Letters to my digital children : Stencils in the basement

Dear Beertje and Kabouter,

You both grow up in a world with abundant print. Your book cases explode with books.  School , camps, ... distribute coloring papers without restrictions, ... Even though this is a digital world, print is all around.

When I grew up, photocopiers weren't as widely introduced as they are now.  When I was in elementary school, most school materials were books and we had to write our exercises in notebooks.  But we also received carbon stencils for more "ad hoc" excercises or tests or documentation.  Those stencils showed the teacher's handwriting and had titles in red or green and the main text in blue, if they were more multicolored. Most of them were just in blue writing though.

At home I could witness the art of creating these carbon stencils.  Your grandparents were teachers so they were often preparing their classes. I could see them both neatly handwriting their texts on the papers with colored carbon sheets underneath. A little liner on the sheet ensured that all text was positioned straight on the sheet. If there was a mistake...you had to start over again. The carbon gave you no option to undo. Once done you got a carbon template with all the text visible in mirrorview.

And then the little stencil machine in our basement had to get to work.  Sometimes I had/ was allowed to help my dad. We had to fill a little plastic bottle with I don't know what chemical liquid. Alcohol??  The carbon template had to get attached around the round drum with some little clips. We had to ensure it was attached straight, if not each copy would be disaligned. The side board had to get moisturized by the bottle: not too much, not too little but just enough. Too much made the sheets blurry and soaking wet, not enough didn't get the print through.

Then I had to line up the blank sheets on one side and feed the machine with a constant flow of paper, while my dad was turning the drum. Each time the drum made a full circle the little clips keeping the template make a loud "CLING"....."CLING" ...."CLING".   At the rhythms of the clings we fed the machine with blank paper and took out the newly stenciled copies. The first sheets had to  get spread out to dry. 
We kept an eye on the print quality on the copy. When the print was fading, we had to moisturize the machine again.   And then we started turning again  CLING ... CLING...CLING...until we had the number of copies we needed. Then we had to change the template to the next page and start over. 

It was a lot of artisanal work that took time to produce one or 2 sheets for each student to work on.  It makes you appreciate photocopiers so much!!  We should ask grandmother if that stencil machine still hides somewhere in the basement. 


source: https://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/general-chit-chat/1497378-vintage-xerox-machines.html


Leen Vdb said…
Heerlijk: ik herinner mij de stencils ook nog van in de lagere school :)

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