“10AM L.A.– 12PM Chicago – 1PM NYC – 6PM London – 7PM Amsterdam– 2AM(Fri.) TokyoZoom Link: // Coming Soon //Greeting again, spirited duplicators and mimeo-heads!After a fantastic response to the first online gathering of copier enthusiasts, we have scheduled a follow-up meeting for June 10, 2020.This time, we want to hear from as many of you as possible! We propose a “pecha kucha” or lightning-round-style meeting. Anyone can give a 3-5 minute presentation about their own work, a duplicator project they like, or give a “scene report” about their home studio, copier art, zines and related activities in your region.To keep things organized, we ask that you submit a video of your slideshow or talk by June 5th, so we can compile them and avoid technical difficulties during the event. Then, participants in the live meeting can share questions and comments in the chat and talk live as time allows. Send your video to email@example.com Sharing through dropbox or another cloud storage service is preferred. Videos over 5 minutes will be rejected! Do you have questions? Feel free to email us! See you on 6/10….. Rich & JS
This live, online forum will serve as part of the ongoing effort to raise awareness of the mimeograph and other pre-digital duplicators and their use in creating zines, prints, posters, chapbooks and other types of art. The name, “Duplicators Guild,” is a playful nod to the confraternal printer’s trade organizations of old, but is not meant to imply any official membership – only a willingness to engage in friendly conversation over our shared interests. We assert that while our cottage industry may be hyper-local, our networked community is increasingly global.
Organizers/Moderators:Rich Dana, Publisher, OBSOLETE! Press & MFA candidate, University of Iowa Center for the Book and JS Makkos, Founder, Intelligent Archives, Doctoral Candidate, Louisiana State University School of Art & Design”
Little by little I’m getting things set up to function, though there’s still much to be done before I get to that point. Although I didn’t get all the way through the boxes of books, I made room in the garage for a work table. Now I just need a chair and I’ll go sit in there instead of at the computer! That will lead to more getting done in projects department.
In addition to getting my machines to functional status, I’m obtaining the supplies needed to start print jobs.
The main things needed for stencil duplicating are (at the most basic) stencils, ink, a method of paper registration (alignment) and ink delivery, and paper. In my case, which is a few steps beyond the most basic mimeography, my method to assure paper registration and ink delivery includes actual mimeograph machines (truly traditional is similar to screenprinting, with a framed screen/print-making apparatus – see the image below, or Tomoko Kanzaki’s work).
Traditional mimeograph stencils are not currently available to any large degree, so I’m following the “stopgap” method. I call it a stopgap because it’s an option that I suspect is only available to us now* because we have easy access to electricity on demand, digital capabilities, and manufactured products from overseas. This method of duplication requires these supplies: a thermal-stencil printer, thermal-stencil paper, Risograph ink (or equivalent), and copy paper.
One tool being used among mimeograph enthusiasts is the tattoo-stencil printer.
These things seem to be quite common (there are many on ebay right now).
The high-end option is to use a Risograph machine for its master-making capacity only. Risographs are expensive. and it’s likely that if you already have a Riso, you’re probably not going the old-school mimeograph route (unless your Riso’s print function is broken).
The route I’ve decided to take is to use a quality fax machine (one that prints on thermal paper rather than regular copy paper), using Riso thermal paper (aka master). My reasoning is twofold, one aspect of which is founded on hearsay, but on relatively good authority (experienced mimeo folk in the mimeograph facebook groups): Riso masters make higher resolution stencils than tattoo-stencil paper. The other reason I’m trying the fax-machine route, though, is because I was able to find a machine that can work with three paper sizes (A4, which is 8.27″ wide; US letter and legal size, which is 8.5″ wide; and B4, which is 10.5″ wide) and that was still-in-the-box new (it’s been waiting for its chance to shine since ~1988) for the same price as the tattoo-stencil printers (though without the benefit of free shipping from China -eyeroll-).
Riso master rolls only come in A4 and B4 sizes. A4 is the standard paper size in most of the world and at 8.27 inches wide, it’s narrower than US paper. Given the need for margins on most documents, A4 will likely be wide enough for most of my print jobs. B4 paper (on which to print) is nowhere to be found here, so I’m unlikely to need B4 stencils in general, but if I were to ever get a Gestetner duplicator, that’s the size of stencil I’d want to use. I figured it would be a good idea to plan for the possibility of someday working with a Gestetner, thus my decision took this into account. Alternatively, since B4 is 10.5 inches wide, I might actually use less of the Riso master if I use a B4 roll and print my stencils sideways (trimming off the top and bottom margins of my original as necessary), particularly for my not-quite-letter-size projects. That’ll require some experimentation as there needs to be a little bit of extra length to attach the header.
It really doesn’t matter which way I print my stencils on the thermal paper relative to the way the roll unwinds – I’ll be cutting them from the roll and attaching each stencil to a header that fits my mimeograph. This header, made of heavier paper or light cardstock, will have the holes required to secure the stencil to the machine, and will give me a place to record what the stencil is.
The photo above shows a blank stencil ready for printing in a thermal printer. This one is a “Kelsom stencil.” As I don’t have a Riso master to compare it to yet, I can’t report on that; however here’s what Kelsom-stencil paper looks like.
It’s a very thin, nearly transparent, sheet of nonwoven fibers bearing a resemblance to a very light washi paper. The reverse side is coated with plastic and appears glossy.
When I get the Riso master roll, I’ll compare the two stencil types in a separate post, and in part two of this series, I’ll be talking about either paper or ink.
*By “available to us now” I mean during the next 20-50 years. I may be idealistic here, though some will accuse me of being pessimistic.
May 24, 2021: I’ve reorganized the digital library so that all entries are now categorized by manufacturer name, then by date in which they were added to Mimeograph Revival (newest at the top). This should make it easier to find what you’re looking for. I just uploaded information on the Copy-Rite and Rex-O-Graph brands of spirit duplicator – mostly to the manuals section, but one Rex-O-Graph catalog is in the advertisements and catalogs section.
May 06, 2021: Instructions accompanying the Heyer Model 60 Postcard Printer included in the digital library, Service & Instruction Manuals section. A few links added to that section.
May 03, 2021: The “Wizard of Menlo Park” advertisement and Heyer Catalog 64B (from 1964) uploaded to the digital library, Advertisements & Catalogs section.
April 29, 2021: I’ve created new subsections under the digital Mimeograph Library menu-heading, one of which is Images. New line drawings of a variety of A. B. Dick mimeograph machines have been added to that page.
Overheard on one of the mimeograph fb pages: As new models of Gestetners were rolled out and people brought in their old machines for a trade-in deal, the Gestetner dealers would destroy the inner workings of the old machines that they were no longer supporting as a way to avoid repairing them or answering repair questions down the line.
There you have it folks, the intentional destruction of functional machines for “economic” purposes, because, you know, “progress.”
I’ve been chasing mimeograph-related documents and information for a few months — not long in the scheme of things compared to those who’ve been at it for years, if not decades. Now and then something new turns up in my searches which are, of necessity, mostly online. There are one or two books available (I’ll post what I’ve found, shortly), a variety of scanned images ranging from advertisements to catalogs (as you can see by what I’ve included in the library already), some old auction posts about sales long-past, and a steady stream of things popping up on ebay.
There seemed to be only one Facebook group dedicated to mimeographs (the Mimeograph Users Group is a bit sleepy, but it’s worth looking at old posts to see what its members have been up to); only just today, though, in spite of a good portion of my Facebook searches relating to mimeographs and duplicators, I found another, Mimeomania. I’m not super impressed with the Facebook algorithms that only finally revealed this to me after a couple of months – but then, I’m not super impressed with Facebook in general, so nothing’s changed.
I had this moment of self-doubt upon finding the Mimeomania group – which probably speaks less to any issue with that group and more to my own issues and to this weird, re-inventing the wheel, fool’s-errand thing I’m doing here.
What am I doing? I like to think it’s nothing nearly as opportunistic as “get copies of all the things the collectors have collected and put them online” – but that’s kind of what it is. I like to think this will be useful to someone somewhere and somewhen – but maybe the only (few) people interested are finding all their answers in Facebook groups and those who don’t, give up on mimeograph machines in the end because they’re not easy anymore.
But then I think about why they’re not easy. And yes, this is coming from someone who’s not even yet tried one and no, I don’t mean it’s not easy to turn a crank handle, I mean there’s a massive, mountain-sized set of dilemmas right smack in any path that could convey mimeographs out of the past and into the present, let alone into the future.
Everyone who wants to use a mimeograph is half reliant on a past we can’t get back (those machines and their supplies were made in an era when they could be made; we don’t live in that era) and half reliant on a present that can’t see its way forward (the “old-timers” have valuable skills and information and those bits and bobs get parsed out individually, on a one-on-one basis, but then what?). What I mean by “the present can’t see its way forward” is that this dilemma-mountain casts a huge shadow (in addition to being, you know, really a challenging climb) so that we’re in the dark and trying to look beyond into a more deeply shadowed land. I’ve scrolled back through the Facebook groups’ messages and every newcomer asks the same questions: “How can I find the manual for this machine?” “What kind of ink should I use? How do I thin it?” “Where do I get inkpads?” and “What about stencils?” – the answers range from “they don’t exist,” or “I’ve heard so-and-so has a copy”, to “nobody makes them anymore” and “here’s how I’ve improvised.”
There are plucky explorers who go off-trail and try to contact once-known suppliers in India or China, or who send samples of materials to potential manufacturers, or who are messing around with chemicals in their garages. There are no encouraging reports coming back. There are the well-provisioned who are using up the last of the new-old-stock they bought 15 years ago, but after that, then what? Or there are those who have repurposed some sort of device (here I’m thinking of the thermal-stencil printer – a made-in-China electronic device) with its own series of weak links that at least can carry us further than our previous weak links could.
I’m not actually sure how helpful Mimeograph Revival is going to be if we don’t figure out how to manufacture — and not just manufacture, but teach each other how to manufacture — the critical components.
This makes me think that although mimeograph design “evolved” over the era in which they were in use, we can no longer kit-out the later-generation machines without recourse to digital/electronic inputs (not to mention energy intensive industrial manufacturing methods). Maybe that’s the true shadow that’s cast over the future. And maybe (though I can’t yet prove it) the way to get beyond that is to bypass the mountain and its requirements completely by going back to mimeographs’ beginnings – to Edison and Gestetner in the early days, and to what was being done before there were factories to do it.
I’ve seen a few references to DIY mimeograph machines and I’m trying to chase those references back to their sources so I can post them here. I’ll of course announce it if I do find such a thing, but in the meantime, I’ll be reading up on some Mimeograph history and reporting back on what I find.
By the way, if you’re here and you’re looking for something in particular, consider leaving a comment to tell me whether or not you found it so I can make Mimeograph Revival more helpful.
Before I can get into any cleaning/repairing/restoring, I need a place to undertake such activities. Before I have a place, I have two four dozen boxes of books to move out of the garage. Before I move them, I have to build a bookshelf. Before I build it, I have to paint the rest of the boards and cut the all-thread rods. Before I do that, I have to move the other mimeograph machine (and a companion-piece) off the saw-horses where they’re airing out (nevermind, I worked around them) because they smelled terribly of cigarette smoke when they arrived. Before I move them, I have to get the last of the April seeds planted in the garden before I lose my window of opportunity. Before I finish the planting, I have to finish editing the last chapter and a bibliography of a manuscript and return it to its author.
So, your patience is appreciated. I’m working on it!
(Update, May 6: I only need to move the boxes of books (and unpack, catalog and shelve them and then I’ll have a space in the garage to work.)
In case it wasn’t obvious, this site is brand-spanking new. I’ll admit up front that I’m brand-spanking new to the world of mimeographs as well. Don’t let that turn you off, though! I have some (hopefully) useful things planned for this site, not limited to the following:
I’ll be recording my repairs and renovations for others to use as reference for their own projects.
A section related to mimeograph supplies is forthcoming.
The mimeograph library will make hard-to-find publications and images available digitally.
The blog will keep abreast of the activities of mimeograph users and fans to help cultivate connections and access.
And more? I’m still brainstorming and coming up with ideas, so, yes, possibly more.
Thanks for visiting – and if there’s something you’d like to know about, drop a comment and I’ll do what I can to help.