Categories
How-to Trial and Error

Functional Fax, Finally

-plus tips to ensure that you get a good machine-

With a new Brother Intellifax 775, I am now in thermal-stencil-making business. I prepped my Riso master sheet, inserted it into the paper feed tray, put my original into the scanner feed tray, hit copy, and voila, a thermal stencil with good resolution and no marring of the thermal paper.

It was pointed out to me that I could easily apply tape over the cartridge sensor lever to trick the machine into thinking a cartridge was in place (see photo below). Thermal paper could then be taped to a sheet of paper and, when run through the paper feed mechanism, the thermal printer would print directly on the thermal paper. That trick prevents the massive hassle of winding thermal paper onto cartridge rolls.

Should you wish to use a thermal fax machine to print stencils, I recommend the following:

  • Get the newest machine you can.
  • If you get one that is “new in box” make sure it’s NOT a model that has been sitting in its box since the 1980s. Or even the 1990s… and maybe not even since the early 2000s. Really, get the newest machine you can. Unfortunately you’ll likely be guessing when any particular fax machine was made – I have had no luck figuring out the manufacture dates of particular models; that information doesn’t seem to be publicly available. Still, you can kind of tell by brands’ model numbers that, in many cases, increase in relation to later release dates.
  • If the fax machine is used, ask the seller to test the copy function and send you proof that the output is clean. Ideally see a photo of both the original and the copy. If the seller says they can’t do that because they don’t have a cartridge installed, think long and hard about the purchase.
  • Purchase only from sellers who accept returns.
  • Test the fax machine immediately upon receipt – I waited too long with my first one because I was busy with other things and missed the chance to get a refund for its being non-functional.

Had I done those things, I could’ve saved myself some trouble. Oh well, at least I gained the experience with which I can help you make a better fax-purchase decision.

Here is what you want to look for:

  • A plain-paper thermal fax machine* – this prints on regular (letter or A4 depending on your location) copy paper with a thermal-printer mechanism.

Avoid laser, laserjet, and inkjet fax machines. They do not have the thermal printer unit that Riso master paper requires.

Alternatively, you can try one of these:

  • An Older-style thermal fax machine that prints on rolls of thermal “fax paper.” If you try this, make sure that the rolls are the same width as the Riso master rolls you wish to use. In some cases you can just swap out the thermal paper with the Riso master roll.

*Today I spent some time looking for the latest in thermal fax machines. I hate to break it to you, but there isn’t one. Most (all?) thermal fax machines have been discontinued. I checked the following manufacturers: Brother, HP, and Sharp. Likewise, neither Amazon, Walmart, Staples, OfficeDepot, nor Best Buy are carrying new thermal fax machines. Ah, the poignant sound of another obsolete technology slipping out of reach.

Your best bet is your local used-goods market/garage sale circuit, or online via ebay or facebook marketplace.

If you don’t need to make stencils from originals that are already on paper and are willing to produce directly from your computer, you can try a “pocket printer” that uses thermal printing technology. A Mimeomania member reports good results with a Paperang A4 printer (300dpi) and a quick search shows several such things for sale on various sites. Looks like A4 size is cheaper than letter size – but, since Riso paper is most easily found in A4 size, Americans don’t have to aim for letter-sized since stencil size can be flexible.

If you’d rather have a plain-paper fax machine, I can attest that the Brother Intellifax 775 works for this purpose. In addition, I’ve seen videos with the Intellifax 575 making thermal tattoo stencils, and of course Stampalofi uses a Philips (model unknown).

Categories
How-to

The Tin-Can Wonder – a low-tech, DIY mimeograph machine

Thanks to a lucky find — a stash of 1940s and 50s fanzines hidden in a trunk for safekeeping in a Riverside attic — donated to the University of Iowa library, instructions for making mimeography’s most stripped-down variation are now available. Rich Dana (UI graduate), prompted by Pete Balestrieri’s (Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections at UI) discovery and mention of the information he found in a supplement to Science Fiction World, scanned the instructions for making a DIY mimeograph machine and they’re now available to all.

Here, Rich and Pete talk about the history of the main collection that yielded this gem, the fanzine-world in general, and the Tin-Can Wonder specifically. Rich also heads to his secret workshop to make and use the simple “machine” to print a version of the original instructions (digital copy of the original available below the video). Please download and distribute freely.

Yes, the elusive stencil is still required. In later posts I’ll continue discussing the options available to mimeographers (including making your own).