Linotype Rescue

In the Beginning

In February of 2012, I became aware of a Model 8 Linotype that was available in Seattle. Just a couple months prior, I had bought my Model 31, and I didn't have room or the budget for another Linotype, so I passed up on the machine.

One year later, in February 2013, I was contacted by the owner of the Linotype, Steve. He had been unsuccessful in finding a new owner for the Linotype, and he was ready to scrap it out unless an owner could be found immediately. Around the same time, I learned that another Linotype that had been available on the west coast was scrapped by its less than communicative owner. I was lucky that Steve was willing to work with me to find a new home for his machine. I spread the word around that a Linotype was available, but I couldn't find any takers for his machine.

After it became apparent that I wasn't going to find a home for Steve's Linotype in a time frame that was going to work, I decided to try and raise the funds required to go and get the machine myself.


I started an Indiegogo campaign to try to raise the funds needed to go and save this Linotype, I called the campaign Operation Linotype Rescue. My own funds were tapped out with my own recent (and expensive) acquisition of a Chandler & Price 10x15 Craftsman printing press. I gave myself 20 days to raise the required funds; little did I realize that I would spend the next 20 days obsessing over this campaign.

I learned something very important about crowd funding: it's not as easy as it looks. While there are many campaigns with 'Field of Dreams' success stories ('If you build it, they will come'), there are many more campaigns that fail. I spent many hours promoting my project, and sending out personal e-mail to anyone and everyone that showed an interest. I ended up crafting two web sites for the campaign. I made a Youtube plea, which is something that is quite effectively entirely out of my comfort zone. I spent hours writing blog posts. Because of other responsibilities, I had the most free time to work on the campaign late at night. I lost a lot of sleep, but in the end, the campaign was successful.

The Rescue

With the funds in place, I started to plan for the retrieval mission. I enlisted the help of my oldest brother, and a weekend was booked. The trip was quite uneventful, and we arrived in Seattle in the afternoon on Saturday. Unfortunately, the crane arrived at the same time as we did, so the loading process was rushed. To complicate matters, the Linotype was hiding behind a Heidelberg printing press in the back of a narrow garage. We had to take pieces off of the linotype, and scoot the Heidelberg over as far as it would go to be able to squeeze the Linotype by.

Once we had a clear path to the garage door, we hooked a chain around the base of the Linotype and... drug it out with the truck. It sounds barbaric, but the concrete floor was quite smooth, and there was not enough headroom to get a pallet jack under the Linotype as we had planned. We put a metal plate on the gravel driveway, and pulled the linotype out to that. With a lifting strap through the central column of the machine, it was an easy lift onto the trailer. Oh, did I mention it rained the entire time? And it didn't just rain, it poured.

The trip home was uneventful, and the border crossing was the smoothest I've had yet. We arrived back home around 11 PM, and I parked the Linotype at the bottom of my driveway. At the top of the driveway sat a rental forklift that had been delivered while I was away. The next morning, I used a crowbar and plywood blocking to slowly lift the Linotype up high enough to fit a pallet jack under it. I fit it for a pair of wooden skids, and with the end of the trailer blocked up, I rolled the Linotype to as close to the edge as I could. From there, I could reach it with the forklift.

I had never operated a fork lift before this, so I spent a few minutes reading the manual and getting accustomed to the controls. Feeling comfortable enough, I drove up to the back of the trailer and gently eased the Linotype into the air. My wife drove the truck and trailer out from under it, and I lowered it to within a couple inches of the ground; low enough that if it leaned any significant amount in either direction, the skids would touch down before anything catastrophic would happen.

Once I arrived at my garage at the top of my driveway (a roughly 10 degree slope, no problem for the fork lify), I was reminded that a Linotype would not fit through my garage door without a fight. I have one of those garage doors that is a big flat panel that flips open as a single piece. The only way to get a Linotype through this door is to remove the door. Usually by the time I'm done removing all of the bolts, and dealing with the confounded construction of my garage door, I have sweat dripping off of my nose, and I'm out of breath. This experience was no different, except that it seemed to rain any time I needed to stand on the outside of my garage. Usually, the experience ends with me awkwardly dragging the 7 foot by 9 foot steel garage door out of its opening and abandoning it on on my neighbours driveway. This experience was no different.

With the door out of the way, I was able to use the fork lift to gently drop the Linotype inside. Success! Of course, there was a disaster to clean up down at the trailer, and I needed to now re-install my garage door, but that's all part of the fun. I also learned during the clean-up stage that without a linotype on its forks, there was no way the forklift could make it back up my driveway. It spent the night at the bottom.

What's Next?

I want to find a new home for this Linotype. If you're looking for a Linotype, or know somebody that is, or that might be intrigued by it, let me know. In the mean time, I'm working on finding some missing pieces for the thing, while keeping it safely stored in my garage.