Aug 20, 2010


I long while back we got a phone call from a teacher clearing out her school, you know, the usual. But what stuck-out from the banal routine call was the mention of a ditto machine. "A mimeograph?" I enthusiastically asked. "No," she replied, "A Ditto machine. There's a difference."
Dreams of printing zines in that faded purple tone fluttered in my brain, but the machine didn't show.

Finally, about a month later, it finally showed up. Sure enough, it is a "Ditto" brand spirit transfer duplication machine, completely hand-cranked. There was surprisingly little information about these machines on the interweb, and my experiments with carbon paper yielded little other than my hands covered in toxic "duplicating fluid" (methanol).
The crank both shuffles your paper over the drum, to which you attach some original to copy, while simultaneously hand-pumping the fluid onto the paper so the ink transfers. Super toxic and with lots of places for things to go wrong.

As luck would have it, just as I was about to give up and toss this 60-pound behemoth in the metal recycling bin, a pack of Ditto brand masters got donated and I was in business... sort of.

I wrestled with this thing for a weekend and wasted a lot of newsprint. I wasn't able to do any straight-up duplicating, but I got some pretty artsy effects and managed to keep the methanol spills to a minimum. Not quite the purple retro-art prints or publications I was fantasizing about, but I'm still glad I got a chance to wrestle with one of these archaic beasts.

We're still looking for that mimeograph, though.

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