Looking for a Job…

After almost 43 years with the same employer, my “day job” is coming to an end. Since I graduated from University of Waterloo in 1981, I’ve been working for and with the same people, first at the Math Faculty Computing Facility at the University, then at a spin-off (due to University politics) group called the Software Development Group, then for the spin-off (politics again) company Thinkage Ltd. based in Kitchener, Ontario.

Over the years we’ve produced many software products, often for other software companies, but our most recent product, the MainBoss maintenance manager, is a Windows application targeted to small companies like privately-owned hotels, small municipalities, colleges, property managers, and small manufacturers. The software is used to manage maintenance and repairs on buildings and equipment owned by the customer.

Although the program worked well, it was not a turnkey installation for a mom-and-pop operation because it used Microsoft SQL Server to contain its database, and setting up MS SQL requires some degree of computer literacy. At the large-scale end of the market we could not compete with enterprise-level products like SAS, but we had a nice market niche for quite a while.

Unfortunately, everyone is moving to cloud-based products now and we did not have the resources to move MainBoss to such a model. Over the past few years our existing customer base has moved to other products, leaving us with little income and no choice but to pull the plug.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be moving the source code for MainBoss to Github so remaining customers can choose to do their own software maintenance if they so choose.

It is a bit of a shame because MainBoss was designed to allow (relatively) easy adaptation to other UI models (for instance, using a web browser instead of a Windows application) but we never had the resources to develop the adapter for another UI.

Some of the code will live on, though, at least for myself, since I am using the MainBoss infrastructure for two of my own applications.

One is the accounting/CRM application we use for the Papertrail, an outgrowth of the old MS Access Forms application we started with.

The other is an application I’m using to track my inventory of Monotype matrices. Though this is still very much a work in progress, so far all it really has is an inventory of the ornament display matrices I have, including specimen images. Development of the information here should go hand-in-hand with the software I’m developing to accompany my Monotype computer interface.

I’m not ready to retire yet, and it would be nice to have a bigger retirement nest-egg, so I’m now looking for employment. I don’t have the personal drive to be self-employed or work as a consultant, so that means another real job. I’m working on a resume and sprucing up my LinkedIn profile in preparation for submitting job applications. I’ve never actually had to apply for a job, as this career was pretty much offered to me unprompted, so this will all be a new adventure for me. I hope I can find someplace to hire an old fart like myself, if only to give the kids someone to say “OK, boomer” to!

Sorting Donated Linotype Matrices

The Mackenzie Printery & Newspaper Museum recently received a donation of type, spacing, and Linotype/Intertype matrices from Steve Ecker, I believe of Smithville, Ontario.

While other volunteers at the museum started sorting the type and spacing into appropriate cases, I had 6 jugs of loose matrices to sort through. At the time I took these photos I had sorted two jugs to some degree, but here are the remaining ones hiding under the rear step of our Linotype:

The matrices aren’t completely mixed, but they are not completely sorted (one font per container) either. At this point I had sorted one of the clear round jugs and one of the large square jugs (only about half full).

The job starts by just stacking the matrices into a tray so they are all on edge. I follow this with a pass reorienting them so the top (with the notches identifying the magazine position) is facing the back of the tray. A second pass turns them all with the casting face down. Finally, I go through them separating them out by font, generally identified by the pattern of grooves and notches on the bottom edge, which is facing me for easy visibility.

The first jug I sorted turned out to be mostly an Intertype face called “Ideal” in 6½ point (IIRC the identification stamped on the side was “6½Pt 1553”). I ran these through the Linotype caster into a empty magazine, and had to pull three mats that did not run properly and instead jammed in the magazine channel.

After sorting the second jug my trays looked like this:

The four and a half rows in the front tray are 10-point Linotype Baskerville. The dozen or so mats in the front row are more 6½-point Ideal, and the rest of the mats have yet to be sorted. Many of these seem to be fonts of all pi mats, too wide to run in a magazine.

Since the photos were taken I’ve also sorted the small white jug from the first photo, which included a whole other tray row of 6½-point Ideal. It is nice to find these because the mats already run into the magazine seem incomplete, with few or no mats in some of the channels. I’ll be leaving that magazine on the caster until I’ve sorted all the mats and found everything that belongs in the magazine. Then (because we’re short on magazines) I’ll move those back to a tray, and run the Baskerville into the magazine to find problem mats and missing/short letters. And again the same for whatever fonts I find in the last three jugs. Though perhaps before unloading the magazine I should cast each font in its entirety to look for problems like hairlines due to worn cheeks.

Altogether it looks like I have about three more Saturday mornings of mat sorting ahead of me.

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BOUND Book Arts Fair, Sunday December 3rd in Toronto

The Arts & Letters Club in Toronto will again be hosting the BOUND Book Arts Fair, this year taking place on Sunday December 3rd, from 11am-4pm. The Club is located at 14 Elm Street, near Yonge & Dundas in downtown Toronto.

We will be there along with about 3 dozen other vendors selling private press books, printed ephemera, cards, prints, paper, and materials and equipment for the book arts. Look for us upstairs in the studio.

Please note the updated opening time: 11am.

Howard Iron Works Print Expo & Fair, October 14th, 2023

Howard Iron Works will be holding their annual Print Expo & Fair this year on Saturday, October 14th, from 10am to 4pm, at 800 Westgate Road, in Oakville Ontario.

The show will feature about 20 vendors, including ourselves, selling paper-, printing-, and book-related items and materials. There will also be demonstrations, hands-on activities, workshops, and of course their extensive museum of old printing equipment will be open for you to explore.

Admission is free, and there is free parking available on-site and on the street nearby.

Can anyone answer a Whitlock question?

The Mackenzie Printery & Newspaper Museum maintains a print shop at the Wainfleet fairgrounds in Wainfleet, Ontario, and one piece of equipment there is a Whitlock 2-rotation cylinder press.

Note that there is a different model of Whitlock press that is generally similar but has some differences, in particular as to how the printed sheets are delivered, so I’m not sure how relevant it would be to this question.

My question concerns the delivery mechanism for the printed sheets on the press illustrated here. As they come off the cylinder, they are carried by a series of tapes A (essentially a conveyor) over a comb of long fingers B. These fingers then rotate half a turn on a shaft C, flipping the printed sheet over and dropping it face down on the delivery table D. A pair of stacker blocks E & F then close up to keep the stack of printed paper neat.
One stacker block (E) can be adjusted to suit the size of the sheet being printed, so for smaller paper, E would be moved towards F, and the latter is always in the same location. However, the conveyor tapes always carry the sheet right up to shaft C, and so when the sheet is flipped it would land on the delivery table right close to the shaft rather than between the stackers.
It seems to me that there should be some sort of stop or guide which limits how far the tapes carry the sheet so that when flipped over it lands between the parted stackers.
However, there are no such guides on our Whitlock, nor do any show in this illustration. It looks like it would perhaps be a couple of small stop tabs that attach to the fingers to stop the sheet motion. They can’t be too bulky because they must fit between the tapes when the fingers are in the position to receive the sheet, and they must also not strike the stacker block E when the fingers flip over to drop the sheet.
So is anyone familiar enough with this model of press to provide any hints or photos? How do other cylinder presses with similar delivery deal with this? An easy design change would have been to have E be the fixed guide and F be the adjustable one; the downside would be that the operator would have to reach farther to remove the stack of printed sheets.
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Marshville Heritage Festival, September 2nd-4th 2023 in Wainfleet, Ontario

The Mackenzie Printery & Newspaper Museum maintains a print shop at the Wainfleet fairgrounds in Wainfleet, Ontario, and each Labour Day weekend, the Marshville Heritage Festival takes place there, where the Museum volunteers open up the print shop to demonstrate the machinery.

In addition to the demonstrations, we will also have some items available, including old cuts, random wood type, typecases, printed cards, and a year-at-a-glance calendar, in trade for donations to the Museum.

Demonstrations will include operation of the Ludlow Typograph, which casts a single line of text from hand-set matrices. In trade for a donation, we can cast a line of text of your choice mounted in a wood display stand.

There will also be a small Adana table-top press, which you will be able to use to print yourself a keepsake card.

Finally, we will also have our Whitlock cylinder press in operation from time to time to print more of the calendars. This press was manufactured in the 1890’s and used for printing the Thorold News for many years before it was bought out by the St.Catharines Standard.

Promotional Illustration of the Whitlock Cylinder press

So come out and see us (and the rest of the Festival) next weekend!

Not News: Our mould & deckle sets in a major movie

This isn’t really news because it occurred in 2009, but I’m finally stripping old “news” from our home page and I thought I should keep this in the record somewhere.

The (then-)recently-released film The Time Traveler’s Wife, based on a book of the same title written by Audrey Niffenegger (who is in real life a hand papermaker as well as an author) was partially shot in Toronto. Some props and expertise were provided by folks from the Ontario College of Art & Design (now OCAD University). This included one of our 8½×11 inch HDPE mould and deckle sets, which appears on screen during a scene of intense discussion between the main characters, Clare (played by Rachel McAdams), who is also a papermaker, and Henry (played by Eric Bana).

We aren’t credited for this, but at least we know where it came from and who made it!

Upcoming Summer Papermaking Workshops

We’ve (finally) selected a couple of dates for our Introductory Papermaking workshop this summer.

The first, admittedly on very short notice, is on Saturday June 24th, and the other is about a month later on Saturday July 22nd.

Both workshops run from 9am to 4pm with a 1-hour lunch break, and are held at our shop in New Dundee, Ontario. The cost for the workshop is $80 plus HST, for a total of $90.40, including materials.


The short notice for the June 24th date was indeed insufficient and the workshop on this date has been cancelled.

Monotype Composition Caster Pot Temperature Controller

Over the past few months, I’ve had to replace the old Partlow temperature controller on the pot of my Monotype Composition Caster.

On my caster the old mechanical controller has failed; each time I ran the caster I found that the metal temperature had gone up from where it was set, sometimes 50°F hotter than the setting, despite recalibrating the controller.

Rather than replacing it with a possibly just as bad spare controller from my parts pile, I chose to replace it with a modern electronic controller that uses a thermocouple to measure the temperature of the molten metal. Just as with the original controller, this switches power to an electrical contactor which in turn switches the power to the electrical heating elements.

I’ve used the caster a few times with the new controller, and so far the only problem I’m having is visibility. Its location is the same as the original controller, on a post above the pivot that the pot swings on. This means that from my normal operator’s position, sort of facing the tool tray, I have to peer around/through the ingot feeder to see the display. Furthermore, to avoid having the controls face all those visual obstacles, I’ve turned the enclosure to face more to the right, so you can see it well if you’re standing by the galley. I don’t have to consult the temperature readout much, and it is a self-illuminated display so easily visible, but when I’m casting display fonts I want to keep an eye on the pump stroke counter. This is an LCD display and so difficult to see from an angle. I might turn the enclosure to the left to face my normal position to improve visibility. I think a bit of experimentation will be required here.

I recently gave a short presentation about this project at the 2023 ATF Conference in Maine, and I have posted a YouTube video showing the construction and installation of this new controller.

I’ve already made a post about the custom enclosure I made for this.

2023 ATF Conference Photos

The 2023 American Typecasting Fellowship conference took place over the weekend of April 30th/May 1st 2023 in the area around Portland, Maine.

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