Brimulta Sortsmaster

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1. Introduction

The "Brimulta Sortsmaster" was a type-casting machine known to have been made in the 1950s by the Multiple Acting Flux Company, of Sheffield, UK. (They also manufactured "Brimulta" brand flux for typemetal.)

Although this machine has a lever-operated mold superficially resembling those of the Typofix, it is unusual in that this mold is positioned over a force pump to inject typemetal into the mold cavity under pressure. (The pump in Turner's Apparatus, by way of contrast, simply delivered typemetal to a position above the mold and allowed it to pour into the mold.)

Force pumps were common in typefoundries which did their own matrix making (where they were used for test casting in matrix justification, and thus often called "justifier's force pumps"). A Justifier's Force Pump is listed for sale in the 1919 Williams Engineering catalog, for example, and one is shown in use in the 1948 American Type Founders' film Type Speaks! Typically, though, they were used with a removable, hand-held mold. Morover, any typecasting machine (pivotal, Barth, Thompson, etc.) has at its heart a force pump combined with some mold apparatus. The Brimulta, however, is the only device of which I am presently aware which combined a force pump with a dedicated mold for casting sorts one at a time.

2. Patrick Goossens' Photographs

Patrick Goossens of Belgium has very kindly photographed a Brimulta in his collection. The information on its maker's plate differs from that given in several sources; it is called a '"Brimulta" Type-Caster" and it is made (or at least distributed) by not one but two companies: Multiple Acting Flux Co. Ltd. (Sheffield) and Ex-Trans-IM Ltd. (London).

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3. Alexander Lawson's Account

In the January, 1956 number of The Inland Printer (that would have been Vol. 136, No. 4), Alexander Lawson wrote of his visit to the Tenth International Printing Machinery and Allied Trades Exhibition ("IPEX") in London in the column "The Composing Room" under the title "Europeans have Precision Composing Room Devices." In it he said:

"A casting machine measuring only 11 × 12 × 10 inches created a great deal of interest at IPEX. Name the the Brimulta Sortscaster, it is a hand-operated caster which is used to duplicate type sorts and sizes from 6-point to 48-point when no matrices are available.

"A type-metal matrix is made of the character needed, from which sorts can be cast at the rate of about twelve per minute. The size is easily adjusted by a letter [lever?], and the mold opening adjusts automatically to the body and set [of the] original type piece [from] which the mat was produced.

"The device is primarily used in recasting ornaments, either singly or in combination. It may even be used to make type-metal duplicates of small line cuts or electros. Spaces and quads up to the 48-point em also can be cast."

(This article has been transcribed on the Alexander Lawson Archive of the Ithaca Typothetae, where it is available at: My excerpt here has been copied from that transcription.)

4. Other References

4.1. Small Printer (1992)

A Google Books snippet from the English journal Small Printer, somewhere in Vols. 28-29 from about 1992 (on p. 243) reveals what appears to be a letter to the editor in which the correspondent says:

"(5721) Bristol OLD MACHINES May I first thank those people who wrote to me explaining the use of my sorts master (March letters — What is it) I am now enlightened...."

Alan Brignull has tracked down this reference, and discovered that the caster illustrated (in the March 1992 issue) was actually a Unicast (q.v.).

4.2. Print Week (2002) / Birmingham Typographic Hub

The Brimulta was described in a brief article by Caroline Archer in the March 1, 2002 issue of Print Week (in the column "Print's Past" under the title "The Brimulta Sortsmaster.") The primary items of information that this article supplies over and above Lawson's 1956 article are that the pot capacity was 14 pounds and the overall weight was 55 pounds.

This article is available available online for free viewing (after answering more or less annoying marketing questions) via Gale's "AccessMyLibrary" website at:

"The Typographic Hub," a website of the Birmingham [UK] Institute of Art and Design, reprinted this article (in transcription) on 2012-01-06:

The Typographic Hub version doesn't explicitly cite an author or source, but the contact for the site as a whole is noted as Dr. Caroline Archer (who wrote the article for Print Week in 2002). There is one unfortunate transcription error ("matrice" for "matrix"); it's so hard to find good grad students for transcription work these days.

4.3. Brimulta Flux in US in 1952

In a Google Books snippet view of an issue of The Inland Printer, the following text appears:

"KANSAS CITY Folder on British Metal Flux An illustrated folder describing Brimulta Printing Flux has been issued by Multiple Acting Flux Ltd., 336 Watford Way, London, N. W. 4, England. The flux is said to be a superior product, enabling..."

Google says that this comes from Vol. 130, p. 80, in 1952. At that time, The Inland Printer was numbering each issue independently, so until I check the volume, I don't know which number it appered in.

4.4. Brimulta Sortsmaster in US in 1955

In another Google Books snippet, from Vol. 136, p. 60 in 1955 (again, the issue number is unknown, though I've checked No. 1 and it isn't there):

"... Named the Brimulta Sorts- master, it is a hand-operated caster which is used to duplicate type sorts in sizes from 6-point to 48-point when no ..."

4.5. Multiple Acting Flux Co. Corporate Information

According to an online business listing of UK firms, at, the Multiple Acting Flux Company Limited was incorporated "1940-01-12" and filed accounts up to 1993-12-31. They list its status as "Dissolved."

A Google Books snippet from The Foundry Trade Journal, Volume 112, [number ?], p. 340 says that:

"Mr. A. H. Gollister has taken up the position of director in the J. I. Oettinger group of companies which include Multiple Acting Flux, Limited, Susgra, Limited, Sheffield, Foxflex, Limited, and Ex-Trans-Im, Limited ..."

Another Google Books snippet, from Chemical Process Engineering, Vol. 42 (1961) reveals part of an ad which reads:

"We specialize in GRAPHITE in any form. EX-TRANS-IM LTD."

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