The Excelsior Press Blog

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

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Alan Runfeldt, grumpy old letterpress printer,
reviewing a print pulled on the Vandercook

Photo by Andrew &/or Nara Lee - August, 2009

Alan Runfeldt, printer on the
                              Vandercook Proof Press

New Blog for 2015

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January 1, 2015

Well, another year begins.  But, damn, is it cold! (Just like last winter)  don't think we'll be doing much in the shop until the temperatures get up above freezing for a while... Can't print below 50 degrees and this week - at < 10 degrees farenheit, it took 3 days of warming the press before we could print.

Meanwhile, life goes on.... Staying warm at home, still working on plans for the new Restoration Workshop and the New Barn/Print Shop we're planning on building here on our own property - just across the road from the farm where the shop has been since 1986... NEXT WINTER, I am determined to have a heated shop so that we can continue to print and restore presses - and do some tutoring and projects regardless of the cold and snow outside....

BNewly-cast Excelsior Chase
                    Bedut the real news
this year can be seen in this photo ->

On the right is an old original Kelsey 5x8 Chase Bed and Chase. On the left is the newly cast replacement chase & bed - something I have been working towards for some three years already. (These things do take time..)

The raw castings still need to be machined and milled to match original spec - and to make that perfectly smooth bed and machined rails to guide the rollers, but once that is done, and we have the procedure perfected, we will begin making more brand-new replacement chases and chase beds for all of those lonely bed-less 5x8 Excelsiors out there.

We've also had some Sigwalt ink disks cast and will be casting 5x8 ink disks soon as well.

Watch here for updates as this project continues.

Snow at the Barn March 3, 2015March 3 -

So. We begin the month with.... more snow! For the past month, we've had a snow fall nearly every three days. And each time it snows, I have a full day of snow removal to do. It's not only that it's so cold in the barn, but it seems as though I am constantly moving snow - or repairing snow moving equipment.  Will this winter never end????

We had expected to be back on press by March 1, but it's still 15-20 degrees in the shop most days. Let's see how things look next week...

March 7 - It ain't over yet!

More snow... and we gotta plow the lane, the parking area and the shed access again!

Snow at Home March 7, 2015

March 13 -
Yolanda Printing on the
                        Vandercook #4.
We're back in the shop! Printing again! Finally!! The temperature has risen into the high forties and we're not waiting any longer! Fire up the propane heaters, warm up the Vandercook and let's get to work!

Yolanda is preparing a series of new designs for the NYC Stationary Show in May. Although she already has a line of greeting cards, note cards, etc, this year she decided to integrate Letterpress Printing with her popular, colorful digital designs.

Yolanda's PrintsAfter a few days on the Vandercook, she's quite at home with this press. We're playing with thermography a bit as well, and will begin die-cutting some specialty coasters and envelope inserts soon.

April 19

Julie in Michigan sent us some photos of the Christmas present her husband Andrew gave her this year - a fully restored 5x8 Kelsey Excelsior Press.Julie's Christmas Gift - 5x8 Kelsey Excelsior

Since Julie had not had any training on using the Kelsey press, and it was a bit far to travel here from Michigan to attend a training session here on the farm, I shot a few short instructional videos about using the 5x8 Kelsey Excelsior Press and have posted them on YouTube - under our account "NoDeadlines".

View #1 of 6 videos

Julie's Christmas Gift - 5x8 Kelsey
                  ExcelsiorIn addition, to make things even easier for her when the press arrived, we shipped the press with the form still in it. This is the form that was used to test print with this press. This form was made up using some of the "stock Ludlow slugs" we had cast for folks to use with their new presses, so I could send them off to Julie without  missing any type from our cases.... The form was all locked up in the chase; the gauge pins were in place, and we included some stock to print on. All she really had to do was to remove the chase, ink up the disk, re-stall the chase, and print. Voila! Printed on Julie's 5x8 Kelsey
                  ExcelsiorThe result was this table top filled with cards printed by Juile right after she unpacked the press. This was the same card we had used to test, adjust and illustrate the use of her new press, only this time, they were printed by Julie...

Congratulations, Julie, you are at the beginning of a letterpress adventure!

April 24 - Another Day at Fieldston School

Carl Smith and student at Fieldston PressThe editor of the Fieldston School newspaper wanted to reproduce the front page of the first issue of the Fieldston News - from 1928. In their archives. The Fieldston print shop had an engraving of that original front page. In addition, 3 more plates were made containing contemporary essays about Fieldston. Printing all of these was one of the projects I was called in to assist with.

Student Printing at Fieldston PressAnother project was helping the 9th grade class make prints using some of the other old engravings that Carl Smith maintains in the collection of the Fieldston Press.. Shown here is me with one of the students - and her big smile, after pulling a proof on the little Vandercook/Showcard press that I brought along for them to use.

Ben Smith with Von Steuben Print at Fieldston
The third project was to help another student compose and print - all in hand type - a replica of the title page of General Von Steuben's "REGULATIONS FOR THE Order and Discipline of the Troops" - from 1776.

Ben and his partner went on to win their age group in a statewide history competition.

We like to think that this accurate reproduction - Colonial style Caslon and all - helped them win their award....


National Stationary Show - Well, as they say, "It's Showtime" - and Yolanda was ready for the show. Months of work and preparation to show fifty new "skus" (items) to the market and the time has come. We were very pleased to see that Yolanda's work - as March Paper & Design was recognized quite favorably by the editors of the Stationary Show's daily newspaper - her work was featured among a dozen or so other new artists & designers in a photo essay of "what to see at the show"
Yolanda Mariak Chendak - March Paper &
                  Design at National Stationary ShowWe also had a fine time at the show. Yolanda kindly arranged for a pass for me to attend, and I got to see & meet a whole lot of letterpress printers doing some really fine work. Some of them actually knew of this web site and had either heard of my work or had already contacted me for support in the past.

I was particularly pleased with the warm response I received from the Ladies of Letterpress. Apparently, some of them had heard favorable reports from some of their members who had attended training classes or otherwise been assisted in their endeavors by the work of The Excelsior Press. It sure made me proud!

Tori Baggot of Gilah Press at National
                  Stationary ShowTori Baggot of Gilah Press is shown here with their "mobile" press - a 6x10 Kelsey Victor model that was set up with a plate and ink and a stack of coasters - "Print your own" at their booth. At the shop, she operates one of their 3 venerable thousand-pound C&Ps, but for the show, they had this classic Kelsey set up and operating...

One of my past students - and proud owner of one of our 10x15 C&Ps - was also there - but I didn't find out that Joseph Rose and Black Heart Letterpress had a booth until I was headed out the door... Maybe I'll see them next year... Joseph began his letterpress career with a little 5x8 Excelsior, now he runs a 10x15 C&P - and rumor has it that he has recently acquired an 8x12 C&P as well...

June - Back to Printing, organizing the old presses and generally catching up after a hectic spring

Well, after the show, Yolanda had some orders to fill, so we were back to work.

Printing cards and die-cutting coasters and fabric for the envelope flaps

July 1 - Field Trip!

Cold Spring Village Print ShopAs part of our 12 Anniversary Get-Away trip this summer, Cathy & I visited Cape May, NJ - and learned of the working Letterpress Print Shop at Historic Cold Spring Village.

Of course, we had to visit... So we headed over to Cold Spring Village, parked our car, paid the $8 each in support of the village and began wandering towards the back of this beautiful, peaceful, park-like setting, with old original, sometimes re-purposed buildings from the 1800's...

One of those buildings houses the old print shop. And, as we walked up to it, while still on the gravel pathway, I heard the distinctive sound of the click-click of a C&P ink disk rotating as the press was running. We walked in the door and met Tom and watched as he pumped the treadle and continued printing bags for the HCSV Gift shop.

Cold Spring Village Print ShopOn the other side of the room was something I had never seen before - an old Morgan & Wilcox 10x15 Washington Hand Press made in Middletown, NY. not sure when (yet), but I'd guess it was during the latter part of the 19th century. I'd seen Washington presses before - but had never seen one so small that it's chase was only 10x15. It was neat... The shop also includes an old Golding Paper Cutter, a few cabinets of fine old foundry and wood type and a really neat double-handed ink roller for inking full page forms on the Washington.

Tom - printer at Cold Spring Village Print ShopMr. Miller, the main printer was off on Wednesday, so Tom was manning the shop. We had a wonderful visit and were very, very pleased to see this old style C&P being run on treadle power, and doing practical printing for this historic village.  The Washington was not sitting idle either. It was all set up to allow visitors to ink the form and print their own keepsake of the visit. Oddly, I didn't think to pull the lever myself, so until we visit again, I suppose I will not know how it feels to pull the lever on a 10x15 Washington. If you get there, don't forget to pull the lever and print your own keepsake from the visit...

Update: More about our *next* visit to HCSV (as a visiting printer) when the schedule is set....

August 8, 2014


Big changes on the farm. Big changes to what I/we can do in the shop.

If you never had a chance to visit the "" in the old barn, you have missed your chance.

... at least for now - that is, until the NEW BARN is built!

After over 100 years, the Grossman family no longer owns the farm.

The now Closed barn door at The Excelsior PressNearly thirty years ago - in 1986, I met Ida Grossman and moved my collection of printing equipment into storage in one of her old chicken barns as I left for California. I returned in 1994, married a local girl in 2003 and have lived here since - never more than two miles from this farm which had felt like home to me for many years.

Ida - who had lived there since she married Oscar in 1932 passed away about 8 years ago, and 2 years ago, her son Bill died suddenly as well. Managing the place was too much for his widow, so she sold it to the son of a local farmer...

And then things changed a bit...

Although we'd always - for the past 30 years - paid lip service to the rule that our barn space was "only for storage" - and township officials didn't really care what we did back in the barns, the new owner is improving the buildings and strictly enforcing the "storage only" Rule. This is in keeping with the local building code and without the necessary variances, none of us in the barns is allowed to do *anything* other than store stuff in the space we rent.

And, as part of the improvements, the wobbly old wires - circa 1960 - are also being upgraded - a major task, and one which leaves us without any usable power beyond lighting.

Therefore,  the "operating 1930's-era print shop' - so nicely archived in Fiona Otway's documentary, "Kiss the Paper" and other videos created in this old barn, is no longer available to use or even to visit...

For me, this means moving up my plans to build my own barn and move the shop literally just across the road to my own property. But that will still take some time.

For the next few weeks, I'm focused on moving my Vandercook and Heidelberg across the road and here into my garage and later into the barn - after it is built. For now, the garage will serve well as an interim shop. And, at least, this winter, we should be able to stay relatively warm and hopefully will be able to print through the coldest days.... So, our first move is into the garage - since it exists and is large enough and already houses my office and a workshop. But I must have these two presses operating soon, so that's the plan.

I already have a hand-fed C&P in here that I've been restoring, so that will make 3 (of our 60) presses - and some wood working and machine-shop equipment packed into this 27x27' space - which, btw, is still chock full of other stuff that I am moving out into the two sheds I have - and into the two sheds I am currently constructing - as well as into the 2-3 other new sheds I don't have yet.

THE NEW BARN will be a much larger project - and one which has been in the planning stages since we bought this 3 1/2-acre property three years ago. But now the schedule is being advanced. I am building 3 sheds, and buying 3 more, but I won't be building the new barn on my own. What I will be doing is applying for a re-fi mortgage on our house & land to cover the cost of the new building. The savings of paying $700/monthly rent for the barn space will more than cover the cost of any increase in our mortgage, so the finances make sense and the project is moving along a bit more rapidly now.

But in the meantime, if anyone gets the feeling that I am somewhat distracted from my work... it's because I am....

- Alan

September 29 - On The Road - to Truro, Massachusetts

Road Trip/Field Trip: Deliver 8x12 C&P to Cape Cod and visit Dick Goodwin's shop along the way.

Eight years ago
I moved an 8x12 C&P from High Bridge, NJ to Chatham, NJ. Since the press was going into a basement, it had to be disassembled first. That's where I came in - as a Mechanic/Consultant. I didn't much like the idea of putting a press into a basement, but that's where it had to go...

And now, eight years later, the press had to be removed from the basement and taken 350++ miles to the east - to Cape Cod.

October 5 - On The Road Again - to Myerstown, PA
Road Trip - pick up Shopsmith and Steel Planer machine from Bindery Tools in PA.

October 9 - Back to work on the Heidelberg Windmill.

Setting up to run a rush job on the Heidelberg over in the barn. No electricity in the "storage area" means I'll be running the Windmill using my 220v generator. Next project is to move the Windmill over here to the newly-designated "garage/print shop". Once the Windmill is out of the way, the path will be clear to move the Vandercook out of the barn. We'll be bringing it  over and setting it up here as well...

10x14 shedMonday, October 12 - First shed (10x14) has been delivered.
Took the dump truck to the gravel yard to get load of clean 3/4" stone to set the shed onto. Turns out that 3 1/2 tons was not quite enough. Should have laid down 5 tons of stone. But, since it's on a high spot, and good, dry, hard ground, the 3 1/2 tons will do just fine. Now we can move more stuff out of the garage in anticipation of the next big move - the Heidelberg Windmill Platen Press..

November 23, 2015

Big news! - GOOD News! The Excelsior Press is back in operation! Windmill
                  in Little BarnLimited services available, but the Heidelberg Windmill is now in its new temporary home in "The Little Barn" - winter quarters until "The Big Red Barn" is built next spring. To get it here, we hooked up "The Press Trailer" - formerly a pony trailer - to the little truck and drove across the road to the farm - and the old barn where this press had been for the past 20 years. With the help of my friend Chris, we loaded up the Windmill and brought it across the road to my garage - now referred to as "The Little Barn" - complete with upstairs loft, but not yet painted red. The 220v service is not installed in the Little Barn yet, so we're running the Windmill using our generator, and it's working quite well.

Next step: Once this big printing job is done, we'll resume the move - empty more shelves into the shed to make room for the Vandercook, then bring it over - along with some type and begin real printing again...

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