Spirit duplicator - sort of fine printing?

I got lucky and came across a 1937 Standard Mailing Machines Spirit Duplicator. It is missing the back feeder tray but that was it. I did a partial tear down, cleaning, and oiling.

Cat for scale.

image: spirit.jpg


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This was the very first print. Not to bad. I put my BA in chemistry to use. Thermal tattoo paper and loaded the machine with drug store isopropyl.

Today I pulled out the original wick. I am sewing up a new one. Which should make things work way better.

image: print.jpg


Judging by the cat, it is a fairly big machine.

Thomas Edison invented an “electric pen” which was a pen-shaped thing with a needle which vibrated by electricity. When you “wrote” with it on a stencil, the needle would pierce the stencil and allow ink to go through, and then you could use it for a duplicator plate.

Edison sold his duplicator idea to Albert Blake Dick (A. B. Dick) of Chicago who went on to build a large enterprise based on it.

The stencils were made of paper with a thick coating of wax, a lot of which remained on the surface as I recall.

I don’t know how much tattoo paper costs, but there are probably alternatives to make plates out of. Possibly, grocery store waxed paper might work. However, grocery store waxed paper is what they call in the trade, “dry waxed,” which means they coat the paper with wax but then run it through an oven to drive the wax into the paper.

I would think polyethylene coated paper (like butcher paper) would probably work for a stencil

I’ve rambled on long enough. Thanks for sharing your project with us. Give the cat a scratch for me.

Oh thanks for the info. I’ve wanted to get a mimeograph press as well, to work alongside the Kelsey 5x8 and the spirit duplicator.

I started some experiments on making mimeograph paper with mulberry paper and beeswax. It partial worked. I think I need thicker paper?

I’ll give butcher paper a try too. Thanks!

Oh, I guess I got the mimeograph and spirit duplicator mixed up. Anyway, I do think it is fun to resurrect old technologies.

Upon looking at the waxed paper we have in the kitchen closet, I think that that paper might possibly work as a mimeograph stencil.

I have one too. Need to dig it out. Here is what I recommend for a plate. The original plates were a coated sheet of paper which had a sheet similar to carbon paper attached on the lead edge. You would put the material into a typewriter and type or you can write or draw on it. The carbon paper was then pulled away and the coated paper with the image in reverse was locked into the cylinder. Each time the plate is rotated a thin layer of carbon is removed and transferred to the paper. The carbon paper is really like a colloidal film.
Hope this is helpful, have fun.

Yes that is helpful. I am looking for some alternatives to using the tattoo thermal paper.

One thing I noticed (at least in the brand I bought) is a low pigment density, You can only get about 20 copes or so for one master. I have some recommendations for highly pigment density paper but I’d like to explore other options.

Another thing I noticed is that without the paper intake tray doubled sided printing (A6 final size) you get anywhere between 1 - 4 mm wandering in the registration. Which I guess isn’t to bad given that I am hand feeding in the pages.

I was thinking about trying to do some light metal work and build my own intake tray but that patent applications don’t really describe the tray well enough.

Port City Letterpress Studio, would you have a photo of an intake tray and how it’s attached for one of these Standard Mailing duplicators?

Oh here is the start of an A6 zine. Mostly just tossing in random things.

image: A6_print.jpg


In 1956 had access to a Gestetner wax stencil duplicator. Did a large outline of a regimental badge (Royal Engineers for those who are interested) went home on leave at weekends, cut and printed three colour lino-cuts in position to fit a key black proof, went back to the unit then printed the black working more or less to fit on the pre-printed letterpress colours, it worked surprisingly well - used for a Trainees passinmg out parade programme. The families liked it and i stall have a sample somewhere!.

Ohhh that’s so cool. I’ve only ever seen photos of Gestetners. Very pretty machines.

I think enough years have passed to relate that the last time I saw Paul Gestetner, it was in a corridor of an Officer Cadet Training school, about the time of the passing out parade,
he had nothing on at all except his army boots and was being sprayed by other cadets with a fire hose. In passing I have a pretty complete wax stencil duplicator outfit if anybody wants one (UK collect only)