ATF's Wax Plate Pantograph

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1. Wax Plate Working Pattern Method

Over the years, ATF employed several distinct methods for making working patterns. One of these involved scribing the pattern on a wax plate and subsequently electroforming a metal shell from this.

2. ATF Practices Circa 1906-1912

Writing in 1906 [1], Benton described this method but neither illustrated nor named the pantograph used for it.

In a 1909 article in The American Machinist [2] W. J. Kaup also described these same ATF methods and illustrated the machine used for "Delineating On [a] Wax Plate": [3]

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This machine is not the same as the 1899/1905 Benton "Electro-Optical" Pantograph . That machine was an enlarging pantograph with a complex tracer setup involving a moving pattern and a microscope-based optical tracer. This machine is a reducing pantograph which uses a physical tracer. It scribes its result on an inverted wax plate held in the rectangular frame above the pantograph arms.

Inverting the wax plate has the advantage that the wax scribed away falls clear of the wax plate, but the disadvantage that the operator cannot see the wax plate being cut. Kaup's article indicates that a mirror was placed underneath it to let the operator view it.

Here is what I believe to be this wax plate pantograph, shown in the ATF designing room by 1912: [4]

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(The image above links to a 2048 pixel wide JPEG reduction of the original scan, which is suitable for most viewing. Here is a full-resolution version (6496x4640, 59 Megabytes): atf-1912-american-specimen-book-1200rgb-0000-09-crop-designing-room-6496x4640.png)

Here's a closer view of the pantograph itself:

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I have found no Benton patent for this machine. This is perhaps not surprising, since while the method of wax plate working patterns may (or may not) have been novel at the time, the pantograph shown here for it is of very conventional design. It is interesting to compare it to a standard commercial drafting room machine. [5]

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3. Notes

1. In Hitchcock, Frederick H. The Building of a Book. (NY: The Grafton Press, 1906) . Linn Boyd Benton wrote the chapter on "The Making of Type," pp. 31-40.

2. From Kaup, W. J. "Modern Automatic Type Making Methods." American Machinist. Vol. 32 (December 16, 1909): 1042-1046.

3. But see the note on the problems of the term "delineate" in Benton's machines for a discussion of the problems in using the term "delineator" for this machine.

4. From American Specimen Book of Type Styles (NY: American Type Founders Company, 1912). Scanned by DMM from my tattered original, s/n 38187.

5. From Catalog and Price List, Sixth Edition, (Cleveland, OH: B.K.Elliott Co., by 1942), p. 149. Scanned by DMM from the original.

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