. Nonetheless, his inability to
actually use the presses to print proofs
before he sold them hurt his reputation and
discouraged him from continuing to serve this
He now does other things.
And me? My dream of offering the letterpress
community a new printing press is one that has
been put on hold for now. I'm not
currently prepared to manufacture a new printing
press. I can barely keep up with the repair and
restoration work I have in the shop already.
That's a part time endeavor, after all. I still
run the presses and operate a printing business
and spend a lot of my time training novice
printers in the skills of the trade. When things
change, I'll announce it here and on my blog,
and possibly - just possibly on Briar Press - if
I can face the annoyance of the petty attacks
this group seems to thrive on.
- Alan Runfeldt
("Grumpy Old Printer")
The photos below are *not* of a cast-iron
These photos show the individual mold patterns
that are used to cast new parts.
The press you see here is made of mold-makers
-& weighs about 20 pounds, vs the 175 lbs
of an iron machine.
This is a brand-new printing press, to be made
in the USA.
We believe this to be
the first platen press designed and manufactured
in the USA since Kelsey Company developed the
Excelsior Model X shortly before ceasing
production in the 1990's.
Chandler & Price ceased production of their
Pilot in 1964. The C&P Pilot was copied by
Craftsmen Machinery and manufactured in Canada,
and American Printing Equipment sold a copy that
was made in Europe, but those were essentially
clones of the C&P.
This press is newly designed - with improvements -
and will be manufactured in the United States.
Based upon the popular and proven design of the Chandler
& Price Pilot Press, but with enhancements and
improvements to make it better in many ways, this is the
press that the letterpress community has been waiting
Please watch this page for updates.
For any other questions about this press or any of the
presses we repair and restore, please contact us via
the link below.
New presses and used
presses completely restored to better than factory new.
photos of 8 different models of restored presses
Parts & Repair Page
page last updated
2011, April 2011,
2011, March, 2014 July,
January 1, 2018