Monotype Repairs: An Enclosure for a New Pot Temperature Controller

The finished box. Dimensions are 5×7×5 inches.

While using my Monotype Composition Caster recently, I’ve noticed that the pot temperature has been drifting. On several occasions I’ve found it to be quite a bit hotter than the setpoint, to the point where I had to select a temperature a couple hundred degrees (F) cooler than what I wanted. This was after recalibrating the controller once.

I couldn’t trust that the caster would hold a stable temperature so I’ve been working on replacing the pot controller system with a modern electronic temperature controller which uses a thermocouple to measure the temperature of the molten type metal.

One thing I needed that I neither already had nor could find anywhere was a metal enclosure that was big enough to hold the new control electronics but small enough to perch comfortably in place of the old Partlow controller. I ended up making an enclosure myself, and documented my trials doing this in a new YouTube video.

As is often the case, projects like these move at a glacial pace, so my caster has been down for about three months waiting for me to finish this new controller. I hope that now that the case is complete the rest of the work will go faster.

Update: Temperature Controller Finished

As of the end of April 2023 I have the new controller completed, and other that tweaking the viewing angle a bit, it is working well.

American Typecasting Fellowship Meeting this April

After one cancellation and one virtual meeting both due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Typecasting Fellowship (ATF) will be holding its first in-person conference since the August 2018 conference hosted by M&H Type in San Francisco.

This year’s event will be hosted by Scott Vile at Ascensius Press in Buxton, Maine, and also nearby in Portland, on April 28-30, 2023.

Please visit Scott’s Facebook page for more information or e-mail him at to get updates.

I will will be attending this meeting and probably be giving a presentation, topic yet TBD but related to the Monotype Composition Caster. As a result I will be missing this year’s Grimsby Wayzgoose, which is unfortunately the same weekend.

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2023 Grimsby Wayzgoose, April 29th

The 45th Grimsby Wayzgoose Book Arts Fair will take place at the Grimsby Public Art Gallery in Grimsby, Ontario, from 9am to 5pm on Saturday, April 29th 2023.

We will have a table at the show, selling some of our handmade and marbled paper, new and used books on topics such as hand papermaking, bookbinding, and marbling, and a selection of tools and materials for these crafts.

We will also have a section in this year’s Wayzgoose Anthology, as usual prepared at the last minute!

I (Kevin) can’t make it this year, as I will be at the American Typecasting Fellowship meeting in Maine that weekend, but Audrey and Lily will be in Grimsby to see you.

Air Compressor for the Monotype Caster

I’ve been using a compact air compressor to run my Monotype Composition Caster. The machine uses pneumatics to control what matrix it casts, when to start a new line, how wide to make the adjustable-width casts, etc. Originally the caster would read its control information from a 4″-wide punched paper ribbon by applying compressed air to one side of the ribbon and detecting the holes because they don’t block the air. My caster now uses computer-controlled valves to inject air into the same holes, but even without the ribbon the machine is still controlled pneumatically.

The compressor I had been using was probably 20 years old, and it was taking it forever to build up pressure. I expect that the piston, cylinder, and/or valves have worn out. Being that old, and an off-brand, spare parts were out of the question, so last spring I bought a new compact compressor to replace it.

The noise of the old compressor was pretty loud, but its replacement seemed even louder! I can stand all the clatter the caster itself makes, but when the compressor ran I couldn’t think straight without hearing protection.

The new compressor. Note that I’ve replaced the “universal” quick disconnect with a “type A” one because I find that the former leak if you tug sideways on the hose at all.

This week I noticed that Princess Auto had on sale a compact compressor which was described as being particularly quiet, so I decided to take a chance and bought it. Wow, what a difference! This compressor is about as loud as a loud refrigerator, i.e. not loud at all. When I turned it on, Audrey’s comment was “is that it?”. With the caster running I don’t think I would hear the compressor at all.

I should point out that the caster itself can be quite noisy, especially when casting composition (text) because of the matrix case flying back and forth, so I often wear hearing protection as well. But at least now people at the other end of the room won’t jump when the compressor starts up.

This compressor also has a proper parts list, and the piston seal is a Teflon ring which could be made from scratch if the OEM part is no longer available.

The old compressor will now be relegated to the basement for occasional use with an air stapler.

Adjusting the Second Transfer on a Linotype

Continuing my work on the Linotype line caster at the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum, this weekend I adjusted the second transfer alignment, where the matrices are transferred from the second elevator to the distributor bar.

On at least two occasions I have had matrices hang up there, preventing the second elevator from descending to pick up the next line of matrices. Read more ›

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Sticking Monotype Air Pins

Recently while trying to cast some fonts on my Monotype Composition Caster, I have found that the galley cycles did not operate reliably, forcing me to watch the casting run like a hawk to manually trigger the galley cycle to start a new line of type.

The caster is set in “double justification” mode, meaning that a galley cycle is triggered by both justification-setting air channels (0005 and 0075) being activated together in the same cycle. Watching the caster in action, however, I saw that only the coarse (0075) one was activating. This was sufficient to correctly set the justification because it was followed by a 0005 (only) cycle that set the fine justification and re-enabled the pump. But without both channels acting together there was no galley cycle and the (supposed) new line would be combined end-to-end with the just-finished line.

I also noticed that, first thing in the day, when I applied air to this channel, it would take 5-10 seconds for the pin to raise, when it should really snap up within a fraction of a second. If I pressed it down against the force of the air and released it, it would pop up again right away, but the longer I held it down, the longer it would take to pop up again.

The pin turned out to be sticking, but not due to mechanical friction. Instead a film of oil between the flat bottom of the air pin and the flat bottom of its cylinder was delaying the rise of the pin due to suction. The longer the pin stayed down, the more complete the film became, making it harder for the pin to rise again. Read more ›

A Cool-down Drool on the Monotype

I have recently taken another Monotype mould out of mothballs to use for casting a font of 6-point type. This is one of the moulds I got from Rich Hopkins’ tertiary storage, i.e. his garage. I had cleaned off the coating he had applied to prevent rust in storage, adjusted the cross-slide, and tried to cast the contents of a matcase to determine its layout. When casting type as small as 6 points, pretty much the only way to identify the matrices is to cast them, and better yet proof the cast type.

Unfortunately this mould’s cooling passages were clogged completely and with no cooling flow the type came out with fins everywhere and I gave up when I got a squirt, likely caused by a bit of fin broken off and landing between a mat and the face of the mould.

I shut down the caster and didn’t come back to it until after Christmas holidays.

Preparatory to removing the clogged mould, I cranked down the pot, now cold, and found that it would not swing out fully because a lump of type metal had solidified around the nozzle and was bumping against one of the thumbscrews that locks the galley support.

The metal had even dribbled over the edge of the pot forming a sort of metal-cicle.

This does not normally happen when the pot cools off and solidifies. I think that, with the nozzle area of the pot surrounded by the overheated caster table and mould, the metal in the pump and nozzle remained molten even as the rest of the pot solidified, forming a hard case that contracted as it further cooled. The molten metal inside would normally be sealed off and prevent this case from contracting, but in this case there was still a path for molten metal to escape, so a steady dribble of metal was coming out of the nozzle, forming this little mess.

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Monotype 14-point Display Fonts #1 and #2

I recently cast several fonts of type in Monotype  #329 Sans Serif Light. This included 12-point from composition matrices and 14-point from display matrices.

As with a few other Monotype faces, this one is available as display matrices in two different size designations, commonly known as 14#1 and 14#2. The latter is visibly larger than the former.

Not really understanding why these both exist, we opted to cast 14#1. On comparing the various fonts of type we observed that the 14#1 looked very much like 12 on 14, that is, 12-point type cast on a 14-point body.

Some digital photo manipulation of scans from the specimen book reveal what is going on. In all the following, samples of composition and display specimens have been superimposed, with one specimen in blue and the other in red (sorry, forgot which is which). Overlapped areas are black.

18 point large comp vs. 18 point display

So far, so good… The two 18-point variants match very closely. Note that the 18-point composition is only available if the caster is fitted for “large composition”.

14 point large comp vs. 14#2 display

Again, this is a close match, though not as close as with the 18-point, but it would appear that the 14#2 is the true 14-point version of the face.

12 point comp vs. 14#1 display

Now things go a little weird: It seems that 14#1 really is a 12-point font.

10 point comp vs. 12 point display

Just as with the (visually) 12-point fonts, there is a discrepancy in the sizing of the display font here.

One has to wonder why Monotype chose to call the last two display sizes 14- and 12-point when they are really 12- and 10-point. My suspicion is that because of the draft angle in the matrices, these faces cannot be cast on their proper body sizes because the beards of the type would project top and bottom. Such type would require hand finishing to remove the beards. To avoid this Monotype labeled them based on the body (mould) size that must be used, and used the #1 and #2 designations to differentiate the two sizes that cast on a 14-point body. The 14-point faces are not an exact match, so it could also be that the 14#1 just would not fit on a 12-point body, even with no beards, but then, why would they design a face that way?

Some day if I remember I’ll test this theory by casting some 14#1 on a display mould fitted for 12-point to see if the type itself fits but projecting beards are unavoidable. It should also be mentioned that there is, to my knowledge, no such thing as a 10-point display mould, so the 12-point mats could not practically be cast on their proper 10-point body. You could use a composition mould, but the nick would be on the wrong side of the type and getting proper alignment might be difficult.

Linotype Mystery Parts

On the Linotype at the Mackenzie Printery and Newspaper Museum, there are a couple of parts that I can’t find in any of the parts manuals I have:

There is a lug on the slide that transfers the matrices from the first elevator to the second elevator, and a lever that, in its resting position, catches the lug and prevents this transfer. The lever is only raised to clear the lug when the first elevator is in its fully-raised position.

In particular, if the recast block is engaged, the first elevator does not rise completely (and the matrices do not all drop to the lower rail) and so the transfer is prevented. During the cycle the caster will stop when it finds the transfer has not completed and the operator will have to pull out the clutch control to bypass the stop, as which point the first elevator, still carrying the mats, will return to its idle position.

The caster already has a stop on the spaceband transfer pawl which is intended to prevent the transfer.

It would appear that the original procedure for recasting a line would be to engage the stop on the spaceband transfer pawl and also engage the recast block so the matrices would remain in the first elevator, allowing the same line to be cast again. If the operator set the recast block but not the spaceband pawl lock, I think the caster would push all the matrices out of the first elevator and dump them on the floor. Spacebands might just jam because the rail heights would not match between the first elevator and the second elevator.

So these mystery parts might have been introduced to make suppression of the transfer automatic when the recast block was in use.

But I still can’t find them in any parts book, nor in any catalog I could find for Star Parts (an aftermarket provider of Linotype parts and accessories).

So, can anyone comment on whether my analysis of the purpose of these parts is correct, or provide any reference for parts numbers or suppliers?

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BOUND Book Arts Fair, Sunday December 11th, in Toronto

After a couple years of COVID hiatus, the BOUND Book Arts Fair is back!

This year’s Fair will be held from 10:30am to 4:30pm at the Arts & Letters Club located at 14 Elm Street, near Yonge & Dundas in downtown Toronto.

We are lucky enough to have a table at this fair, this time upstairs in the Studio, where we will be selling some of our paper, marbling, bookbinding supplies, and assorted books related to the book arts. The Studio is on the third floor, but has lots of windows for plenty of natural light, and there is an elevator available if you can’t handle the stairs.

In addition to all the vendors there, this year will feature an Artist’s Talk by master printer Richard York at 2pm. Richard comes to us all the way from Salt Spring Island, BC.