During the 2009 annual Midwest and Great Northern Printers' Fair held at the Printers' Hall of the Midwest Old Threshers grounds in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa (and combined on this occasion with the Amalgamated Printers' Association's annual Wayzgoose) Schuyler and Johanna Shipley set up a remote outpost of their Skyline Type Foundry to demonstrate the casting of type. They cast 52 fonts of Hadriano Stone Cut (a Monotype face by Sol Hess, based on an earlier design by Goudy) from mats electrotyped by the late Andrew Dunker.
Here is Sky Shipley next to a slightly out-of-focus Thompson. Sky is never out of focus (and when he's operating it, neither is the Thompson). Sky restored this machine from a "heap of rusted junk" status to its current beautiful condition. The paint color scheme is not original, but suits the machine beautifully.
The thermometer is a standard hot metal thermometer. It simply fits into the pot; it is not integral to the machine. I've used identical thermometers on my Ludlow. The temperature of a Thompson caster, though, is higher than that of a Ludlow or Linotype pot (closer to 700 degrees Fahrenheit, where for example a Ludlow pot is 565).
You will search the official literature in vain for the main operating lever on the right side of the machine. This lever in this form is present on the four machines at Skyline Typefoundry which were previously in service at Perfection Type of St. Paul, Minnesota. It is likely that it was an in-house addition there. Once you use it, though, it's hard to imagine using the typecaster without it. All it does is engage (or release) the Clutch Shifting Knob to start casting. Here's a closer view of it:
(The view from above, above, was taken later in the day after the caster had been shut down. The Piston has been removed from the well, and is resting on top of the Melting Pot (it's the handle in the upper left; it is in reality roughly the same size as the matrix holder handle - the perspective here is a bit forced).
Finally, here's a view of just the matrix. The matrix is shown in the orientation used in the machine. That is, the type is cast "upside down" (which is the normal printer's eye view of type), so that the cast-in nick (and any additional plowed-in nicks) will be up. Remember, matrices, like print, are right-reading. (This is at the full resolution of the consumer-grade camera I was using; there is no "click through" higher-resolution version.)
Here's the mold oil reservoir, with a Sight-Feed Oiler for regulating its feed. (If you look up such an oiler in, say, the McMaster-Carr catlog, it is called an "Adjustable-Flow Oil Reservoir" with "sight glass." This is misleading. Inded, the reservoir is glass and can be sighted through to see the level in the reservoir. Save in a general way over time this doesn't tell much about the rate of oil feed, though. The feed rate is determined by watching drops of oil as they go through the circular opening below the reservoir. There is no glass over this - it's just open.)
The feed rate is regulated by the knurled knob at the top. The oiler may be turned on and off (without affecting the feed rate setting) by flipping the toggle at the very top (shown up here, which is "on").
Here's a rather dark overall view of the left side. Still, it shows the general relationship of the Melting Pot to the machine. It also shows a non-standard aluminum water-cooled Type Receiving Stick. The regular part here is part 81TC1, "Type Stick" (in the 1956 Monotype-Thompson Adjustments ) or for much earlier machines part R-698, "Type Stick" (in the 1925 Thompson Instructions ). Sky tells me that the original Stick was made of wood. This aluminum water-cooled Stick is present on those machines which originated with Perfection Type of St. Paul, MN; presumably it was an in-house modification there.
It also shows the stand to the left of the machine where the operator assembles the cast type. This is actually a Linotype/Intertype Copy Stand, elevated on legs. Sky calls it the "Thompson Tender," and reports that it works extremely well in this service. Here it contains several tools, including an ordinary Linen Counter and a Micrometer (there is a Type Alignment Gauge partly hidden beneath the delivery slide.)
Here (in the center of the photo) is the Jet Box. Forceps, used for retrieving proof-cast types, are slipped over the side of the Jet Box. To the left, on the Thompson Tender, is a file used for dressing the types. The types themselves are shown leaving the machine above. Just above the Jet Box, below the types, is a counter. This is another of Sky Shipley's custom additions to the machine.
Some of the photographs above show the Melting Pot, of course. Here's another view, from the left side of the machine. In this view, the machine has been shut down for the day, and the Piston has been removed (it is lying atop the Melting Pot). The Thompson Melting Pot swings back on a pivot on the right side of the machine. Here, on the left side, is the Melting Pot Handle used to swing it back.
Here's the Melting Pot from the right (in a photo that has some framing issues; sorry). The gas regulator ("thermally-operated throttling gas mechanical control") is original equipment. It is made by the Partlow company, which is still in business.
As the setup at the Mt. Pleasant printers' fair was temporary, Sky had to transport the machine back home. This is much easier to do with the Melting Pot removed. This, in turn, gave me the chance to photograph the machine without the Melting Pot. Here it is from the back:
Here's a view taken from directly behind the machine, a bit lower. It's a terrible photograph (the flash interferes with the shiny detail of the mold apparatus, while leaving much of the outer parts in shadow), but it does convey some of the overall structure of the machine.
The Thompson has a continuously variable speed drive implemented via a rubber-covered wheel (the large black-edged wheel seen edge-on to the left in this photo) positioned at various points on the surface of the main drive wheel (which is at the rear of the machine).
Here's something you don't see everyday. Sky had removed the Melting Pot in preparation for moving the machine, but had not yet removed the types remaining in the machine. They were therefore visible in such a way as to show the breaking off of the jet. The types shown here are of course incomplete, and will be discarded (remelted).
All portions of this document not noted otherwise are Copyright © 2009-2010 by David M. MacMillan and Rollande Krandall.
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