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.