The 7 Best Sources for Finding a Letterpress
So you've taken amassed a large collection of cards, taken some classes, tried out a few different models, and talked to your friend of a friend who works at a printshop. And then you've decided that you're ready to take the plunge. You're ready to purchase a one ton piece of machinery that can turn out the prettiest paper goods you've ever seen. You need a letterpress.
Keep in mind that letterpresses haven't been manufactured since the 60's. And since then, many have been turned into scrap or sold to print shops outside of the US. However, in recent years, with the resurgence in popularity of this heirloom craft, the demand for these printing presses has been growing more and more. If you want to find one, you've got to be patient, do your research, and when the opportunity arrises, act quickly.
Kirk and I have bought 3 different presses over the years -- each from a different source. Many people wanting to start their own print shop have written and asked us for advice on how to find a letterpress, so we thought we'd share our top sources with you.
7 BEST SOURCES FOR FINDING A LETTERPRESS
1) Briar Press - This is the go-to online place for anything and everything letterpress. Get tips and techniques in the forum, go to the classifieds to find classes, jobs, and presses all over the country.
2) Don Black Linecasting - This Toronto-based family operation has been in the business for decades. The presses they sell are clean and in top-top condition. If you order a press from them, you know it will be in perfect working condition the day it arrives. They also can arrange for crating, shipping and customs. You'll pay top dollar, but you won't have to deal with any headaches. We bought our Vandercook flatbed letterpress from them in 2007.
3) Your Local Classifieds - I know several people who have found a letterpress simply by combing their local classifieds... over and over and over again. In Utah (where we live) KSL is the place to look.
4) NA Graphics - The owner, Fritz Klinke, has over 50 years of letterpress experience. He sells a variety of letterpress parts and pieces, and occasionally has a press to sell as well. When we were thinking about adding another press, I called to see if he had any available. Even though he didn't have one for sale at the time, we ended up being on the phone for a half an hour, while he patiently listened to our circumstances and then gave his advice as to what kind of press we should get.
5) Hot Metal Services - Dave and Beth travel the country, servicing and repairing letterpresses (including ours) along the way. In fact, Dave is one of the only letterpress repairmen left in the entire country. Because of this, they have a wide network, and are often the first to hear when a "new" press goes on the market.
6) Boutique de Junque - Dave Churchman stockpiled letterpresses and their parts and pieces for over a quarter century. I visited his warehouse in Indianapolis when I was just starting Sycamore Street Press in 2007, and got a number of bits and bobs that we still use. Today his son Andrew runs the operation.
7) Letterpress Friends & Associates - You have them, right? Not only is it fun to get to know other people who share your interest in letterpress, it can come in very handy, too. We've found that in general, the letterpress community is very friendly and willing to share information. So get to know other printers -- locally, out of state, and abroad. Go to shows, take classes, attend creative meet-ups, etc... We found our last letterpress through someone who was taking one of the letterpress workshops we teach periodically.
I hope this helps you to find the letterpress of your dreams!
(I first started blogging in 2007, and in digging through the archives I found that—with a few small updates—many of the posts would still be incredibly valuable to the current online creative community. Not wanting a post to go to waste if it could still be relevant and helpful, I decided to give such posts a refresh and share them again (this one included) from time to time.)