Linotype and Intertype Salvage

Linotype Machines, Fleet Street (from Heritage Explorer)
Linotype Machines (from ECP)
Linotype Machines (from ECP)

Note: Local friends at Urban Cottage Industries rely on these machines today, and run a battery of Linotypes under David Evans.  This article is only a last resort!

This is an account — in note form — that David M. MacMillan sent me to advise on linecaster salvage.  David also add this: “I very much prefer to save linecasters as complete, functional machines.  The steps outlined are for those situations where this
is impossible and you’re just trying to save as much as you can”

Important things to get

  • Matrices, magazines and rack
  • Heating Element
  • Spare oils/graphite
  • Any paperwork
  • Bulbs/fuses
  • Spacebands

Second priority

  • Tools, especially
    • magazine cleaning brushes
    • pot cleaning and pot well scraping tools
    • wire hooks (often shop-made, for pulling mats out of magazines; you can re-make them, but any with the machine were made by someone with experience)
  • Beyond that you’re into pulling spare parts off the machine.

General disassembly approach

I’d start in this order, depending on time and space and type of machine:

  • Keyboard up to magazines:
    • keyboards (especially if removable, as is likely)
    • keyboard cam/yoke assembly
    • the escapement assemblies (brass assemblies in the magazine frames, one per magazine)
    • if disassemblable, the “reeds” (rods) going up from the keyboard to the escapements
  • Skipping up to the distribution
    • (on US machines at least) the entire distributor bar assembly at the top of the machine comes off. If you can manage the space, get both, as complete assemblies. It’s a two-person job to lift them off (or some kind of hoist), especially if it is a “mixer” machine with two distributors
    • take the Distributor Boxes off (where the mats go in to the Distributor) separately before removing the Distributor Bar. It’s a left-hand screw on the handle to release them; turn it and wiggle the Box free
    • channel entrance parts (what the mats fall through when they leave the distributor to go to the magazines); lots of little vane-type things.
  • Assembly
    • the star wheel
    • the spaceband box (comes out as a unit)
    • maybe the assembler slide
    • the transitional piece (I’m forgetting the name) which the mats go through between the assembler slide and the vise.  This is a cast-iron framework, curved on the bottom.  It is sometimes broken if someone slams the vise closed, so it’s good to have spares.
  • Thevise and first elevator, and rest of front
    • whatever comes off, especially the vise jaws and other bits themselves
    • the “measure control” which connects the vise up to the indicating device over the keyboard which tells you how far you’ve set.
  • Pot
    • you had mentioned heating element, but I’m not sure how you’ll get it out. US linotypes used elements immersed in the metal. Intertypes used elements separate, in the pot wall.
    • The thermostat/heating control. If you can get this out with the thermostat elements included, that would be best. But those elements may have their far ends frozen into the pots. Do not cut these; I believe that they are mercury tubes. If they can’t come out, unhook them from the heater control and take the control unit for its parts.
  • Second Elevator
    • the carrier element which holds the mats on their way up
    • the “shifter” which pushes them into the Distributor, and if possible the long arm which operates the shifter.
  • Power
    • if the main motors are of the type which are geared into the drive, try to get them. (Belted-in motors are easier to find.) But I don’t know UK designs here
    • if you have time and can do it, it is nice to have the cam rollers, as these can go bad (I’ve got an example from a friend’s Ludlow that I plan to photograph). But BE CAREFUL. Everything in a Linotype is pre-loaded with powerful springs.
  • Others
    • The nameplates
    • anything else that comes off: magazine frame parts could be useful – but be very careful about the mechanism which raised-lowered the magazines. On Blue Streak and later US Linotypes, this was done by very strong coiled springs – dangerous to release suddenly. On Intertypes it is more a fore-and-aft geared motion.

Additional Points

  • Molds. Important to have.  Most Linotypes had four molds on the mold disk (though early ones had as few as two and some had six; the molds for six-disk machines were slightly different). You should definitely get at least the molds. You could either take them out individually, or you could remove the whole mold disk with them in it (the mold disk can warp, so it’s good to have spares), or you could pull the entire mold disk slide assembly out and keep it. That would be best, because it would also give you the parts for the ejector blades.
  • if there’s a box or tray or galley near the machine with a bunch of little strips of metal, generally in pairs (long and short) often marked with, e.g., “14 pt to 30 Em”, these are the mold liners. Get them! They’re what fits in the mold to adapt the mold to a specific body height and line length. They may look flat, but they’re carefully machined with a 0.002 inch taper to them! BTW, English “depth of strike” in matrices (how deep the letterform image is in the matrix) differed from US practice. So UK mats and molds are not interchangeable with US mats and molds.
  • Oh, and if it happens that the machines are late enough that they have the Electromatic Safety Device (or some UK equivalent), which has a vacuum tube in it (yes, really), then get at least the vacuum tube, and perhaps best the box/circuit boards it sits in/on. Replacing vacuum tubes in the future is going to be a whole lot harder than replacing mechanical elements.
  • Also, though it’s a long shot, look in the vicinity of the machines for supplementary tools – anything that looks like it might fit the teeth of a matrix; matrix repair tools, matrix milling tools, plunger cleaning brush tools (in the US, the Ewald brand; basically a rotary brush in a box). All of this stuff may be long gone, but if it’s there it’s worth having. There were also very simple matrix repair files – a little set of two fine files arranged parallel with each other on feet. Also there were holders for the matrices for cleaning – medium-to-long sticks that you’d line up all the mats in, clamp down with a screw at the far end, and then clean one-side-at-a-time. There may also be a board covered with graphite dust – this was used to “polish” the spacebands in graphite. It’s just a board, but it is nice to have the original, even if shop-made (a bit of history).

I’ve got docs for a couple of these things at:

Also that site has the “erection manuals” for the Model 5 and Model 31 (UK); these would be good to read, as they do the reverse of what you’re doing (putting together, vs. taking apart).

Also, if there’s anything that says “mold polish”, get it. In the US these were often in round flat tins from Dixon; don’t know about the UK.

Again, be very careful. Most things are spring-loaded, and they’re all heavy with often sharp edges. I had the first elevator of my C4 stick in a raised position once, when I didn’t know the sequence of the machine. It unstuck itself and came crashing down to where my fingers were just seconds before. I was very, very lucky.

Do you know about the online (PDF) version of Linotype Machine Principles which Jerry Spurling has online on his site: Worth reading. It is US vs UK, but it was the basic technical reference for the US machines from the 1930s.