Heyer Lettergraph Model D

[9/23/21: When I first got this machine, its model/version was a mystery to me. Kind commenter Kevin pointed out (below) an identifying feature. I’ve changed some parts of this write-up to reflect the newfound identity, but left some portion of the wording as it was, including the opening sentences.]

This is a mystery Lettergraph, missing its metal identification tag on the front that would’ve identified the model.

A photo of a Model C was spotted on an auction review site. The machine looks very similar to mine and the letter in the image puts its manufacture date in the 1950s (1952 for that particular machine). The photo also shows a manual for that model.

Heyer Lettergraph Model C

A manual for the Model D sold on ebay at one point and the image shows up in an image search for “Heyer Lettergraph.” A comparison between the two manuals’ images does not reveal major differences.

Honestly, I don’t know what I have. [Update 9/19/21: Kevin, in a comment below has helped me identify my machine by its lack of a lever on the handle-side that acts as the mechanism to trip the paper-feed roller(visible in both images above. The manual shows a lever, but I’m willing to assume they just reused a Model C image or something). The post title has been updated to reflect the new-found identification.]

I do know what I don’t have, though: a print tray (for lack of knowing its real name – I’m referring to the receiving tray for pages after they’ve been printed on); a screw with which to attach the “adjustment” assembly (for lack of knowing its real name – this is an arm that attaches the drum to the paper feed mechanism) to the paper-feed roller; possibly one or two levers to adjust the platen (below the base); and I’m unsure if there’s supposed to be a reservoir in the drum for this type of machine (though see below).

Ah, you noticed that I don’t know the official names of the parts of this mimeograph machine. This sorry state of affairs is because I have next-to-no documentation for this machine. This is the problem for nearly anyone who wants to know something about a specific machine (and is what has prompted the creation of this site). [UPDATE: I now have some images of A. B. Dick mimeographs posted on the Images page, dated 4/29/21, some of which label key mimeograph features. Now there’s no excuse!]

I just realized the platen is called an “impression roller”!

Here you can see that the three models are basically identical except for differences in paper-handling and inking features. I suspect that I have a model C because I have a “large perforated open cylinder,” but because no drum variation is specified, I can’t be sure that they ALL aren’t hand inked in a “large perforated open cylinder.”

In addition to what’s missing, there’s also the dilemma of an unattached paper feed roller. It appears that the shaft is supposed to be inserted into an arm on the left side of the machine (the one that’s also supposed to have the adjustment-assembly screwed to it), however I can’t get it to slide in at all -there’s literally no clearance. [UPDATE: I’ve got an alternative en route and will report back later] [UPDATE 9/19/21: The alternative worked! My machine was likely shipped with a different model’s part. An appropriately-fitting version was exchanged and installed and we’re getting ready to roll.]

The seller provided two ink pads: this one as well as an extra “original” one that fits another machine altogether (at my request, I indicated I was interested to see what an original one looked like). They appear to be cotton flannel, though the fabric has a nap only on one side.

What’s needed to restore it and make it work

07/20/22 – the Model D is now functional! All missing pieces have been restored/replaced, and I’ve made a new ink pad. I’m holding off on any painting of the body at this time in favor of concentrating on using the machine.

  • a screw/knob to attach the adjustment arm to the moveable clamp/lever (exactly what it adjusts, I’m not sure I have since learned that it adjusts the print on the top or the bottom of the page, separately)
  • the insertion of the paper feed roller rod into the the moveable clamp/lever done!
  • two levers to allow for the platen to be raised/lowered (important for paper movement through the machine) – both the manuals and the actual Model C shown in the auction photo show a lever on the side – the catalog does not. Though I haven’t tried it yet, my source tells me that the paper itself triggers the impression roller to engage and only at that time – preventing the inked stencil from printing on the impression roller which would otherwise cause backprinting.
  • more ink pads made a new one
  • paste ink ready!
  • depending on how fully restored I want it to be, the base has scratches that could be touched up with a paint job

8 replies on “Heyer Lettergraph Model D”

You haven’t posted a picture of the front of the machine, so I cannot tell if it is a Model C or a Model D. If there is a lever on the front towards the bottom of the machine, to the left of the handle, then you have a Model C. The Model D engages the roller automatically and so does not have this lever. I still use two Model Es for printing color letterheads and envelopes. The Model E has a closed cylinder, but C and D have an open cylinder. You have to make the ink pads yourself with material from the fabric store; they are nearly impossible to find. If you can find ink pads for a Speed-o-Print or a Roneo, you may be able to adapt them (using some sewing skills). I can send you a picture of how the pieces fit on the back to operate the paper feed.

Kevin, welcome! It’s a pleasure to have you stop in, and I’m excited and grateful you’re willing to share some of your experience here! So I have no lever on my machine – there’s a hole, and I feared I was missing something – but if I recall correctly (without searching my email right this minute to find out), the seller told me it should feed automatically.

So it’s a Model D until proven otherwise!

I have the one ink pad that’s attached, and will use it to make new ones with some flannel that I happen to have.

That’s cool that you’re using mimeos for letterhead. Is it for your use or do you do jobs for other folks?

I print color letterheads and envelopes for non-profit groups on the model E’s. For short runs, I also use a model 24, which is entirely hand operated, including the paper feed. The quality of prints from these machines is excellent, and they are super inexpensive to operate. If you manually ink the machine from the front of the pad, you can print multiple Color’s in one operation.

That machine that you have came with an angled brush to apply the ink to the inside of the cylinder, and it would transfer to the back of the pad. That was the standard method of inking on many early mimeographs.

Hi Kevin, thanks for sharing your experience. All your posts have been so full of useful information! I’d love to hear your stencil-making method as well. Are you using old style wax-coated-paper type or thermally-printed stencils? That you’re getting good quality is encouraging. So far, my print efforts haven’t yielded particularly great quality, though that may be because I’m using the small hand-held machine. Next up, I’ll be taking the Model D out for a spin (gotta make an extra ink pad first, though).

I use the original type of cellulose stencils and image them on a new dot matrix printer, placing a sheet of clear plastic film over the stencil prior to insertion in the printer. I also add hand drawn artwork using a light table and stylus, and I can also make stencils on a thermal copier (though I rarely do). There are also Kelsom Thermal stencils available on eBay that are reputed to be excellent (I haven’t used them myself yet).

Wow, that’s a great idea! I can see that you’ve tended to several older technologies with some care. I can’t even remember the last time I used a dot-matrix printer… maybe the late 90s… though I did have and use the form-feed paper for quite a while after I no longer had the printer. Kelsom stencils are akin to Risograph stencil paper – that’s what I’m using, though I think I’m just not impressed with the tattoo-stencil printer. Or … you know, I haven’t gotten enough time in the “print shop” under my belt for things to actually click into place. 🙂

Short answer: Not much.
Longer answer: Depends on it’s condition and whether or not you find somebody who’s interested in buying it. That’s not as easy as it sounds. You can see what people are asking on ebay – though the asking price isn’t always the same as the price people are willing to pay (some things stay listed for a long time because the seller, to quote the type, thinks “I know what I have and I know what it’s worth!” – which turns out to be incorrect).
Second short answer: Probably a couple hundred bucks if it’s in great condition.

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