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).

6 replies on “The Tin-Can Wonder – a low-tech, DIY mimeograph machine”

[staring in wonder] Wow. Good find!

BTW your “making your own” link goes to the wrong place.


All thanks to Pete and Rich! I have visions of little mimeo-kits, with ink and stencils tucked inside a paint can, heading out around the world. Also, in the back of my mind (saved for when I’m done with a danged j-o-b project and have free time again), I’m thinking of hacking this with a rolling pin so the paint-can can just be rolled out over paper without having to touch the inky surface…

Stencils though… man, that’s the sticking point. It is, in fact, where I’m stuck as my thermal printer isn’t working…

Thanks for the link report. Fixed!

…rolling pin…

Ya know, that could be the absolute simplest mimeo method, if you can figure out the paper feed…

Yeah, the paper-feed mechanism aspect of the later mimeos is really elegant and hard to improve upon. Still, though, if speed is not your aim (and simple duplication is), then a printing buddy who slips printed pages out from under the printspace (revealing a fresh sheet) would do it…

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