Two More Linotypes

Models 5 and 29

image link-topic-sf0.jpg


This is not advice on how to move a Linotype, or instructions on how to do so. In writing this account I am not advising you to move a Linotype. Moving machinery such as Linotypes is the business of professional, insured machinery riggers with experience moving printing machinery.

In presenting this account, I am merely describing what I did myself. Think of this as you would think of an account of someone who had climbed Everest, or of a war correspondent. An account of climbing a mountain or surviving a war isn't a recommendation that you should try to do the same! It is just an account of what someone did. I have, by the way, also flung myself off a cliff strapped to a set of wings. I don't advise you to do that, either!

So please realize that this is just a personal account. I specifically disclaim all liability for your actions. In no event will I be liable for damages for your use of, or misuse of, or inability to use, any information presented here, whether or not I have been advised of the possibility of such damages.

2. Philosophical Ramblings

2.1. On Time

This may sound strange, but while I have no problem with the past or with the future, I find that I often have considerable difficulty with the present. The past is past. You create and reshape it in memory and narrative, and time can make it better or worse. It is, at least, done with. The future you can plan for. It, too, exists in narrative. The past and the future are both subjective, malleable creations of the human mind.

The problem with the present is that it simply is. You can do absolutely nothing at all about the present: whatever is, is. "Wherever you go, there you are." You can do things in the present to change the future, of course, but whatever you do right now is simply what you do right now. It isn't past enough to be rationalized, and it isn't future enough to be planned for; it just is. I suppose that it is very un-Zen of me, but I don't handle this very well.

So it was that in the past I once studied postmodern literature. The job qualifications for this involve for the most part sitting in bohemian coffeeshops sipping frou-frou drinks. I found that I wasn't very good at this. In the future, I hope someday to be a reasonably qualified typefounder. We'll see whether or not I become any good at that. In the present, however (or, to pin it down in time, May 2009), I found myself on a freeway in rural Minnesota in an impossibly large truck staring down at a steering wheel that said "Freightliner" on it, heading to pick up another four tons of antiquarian machinery. This is a long way from Eng. Lit. What am I doing here? Why? How, exactly, did I get here?

2.2. And Space

The photograph below highlights a question that I've been asked several times lately. The question is usually accompanied by a gentle, quizzical look and runs something along the lines of "and just where are you going to put them, David?"

Note the size of the truck. It's a huge truck (to me, at least), 25,900 lbs max gross weight, 26 feet long inside the cargo area (23 foot wheelbase - it made it over my narrow stream/culvert much better than I expected). Yes, I had just turned the truck around in the space shown - it was a full six feet wider than the truck was long; plenty of room :-) The truck is going to be filled entirely, and then some. Note the size of the house. Everything inside the truck will go inside the garage. The garage already contains two Linotype/Intertypes, a Ludlow, and a Colchester lathe. Hmmm.

Now, before I go on, a practical note: putting it all in the garage is a temporary measure. The shop-in-the-garage is intended to be a working shop, but by no means an optimal shop. The goal is to rebuild the barn into a much larger, properly laid out shop. Someday that will happen.

For the present, though, I have to rely upon an unusual advantage that I possess: my Other Doctorate.

You see, on the wall in my office are two pieces of paper. One is an ordinary Ph.D. from the University of California, in English and American Literature. It took me eight years of rather difficult work to get it, and it's worth approximately the price of a piece of scratch paper.

The Other Doctorate is much more interesting.

Do you know the British television series "Doctor Who"? I've yet to see any of the revived series, but the original series, then the longest-running science fiction program ever, was marvellous. The Doctor, played by a succession of brilliant actors, travelled around time and space in a delightful craft known as a "TARDIS" - Time And Relative Dimensions in Space - which was not only a time machine but also, and more importantly, bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. Typically, The Doctor would confront an evil alien intent on destroying the universe, offer it a jellied candy, and then trick it into following its own twisted logic through to destroying itself. Truly, The Doctor is a thinking person's hero.

On my wall, I have a signed photo from Doctor No. 3 (Jon Pertwee), inscribed "The Doctor - To the Doctor!" Now this is a valuable academic qualification! Think of it as an honorary doctorate from the University of Gallifrey.

For, you see, the problem isn't so much to create time travel (though the presence of working Linotypes does help there), but the "Relative Dimensions in Space." In other words, I've got to create a workshop that is bigger on the inside than the outside.

To someone with the appropriate credentials, this is straightforward.

As is well known, matter warps space. The trick to creating an "RDIS" is simple: just put enough mass inside, and it will warp space such that the inside is, indeed, bigger than the outside. Counterintuitively (except to a Doctor) the solution to an overcrowded workshop is the acquisition of more machines. Getting enough mass is of course the problem, and thus the goal of this present Linotype adventure. Cast Iron is an excellent start, and pots of typemetal don't hurt, either. But the key to my success was my strategic decision to live atop an old lead mine.

Of course, the real trick is positioning the critical masses just right; for that, you need qualifications from The Doctor!

3. The Weight of Reality...

... in this case, an estimated 2,800 pounds for one machine and 3,400 pounds for the other - although everyone who worked with the Model 29, including myself, would swear that it's heavier than that!

(Note: These weights are only educated guesses made for me by an experienced Linotype machinist/vendor. I didn't/couldn't weigh the machines.)

The lighter of the two machines is a Model 5 Linotype. More specifically, it is a Model 5E, from 1944, serial number 56,571. It has a single magazine (as is the case with all Model 5 machines, of course), is a standard "30 Em" machine, and has a Manually Controlled Hydraquadder. It has a Type G Pot (= "Universal Comet" type) with C5 Micro-Therm controls. Margach feeder, lever-actuated type. All-in-all, it is a very sweet little machine. It's a classic within the Linotype genre; the Model 5 was manufactured continuously from its introduction in 1906 through the end of production in the 1970s.

The weightier of the two machines is a Model 29 Linotype, Serial Number 67,313, from 1956. Although the Model 29 could be configured with up to four magazines, this particular model was configured with only two. This results in a curious situation where, while the entire magazine shifting apparatus is in fact present, I can't see why you would ever shift magazine positions (since the Model 29 is a "Mixer" machine which can use two magazines more-or-less simultaneously). It has an Electrically Controlled Hydraquadder. It also has a Type G Pot (= "Universal Comet" type) with C4 Micro-Therm controls. Margach feeder, lever-actuated type.

4. Thanks

I really cannot say enough good things about the previoius owners of these machines. They went well out of their way to find a home for them (when the easy route would have been the scrap dealer). That these machines still exist is a tribute to their efforts. They helped tremendously during the move itself, both with their own labor and their equipment (it really helps to have available pallet jacks, a huge Johnson bar, forklifts, and a woodworking shop!) Most importantly, they were just very nice people. We looked forward to each of our three visits to their shop as much to see them as to see the machines.

Thanks are also due to Jerry Spurlock of SOS Linotype. He was the one who put me in touch with these machines. He also provided extremely good advice with regard to rigging and transporting them.

Thanks also to my wife, family, and friends. I certainly couldn't have done this alone.

5. Equipment

5.1. Moving, Then and Now

I guess I must be in a philosophical mood as I write this, because it seems to me that the way in which I moved this Linotype, which is in general terms not unlike the way in which any Linotype or Intertype would be moved today, bespeaks the decline of our culture. Formerly, this task was accomplished using a great degree of skill and as little physical exertion as possible. Today, the skill is nearly gone and we (or at least I) simply throw more power at it. This is not progress.

How was a Linotype moved, back when Linotypes were moved frequently? Recall that the first modern-form Linotype shipped in 1890 (or 1892, depending on which one you mean). It isn't as if they weren't good at rigging back then. I've read an article in a 1906 issue of The Engineering Record where they lifted an entire city block's worth of buildings to put new sections under them, and they'd been moving things such as derailed locomotives for the better part of a century. Still, they couldn't just throw a forklift at it.

The answer is that they moved them in pieces. Here's what the Mergenthaler Linotype Company says in Erection Procedure for the Model 31 Blue Streak Linotype (undated, but roughly contemporary with my Model 29):

'Each Linotype is completely erected in the factor and adjusted under actual operating conditions. When prepared for shipping, the Linotype is dismantled and carefully packed to avoid breakage and loss of factory adjustments due to shocks and jars of transportation handling ...

'The Linotype is either "factory stripped," "stripped to base," or "stripped for overseas," according to the shipping distance, mode of transportation or clearance dimensions of the purchaser's plant. The dismantled parts are carefuly sorted and associated assemblies are packed in the same crate for the convenience of the erector. On each crate there is stenciled a notation of the major assemblies contained therein. The erection described in this booklet is for a "stripped to base" Linotype .'

In other words, they took it apart into assemblies and moved each of these assemblies separately. Now, some of these would have been heavy - the base casting in particular. But none of them would have been anywhere near as heavy, or as "tippy" as a fully assembled Linotype.

Now, this is to me obviously the best method. It minimizes physical effort and potential damage. It does, however, assume one critical component: a person capable of assembling a Linotype. There are still a few such people left. At least one of them (Dave Seat) is still in it as a business. Someday I hope myself to achieve this level of skill (but do not have it yet, and do not plan to do it as a business). In almost all situations now, however, such a person simply isn't available.

So, instead, we throw power at it. Every Linotype move I've heard of has involved moving the machine whole, sometimes with a crane, but most often with a forklift. Now, forklift operation is a fine skill, and a really good forklift operator is a skilled craftsperson who should not be underestimated. But, meaning no disrespect to them, just moving a whole Linotype with a big forklift is a crude method by comparison to disassembling and reassembling it.

I've moved each of my four Linotype/Intertypes in this crude fashion.

5.2. Moving Tools

The most basic moving tool is therefore a forklift. I don't own one, and can't drive one, so I've always had to rent one or borrow one (with driver, of course).

Obviously, the forklift must be capable of handling the machine. Indeed, the Linotype weight should be well within the limits of the forklift. When we moved the Model 29, the forklift was one commonly used to move 5,000 lb pallets of building materials. The Model 29 was estimated by an experienced Linotype dealer at 3,400 lbs. Nobody present thought that the forklift was any too big.

I believe that the skill of the forklift driver is just as important. Indeed, I often say - as a joke that isn't really a joke - that while my invoice for the local Bobcat "Versahandler" rental I use on my end of the move reads "Bobcat rental with driver," in fact I am hiring the skills of a very good, experienced driver who happens to bring along an appropriate piece of equipment. For myself, I would never even consider moving a Linotype without a really good forklift driver.

Here's the forklift we used for loading, shown with the Model 5 (driven by the Headless Driver, as I was too busy to ask permission to show him; I wish I had asked, because he did a great job and deserves the recognition).

Here's the "forklift" we used at the unloading end (actually, this is the same photograph I used to illustrate the first two linecasters last year, but it is the same machine). As I've noted before, this machine seems to me to be a cross between a forklift and a dune buggy. It's a remarkable piece of equipment, but not half as remarkable as the driver. So far, he's moved four Linotypes, a Ludlow, and a large metal lathe for me - each time perfectly.

The other important moving tool is the "pallet truck" (also called a "pallet jack.") When I moved my first two Linotypes/Intertypes, and my Ludlow, I didn't have one. It is possible to move heavy machinery around a shop by means of steel pipe rollers. I moved these three machines this way, and earlier moved my Colchester lathe the same way. It is slow, difficult work, though.

I have avoided buying a pallet jack because my shop is so small. It's hard to justify buying a piece of equipment just to rotate a machine 90 degrees and move it six inches (which is what I did with my Model X, for example). On the other hand, with pipe rollers it took a couple of days to do this (safely). So with two more Linotypes on the way, I finally broke down and bought one.

I don't know how I lived without it. It is possible, on a level hard floor, for one person to move a 3,400 pound Model 29 Linotype alone (I've done it). This is nothing short of amazing.

Still, I feel that it is worthwhile for me to be very cautious when I do this. Indeed, the only problem is that moving a Linotype in this way is too easy. Not only can the machine potentially get away from you if the floor isn't level, but because it does move so easily it's possible to become complacent and assume that a 3,400 pound machine raised off the ground and moving isn't dangerous. It is!

5.3. Securing Tools


Select Resolution: 0 [other resolutions temporarily disabled due to lack of disk space]