Cleaning Intertype mats and magazines

Anyone got a fairly easy process (realizing the easiest probably isn’t easy at all) for cleaning the mats for our Intertype. They just don’t drop well enough.

We have about 70 magazines and about 200 faces.

We thought we would pick one and just start going through them.

I was hoping someone could help save us some time and at least help us get things going better.

Any chance anyone has a device to help do that. We have one of those belt driven devices but it is in pretty bad shape and the belt part is completely worn out.

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to Lead Graffiti

You are brave taking on this task, but it is essential.

Over my working life, I saw several differing methods of cleaning magazines and matrices.

There is a brief description of maintenance and care of Mergenthaler Linotypes on the ‘net; look for something like Mergenthaler Linotype maintenance.

Several maintenance engineers used brass polishes; in Australia, Brasso. During a strike, the apprentices were given the task of polishing the matrices, and left some caked polish in the casting cavity (the drive?) of some matrices; this is not good.

Usually, a cleaner called Shell X55 (a petroleum solvent) was used; it would be something like white spirit, but the number probably indicates the evaporative process, lower numbers being more volatile than higher numbers. Generally, all the matrices were run out, dumped into solvent, then picked out and shaken in a cloth to shake off the gum (dissolved in the solvent). Some engineers then vigorously polished the character face (the opposite of the casting face) with brass polish; I do not see that this is necessary.

The Mergenthaler advice is to use alcohol as a solvent; I would suggest obvious precautions.

The magazines were brushed out with solvent using a specially made brush; this brush was a very long brush which would go from top to bottom of the magazine, but only an inch wide, and about a quarter inch thick; I remember the bristles as being soft, protruding from both top and bottom of the brush so that the top of the magazine and the bottom (the grooved parts guiding the lugs of the matrices, of course) were brushed simultaneously. Some solvent was used. If the magazine is dirty, some gum will come out of the bottom, so clean the magazine over a suitable tray to prevent mess.

Never use a lubricant, not even graphite, in a magazine, it will only hold dust which slows the movement of the matrix in the grooves.

Some engineers I saw, when cleaning keyboards, over-oiled the keyboard cams or the bearings of the rollers and were heartily cursed by the next shift of operators.

Keeping dust out of magazines is quite a task, the last engineer we had persuaded the management to put in a filtered air system which he claimed reduced the wear on the machines. But not many years later we went to cold type, although the reduction in dust probably made that easier.

I would expect more skilled comment, the aim of this, my message, is to give a starting point to discussion, and I will not be offended if there is advice criticism of my advice. Is there is anywhere else on earth where 70 magazines are on one site? A tremendous legacy!

I have tried to use understandable language to describe the parts, but accept no responsibility for any misunderstanding. It is a task which requires skilled knowledge.

I may be able to proofread this once more at a later date; hope I have not made any misleading mistakes in my spellings, others will pick them up.



The magazine brush was made of wood (timber), and the bristles were a short section (about 4 inches) at one end of the brush, arranged in rows of tufts; long enough that they brushed both sets of grooves (in the upper part of the magazine and the lower part) simultaneously. Metal tools should not be introduced into the interior of a magazine.


Do I find it easier to proofread my rather long messages in a serif face than the sans-serif in which it is typed? — A.

PPS: there is a general caution never to disassemble a magazine, it is extremely difficult to reassemble the parts in correct relationship.


PPS: there is a general caution never to disassemble a magazine, it is extremely difficult to reassemble the parts in correct relationship.



Which way up should Linotype magazines be when being brushed and washed out? If upside-down (escapement up), will that mean less dirt in the important end of the magazine?


Mats not dropping well is often ascribed to dirty ears and/or gummed magazine channels. And that is often true. However, an often overlooked cause is running Linotype mats in Intertype magazines. Regardless the (supposed) interchangeability, there are difference in the mats. As but one instance, ears differ and bodies do as well. My experience(s) also saw the magazine construction of the Intertype could lead to movement difficulty. The plastic Visu-lite mags often warped - particularly if incorrectly stored, and the aluminum magazines would take a ‘set’ thus exaggerating movement when switched from one machine to another. Small instances, but ones which should be examined nonetheless. As to cleaning the mats, well, there really is no ‘easy’ method. Each mat (1000+) must be individually handled. Rainy day activity. :o) I would use naptha as cleaning fluid. Horrors!! I know in this age of eco-nazism this material is right up there with end-of-the-world-as we-know-it nonsense, but there it is. :o) Using a sieve basket, place a handful of mats in the basket, immerse them in a tub of naptha allowing them to remain for five minutes or so. As each mat is removed, brush thoroughly with a fingernail brush (do not use plastic or nylon bristles!). I used a suede shoe (brass bristle) brush. Slow work, but it will quickly cut through the adhering build-up. The magazines are treated in like manner using the magazine brush earlier described. The previous poster was correct: do not use any ‘lubricant’ in a magazine. The Intertype magazine has a self-closing ‘lid’ and, except when it is engaged, usually keeps excess dust blocked. A cover should be placed over the entire machine when not in use. Ensure the pot is cold before draping the cloth! :o) The linecasters are high maintenance. As with any precision machine, they must be maintained correctly. The mat wall breakdown occurs very quickly should spacebands not be religiously maintained - and they should be scrubbed clean of excess graphite else the magazines become clogged and the entire cycle repeats. Makes one look a little differently at the computer, does it not?

to forme

Point taken about the soft bristle brush.

Any means to avoid damaging the sidewalls of the casting cavity (strike) of the matrices is important.

At the morning daily where I worked, we had one fount which had bad sidewalls, and the first proof (on dampened newsprint) was difficult to read because of the feathers between characters. The stereotyping process apparently reduced the effect of the feathers.

I guess in the long run, knocking matrices against others will damage them.

I am quite sure that cleaning magazines and matrices was not taught as part of the apprenticeship, that was left to maintenance, and each person there had varying ideas.


Thanks so much. Looks like I’m going to have to just jump in and start this. When we purchased our Intertype and the collection of mats we were pretty overwhelmed by the volume. I need to ask the question, “Which face is the most logical to start.” Then do all of those and then move to the #2 typeface. If you’d like to see what we have here is a link to our type inventory.

Choosing a typeface is simply a matter of taste. Should you be more the commercial start, well, the san-serif faces serve for business cards, etc., while the cursive fill the announcement demands. I had preference for Garamond as house type, and Times served the newspaper. You have an excellent variety of mats. It is warming to see such preservation of the Intertype. Have you trained operators, or are you managing from a seat-of-the-pants perspective? :o) In the ‘old days’ 5000ems was minimum output in most production shops - and that is a challenging hill to climb. Curiously, once achieved it is a comfortable pace to maintain. Of course, that em figure was based upon a 15 pica line, and ‘hanging the elevator’ was routine. Great machine, the Intertype, and well-deserved of meticulous maintenance. :o)

Forme, i wonder how many know even what an em is?? never mind hanging the elevator.

I’m in the same boat as Lead Graffiti. I have about 50 magazines full of mats, and another 120 or so galleys full of mats. All but a few need cleaning, some as minimal as just blowing the dust off, others are significantly dirtier, and the worst few have some corrosion (fortunately, on the reference face, not the casting face).

It’s always more fun to tinker with the machine than to clean mats, so progress is slow. Additionally, many/most of the galleys are actually just the sorts that (hopefully) go with one of the magazines. The magazines conveniently are labeled in some cases with two or three contradictory labels so what I need is a focused few days of organization, and ideally, more space to put mats that I’ve run out of their magazines.

Knowing this task is still ahead of me, I did the natural thing. I went out and bought a Ludlow with boxes and boxes of parts to sort.

The language of the Black Art began its decay when the ‘puter bastardized so many of the unique descripts. I often note - on this site as well as others - how many of the ‘artsy’, new-age would-be’s wear their ignorance almost as badge of honour; quick to dismiss those having solid grounding in the print field. Mind you, few understand the age-old business axiom: “When the front door opens, I eat”, thus making mandatory an instantly recognizable method in order to communicate with others facing that challenge of business and trade knowledge. That is little understood by today’s dabblers. Ah, well, the way of the world I suppose. Still, it does grate to read of ‘smash printing’ so casually referenced in regard to ordinary text printing. ‘Smash’ was a multi-carbon paper term (mostly numbering; some addressing), and even though slugs were used, I would quail at the rounding away of the face. Today, I shudder at the number of truly antique fonts (another mis-used word) being destroyed by those intent on punching paper - and calling that resultant mess ‘Printing’. But, I do heartily applaud those (though decreasing in number it seems) preserving, and correctly using, both equipment and terminology from an age when Craftsmanship actually had value. And an apprenticeship had meaning. :o)

to forme and dickg and all

Apprenticeships sure have changed.

When I did mine, it was a binding contract between the employer, the apprenticeship board, the parents of apprentice and the apprentice.

After he retired, one lino operator brought in his indentures from an earlier time; part of the contract was that “matrimony he should not contract”. And he was forbidden to frequent any place where “games of chance” were played.


Well, I’m sure that many will disagree with our cleaning method. All I can say is I’ve been in the same shop (family) all my life. One of my jobs was cleaning the magazines. Old towels were placed covering the linotype, one at a time a magazine was emptied of the mats onto a galley and put aside. The mag was raised one up and cleaned with a spray bottle with what they called “white gas” with the long brush until it looked clean inside. Then the mats tight in the galley were rubbed with an eraser until they were bright. I can’t say if this was the correct way but still using that same machine, mags and mats since 1956.

Tetrachloride was the best to clean mats and magazines. Left no residue. Anchor Chemical has a ink cleaning product that leaves no residue. Have used it in some of my customers shops. Worked OK. I have equipment that helps the cleaning of mats. They were available for all about 35 years ago.No
longer.Held the matrices character side down and brushed the reference side and the ears and toes of the character side. Not the sidewalls. Don’t clean the sidewalls, they buildup a false sidewall and help prevent hairlines, unless you have hairlines already, But there is a remedy for that also.Been a machinist for over 50 years. Worked for Intertype on Furman St Bklyn. The best came from the factory the rest are “wish I was a Lino/Int Machinist. Six Year Apprenticeship, tested every 6 months on your knowledge, if you failed given another chance, if you failed again were told to find something better suited for your capability. No B.S. then. Too bad the trades today do not have that strictness.We would still be the leader in manufacturing. God Bless America

I run out all the mats and put on a galley and then use a wire wheel (BRASS) on a grinder and put the mats in a holder that is made to hold mats, there are several sizes in length,the shorter one holds about ten inches of mats i believe, then wire brush the ears.
I take the magazine off and lay on flat surface then spray, brake cleaner into the magazine and clean with a magazine brush, then I clean a second time this time dry, no brake cleaner.
If I have just one or two channels that are giving me trouble, and do not want to clean the whole magazine I put a rag where the mats drop out of the magazine to catch any liquid and spray brake cleaner down that channel, then run out the mats for that channel and the ones next to it.,this usually works for me.