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Old style Linotype specifications

Started by Jimking, June 12, 2019, 03:26:59 PM

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I noticed from the recent posts that the mention of Linotypes is gradually receding as those of us who worked on these machines over the years gradually head to the Great Composing Room in the sky. The following is my recollections of the technical details of the machines, particularly the early models.  Although I worked on both English and American Linotypes, Intertype, Italtype, Novatype and Neotype I've restricted it to the English models.

Blower Machine
Although production started on these in Manchester in 1890 none were ever completed.  The only machine in existence is in the Smithsonian Museum.

Square Base Linotype
Production of these started in 1891 and roughly 20 machines were built. 
Narrow pitch slow screw
Crossed flat belt drive

11pt maximum capacity
The cast iron mounting frame was an integral part of the magazine which was a full font weighed around 50kg.  Extraneous mats ran down channel 91 into a bowl mounted on the assembler entrance. The key rods hung from the 3 piece escapement (2 steel 1 brass) and were returned by the key rod springs.

Standard 90 keys but the key bars were returned by a comb spring instead of weights as on later machines.  The cams had a spring loaded stock pin as opposed to side stock on later machines.  Changing troublesome cams on all Model 1 was a nightmare, you first had to fit pokers to lock both escapements and keyboard and pull out the full length 1/16 wire which held the cams in position, deal with the problem and then carefully feed the wire back through the cams and woe betide you if you kinked the wire whilst doing so.

Flat belt drive via bevel gears to dog clutch on right hand side of face plate
More or less as normal apart from the very early old style machines which were all single line.  All machines of this period had a distinctive brass tubular delivery slide airbrake.

Machine Body
Mould wheel 2 pocket, 1 fixed length and measure mould and one blank for counter balance and to operate first safety stop
Ejector blade solid
Metal pot
3 gas burners i.e. crucible throat and mouthpiece
Vertical pump spring
No pump stop/slack line preventer
Hook type stopping pawls
Delivery slide spring was a quarter elliptical leaf spring
No mould turning brake
There are two machines left in the UK, one in original condition i.e. gas pot etc. painted dull black and a second in the Whittaker Collection which has been fully rebuilt and fitted with an electric pot and painted green.
Unfortunately both these machines are in storage areas and not available to the public.

Old Style Linotype
The square base was really the test bed for all future machines as the specification transferred directly to the old style Model 1 but with the star base and the modified justification system which became standard on all machines in the 1980s.  Also they used normal spring on the delivery side.
The fixed length and size moulds sound archaic but it must be remembered that all the early machines were multiple installations in newspapers and would be either on S/C or D/C all their lives.
I have taken the mouthpieces off machines that had been on S/C since the day of their installation and found that one side of the throat was completely clogged with dross, which had to be cut out with a hacksaw blade.

Old style second Model
Were double letter machines specification as per above

Model 1 Linotype
This was really the first full production machine delivered in 1895 and the basic specification remained the same but with adjustable moulds and 14pt knife block.  This was so called Pica machine which had the wider magazine and the second type distributor bar.  In the wider magazine to accommodate 12pt mats and 14pt extraneous mats.  Also available were knife wipers and drop line knife block.

36 and 42 em machines
These were more or less basic standard machines but to add to the problems of the extra length, setting transfers, knives etc. would make you tear your hair out.  Plus there was the problem of mould wheel warp.

Reconstructed Model 1
These were old stock or end of lease machines and can be identified by the letter R in the machine number.

Machine Body
Basically standard Model 1 and then later machines the stopping pawl was changed to the modern style. 
Metal Pot either gas or electric as required
Single column pump spring
Keyboard as standard
Distributor as standard

They used the cradle and magazine from the first style Model 4.  The strikers were the same as used on the early Model 8s

Model 1 Light Magazine
I cannot find any record of this in L & M records but have handled at least 3 of these personally over the years.  This had the standard Model 1 specification including the vertical pump spring.  I was told by an old engineer who worked originally for L & M in Altringham that these were converted unsold Models 2 and 3 fitted with the Model 4 cradle, magazine and strikers.

Model 2
This was an attempt to rationalise between British and American machines by using the standard Mergenthaler magazine and verge blocks which made a lot of sense but for some reason this did not take on with the British printers and was phased out.  Once again they used the strikers from the Model 8.
This was the first attempt at quadding which was operated by a bracket on the bottom of the first elevator with a compensator on the left hand side of the vice.

Model 3 Linotype
I never saw one of these machines as I know they were very unpopular and troublesome. 
2 magazine mixer carrying type up to 14pt.  The machine body was basically a Model 1

Model 4 Linotype
The first style known as the pillar motion where the lever operated cradle slid up and down on 4 pillars around 2.5 inches in diameter.  This was very difficult in operation as 9 times out of 10 you had to push the locaters in by hand.

3 magazines close mounted i.e. to change the middle or bottom you had to remove the other magazines. 

Faster, wider scrolls

The distinctive tubular airbrake was removed and replaced with a standard airbrake on the column.
Round belt assembler drive

Machine Body
Four pocket mould wheel
Solid ejector
14pt knife block as standard
36pt available on order
Outside galley

Model 4
This was available with 30 and/or 36 em moulds

Model 4 second style
The counter balancing and linkage of the cradles is which all future linotypes were based on i.e. separate cradles for each magazine. 
Machine body basically the same as the previous Model 4s but the knife block was the standard 36pt.  This machine was again available in 30 and/or 36 em moulds.
This was also available as a side magazine machine which was the most complicated machine every devised as it was operated from the main keyboard.
Double column pump spring
Universal ejector
First style 3 way quadder

Model 65 Linotype
This is the unicorn machine, everyone has seen photographs and read about it but I have never met anyone who has actually seen one.

Model 6 Linotype
This was a four magazine mixer in adjacent pairs.  This followed the similar design of the later Model 4s but had a very bad reputation for reliability partly due to under engineering of the movable assembler entrance, amongst other things.

Model 6 Side Magazine
Eight magazine mixer i.e. 4 main and 4 side.  General specification as the Model 6.
2 keyboards
Second style 3 way quadder
36pt knife block as standard
Geared motor
Improved assembler entrance shift mechanism
I found that if these machines were set up properly and were well maintained the operators swore by them rather that swore at them, as with the number of faces available in the 8 magazines particularly if fitted with display moulds, in the hands of a competent operator it was virtually a composing room on its own.  This machine was the basis for the Model 50 and 50/SM range of machines.

Points of interest
When the number plates are missing, it isn't so easy to identify the machine numbers but these can be found just above the right hand vice handle on the column.

Vertical Pump Springs
These were fitted on all machines up to and including the Model 3.  This has been compared with the Intertype which maintained the vertical spring on all its machine through the ages.  However, this is unique as the linotype spring is a straight compression i.e. you shortened the length of the spring to increase pump pressure.  On the intertype you increased the length of the spring i.e. putting it in tension to achieve the same result. 

Points of Interest

Metal Pots
Initially all pots were gas operated up to and including the Model 3, fitted with the wedge mouthpiece which hopefully you could drive off in situ, if not it meant taking the pot out and cutting down the centre with a hacksaw.  Although Linotype and Intertype bought out their own metal pots most UK machines were fitted with the funditor limited conversion pots.  Who also produced a foundry pot for remelting and casting ingots.

Although the companies made their own, again the funditor was the feeder of choice.

As a rule of thumb to identify between English and American machines, the UK vice head is always flat and square i.e. a nice little anvil to straighten spacebands, whereas the Americans used a moulded casting to save on material and machine time.  Also the UK stayed with the screw vice handles up to the Model 3 whereas the Americans went to the half cup on later Model 1s.

I trust this information will be of interest to the followers of Mergenthaler.


Although the Blower may not have been manufactured in England in 1890 The first 'Blower' Linotype in England was installed in the 'Leeds Mercury' office.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

Dave Hughes

Thanks for the very detailed and informative post Jim. I shall be putting your Italtype pictures on the main site very soon.

I was particularly interested in the mention of the strangely out-of-sequence Model 65. There is hardly a mention of it on this site apart from here in George Finn's History of Linotype Development in England.

As you say it would appear to be a "unicorn" machine!

I wonder if anyone here on the Forum has come across one in the wild.

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Hi George
The blower that was installed was an American import.  The first square based machine was installed in the Leeds Mercury.
I have a bone to pick with you, you gave me a 7 year headache searching for the old blue Linotype in 2012.
I will post details soon.
Cheers Jim


Hi John Re Model 65
The only information I have managed to glean photographically is that the machine body appears to be similar to the late Model 4 i.e. universal ejector, 36pt knife block etc.  The magazine cradles are again similar as is the counter balancing lever.  This was a four magazine mixer from adjacent pairs and two, three and four.  Sorry I cannot give you any more information.
Cheers Jim


Following your message on the Forum regarding the 65, I've studied the few illustrations I have of this machine and considering that the change from 1 magazine pair to another would require the operator to get up, operate the horizontal lever on the side of the cradle which I assume would disengage the locators, wind the large handle a full 360 degrees to bring the second pair into operation.  This would have made this machine very unpopular and I wonder if this machine ever made it into full production.

As the out of sequence number, this should have been number 5 but as it incorporated much of M6 I wonder if they combined the numbers.

As for L & M numbering sequence if we consider that they produced 15 models number 1 to 79, I will leave you to work it out !

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