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.