Linotype Motor?

Hello all,

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but that’s because I’ve been pretty busy this summer.

In about a week and a half, I’m returning to college and will once again be volunteering at the nearby printing museum. I’m trying to get more of the historic machinery operable once again (dynamic exhibits are interesting exhibits).

So far we’ve got two platen presses running (one treadle and one belt powered). I’m also going to continue working on cleaning out the motor of the multigraph offset machine so that most of the parts turn. The hand-powered proof press works just fine, as usual.

The museum also has a Linotype, an Intertype, a Flatbed cylinder press, and newspaper folding machine, all powered via flatbelt.

I’d like to get these machines operable in time for the local community festival in September. By operable, I mean make the parts movable so that visitors can get a better understanding of how these machines worked.

What do you folks use for power for these types of machines? So far, we just have the original 240 volt motors, but no 240 volt power. Any idea on how to either get 240 power or find a suitable alternative power source?


—Drew Black

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A couple of quick thoughts…

First, in the US at least (you didn’t say where you were) 240V is more common than you might think. (For example, most houses now have a 240V feed using a center-tapped transformer so that you can take either 120 or 240 from it.) So 240V might well already be in the building - just a matter of getting your management to get an electrician to get it to the machine.

Second, if you have only 120V available, a lot depends on what kind of motor the machine has. If for example your Linotype has an Emerson “pancake” (not sure if that’s the right colloquial term) motor such as the one shown at:

then you might be stuck. But if it has the v-belt drive, that usually involved an “ordinary” motor - you could acquire a 120V single phase motor and swap it in. There were also other, older belt-drive motor arrangements for which the same is true.

Someone should compile a list of things to watch out for
the first time you try to turn an old Linotype/Intertype over. Here are two:

A. The pot moves forward during the machine cycle.
If the pot is cold, and if the plunger has been left frozen in the pot, and if the plunger rod has been left connected, and if the connection pin is going through a hole in the plunger rod (vs. a slot in it), then executing a machine cycle will bend the plunger rod.

B. If the machine executes a casting stroke when the plunger rod is disconnected, the pump lever will come down with great force on the top of the pot. It makes a horrible sound, and can break cast iron (either the pot or the lever; the lever on my Model 5 is brazed at just this point). This can be avoided by either (a) ensuring that the plunger is connected (but see the earlier issue with a cold pot), or (b) ensuring that a casting stroke does not occur. There are several ways of doing this. (If the machine is a Linotype with a hydraquadder the pump stop has a solenoid actuator - one nice thing to do is to wire a switch inline with it so that you can set the machine to “can’t cast” and “may cast” states.)

I’m sure that others will have more and better suggestions.

David M.


Something else to look out for if the Linotype has the pancake motor is if it’s a three phase or single phase motor. A single phase 240 volt pancake motor can be worked around with a suitable step-up transformer, or autotransformer, like these:

If your machine has a three phase pancake motor, then you might want to consider investing in a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD), which uses electronics to synthesize the missing phases. Some VFDs can take 120 volts, single phase as input, and generate three phase 208 volts on the output, like this:

The museum is in Eastern Washington (Washington State, not DC). Unfortunately, I’ve been told that 240 volts was not wired into the building when it was redone several years back.

Anyone know how much horsepower is needed to operate a Linotype or Intertype? I have turned them over by hand (the plungers are disconnected) without too much effort. We’re not looking to actually cast slugs. We just want to show these mechanical marvels in motion. If it’s not feasible, I suppose we could always go with a digital interpretive display that loops a video of a linotpye/intertype in action.

For just the driving, they don’t take much power. The Emerson motor on my Model 5 is 1/3 hp. My Model 29 with a v-belt drive has a 1/2 hp GE motor.

The motor on your machine will have a nameplate on it which should list its specifications. From that you can calculate its power (I’ll leave it to others to cite the formulas - I have to look them up every time), and with that information you can select an appropriate replacement motor.

David M.

Volts multiplied by amps is power in watts. 110v standard wall current in the US is 15 amps Max (often in practice more like 12 sustained). That gives a theoretical maximum power of 1650 watts. With transmission losses and nothing ever being 100% efficient, you can generally assume a real-world Max of 1500 watts. One horsepower is 740 watts. Again, with lack of perfect efficiency though, a common simplification is to assume 1000 watts of real draw per horsepower. This means you can run a maximum of about a 1.5 HP electric motor on standard wall current.

Note, however, that this level of load would require a dedicated circuit with known-good wiring and a quality breaker. Amp draw is cumulative for the entire circuit and if any of that circuit is substandard, all bets on maximum draw are off.

If you can post the data that is on the motor I should be able to help you make the conversion from 120 to 240.
Best case is that the motor is dual voltage, that would make it fairly easy to rewire to 120V.



Where in Eastern Washington?

I ask because I might be making a trip to eastern Washington in a few days, I could stop by and take a look at the situation…

- Keelan

I’ll have to check the flatbed cylinder press motor and the Intertype motor for their specifications. IIRC, the Linotype motor is 220 volt, 3 phase.

I’ll be returning to the museum for the first time this summer sometime after the 12th of August. I usually go to the museum when it is open on Saturdays, meaning I’ll probably be there again on August 17th.

The museum is the Roy M. Chatters Newspaper & Printing Museum in Palouse, WA. Open Saturdays from 10:00am - 1:00pm, or by appointment.

To arrange a visit, please call Janet Barstow - 509-878-1742

—Drew Black


Check out this site.

The second one listed will take 115 v household supply and give you 220 v 3 phase.

I have the next size larger installed on a small horizontal mill in my shop. It has been 100% trouble free and very easy to set up.

This is how I would fix this problem. If you are just running the Linotype to show its operation the VFD would be great because you can slow down the machine so its operation is easier to understand.

If you were actually casting then slower speed might cause the motor to overheat due to less cooling air flow.



It looks like Palouse is a couple hours south of where I am going. I won’t be able to make a detour that far on this trip. I picked up my Linotype from a shop in Spokane a couple years ago, it’s the part of the US I seem to visit the most. The next time I’m in spokane I might be able to make the trip.

Thank you all for your help. I talked to the person in charge at the museum, and it looks like the museum could afford that converter that Marshall Henderson linked to. We’ll probably connect it to our Intertype because 1). It’s closer to an outlet and 2). to our knowledge, everything is still functional on it (our Linotype was modified so the mold disk is always visible).

I guess we’ll see what happens. If this drive/converter works, perhaps a second unit for the Flatbed Cylinder Press would be in order somewhere down the road.

—Drew Black