Kelsey Table Top Letterpress Restoration

I dug around on the internet a while trying to find some help to clean up this ol press. A lot of the information I found in pieces, so I wanted to document the entire process so that I could hopefully help others in my situation. This is by no means a guide, but rather step-by-step documentation of my attempt at the restoration.


The Grocery List: WD-40, 3in1 oil, sponges, white vinegar, lemon juice, large tub, towel to work on top of, and rubber gloves. The only thing had a lil bit of trouble finding was the 3in1 oil, but I found it at Lowes near the tool section.


The press as I found it. Pretty dirty, but overall in really good shape! The rollers are shot, so they will need to be replaced, and it will barely move, so some WD-40 is needed to loosen up the pressing motion.


Removing the rollers is pretty easy. I grabbed the back end of the spring and just…


…compressed it. The roller then just slides right out. After that I removed the nuts from the end of the hooks, took off the springs and slid the hooks out. I’m going to replace the springs probably, they are pretty cheap and I can order them with the rollers to save on shipping.


WD-40 time! Every place that had friction I hit with WD-40, I also sprayed it around the screws. It’s cheap so I was liberal with it. I sprayed some, let it penetrate, then tried move the press, kept doing this over and over again until I got a nice, smooth motion from the press without forcing anything.


Sprayed the platen screws with WD-40, wiped them off and took them out.


Here is the press in the closed position with the platen screws removed.


Next I took off the chase bed. It is held into place by a latch at the top of it….


….right here at the top of the pic. Just press the lever down and lift the chase out. The spring can have a bit of tension on it, so you have to press firmly.

STEP: 10

Next I took out the platen spring, so far the most pain the the but thing to do. I used two pieces of wood to compress the spring just enough to get it off the pin.

STEP: 11

Next I took a small piece of wood and used it to tap the pin flush with the platen. (note: I took this pic after I cleaned it.)

STEP: 12

Then I used an allen wrench to GENTLY tap out the pin. My girl friend actually came up with this idea and it worked really well since I didn’t have a punch. (note: I took this pic after I cleaned it.)

STEP: 13

Next I removed the platen and set it aside.

STEP: 14

Here we have a partially disassembled press! This is as far as I took the disassembly since everything seems to be in good working order and I’d rather my prints be prettier than my press.

STEP: 15

Then I took the press outside for some fresh air and a good cleaning.

STEP: 16

ALways make sure your Corgi is at a safe, non-peeing distance.

STEP: 17

Next I used the highest pressure setting on my garden hose to blast away all the dirt and grime. I wanted to get all the large stuff.

STEP: 18

Weapon of choice, $4 hose attachment from wal-mart….. only the best!

STEP: 19

After its thorough blasting I busted out my trusty shop vac. I usually use this to vacuum my car, but today it got a special purpose, not vacuuming at all!!

STEP: 20

I plugged the hose into the opposite end of the shop vac (the end that blows air) and blew away all the water out of all the nooks of the press.

STEP: 21

Once I got it back inside to my work area I oiled it to death…. every surface got a liberal squirt of oil. I didn’t even wipe it off, I just let it drip onto the towel below. When it comes to metal on metal friction you can’t go wrong with a lot of lube.

STEP: 22

I poured all of the lemon juice and vinegar into the large tub and put the platen, hooks, screws, chase, chase bed, and anything else I removed that was rusted. Beware, this stuff REEKS, it smells exactly like lemon and vinegar mixed together. I put it near a window, but it still made half my house smell awful.

STEP: 23

I let the parts soak in the lemon and vinegar solution. The liquid turned a dark yellow color and was very cloudy with bubbles forming on the parts, it worked pretty well, but left a nasty residue. Be warned, if you decide to rinse off the parts in a bathtub that crap will get everywhere. It cleans up easy though.

STEP: 24

Here are the parts I soaked! Nice, clean, and oiled to prevent rust.

STEP: 25

Some of the paint came off the back of the platen, but I read somewhere on Briar that this may happen and not to worry about it. So I’m not!

STEP: 26

I wanted to upgrade the platen screws, nuts, and roller arm nuts. I went to Lowes and dug around in the “Hobby Parts” section (which was on the same isle as the regular screws) until I found some suitable replacements.

STEP: 27

I opted for a platen screw with a hex head, I figure it would be easier to adjust than the standard flat head screw. Here is a side by side of the old parts and the new parts. Not to mention for small adjustments it will be easier to hand tighten.

STEP: 28

When you put the platen back on, make sure the letters are facing up. I tried to put it on upside down at first before I realized something was not right.

STEP: 29

Now for the platen spring (yay….). I put the spring on as far as it would go, then I gently tapped the pin back in with a small piece of wood.

STEP: 30

Once I got the pin through I hand tightened the spring until I got it all the way on. It gets a bit difficult the more it goes on obviously, so make sure to wear a clean garden glove so you don’t cut your hand on the spring.

STEP: 31

Here is the back of the platen with the new screws installed, I also put some washers on them, the metal on metal contact with just the nuts makes me nervous. (note: this pic was before I put the platen back on, had to take out the middle screw, I’ll update the pic later)

STEP: 32

And here are the roller hooks with the old springs and new nuts installed.

STEP: 33

New rollers at last!! I bought these locking rollers from Toddspresstime on ebay, they ran around 190 dollars including shipping. The locking part is a small screw that can be tightened with a hex key (allen wrench). At last we can start printing!

STEP: 34

Installing the rollers is really simple, just press down on the back of the roller hook, compress the spring and slide them in.

STEP: 35

Here is a pic of the installed rollers. You might be wondering what that green tape is for, we’ll get to that in just a bit!

STEP: 36

Next I fixed my chase base into my chase with a few pieces of small furniture. Printing the text straight was by far the most time consuming part of printing. It takes a bit of a patience to get it set up, lots of adjusting. Just make sure you have a good bit of paper set aside to make test prints till you have everything set up the way you want it.

STEP: 37

Here is the ink I used. When I printed large C&P presses I used a rubber based ink, but after buying some and using it at home I quickly realized that it just wasn’t the best for printing on a table top press in my spare bedroom. I switched to an oil based ink and am very pleased with it. Oil based ink is a LOT easier to clean up using just soap and water, and it comes in tubes. I ordered them from Dick Blick and they run about 10-30 bucks depending on the size you get.

STEP: 38

Place a small dab of ink on the ink plate and run the rollers over it until your arms fall off (don’t forget to oil the press as you go! You can never oil it to much!), you want the plate to spin to make sure you get good ink coverage. Also remember that the ink is being applied to a dark surface, so the color it looks on the ink plate might not be the color that is printed. For instance, when I printed yellow, it looked green on the ink plate, but printed fine.

STEP: 39

Set up your paper on the platen. I didn’t use the grippers for this. I just cut a couple lengths off a roll of double stick foam tape and used those to position my paper on the platen. Simple and easy to adjust. I’ll add a pic of my set up next time I print.

STEP: 40

Here is the chase in the press. I used the green tape to adjust he roller height and keep it from inking my chase base, this takes a bit of patience too in the set up. Also the tape gives the rollers something to grip on to so they roll smoothly.

STEP: 41

After much set up here is a run for our RSVPs! Modeled by my lovely fiance, Rachel.

STEP: 42

The finished RSVPs, I did two runs for these. One for the text which is black, the other for the “RSVP” part which is reflex blue.

STEP: 43

Here are our invitations after two runs. I printed them with three different colors, black for the text, blue for our names and a yellow “&” sign. I also used my L Letterpress to do a blind deep relief sunflower on the back.


I hope whoever reads this finds it helpful. When I was looking for guides I found many that skipped steps or just didn’t give enough detail for a total noob like myself, so I tried to be a thorough as possible. However if you have any questions or comments please drop me a line through my contact form at the top of the page! Happy printing everyone!