Print’s Past: Holes in a story of wooden type

From memory, the company employed about eight people and of the machines, only two were automatic. The rest were handfed. They had a double crown handfed stick fly flatbed, a royal stick fly flatbed, two hand platens, a guillotine and a perforating machine, all run off a shaft driven by an electric motor when the electricity was working. 

When there were blackouts, the old donkey motor got started up and suffocated everybody, You couldn’t see the place for blinking blue smoke. The two big flatbeds had their own motor at the back of them, and they were up against the wall, which was just as well because, one day one of the chases wasn’t locked in properly and at flew out and smashed against the wall.

We did big posters for Dalgety. Done with wooden type, anything up to 96-point. And we never had enough letters in the alphabet. So what we would do was to run it, and they were only short runs, so we would run it through the press and leave the holes for the type, and then fill in the letters that were missing and eventually it might go through the press four times until we got the right number of holes filled up, with the right letters. 

This would always be interesting because if you’re not watching and the wrong letter goes into the wrong hole then you’ve got a funny looking word on the press, which the foreman did not appreciate at all. 

Albert Medhurst

Print’s Past excepts are drawn from interviews held by Benjamin Thorn, curator of the Armidale Museum of  Printing, and are due to be published in a forthcoming book.

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