Old-fashioned guillotine advice.

Hi all; my experience with guillotine / paper cutters has been exclusively the large Wohlenberg that my former boss has, and I’m now restoring a mid-19th century (I think) guillotine.

Where the modern machine had a cutting stick, this one had what appears to be a deep strip of lead - it’s about 1 inch or so. Does anyone have any experience with such a thing?

My guess would be that, to refinish it, I should probably use Wood’s or Rose’s metal, but it’s probably better in the long run to dig it out and get some cutting sticks. Has anyone attempted that kind of operation?

Thanks for reading.

image: guillotine_lead.jpeg


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What brand of cutter is this. Most old cutters had wood cutter sticks, usually made of maple.
The photo is a bit confusing.

Yes, sorry about the photo - it seems to have been rotated 90 degrees anticlockwise (also confusingly, there’s a wooden sidestick in the shot that’s unrelated to the guillotine. Sorry.)

I would have expected wooden sticks too; I haven’t come across this method before.

Is it a lead stick or simply lead that was melted into the channel otherwise reserved for a cutting stick? I’ve never seen lead… most, as John said, were wood with contemporary replacements usually being Delrin or some other self-lubricating synthetic.


Ah, now that I can’t tell you. It fits extremely well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been poured in.

Sounds like I’m probably better off cutting it out and replacing with something more modern.

The lead melting point is lower than the iron, and maybe they thought it would be a thing where they just… Took a blowtorch to it every now and then and smoothed it off? Im confused about why someone would be motivated to do that….

Anyhow, I’m pretty certain plastic cutting sticks are available for your press, just have to measure the width/depth of the gutter the stick would fit in- I think plastic sticks are better than wood, having used both.

(but if you’re trying to keep it ‘period correct’, I think wood was what would have normally been in there.)

My Hero cutter had a very large cutting stick, so I rabetted it to allow me to inset a modern plastic stick of a size generally obtainable. It has served quite well for me. My shop isn’t a museum, so utility is as important.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

It was nice when you could still get obsolete sizes of maple cutting sticks from American Printing equipment, and I was able to get 1” sticks for a C&P cutter. Today it is 1/2” plastic, which is actually an improvement.
jhenry’s insert idea was used commercially by Lasticks, but they used a shallow insert giving four positions, where a square-section stick gives eight positions. That’s the trick of an insert: you have to position it in the groove so it is off-center relative to the blade, so it can be turned for eight positions of cutting.
Lead was a very common filler once, both in plumbing and obviously in typecasting. Plumber’s lead is soft pure lead, where typemetal comes in various harder alloys.
Check below the groove for holes that allow you to punch out a stick. The C&P had them.

Presumably your machine has a darn great flywheel. Whch
gets the knife down through the stack. and then carries the knife beam back up again, and sometimes can come down
again slowly just you are taking the stack out. In the shop where I worked the Greig (Edinburgh) cutter was a terror for that. And there were too many hands about the trade in lhe 1950s with a finger or two missing.

Hi all; finally got round to cutting out the lead from the channel, and I think the most affordable way forward for me is getting a local workshop to make some cutting sticks for me.

Any suggestions for which wood to use? Am I right in thinking that maple is a reasonable option? Bear in mind I’m in the UK, so nothing too exotic …

maple is a good option, being extremely hard. But, if you like getting a bit of a groove in a normal plastic cutting stick, which helps with getting a full cut all the way across the bed, you might opt for a softer wood. walnut/cherry come to mind. Just my 2 cents.

Just caught up with the conversation - I have used nylon sheet in the past. If non available locally you can make your own by cutting up and gluing sections of nylon chopping boards together (use plumber’s Polybond as the adhesive). The best chopping blocks are the ones used in commercial kitchens - I hope this may be of use - good luck - Carl