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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).



Monday, June 27, 2016

Kensol vs. Kwikprint, a skirmish

About a year and a half ago I received a phone call. I'm a little ashamed that I'm always a bit surprised and a bit frustrated when the phone rings because so many are robo calls and I hate wasting time. And if they're not robo calls then they're sales calls and they're not much better, though I have been criticized for being too kind and polite to folks making sales calls. Which I am because I think their job must be awful and mine is perfect so I think I can afford to be gracious to them. Unless they won't listen to me, of course. Then I get a bit more surly and tell them I'm hanging up, but not before wishing them a nice day. (This sort of behavior is why I never quite fit in with Boston's culture.)

The voice on the end of this call basically said, "We are having an auction in Phoenix of bookbinding equipment and no one is bidding. You might be interested. Here is where you should look on the web." It was one of those perfect calls that benefits both parties.

I looked and they had lots of stuff that didn't interest me, but they did have a Kensol. That is a machine that heats type and dies for stamping titles and designs on books, if you don't know.

My method of stamping is a Kwikprint, of which I've posted a couple of videos on YouTube. (The newest one is here: ) The problem with the Kwikprint is that you can only stamp one line at a time (practically) and only stamp dies up to about 2 inches by 9 inches on my machine. Some Kwikprints won't even stamp dies half that size. And sometimes you want more capability than that.

The auction house didn't guarantee the Kensol was going to work so I limited my bid to $275, which I thought I could get back if it was non-working. I won the auction and drove up to Phoenix to pick it up. Someday I might post about my trip getting it back to Tucson, but I get a cold sweat just thinking about it. It was the scariest prolonged thing I've done.

It came on a blue metal table and weighed a lot. It had pneumatics hooked up to it.

I hooked up my air compressor from my nailers to it to see what would happen. It worked!

The pneumatics are not at all necessary but can be convenient in that they control how long of a dwell the machine uses (how long the die or type will touch the cover when stamping) and you can also regulate how deep of an impression it makes. When using the pneumatics all the impressions will be exactly the same, which wouldn't be the case if done by hand.

In order to stamp by hand, I bought some pipe at Home Depot and used a bench grinder to take down the end so that it would fit in the machine. I made handles that were 3 and 5 feet. In the midst of this clutter, you can see the ground-down end of the pipe.

In the end the pneumatics were a problem because the timer didn't work right. It can be replaced for a few hundred dollars, though a friend says he can use a converted timer from something else for much less. I believe him but haven't had the time to look into it yet.

Other than that it works perfectly. I could remove the pneumatics but don't want to. Yet.

Eventually I made a table for it. As I said it weighs A LOT. While building the house, the one thing I was never all that good at is using a circular saw, so I decided to make this using only that saw and pocket screws. We like to challenge ourselves, don't we? Diane went off to Boston for a couple of weeks last year so I did it over a weekend. Surprisingly all the cuts were straight. Sometimes getting away from something is all it takes to get better at it.

Because the Kensol weighs so much I built the table around the blue metal stand that it came on. There are a lot of peripheral items with this, and it's nice to have places to store them. Plus with the old table, things were constantly falling on the floor.

You can compare it to the Kwikprint:

To me the Kwikprint is a car and the Kensol is a truck. Not a semi truck but like a large pickup. Not as nimble—takes a bit longer to set up—but it can generate much more force and can do larger things easily. All those things are very, very good but not necessary on every project. 

If I just need a line or two. I'll use the Kwikprint every time. If I'm doing many lines on many books, I'll take the time to use the Kensol.

This last photo shows the area that can be used on each machine. The honeycomb metal is about 5 x 8 and fits the Kensol, the smaller metal above it shows what can be stamped using the Kwikprint, which is significantly smaller.

But even if a die or type is placed within that area of the Kwikprint, you can have real trouble getting an impression because of the inability to put enough down force on it. So the real useful space on the Kwikprint is probably half the size shown here.

Still, I love my Kwikprint.

I'm going to do two posts in the future about the Kensol. One is a way to use it to stamp multiple lines without going bankrupt buying chases. The other is a way to line up the stamping in a simple, quick and effective way—which will also work on the Kwikprint.

It's funny that a used Kensol can be bought for less than the Kwikprint. Probably because of the size and space requirement and because fewer folks know how to use it.  All those things add up to the Kensol being less useful as a hobby machine. But worth searching out I think.

They're out there.

See also:

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