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Keep Your Guard Down

Started by Mechanic, April 05, 2015, 08:59:57 PM

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I'd like to know the story behind this photo. The sign says "DO NOT OPERATE MACHINE UNLESS GUARD IS DOWN."
You can find more photos on

George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast


We had a Linotype operator, at the Sydney Morning Herald, get a finger crushed by the line delivery. Work Place and Safety suggested putting a gard over the assembler elevator. I told him that a lot of operators spent more time with their hands in there than they did on the keyboard. The Linotypes continued to be operated in this dangerous condition, without further incidents, until they were phased out 10 years later.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

John Nixon

They probably had an error code -  Id10t5.

What a waste of time, if you cannot work one safely as designed you should not be using it.

No doubt a decision by committee.


Dave Hughes

Sorry to bring this one down to earth, but when was this photograph published?

Early April, very early April? Perhaps the first?

Don Black is quite handy with Photoshop. Remember this?
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I quite believe it is a joke guard, but I don't believe it is photo-shopped. This photo is from Dave Seat's Hot Metal Services web page. It is of  Kenny a Linotype Operator in Oshkosh Wisconsin. There are a couple of photos of Don Black on the site. Maybe if Dave Seat happens to see this posting he may fill us in.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

Dave Hughes

Can you give us a link to the picture page on the site please, George. I couldn't find it from the home page. My money's still on an April Fool spoof!
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George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

David Seat

This IS NOT A JOKE.  It is a legitimate picture of guards that were put on machines after OSHA. Came through and told them these machines were to dangerous to operate in their natural state, which meant to me that they were to stupid to see that they have been operated for over 100 years with probably some accidents, but not enough to warrant this.  If the guard is raised even a little the complete machine will turn off and have to be restarted.

John Cornelisse

How would these labour-safety people react on a Monotype Composition caster in full production ?

It is not difficult to hurt hands or more when the operator would be a little bit careless...


Asbestos and lead fumes doesn't appear to worry them.
An historical village in the Brisbane area have been told they can not turn their machine on because the pot is packed with asbestos and contains molten lead. We dread getting a visit from them.
I wonder what OSHA think of hand operated platen presses.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

John Cornelisse

The asbestos around the pot, is perfectly sealed. I am told, that the man that did the
asbestos in all UK pots past away, but never had an asbestos related illness.

Do not open it, here there is never a need at all.

The electricity insolation is also made of asbestos, and special care needs to be taken whenever here
something needs to be done, which is very rarely the case.

In Holland it is forbidden to use mercury in equipment... But the original temperature control is
with a mercury switch. These can break however, when they are treated improper.


Here there is another popular fable. Those lead fumes... This rumour is old, but NOT TRUE AT ALL.

Liquids vapour near the boiling point, not around the melting point.

And the lead-tin-antimony alloy is only just melted.

Than again only the lead in the fumes mentioned here... No tin-fumes ? Or antimony-fumes ? Would those be healthy ?

Inhaling lead fumes, at a temperature of 1200 degrees celcius ? I would not be around the machine anymore.

THIS IS JUST A CRAP STORY, very popular though even on this blog.


There is another problem, that needs to attended: FAR MORE SERIOUS...

The vapours you can smell around monotype casters however, those are caused by burning of  the oils
falling into the lead pot from the moulds above the leadpot

This burning is far from complete, and the smoke should be sucked all away by a big ventilator. all

When this is not done, than you will find after some time a black CARBON dust everywhere in the atelier.

Be aware for this dust: this black dust will be inhaled by the operator and all people watching.
I suspect this black dust might contain carcinogenic substances. Like smoking sigarettes.

And the old habit of drinking milk... as advertized in former days... That did and does not help at all.


I quess former operators used the rumour of lead fumes also to keep people away from the machines.
The men behind the monotype casters, did not mix at all with the keyboarders... They even had seperated
places to eat their afternoon meals or drink their coffee.

In former days there was little effort to keep people healty. The noise around these machines, The old
caster operators that I have met in the years gone by, these men had all problems with their hearing. Nobody
ever used hearing protection.


I have worked, as a mechanic, with hot metal machine on and off since I was fifteen. To put that into context I'm now 81, I have repacked metal pots with asbestos many, many times without concern. I must admit that last year when repacking an Intertype I felt uneasy. We searched around and got insulating wool and kiln clay to replace the asbestos.

The Sydney Morning Herald had 120 Linotypes and no effort was made to extract lead fumes. Operators used the metal pots to keep their lunch warm.
However, as the following couple pars reveal, compensation has been paid by Mergenthaler, for asbestos related illnesses.

Litigation and Specific Lawsuits
Over the years, many individuals claimed they developed chronic respiratory illnesses as a result of exposure to asbestos in Mergenthaler products, such as the Linotype machine. Holding Mergenthaler responsible for their injuries, these claimants filed lawsuits against the company to obtain fair compensation.
According to New York State Supreme Court records, Mergenthaler has defended 33 asbestos lawsuits since 1972. The database does not offer any records prior to 2011. A vast majority of the claims include Mergenthaler among a lengthy list of defending companies. Four of the documented cases resulted in out of court settlements for undisclosed amounts, and as of July 2012, 13 lawsuits against Mergenthaler were active.

George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

John Cornelisse

dear Mechanic,

did you ever read the comment above in full ?

That lead fumes... those were a fraud. Yur whole life you were told that they did exist. And now
you cannot decide otherwise.

Off course all liquids vapour, even solids can vapour, like ice that is able to avaporate or sublimate
into very dry cold air.

But here we have liquid metal, even under the normal meltng point (600 degrees celcius) of pure lead.
because this is all alloy, Only very very few lead atoms are capeble to go into the air. The boiling point of
lead is 2024 degrees Celcius...

Lead fumes have a very high temperature, those temperatures our lungs cannot stand at all. Single
atoms cannot harm us.

It is just a mystery to me, how and why this canard is still there. I've studied astronomy and physics in
my young years, that is no proof, those lead fumes cannot exist. But the physics around it make them
quite impossible.

The fumes around Monotype machines those were caused by the oils falling into the lead and the
smoke and carbon dust this burning produced.

And of course, like all safety measures, all money spend on health and safety, does diminish the
profits of the compagny.

Big compagnies are not at all interested in our health, for you another. They want money, profits.
Your hearing loss, is their benefit, the boss does not feel your asbestos cancer.

And these are only implemented, whenever the workers are able to get enough compensation in courts
for the health loss. Actually, the only people that realy do benifit of that are laywers and judges.

The medical damages and dangers of asbestos for our health, those were known allready long before the
second world war.

The asbestos producers did not want to stop their profital bussiness, and now we have a world  completely
poisened with asbestos.

I have studied medicin too, and worked before that study more than a decade as a analist at the medical department of the
Amsterdam University hospital. My age is 67 at this moment, just retired 2,5 years ago...

Working 20 years with Monotype machines now, and printing too, but that was all hobby.


Yes I did. I was not disputing anything you wrote. I was point out the facts as I know them.
The Sydney Morning Did not believe lead fumes were a problem, and I agree.
Asbestos was an unknown risk, so I was not concerned, until I had to repack an Intertype pot last year.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

John Cornelisse

How can it be, that you need to redo the insolation of a leadpot.

On a monotype, I never encountered this problem.

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