Sunday, March 23, 2008

European Style Composing Stick

Here is a style of stick that is very common in Europe. I believe that these sticks are mostly made in England and Germany. This stick has the titling in English, but it still may have been made in Germany for the British trade. I have been told that the French use a completely different style of stick, but I've never seen a French stick, so I don't know what they're like - I wish that someone out there would sell me one!
Anyway, this stick was made by Cornerstone, one of the major manufacturers of this style of stick. This particular stick is 8-3/4 inches long, and has the typical shallow depth of this style of stick - just eight picas. The body of this particular stick is made of aluminum, while the end-plate and the knee are steel, with a strap on the knee in a yellow-colored metal, possibly brass but probably some other amalgam of metals. The end-plate is riveted to the body.
This style of stick uses a clamping mechanism that is very effective - until it wears out, that is. There is a small lever that is attached to a screw mechanism. The knee is adjusted to the desired line length, and then the lever on the knee is depressed. This lever is attached to a screw. When the lever is depressed and the screw thereby turned, it exerts pressure on the strap, that goes completely around the stick and the knee. There is a section of the knee and strap that is cut in at a 45-degree angle, and so as the knee is pressed against this 45-degree angled section of the strap by the screw, the knee is pressed tightly against both the body of the stick and against the rail by the lever action, thus holding the knee firmly in place. Changing the setting is as simple as lifting the lever, moving the knee, and once again depressing the lever. So this style of stick is very easy to adjust.
Unfortunately, it is my experience that this style of stick also has a tendency to wear out. What happens is that the metal of the strap becomes fatigued and stretches, or the constant sliding of the strap causes it to wear as the inner surface of the strap rubs against the outside of the stick. Thus, the lever no longer exerts enough pressure on the strap to hold the knee tightly in place. I have purchased several sticks in which this has occurred, and the printers have inserted copper or brass thin spaces between the knee and the rail to try to adjust for this problem, but it's not a very good solution. One might think that you could just spin the screw around 360 degrees to tighten it, but the tolerances are so small that this won't work. As the stick wears, the lever must be depressed closer and closer to the body of the stick, finally hitting the stick before the clamp is tight - that's pretty much the end of the usefulness of the stick. The other drawback of this type of stick - a minor drawback, to be sure - is the fact that due to the strap wrapping around the bottom of the stick, this style of stick will not lie flat on the table or bank.

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