Tips for Making Your Own Letterpress

Whether it’s a wedding in your future or a cottage business making customized invitations and cards on Etsy, having your own letterpress can allow you to make beautiful custom designs easily and quickly. Perhaps the most difficult part of letterpressing is making your own letterpress! Even this obstacle can be overcome with a few simple tips.

Make one or buy one?

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Buying a letterpress can be extremely difficult, as no companies currently manufacture them for home use. For this reason, finding a machine to purchase can be a challenge, and the small supply of presses is generally too expensive for a hobbyist. The good news is that you can make a letterpress at home using materials found from your local hardware store.

Homemade letter presses generally have a bed and a frame to rest atop the bed (usually made of wood). The frame holds the block in place, and the block is what contains the letters or drawing that will be pressed onto the paper. Above the paper is a piece called a platen, and most homemade models make this section of wood as well. Finally, most homemade presses use some way of pressing the platen down onto the block, perhaps with a press screw or a car jack. This is often the most costly part of building your own letterpress.

Choose an existing design

There are several free designs found on the Internet that provide complete instructions for building a letterpress. Additionally, groups and organizations that promote letterpressing may offer free designs for their own members. Once you select a pattern for your letterpress, it’s best to stick to the instructions.

Analyze your needs

A larger letterpress allows you to design larger documents and stationery, but it also takes up more storage space and can make it difficult to correctly place smaller documents like business cards or RSVP cards. For most home hobbyists, having multiple letterpresses isn’t feasible, so it’s wise to choose the largest size you plan to make. The larger the letterpress, the more inconsistent the ink coverage will be, especially for beginners.

Get started!

Once you’ve chosen the design and planned your construction, visit your local hardware store with your list and get started on building your own letterpress! You may find it helpful to print the list from your instructions and seek assistance at the hardware store, especially if you’re not familiar with some of the tools or supplies listed.

Time to print!

When it’s time to use your new letterpress, it’s a good idea to keep baby wipes and old T-shirts on hand for the inevitable cleanup. It’s also a good idea to cover your work area with a tarp or old sheet, and to wear a smock or old clothing. Even veteran printers often get extremely messy, and printing ink is sticky.

For a first printing project, make sure to have plenty of extra paper or cardstock. Letterpressing is an art form that requires a high level of craftsmanship in order to get it just right, so make sure to have plenty of extra materials on hand for your first few projects.

Letterpressing can be messy, challenging, and incredibly rewarding! When your perfect event is designed to your exacting specifications, it only makes sense to design the invitations and stationery to fit the wedding or party.

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