Ludlow Slugs
Lud­low Slugs

In com­par­i­son with oth­er type­cast­ing meth­ods, the Lud­low is very sim­ple.  The Lino­type and Inter­type need around 6 feet square in which to oper­ate and demand matri­ces and a mechan­i­cal­ly com­plex machine; the Mono­type needs a sep­a­rate key­board and cast­er.  Both need to stop the machine and make mechan­i­cal changes to change the type face and the length of the line; and both are expect­ed to be super­vised by a spe­cial­ist.  By con­trast the Lud­low was designed to be oper­at­ed by any of the com­pos­ing staff.

There are two main activ­i­ties: assem­bling matri­ces and cast­ing.  Matri­ces (or ‘mats’) are stored in spe­cial slop­ing cab­i­nets, and are col­lect­ed by hand.  Expe­ri­enced users can gath­er more than one mat at a time and because each mat is a uni­form size and easy to han­dle, this process is quick­er than com­pos­ing type from a case.  The mats are assem­bled in a ‘stick’: a met­al frame with a mov­ing end.  Dif­fer­ent sticks are avail­able for dif­fer­ent pur­pos­es: ordi­nary sticks, jus­ti­fy­ing sticks, ital­ic sticks, long sticks and self-cen­ter­ing sticks.  The mov­ing end is brought tight­ly against the end of the matri­ces and this forms a sin­gle, sol­id line of moulds to receive hot met­al.

The next step is to insert this in to the machine.  The Lud­low machine resem­bles a large table around 4 feet high with a pot of molten met­al at the back.  The table lid opens up to reveal the work­ings of the machine, based around a main shaft dri­ven by a small motor.  The cams on the shaft invoke a num­ber of oper­a­tions: includ­ing mov­ing the pot, forc­ing hot met­al in to the matri­ces through a mould, remov­ing the pot, trim­ming the edges of the slug and eject­ing it at the front of the machine.  At the same time, elec­tric ele­ments keep the pot of met­al hot, and also cir­cu­late cool water to key parts of the machine.  The oper­a­tor slides the stick in to the machine top and oper­ates a catch to secure the stick but also to release the safe­ty mech­a­nism.  On press­ing a lever under the machine lid, the cycle begins and a new slug of cast type is eject­ed at the front of the machine.  The stick is released and the oper­a­tor can dis­trib­ute the mats back in to the cab­i­net.  A set­ting on the machine front allows for repeat cast­ings to be made: espe­cial­ly use­ful if print­ing two-up or oth­er mul­ti­ples on a sin­gle sheet in a sin­gle impres­sion.

Because the most com­plex oper­a­tion — the assem­bling of mats — is del­e­gat­ed to a human, it’s pos­si­ble to achieve a much greater flex­i­bil­i­ty than oth­er sys­tems: mul­ti­ple sizes and styles of type can be cast in one oper­a­tion with­out a need to change the mech­a­nism of the machine.

In terms of out­put, the machine pro­duces every­thing on a sin­gle slug size, typ­i­cal­ly 21 or 22½ ems long by 12 points wide.  Oth­er moulds are avail­able, but this approach helps in han­dling the slugs dur­ing impo­si­tion and lock­up; and avoids the need to change the machine while cast­ing.  Types larg­er than 12pt will over­hang in a ‘T’ shape: up to 144 pt will sit with just a 12pt sup­port.  To help dur­ing print­ing, ‘blank’ slugs can be cast to go under the over­hang and sup­port the face.  The face is 0.153″ deep, and so much thick­er than the equiv­a­lent from Lino­type or Inter­type.

For longer lines of text, spe­cial long sticks are avail­able along with spe­cial stops.  Text is set with stops rough­ly where the slug would end.  The first slug is cast, the stick advanced to the next stop and the sec­ond slug cast and so on.  This pro­duces slugs that might have the face of the text over­hang­ing at the left or right, but a cor­re­spond­ing gap on the next slug.  When assem­bled, the gaps between slugs become invis­i­ble.

Operation of the Ludlow

When deal­ing with hot met­al and pow­ered machin­ery, I’d always pre­fer to call on the experts to demon­strate before I start work.  That said, there are some excel­lent guides to using the Lud­low, some online, some off-line.

Dr. David MacMil­lan has scanned and uploaded some excel­lent Lud­low mate­r­i­al to the Inter­net Archive, they include:

Also avail­able is the Lud­low Trou­bleshoot­ing Guide from Dave Seat.

Repairs and Servicing

The Lud­low was designed to be easy to use and robust.  It’s cru­cial that the machine is kept clean and well lubri­cat­ed to con­tin­ue to per­form.  In the US, Dave Seat is the pre-emi­nent Lud­low mechan­ic, and in the UK it is Kei­th Hard­ing.

Video Guides from Don Black