Finally up and running with Jim Rimmer's SuperCaster...

Early in 2010 an arrangement was worked out with the family of the late Jim Rimmer to aquire Jim's gear and to move it to the Greenboathouse Press (for some background on Jim and his gear, jump over here). That move was, to say the least, a challenge, which had me working for 3 long days, with little more than a crow-bar and pallet jack, to prepare, lift, heave and push all of the equipment out of a window two feet above the ground.

Getting mentally prepared for moving half a dozen 1500lb machines out of a window...

After hauling the equipment to Vernon, the next major hurtle was a lack of space to set things up, as well as the necessity of 3-phase electric and running water. This meant the machines were relegated to storage, and unfortunately sat there collecting dust for 3 long years.

Finally, early in 2013, a move to a new house with a larger workspace allowed for the installation of most of Jim's stuff, including the Ogata pantograph (for engraving new matrices) and Jim's rare and extremely versatile Monotype Super Caster.

Ogata Pantograph Monotype Supercaster

Ogata Pantograph & Monotype Super Caster (click on the first image for larger versions)...

The Super really is a phenomenal machine, capable of casting type from 6-72pt, as well as spacing material, leads, rules and even furniture. Due to a non-competition agreement between Lanston Monotype (US) and the Monotype Corporation (UK), Super Casters were never imported to North America, but after both companies shut down, a few Supers found their way across the pond. I know of only two of them in Canada, and a handful in the US, and they are extremely coveted by many who make their own type.

The Super's beauty lies not only in the breadth of product it can produce, but also in its relative simplicity of operation, especially when compared to the clockwork-complexity of the Composition Caster. I say this now, however, only after spending much of 2013 completely tearing down Jim's Super, cleaning it thoroughly, repairing and replacing a few parts, and putting it all back together. This was tackled during the summer months of 2013, and I then spent the autumn studying manuals, stumbling through a few weeks of trial-and-error experiments, as well as countless hundreds of emails to the very patient Rich Hopkins and Dan Jones, both Super Caster operators. Now that I've discovered, wrestled with, and solved a wide range of hiccups and blunders, now I can say that the Super is, in the end, a relatively simple machine to operate.

 A stick of metal flux and a box of Monotype flat mats. Measuring and alignment tools. Most commonly used tools for installing and adjusting the type moulds on the Super Caster.

Click on the first image for larger versions...

One of the great pleasures of running this machine — aside from the obvious joy of operating a complex piece of equipment that one has spent hundreds of hours restoring, a machine with a rich history and astounding typographic output — is the slightly odd but also wonderful sense of accomplishment in getting Jim's machine functional again. I felt a certain anxiety taking on Jim's gear, given his herculean talent and inventiveness with these machines, his accomplishments and his legacy, but I must admit a lingering sensation that he's hanging around the shop with me, smiling and pointing, now and then, at a lever that needs adjusting, or nudging me when the pot starts to get low on metal.

I still have a long way to go, first to further develop my relationship with the machine, but then the next stage of my work with Jim's machines will begin, which will be to learn the necessary skills to engrave my own matrices with which to cast new type designs on the Super Caster. But, one thing at a time.


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