Friday, 6 May 2011

Wanted: One Engineering Degree

If you read my last post you have your suspicions as to why it's been a while.

Yes, the stamping was a challenge, an obstacle, a learning experience, and a pain. It also took days. So many days, and so many ruined covers, that I ran out of cover cloth, had to go back and get more from someone who didn't want to sell it to me, made more covers, ran out of board, rescued and re-lined board from the ruined covers, and finally, just when the deadline loomed and I had already made my disaster plan, the process gelled enough for me to get my two covers decently stamped.

I want to explain. I'm not only new to typeholders - I'm new to typeholders that fall apart in the middle of a stamp, sending hot metal cascading down onto the prepared foil and making random gold marks, or just burning the bejeesus out of my fingers as I scramble to prevent that from happening.

Here is my best typeholder:
In case you're wondering - no, it's not supposed to come in two pieces. If you don't know typeholders, here's the problem: The brass part holds the type, which must be heated evenly to about 200 degrees (F.)  or so. You have to heat it thoroughly, or the heat will be uneven and the stamping will be uneven, too. The brass part comes inserted into the wooden handle. Over time, bit by bit, with occasionally leaving the handle to get too hot or occasionally forgetting all about it until you smell smoke, the interior of the handle burns itself out. You can see the scorch marks at the top - the inside of the handle is completely charred and disintegrated. You can stuff cloth into the hole inside the handle, or leather, or whatever you will, enough to seemingly hold the brass part in place, but it has a habit of giving way at exactly the wrong moment.

I got my typeholders at a discount because they were used and burnt out. I'm an optimist - I think I can make them work. I even think I can improve them. First, I want to make a handle that is intended to be removable. I would like to be able to heat up the brass section without there being a handle on it that must be cossetted and watched and prevented from burning. Then, when the brass is heated, I want to be able to snap on a handle that will hold it firmly, and get to work. The handle should be easy to snap on and off, and should have heat resistance. I'm thinking the part of the handle that touches the metal needs to have an insulator - maybe a layer cut out of a silicon potholder - but the handle overall needs to be the right size and shape to fit well into my hand, as sometimes I have to apply quite a bit of pressure.

The tang on the brass section is slightly tapered and has a square profile and is about 1-1/4" long. Somehow the handle has got to fit over that quickly and easily. Now that I know what I want, the thing is to figure out how to make it. Wish I'd gotten that engineering degree when I had the chance ...

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