MR Bitey: aka Kelsey Excelsior Mercury 5X8 restoration project

I have been promising to post more cool studio stuff. SO here we go. Let me introduce you to the Antiquated Press’s sweet little letterpress man. We call him Mr Bitey - but he is officially a Excelsior Mercury 5X8 - These cool presses were made for a hundred years by the Kelsey company starting in the late 1800’s I would give a detailed history but thats all kinda boring. If you want to get into these sorts of machines there are some really great resources and old timers with insight into the production and distribution etc. 

I wanna talk about RESTORATION! 

so Mr Bitey was discovered in a sad corner of a thrift shop - he had been out in the weather for years and suffered from ages of build up rust and deterioration. 

the shop owner (I didn’t catch his name so let’s just call him snaggletooth mcgee) well he was eager to sell me what appeared to him to be some sort of hamburger patty maker. And he offered it to me for a hundred bucks. I didn’t hesitate and he obviously was disappointed he did not ask for more. I am not much of a haggler… the opposite actually, its hard not to be all “are you kidding me! this is an original Kelsey! " 

SO I took poor rusty Mr Bitey home and took some details of his condition. 

really besides having some serious rust issues in on the platen, the chase and the inside of the base.. and the rollers being completely rotten. It was in pretty decent condition. Nothing was missing except a few of the retaining clips. 

it would not function obviously as it was rusted solid. But slowly I dismantled it piece by piece. Sometimes having to chisel away the barnacle like accumulation of rust. 

you can see in this picture the chase is really bad. but once I got it all taken apart I deliberated on how to clean it up. Knowing it was cast iron which is pretty much indestructible (pretty much) and since i grew up with southern roots I have cleaned my fair share of cast iron jambalaya pots. SO i figured oil and steel wool would be a good start. 

Oil and steel wool is really non toxic and awesome but didn’t even come close to getting this poor guy straight. So I whipped out the rubber gloves and got my Naval Jelly (the only thing for the job) and one of these guys

its a multipurpose stripper that attaches to your drill. It worked like a CHAMP and really took the elbow out of it all. So after about 30 applications and dwell times with the naval jelly followed up with scrubbing and stripping with this.. well my kelsey was looking pretty damn good. 

I protected the platen and chase and the areas that the rollers ride on the chase with some masking tape before priming all the parts. 

I ordered replacement ink rollers from ebay - they were pretty affordable. And then painted it up real nice in a two tone black and blue. 

look at those shiny parts

everything fit together like butter… BUTTERRR. and check out that smooth platen. 

more saucy photos

Mr Bitey gained his name right after this photo was taken, as he is prone to chomp at fingers. But he does function perfectly - smooth operation all around. Lil Joe even sorted out how to print type high blocks with his solidoodle 3d printer to make custom letterpress images. pretty sweet. 

And here he is at home with our studio etching press. 

If you too are restoring an old rusty letterpress - feel free to give me a shout. If you ever run across one of these in a thrift shop.. and it is complete BUY IT - they are wonderful machines.