A New Monotype Caster

Here are the facts behind the previous entry, which was rather oblique and glorified because of my excitement:

Some two years ago I acquired a ‘Monotype’ Composition Caster – a machine that automatically casts individual printing types from molten metal and sets this type into justified lines, ready for printing. By automatically, I mean that the operation of the machine is controlled by a punched paper tape whose perforations are created by an entirely separate keyboard. For the printer, typographer or general enthusiast of machinery, a running ‘Monotype’ Caster is an amazing thing to witness.

I have had a great interest—okay, obsession—with these machines for several years. This passion culminated in my attending Monotype University 5, where I first met the amazing Mr Paul Duensing, from whom I acquired my first machine. Unfortunately, this caster was damaged in shipment! It took two years for me to fully recover from this minor tragedy and to locate a similar machine.

Finally, this spring…

Finally this spring, a similar, though slightly more worn out composition caster emerged at Heritage Printers, in Charlotte, North Carolina, under the care of Pat Taylor. As it happens, Pat Taylor was my tutor on the Monotype Composition Caster at Monotype University, so it seems fitting that I should acquire this ‘new’ machine from him.

With the expert help of Bill Welliver, the new caster made it safely back to my shop in Lititz, PA, where it has been lavished with preparations for its new assignment. In order to be fully operation at The Private Press of Ian Schaefer, the caster requires these accomodations:

  • 3-phase power to the 3/4 hp motor – this will probably be provided by a variable frequency drive, which should allow finer adjustment at low speed settings.
  • Propane gas to power the melting pot – the pot was previously feed by natural gas, which means that the burner orifices must be reduced, probably by soldering and re-drilling an even smaller hole.
  • Water coolant – my shop has no nearby water supply, so the casting machine moulds must be cooled by a recirculating water system. I plan to start building a unit based on the model designed by Jim Walczak, and presented at the 2004 ATF Conference.
  • Air power to control the machine at a steady 15 psi – this one is easy: I already have a very serviceable compressor.

I intend to document the progress here, along with photos of the ‘Monotype’ Caster and the entire shop.

The Silence Has Ended

Monotype Composition Arrives
Two quiet years after entrusting the portage of my first caster to the brazen ineptitude of a common carrier, this printer’s shop will rattle with the nearly forgotten noise of productivity. On May 27th, after a careful, all-night drive from Charlotte to Lititz, and amid the curious flurry of too many helpers who knew what was at stake this time, the beautiful mongrel machine, bearing at least three distinct serial numbers on its numerous replaced parts, touched safely down on the cement floor. Four sources of power—air, water, gas, and electricity—will be brought to bear in the coming weeks. When the main lever is thrown for the first time, I am sure that the birds in the nearby lilac will flush.

Read more details and see photos of this caster

Photos of the Second ‘Monotype’ Move

Returning from Heritage Printers, Charlotte, North Carolina

With the expert help of Bill Welliver and my numerous other helpers the new ‘Monotype’ Composition Caster acquired from Pat Taylor of Heritage Printers in Charlotte, NC, made it safely back to my shop in Lititz, PA, where it has been lavished with preparations for its new assignment.

Monotype Composition Caster is poised for unloading. Bill Welliver’s Thompson waits in the back of the truck.

Adam Martin’s hefty rollback makes it’s final approach.

Precision alignment.


Easy, now.

How tiny the Monotype Caster looks on the bed of this truck!


Tim Schaefer (my dad) steadies as I try to figure out the odd angle.

Alas, Bill Welliver with the come along to pull it off the bed of the rollback.

More come-along plus brute force.

Hey there’s Reed Dixon on the right. Where’d he come from? Good timing!

Remnants of the Reading & Columbia Railroad

Reading & Columbia Railroad

I often wonder about the possibility of combining my varied interests to create something more meaningful, more lasting, than any one avocation ever has the chance to produce. Last night while looking at my partial schematic of the former Reading & Columbia Railroad that runs through Lititz I thought the text labels on the diagram might be more understandable if I rotated them 90 degrees. This felt like the first time I thought about the railroad as a designer, not simply a rail fan. Within a short time I transformed my barely serviceable sketch into an a more lucid and artful interpretation of the subject at hand. I don’t expect that a “map” like this could matter much to anyone else, but I feel compelled to pursue the idea a bit further, and to eventually take it into the letterpress shop.

Stay tuned.

The Deckel Pantographic Engraving Machine

It is a small pedestal machine.

Friedrich Deckel. Type G.I. Machine No. 2751.

A close-up of the pantograph arms with engraved graduated scale.

The spindle mechanism.

The spindle is easily removed from the machine.

Top half of the spindle assembly, disassembled (gulp!)…

…and the bottom half of the spindle assembly. Spindle arbor and pulley should separate but are too tight to remove by hand.

Letterpress Portfolio

A very few samples of recent work…

Digital illustration, printed letterpress from metal plate, private commission. Click for detail.

Wood engraving, hand set metal type, copper photo-engraving for 2nd color, printed letterpress. Click for enlargement (~200kb).

Handset wood and metal type, printed letterpress, private commission.

Linoleum cut with handset metal type, private edition & Amalgamated Printers’ Association bundle submission.

Hand set metal type, Amalgamated Printers’ Association bundle submission.

Fallen Peony


Here’s a small linoleum cut that I just finished. This peony will illustrate a collaborative letterpress piece I am doing with J C Groff. In the final piece the peony will print white on a medium toned paper. The body, typeset by Jim, is excerpted from a letter he sent to me. One hundred fifty finished prints will be submitted to the APA. I’ll try to remember to post the finished piece. And yes, I did notice that it has been exactly six months since I last posted to the site. Ouch.

Image & Type


Some wood type in the composing stick. I perpetually grapple, doodle, diddle, shuffle and fret over the words that might describe what I do. “Image & Type” is one recent candidate. It sets a nice tone, I think, but it still needs to be qualified by a title like

Ian Schaefer, Designer & Letterpress Printer.

Yet does any of this fairly cover my efforts in web design? Brand identity?

The Private Press of Ian Schaefer

The scene is always changing in this shop. This is how it looked in February, 2005—a little cramped. On the right, in the background, is the recently acquired, pre-war Deckel pantographic engraver , which I am hoping to bring back to life. Someday it will be used to engrave brass matrices—or punches which in turn will be driven to form matrices—for casting new metal printing types of my own design. Casting type will eventually be accomplished with Monotype equipment like the composition machine that arrived here last spring.

A view of the shop, February, 2005.

Works in progress, a.k.a. piles of type.