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What the.... hectograph!

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We needed somehting for the Tiger Cubs to do last night, so I decided that they could do some printing with a hectograph.


For those who have never heard of it, a hectograph is a pan filled with gelatine. An inked sheet of paper (using old mimeograph masters, which are available on Amazon) is placed on the surface so that the ink transfers to the gelatine. It is removed, and blank sheets are then placed on the gelatine. When those sheets are removed, they have a copy of the original! "Hecto" means one hundred, and in theory, a hundred copies can be made. A dozen is quite easy, and if you're lucky, you can probably get 50.


I did a little bit of experimenting, and noticed that some markers we had at home would also work. So if you can't get the mimeograph masters, all hope is not lost. There is also such a thing as a "hectograph pencil", which were available for order on Amazon and other places, although I have never tried one of these.


They all enjoyed printing it, and the adults were amazed that this simple process made such good copies. For the Cub Scouts who missed the radio station visit, I declared ourselves to be a newspaper for purposes of the newspaper visit requirement.


The process is described in this 1970 Boys Life article:




See also:




To make the gelatine, I used a recipe similar to the one shown at the following link (I made a batch about half the size of this recipe):




The gelatine is available at any supermarket, and the glycerine was available at Walgreen's (as a special order item, which they happened to have in stock):


Here's another recipe that calls for boric acid instead of glycerine:




If you wanted to make a larger quantity, that recipe would be less expensive, since I used the whole bottle of glycerine. Boric acid was also available at Walgreen's as a special order.


Neither glycerine nor boric acid are toxic or poisonous, although since they are not food, it's probably not a good idea to eat them. Preparing the gelatine beforehand is probably best reserved for adults, since it involves handling what amounts to boiling oil. But once the tray is ready, the Cub Scouts can easily do the entire process with little outside direction. It's not particularly messy, and very little can go wrong. We spent about a half hour with the hectograph (with about half of the den doing another activity at the same time).


So if you're looking for an activity that your Cub Scouts are never going to see anywhere else, consider a hectograph!

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Here are the ones that I ordered:


--see below


And here's a hectograph pencil, which I haven't tried:


--see below


As you can see, these are still on the market because they are used in the tattoo industry. They are used to trace the designs on paper and then transfer to the skin, as a template for the design. So another alternative might be to go to a local tattoo parlor and see if they will sell you one, a tactic I didn't try. It might be fun to go in uniform. I bet they don't get too many people coming in wearing BSA uniforms. :)


Edited to add:


Those links didn't come out very well. I put the links on the following web page:




When I get a Round Tuit, I'll post some more complete directions, but for now, that link will show where to get the masters.(This message has been edited by clemlaw)

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