Gadgets Have Not Topped Hand Tying Type Forms

  • Many devices designed through many years to modernize hand operation
  • Mechanical units developed, yet each required its specialized system
  • No lock has been evolved which equals skill of careful compositor

With the recent announcement of an Norwegian invention, the Quick-Eze mechanical tie-up, we are reminded that attempts to eliminate the tying of type forms by string have been rather consistently rejected down through the years. Here is one composing room operation that has defied modernization in even this gadget-minded nation.

For many years trade publications have illustrated procedures designed to do away with the old-fashioned tie-up. These inventions featured just about everything from rubber bands to interlocking steel frames. Before we discuss some of these devices, we should look at ordinary tie-up procedures.

Pride of Compositor Unequaled

It has always been a point of pride to the careful compositor to be able to tie up quickly any size page job which under normal handling would remain intact until the stonehand locked the form for the press.

Luther Ringwalt, editor of American Encyclopedia of Printing, published in 1871, stated the case as follows: “The proper way to tie up a page for imposing is to begin at the left top corner of the page as it lies on the galley, rapid quarter round from left to right and tighten each successive round at the right top corner.

“Passing it around about three times, and taking care to make the first end additionally secured each turn, draw the core tight through that which is wrapped on the page, so as to form a noose, the end of which is left two or 3 inches for the convenience of untying when imposed. A page thus tied, with the cord around the middle of the shank, will always stand firm, and be in no danger of being squabbled while lying on the stone or letter boards.

“Many compositors often pass the cord five or six times round the page before fastening it, and it is not secure them, for the very reason that they do not adopt any system, but carefully overlap the cord at each turn; but pains are taken to place each round of the cord immediately above the previous one, as neatly as cotton is wound round a reel, it will be found that three times round be sufficient to find the type securely; whereas if one of the overlapping rounds should slip—which is frequently the case—the others naturally become loose, and the page is likely to become squabbled in consequence.”

Thus, the 19th century comp was little different from his modern counterpart in this operation, except that now overlapping is not necessarily an offense, particularly with a large page.

About the only additional instruction today would be to knot the end of the string to prevent slipping, and to apply pressure only at the upper right-hand corner of the page in order to pull the page into the square solid end of the galley, assuring maximum pressure.

It is my job and I feel good idea to hold a job down at this point so that it will not be pulled off the galley. Ending with the loop is very important because it keeps us from slipping under the page during proofing, and enables rapid and high on the stone or for corrections.

Many kinds of string our favored but 8-ply cotton is best for a snug tie-up. The string certainly should have “snap”; when it has been used several times and retains no elasticity it should be discarded.

If the string is to be used again, a number of methods may be used to untie the page and save the string, such as simple loop or figure eight.

String Saving Not Suggested

In the interest of economy, the saving of string is not such a good idea, as it frequently becomes tangled and causes loss of time and tempers.

The stunts employed by comps to make string readily available at the frame are many and varied. It is sometimes put in a hand-soap can which has a hole in the lid. The can is mounted at the side of the frame. Some comps nail up a pica reglet and insert the ball of string on that. And so it goes, with much ingenuity displayed.

The mechanical devices intended to eliminate string tie-up vary, depending upon use. Several take the form of locks which hold the type firmly upon the galley, making it possible to handle the type with little chance of pieing.

One of these locks is made of hollow aluminum with a snap-lock which wedges against the side of the galley; another is constructed of wood, containing a spring-operated dowel at one end which performs a similar function.

Both of these locks are available for standard galley sizes, and are principally end locks. Another appliance of this nature is a spring steel band inserted between the page and the side of the galley.

These devices are practical for pages composed of slugs rather than single types. They are best utilized in preliminary proofing operations or for storage.

The kind of operation conducted by the printer will govern to some extent the acceptance of patented appliances of this nature.

A composing room which primarily produces reproduction proofs usually ties up with cord. On the proof press, strip cast furniture is used, with side grooves running lengthwise to allow for the string, so that the job can be proved without untying. A supply of such material is easy to maintain, with sufficient sizes available for most small jobs.

The pica tie-up slug, strip cast on Monotype or Elrod equipment, contains a slot or groove. When mitered, the slug can be placed around a job and then tied up. The string remains in the groove and therefore does not interfere with eventual lockup for the press. In this manner small jobs never have to be untied or retied.

Procedures which embody devices for more efficient tie-up or even for elimination of tie-up find wider acceptance in a specialized composing room than in shops which handle the broad range of commercial printing with a variety of forms and sizes to handle.

Standard Sizes Can Use Gadgets

For example, standardized sizes of pages, as an book composition, make such composition more adaptable to mechanical tie-up methods. Most of the devices now available come in a number of sizes to conform the various page dimensions. This produces a storage problem and a more difficult process of size selection to allow for the variety of forms produced.

Price lists, rate booklets, and other such forms lend themselves very well to patented tie-up methods, allowing as they do, lock up with tie-up intact. When the form is finally completed, the pages are ready for storage until corrections are made for a new edition.

One device consists of pica-wide steel frames which are mounted around the job or page and secured by a locking wench. A key supplied to remove the wedge when the page is to be corrected or broken up.

Still another appliance is a telescoping page frame consisting of a narrow band of steel which is held together by friction, expanding to fit several sizes. A pica tie-up slug is placed around this frame which fits into the recess of the slug.

Quick-Eze, the new procedure mentioned at the beginning of this article, may find acceptance with many printers. It is made up of four sections manufactured in a light alloy. These form a frame, held at the corners by pegs and holes. An adjustable recessed spring inserted in each section holds the frame tightly around the page.

Since each section fits into the other, the frame is easily expandable in any direction. For corrections, a lead inserted at the joint of each section would enlarge the frame sufficiently to allow changes to be made in the page. The device is made in three sizes which extend from approximately 20×28 picas to 50×70 picas.

A device utilized in the storage of type pages is a corner piece of steel or brass containing a coil spring. To this is attached a tie-cord which is wrapped around the form inserted into a spring tension clip on the other end of the tie-up. As string tends to stretch somewhat, the spring holds the pressure, insuring a continuously taut tie-up.

Another recent addition to this list is a method described in this publication in May, 1857, page 82. This is the type taping machine developed by Haddon Craftsmen, book manufacturers, and ideal for this specialty. Pressure-sensitive tape is used as the tie-up medium, the page being placed on a revolving table to help maintain the pressure necessary to secure a tight tie-up.

There will never be complete agreement on any method designed to eliminate string tie-up, but we can’t foresee that new devices will continue to be offered. The importance of keeping the printer aware of progress in this area has been recognized by the Research and Engineering Council of the Graphic Arts Industry, which maintains a standing committee to investigate all the procedures and report on them to the council.

Undoubtedly specialized plants will find that certain devices save considerable time in the handling of type pages, but the smaller printers will probably depend on the string tie-up and will take pride in the comp who can tie up a job which can be “drop-kicked into the press room” and come up in one piece.

This article first appeared in “The Composing Room” column of the July 1957 issue of The Inland Printer.


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