Sunday, July 18, 2010

Praxis: Written Communication in a Grid-Down Environment.

The stencil duplicator or mimeograph machine (often abbreviated to mimeo) is a low-cost printing press that works by forcing ink through a stencil onto paper.

Along with spirit duplicators and hectographs, mimeographs were for many decades used to print short-run office work, classroom materials, and church bulletins. They also were critical to the development of early fanzines because their low cost and availability enabled publication of amateur writings. These technologies began to be supplanted by photocopying and cheap offset printing in the late 1960s.

Although in mid-range quantities mimeographs remain more economical and energy efficient, easier-to-use photocopying and offset have replaced mimeography almost entirely in developed countries, although it continues to be a working technology in developing countries because it's a simpler, cheaper, and more robust technology, and because many mimeographs can be hand-cranked and thus require no electricity. -- Wikipedia.


You probably have to be as old as I am (58 on the 23rd of this month) to remember one of these. When I was the assistant editor of my high school newspaper, we used a mimeograph to turn out our product.

High school kids turning out a school newspaper, circa 1951.

Memories of smelling mimeo ink came flooding back when a buddy of mine told me that he had just found and acquired for the carrying off, an old AB Dick machine, quantities of ink and master stencils. A neighbor of his asked him to help clean out their garage as part of moving sale, and there in the back, under a tarp and covered with the grime and dust of probably thirty years, was a machine that had been used to turn out church bulletins. He is in the process of cleaning it, and will run a test leaflet before storing it back in a cool, dry place of his own for the purpose of communications in a possible grid-down future.

I asked him if he would consider selling it, and he just gave me a look that said, "No way in Hell, Vanderboegh, are you getting your hands on this."

One machine I DO have is a portable manual typewriter. In fact, I have two of them plus plenty of carbon paper I scored about 15 years ago in a going-out-of-business sale at an office supply store in Irondale, Alabama.

Royal Quiet DeLuxe

One of the typewriters is a Royal Quiet DeLuxe similar to the one above, with accompanying hard-shell case. The other is a more modern Olivetti MS-25 Plus like the one below.

If I recall correctly, I got the Olivetti for about ten bucks at a yard sale, and the Royal for the carrying off at the tail end of an estate sale one late afternoon. Both have smooth actions, crisp carriages and smooth rollers pretty much like new. I scored big on the carbon paper, as I recall, hauling off pads of 25 per for like a dime a piece.

Carbon paper.

Some years ago, I also picked up several thousand 8.5x11 military "Hand Receipt" forms, each having a carbon copy underneath the original. The idea was that you would sign for the property issued, get the carbon copy underneath and the original with your signature would remain in the property officer's book. These can be used for a variety of messages and records. Acquisition cost? The effort required to pull them out of a National Guard unit's dumpster.

Yes, I confess, I'm a dumpster diver from way back.

Remember, too, that many companies give out note pads as promotions. Like cops giving out gunlocks, I take as many of these as are offered. Same goes for promotional pens and pencils.

All of it goes in five gallon buckets or other cache-suitable containers. Such packratism is probably a character flaw, but then again I won't run out of means to communicate in a grid-down environment for a very long time.



1Lt. Taylor Holmes, ret. said...

So long as PackRatizm is accompanied by OCD-Organizationalizm. (Was that a word?) You will be buried by "stuff" after they "bust a cap in yo dome", because yer stuff tangled yer feet on the way to your piece.

I know, man. You gotz it all together. Just yankin yo chain, bro. We keep manual typers on inventory. My pride and joy is a 50's era Underwood Corespondent unit of the kind later used by military reporters. This one was a civie, but I'll give it a pass. Seen its brethren. They do good work.

You must remember one thing. A manual typer has a fingerprint to one degree or another. They can sometimes identified by damage to a striker, or a vertical misalignment when the punch is made. Matching page to unit was a Hollywood thing, until I saw a brother show me how it was done. You never know.

It pays to be aware of your weaknesses, and your enemy's.

M. Bryant said...

Speaking of grid down: ran across this emt's story of Katrina experience. I'm only a third of the way through this long piece, but I can tell I won't sleep until I'm done.,46497.0.html

Russell said...

I remember, and oh the strange smell too.

Anonymous said...

I volunteer a few days a week at a local thrift store, and you should see some of the old manual beauties that come through. It pays to dumpster dive there, too. Lots of useful things get thrown out simply because they were in need of only a thorough cleaning or a simple repair, but would "take too much time" (or nobody else there had the necessary skill for the repairs needed). Thrift stores are great (but often overlooked) resources.

A recent prize: an old leather saddle scabbard for an M-14. A little Feibing's soap and it will be clean and supple again.

JR said...

"Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one."

An excellent reference book for those interested in the manual printing arts is "The Alternative Printing Handbook," (ISBN 014046509X), published by Penguin, but now out of print. Used copies are available on Amazon, though it's listed there as "The Art of Printing by Hand." It covers multiple printing methods for the do-it-yourself, small-scale printer.

Chaplain Tim said...

I guess going to a rural school means I'm behind the times. I'm ten years younger than Mike and I learned to type on a manual typewriter. Our "Media" class used a mimeograph machine to produce a "paper" for the other students.
Keep an eye out for replacement ribbons, they're about the only thing that you'll need other than paper, for a manual machine. Cheap copy paper goes for less than $20 a case- ten reams of 500 sheets each. I have two cases set aside for "emergencies". Never know when you might want to send a note or post a notice somewhere.


JoeFromSidney said...

ARMY FM 31-20, Special Forces Operational Techniques, has a chapter on "Field Expedient Printing Methods." silk screen, mimeograph, etc.

Anonymous said...

What about ribbons for your manual typewriters? A dry ribbon is miserable to use, I learned that in the 1960's.


Anonymous said...

Source for new ribbons for old typewriters:

Sorry, no dumpster shopping cart :-(