Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Rouse Quarter Point Stick

Here is a stick that has always been a puzzle to me. It's the Rouse Quarter Point Stick. The body of the Quarter Point Stick is identical to that of the Rouse Job Stick, with the same row of small rectangular holes along the rail. Some of the Quarter Point Sticks have the name "Quarter-Point Stick" stamped on the body - this particular stick is marked identically to the Job Sticks, but the number stamped on the body is identical to the number stamped on the knee, so I am assuming that Rouse used the bodies somewhat interchangeably.
The puzzle is this: why would anyone need to adjust the line length by a quarter of a point??? It's hard to understand how anyone could even perceive the difference of a quarter point, or a full point, for that matter. There is always a market for things like super-performing hi-fidelity equipment for the music connoisseur, or the souped-up engine for car-daddies - but adjusting a line length by one-quarter of a point? Come on!
Anyway, this particular stick is 10-3/4 inches long, with a depth of 12 picas.
The way the adjustment on the knee works is pretty straightforward. The clamp is lifted to allow the adjustment mechanism to work freely. Then the little hand on the protractor is moved to the quarter-point setting along the curved gauge, which is numbered from one to twelve - the measure can therefore be adjusted by quarter-points for a total distance of twelve points. As the lever is moved, it moves the piece of metal with the rectangular posts on the bottom of the knee which engage with the holes along the rail on the body of the stick.
This model of stick was superceded by the Micrometer stick, which I will describe in a future post. Few of these sticks have survived, possibly because few were sold in the first place, and also because the mechanism was fragile and many were broken. Speckter says that these sticks were popular "because of the convenience they afforded in the setting of runarounds, variable book headings, odd point initials, box heads for columnar matter and other uses requiring bastard measures." But if one is looking for an infinite amount of fine adjustment capability, a Basic Screw Stick would seem to fit the bill admirably. Well, as I say, I'm puzzled. But perhaps the professional compositor of bygone days found a use for such fine adjustments.

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