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I have used a friend's Dick Blick press for workshops and had it at home
awhile and found it to work fine. I've not tried serious etchings on it, but
it works great for monoprints and relief. I also didn't find it too
cumbersome, but I've lugged a 5 x 7 Kelsey letterpress all over and the
Blick is much lighter. If it comes with micrometers, that'll be worth the
extra cost - so you can pre-set the pressure quickly and not waste time.
There sure seems to be a Width beyond which presses dramatically escalate in
price, doesn't there?
I don't have my SAX catalogue with me, but I was very impressed with the
quality of manufacturers they carry in small presses, in case you haven't
looked there. They are likely to be much heavier, though. The smallish size
works nicely for making books.
I think in the long run you would be happier with the Blick than the
Speedball, and your students will have the experience of using a "real"
press (rolling pressure, and it looks like the presses in the books and in
As an added bonus, you can use the "rolling pressure" to calendar any paper
you make in class for a more finished product.
ALSO - I think the blick - if the bed is removable (it is, isn't it?) you
can experiment with trying a different press bed - like a long strip of
wood - as long as you want.