(Un)Plugging Cooling Water Passages

One of the moulds for my Monotype Composition Caster, specifically the type U Lanston display mould fitted for 36 point body size, had completely blocked cooling water passages. This would seriously limit how fast the caster could run, even more so than the already slow speeds recommended for such large type.

There is a tool which can be attached to the underside of a mould, which fits two small cylinders to the cooling water ports, allowing one to install a small piston and, by striking this with a hammer, force liquid through the cooling passages under high pressure. This is often useful for minor blockages, but seemed to have no effect on this particular mould.

In order to clear out the passages, I disassembled the mould well beyond the recommended amount, even removing the intermediate base from the main base. This is not a recommended procedure because it loses the factory-set alignments of the parts. It is, however, the only way to reach all the water passages, or at least to understand how they are connected. Now that I know their layout I may find it possible to clean them without this extreme disassembly.

In the process I’ve mapped out the water and oil passages, something to be documented in a future post perhaps.

The cooling passages are a series of drilled holes that intersect within the parts of the mould, with brass screws plugging most of the drill entry holes. Together these holes join to form a continuous single path for water flow through the mould.

Clearing the passages involves drilling into them as was done at the factory, but this time the drill removes the blockage (probably mostly consisting of iron oxides and old oil) rather than steel. Unfortunately, most of the brass screws were either filed flush to the surrounding surface and so had no screwdriver slot any more, or were sufficiently seized in their holes, that they had to be drilled out too.

This leaves the problem of replacing the screws, the main point of this post. Read more ›

Howard Iron Works Print Expo & Fair, September 28th 2024

Howard Iron Works will be holding their Print Expo & Fair for 2024 on Saturday, September 28th, at their premises at 800 Westgate Road, Oakville, Ontario.

In addition to the vendors’ tables, the advance notice promises museum tours, demonstrations and workshops.

We plan on having a table at this fair, selling a selection of our paper, marbling, and supplies for bookbinding and marbling.

My Presentation from the 2012 ATF Conference

Someone recently asked about serial number locations on Monotype Composition Casters, and I knew I had a sort of list of where these were located.

This information turned out to be in a presentation I gave at the 2012 American Typecasting Fellowship conference on Portland Oregon, entitled “Part Sourcing for a Frankencaster” wherein I discussed my adventures in mix & match parts acquisition for my Comp Caster.

This predates the start of this blog by about 2 years, so I thought I’d post about it now, as I have just placed the Powerpoint file on our web site. Although in this presentation I mused about making some of the parts I wanted, I subsequently have managed to obtain original parts from other casters. I think I even have all I need for Unit Shift, but have not tried using it.

I am still left, though, trying to find a Unit Adding attachment for my caster. I saw one in action (mind you, intermittently and unwanted) at last year’s ATF conference in the Portland, Maine area.

In case you care, the serial number locations I found were:

  • The top of the main table
  • The nameplate on the paper tower
  • The top of the type channel right block
  • The right-hand end of the front pin block
  • The rear end of the rear pin block
  • The end of the galley directly facing the operator’s position

An Old Type Foundry Price List

Well, not so old, really, dating to the end of the era of large commercial type foundries. This is the June 1973 pricing pages for the Moore Type Foundry, 431 King Street West in Toronto. I found their catalogue amongst some books I was sorting through at the Mackenzie Printery Museum.It isn’t clear how large “a font” is for them, but for instance, the first entry for 6 to 9 points states that a font of caps or lowercase is about 3 pounds and costs $12.00. This would imply that their font schemes vary by point size so all fonts are about the same weight. This makes some sense as it means you need about the same number of fonts to fill a typecase regardless of the size.

Looking at other prices it seems the general price is about $4 per pound overall. Prices are a bit higher for smaller sizes (under 10pt), I guess to cover the fiddly nature of smaller type.

For some strange reason, condensed, script, and in particular Univers cost more.

The only thing substantially cheaper is strip material which, except for 1-point, costs $0.56 per pound. Of course, 1-point leading is very fussy to cast, so costs about twice as much.

It is clear from the remainder of the catalog that this foundry casts from Lanston Monotype matrices; you can tell from the series numbers used to identify the faces.

The second pricing page refers to “imported type” which I assume was not cast in Toronto, but imported from elsewhere (like the USA). Most of the faces named were not produced by English Monotype Corporation, so they are probably from American Type Founders (ATF, which was still in business at the time) from their own matrices. The Eurostile face is likely imported from Italy, since Nebiolo (I assume they also made the Nebitype type-casting machine) was the company that produced it.

Inflation in Canada since 1973 has increased prices pretty much seven-fold (reference here but beware the site has obnoxious ads) and based on that I think my current pricing for cast type (somewhere in the range of $15/pound) is quite a bargain, about half the $28-ish per pound that inflation would suggest.

Right now I cast type using one of four fixed schemes, and perhaps I should instead be trying to make packages of fixed weight. This would make it easier for me to have a more specific price list, but that would be replaced by the equivalent problem of describing a different font scheme for each size and face.

More Marbling—At Last!

After a long hiatus, I’ve had a chance to do some marbling.

The driving force was actually the necessity to test a new sample of carragheenan. We’re currently out of stock, and as usual, the last source we bought from is no longer available so we have to try a new supplier. Thus the need for me to test out the sample from the new supplier.

Fortunately, this product works great! I had essentially no problems with streaking of the marbled pattern, and the only paint contamination in the marbling tray is from some paint I applied too heavily causing some of it to sink to the bottom of the tray.

Now we have to figure out the other bugaboo for small businesses like ours: How to order less than a truckload!

CBBAG Ottawa Book Arts Show and Sale, May 25th, 2024

This year the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG) will be holding their Book Arts Show and Sale at the recently-opened Carleton University MacOdrum Library Book Arts Lab, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario.

The fair will be held Saturday, May 25th, 2024 and runs from 9am to 4pm. Their web site should offer more details as the time approaches.

We will have a table at this fair, offering for sale a selection of our handmade paper, marbling, and some bookbinding supplies.

Grimsby Wayzgoose, April 27th, 2024

The 46th Grimsby Wayzgoose Book Arts Fair will be held on Saturday, April 27th, 2024, at the Grimsby Public Art Gallery and Library, 18 Carnegie Lane, Grimsby, Ontario.

The fair will feature over 50 exhibitors of varied book arts, including hand paper making, paper marbling, bookbinding, and private press printers. There will be items like books, cards, prints, and paper, both as giveaways and for sale.

We’ll have a table at the fair, with handmade paper, marbling, and some bookbinding supplies for sale.

As usual, there is also a Wayzgoose Anthology being produced, featuring sections contributed by many of the fair participants. Unfortunately, we did not have time to contribute this year, so we’ll have to purchase our own copy.

The fair will be open from 9am to 5pm, and admission is free.

A New Hollander Beater!

We recently purchased a Noble & Wood Cycle Beater!

…complete with flaking (probably lead) paint!

This beater can process up to 10 pounds (4.54kg) of dry fibre weight, in 24 U.S. gallons (90L) of water. That’s 5% consistency, considerably thicker than the 2-2.5% limit for a Valley Beater. This beater can manage this because it uses an auger to pump the pulp up to the infeed level for the beating tackle, allowing for a steep slope from the outfeed back to the auger. With the Valley Beater, on the other hand, the only slop to drive the pulp around the tank is the height difference between the backfall and the infeed, so a thinner pulp must be used to ensure proper circulation.

The auger is in the foreground of the second photo, driven by that rather complicated belting arrangement. The top of this shaft is fitted with a double-cone pulley, so the auger speed can be varied relative to the main roll speed to control the flow rate.

The roll and its shaft are mounted on a pivoting arm allowing the roll to move vertically. The roll bearing is the the dark part below the “Caution” sticker in the first photo, and the obvious round tube is part of the frame that supports the roll (the fact this is round is irrelevant; it is welded to the rest of the pivoting frame). The actual pivot is hidden to the right.

The beater also uses a moveable weight on a lever (the lever end is just poking through the yellow part in the foreground of the second photo) to counterbalance the approximately 100 pounds (45kg, though more technically 440N) weight of the roll. This allows beating force to be varied in a calibrated manner anywhere between zero and this maximum.

There is also an adjustment for the minimum gap between the roll and the bedplate. This adjustment is the vertical rod projecting from the top of the round frame tube. This is supposed to have a handwheel and scale on it so it can provide calibrated adjustment.

All this means you can control beating pressure, minimum gap, and flow rate, giving more latitude for controlling the beating action than with a Valley Beater, which only lets you adjust pressure in increments of whatever counterweights you have available.

The whole thing is driven by a 5hp (3.7kW) motor, which is getting near the largest electrical load we can handle in our shop. Fortunately, the actual power drawn by the motor depends on how hard the beater is working.

We have several tasks to do before we can get this working:

  • Strip off the flaking paint, and repaint the whole beater. The interior of the tank does not appear to be painted at all, but only has a tiny amount of surface rust.
  • Reverse the beater on its stand. The stand has legs flared on one side and one end for stability, but the beater is clearly mounted backwards on the stand since its centre of gravity is opposite the stand sides with the legs flared out. The thing almost looks ready to topple over.
  • Make a bracket to hold the motor and beater stands in the correct geometrical relationship so the drive belts run properly. We don’t have any place we can have a fixed mount for this beater, so we need to keep the motor and beater as separable units allowing us to move them around the shop with a pallet truck or fork lift.
  • Add a VFD so we can run the 3-phase motor on the single-phase supply we have in the shop, or use a new motor. Although we can generally buy a new 5hp motor for less than the cost of a VFD, finding the correct motor speed (1200-ish RPM) would be difficult, and we would have to replace the motor started (“switch”) as well. Furthermore, the VFD gives soft start so you don’t have a huge current draw when the motor starts up.
  • Figure out how to mount the guide frame for the counterbalance arm properly; This is a cast part with three bolt holes that match up with bolt holes on the side of the tank, but the bolt holes in both the frame and the tank are threaded (tapped), so I don’t understand how you can actually tighten the bolts properly. I could drill out the threads on the guide frame, but I don’t want to do that if this is actually intended to work (somehow) the way it is already built.
  • Make a handwheel for the beater gap adjustment

There is a manual, of sorts, for this beater available from Magnolia Paper (aka Magnolia Editions) in Oakland CA. I’m assuming they own one (likely the one in the photo on the cover page of the manual), and also the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland OH owns one, but it seems to be missing its auger.

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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