Monday, 23 November 2009

geek love

I got an early birthday present from my husband at the auction on Saturday (yes, I was well enough to go!) - this incredible old Roneotype printing machine. We didn't have a clue what it was or whether it worked, but with two huge and beautiful boxes of metal type, a little printer's stand and a 1930s style chest of drawers full of random printing goodies in it, it was too good to miss. Turns out there is scant information anywhere about such machines, so I will just have to muddle along with it using my prior knowledge of other printing presses as well as a whole pile of assumptions.

It's now in the greenhouse (of all places!) where yesterday I spent a good couple of hours behaving like the geek tomboy that I am and taking the thing apart. Filthy business it was - there was a disintegrating sponge somewhere in there and about fifty years of brown oily gunge to clear. I'm still working out the mechanism for inking up and printing, but I think I understand all the bits now. It was joyful pottering, gratifying geekery to be out there with the wind battering the panels of the greenhouse and getting covered in oil. Only problem is, one of the cogs has worn right away and needs replacing or it won't work at all! Luckily the husband has lots of friendly technicians at work who might be able to help me out.

Here she is, in pieces:

It came with three barrel-shaped drums on which you set your type, and a handful of composition forks upon which you create each line of text before sliding it onto the barrel. Some of the type and blocks that came with the machine were for an old shoemaking company in Norwich, so I have inherited the little shoes, boots and logos which would probably have been on their letterheads and correspondence.

What else did we get? a few beautifully etched soda syphons not unlike these in clear glass (only we're struggling to open them!), some random old tins, some even more random bottles of horse medicine (!), a flour sack full of weird rabbit traps and a crate full of lovely vintage terracotta pots for me.

And to top it all off, my football club won 9-1 yesterday. Whoop!

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