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Papillon Press – The Illustrated Press – Custom Letterpress Wedding Invitations » Restoring the KelseysPapillon Press – The Illustrated Press – Custom Letterpress Wedding Invitations


Restoring the Kelseys

A few months ago I (Chantal) decided we wanted to own a tabletop press so I could take it with me and host workshops elsewhere. I was not afraid to get my hands dirty, so when I saw an ad in a journal for several Kelseys in Pennsylvania, the first idea that popped into my head was…ROADTRIP! We’re no strangers to driving long distances for the sake of letterpress 🙂

We brought back 3 Kelsey Excelsior presses, two 5×8 and one 3×5. One of the 5×8 was in good shape while the other two needed a bit of work. The original grey paint was peeling and they were quite rusty. The one in the best condition came from a funeral home, the other 5×8 came from the side of the road somewhere and the 3×5 came from an estate sale.

the Kelsey Excelsior 3x5 before restoration
Kelsey letterpresses, before restoration

The first step was to remove the rust. Following instructions found on Briarpress, I soaked all the removable parts in a vinegar solution overnight and the rust basically wiped off. I also used a soft Brillo pad dipped in the vinegar solution and gently went over the rest of the press to remove the rust. Afterwards I wiped all the parts with a bit oil to prevent the rust from returning.

I then cleaned all the presses with a brush and tack cloth to remove any dust. I took off the removable parts and taped up any parts I didn’t want painted with painting tape to prepare for priming. There is some debate on Briarpress as to whether removing the original paint is the best way to go before applying a new coat, but I decided against it because, to put it simply, it was too much work!

Using Painter’s Touch Rustoleum spray paint primer, I primed all the presses in white. It occured to me later that I should have chosen a grey primer or darker colour, because it was pretty unnerving to see all the presses in stark white like that.

Priming the Kelsey

Ghost letterpresses

The next step was to apply the final coat of paint. I could have opted to paint them in their original grey again, but I went for black because it never goes out of style and Claudette our floor model looks sharp in black. I used Tremclad black. It took approximately 2 coats, but the result was nice and shiny.

Spray painting the black

The final step was to remove the tape, oil the moveable parts, buy a few new nuts and bolts for the platen of one of the 5×8, buy a few new springs and order new rollers. The rollers cost nearly as much as the presses themselves!

Don’t they look sharp! I’ve already sold one of the 5×8, and the other two will be coming with me on my roving workshops. All it took was a roadtrip and a little elbow grease; not too shabby!

The final result, with a cut locked up in the chase
Kelsey Excelsior 5x8 and 3x5

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