Really old stack cutter

Part of my day involved making a few adjustments to this old Triumph stack cutter. This is a machine that can cut through a whole ream of paper at once. Guessing at its age… 30 years? 40 years? Maybe 50 years since that is the age of our college.

But it’s still in use. Take a look at the front platform, where paper is loaded. It is machine-turned aluminum, which is made when a circular wire brush is machine-pressed in progressive spots down onto the metal, making a bright textured finish that never wears off. And you may notice… it’s worn off, where stacks of paper are slid into the clamp and blade assembly.

Depth ruler for stack cutter
Transparent indicator fashioned from Plexiglas and colored red with nail polish

The bolt that adjusts the alignment fence (which ensures a square cut) was rusted in place, so it took some doing to move that fence over about a sixteenth of an inch. And while I was in there, hey, let’s replace the ruler that the operator uses to set the depth of cut. I used a nice self-adhesive steel-ribbon ruler from the L.S. Starrett company.  The old ruler had literally been hand-made out of paper by someone a long time ago. Their markings were dead accurate (!) but only at one-eighth intervals and the machine operator had wanted one with finer markings.

In the past I’ve repaired the crank handle that moves the depth stop in and out, the poly cutting block, and replaced the roughly two-pound steel blade. Later I’ll get someone to help me turn it over (it’s mostly cast iron) and give its mechanicals some serious TLC. Maybe get another ten years out of it.

I just love old machines like this. The company is still in business, so I’d say there isn’t a penalty for making such high-quality machinery. When you make something right in the first place, maybe you don’t have to replace it every other year? (Of course that only applies to mature technologies like heavy machines. Not to, for instance, smart phones which are still a new product category in development.)

When I do the major service, I’ll make pictures of its impressive internal mechanism.

  • The big crank on top lowers the clamp that holds the paper in place for cutting. There is a similar crank in front that moves the depth stop in and out to set cut depth.
  • The machine is designed for safety. You can arm it with one button in the middle, but to get the blade to come down? Takes both hands, one on each side of the machine like the buttons on a pinball machine. You’d have to be really creative to hurt yourself.