I also own an 18x36 Blick etching press. I don't know the model as the label was lost years ago. It has a phenolic bed that has never failed me. Other than not being able to print wider than 18" on the short side, it has served me very well for about 30 years.
I came to printmaking from many years of working in pen and ink. Copper plate intaglio really grabbed me with the first plate I worked on back in the 70s. I think you will enjoy working in the various materials available. If there is a university or co-op printmaking studio near you that has presses available for use that would be a great way to try it out. If they have a Lithograpy press, that is probably the closest to your pencil drawing as you can get. A major bonus if you can find a studio with real stone litho equipment on hand. I have only worked with aluminum litho plates but was able to produce a beautiful range of tones with them.
Intaglio doesn't lend itself to creating smooth wash like gray tones using a stylus, like what can be achieved with lithography, but using the various fine line techniques such as cross hatching can produce a wide tonal range, albeit with more visible line textures. Aquatints of course can be used to make very subtle grays as well as deep and dark tones but the aquatint doesn't lend itself to drawing like technique as easily as the stylus can.
I use BFK Reeves paper the most for Intaglio, but have had fun with some Japanese papers with block and montoype prints. I stick with oil based inks only, for Intaglio. Akua inks work OK for block and monotypes, but there are issues with multiple layers of Akua inks doing Reduction prints. I avoid Caligo water wash inks after having single color prints that literally never dried. There is a print in my drawer done with black Caligo ink, that is over 5 years old and still is not dry. Copper is my favorite plate for Intaglio and I rarely use anything else. Don't be shy about trying techniques that aren't similar to pencil drawing. Lino and woodcut prints are loads of fun. You will be able to find a wide range of materials here:
I hope you enjoy your adventure!