Friday, March 26, 2010

Internship and Wingmailer

So, I started an internship at the local paper that I've been freelancing for (since about last May). Now instead of just updating their blog and writing almost-weekly features, I'm in the office quite a bit now.

I usually just edit my own articles, format the weekly articles (like the Police Blotter and Community Calendar), take calls, and learn how to do other things once and a while.

One of my favorite things in the office though, is the Wingmailer.

The Wingmailer is an old-old piece of ingenuity that allows someone to cut and adhere lots of labels in a (relatively) short amount of time. Of course, there's big machines that can print labels on newspapers, but it's expensive, and we can get away with some manual labor around here.

We use the Wingmailer to stamp individual mailing addresses on the batches of newspapers we mail out. We have just the right number of people in circulation that doing it manually saves money.

It starts with a digital spreadsheet of everyone that has a current subscription, and we print names and addresses of everyone on a long spool of paper that is 3-inches across. Basically, we use the spools you find in receipt printers everywhere.

This long sheet is rolled up, and transferred over to the wingmailer we have stationed on a large table. The wingmailer is mounted on what is called a strong arm: a wood board with a few metal prongs sticking up to hold a stack of papers in a specific place.

There is a "cartridge" of paste that is loaded into the WM. Inside is wooden rollers to apply the paste. The roll of names is mounted onto another spool, the paper is fed through the paste rollers, and then up to the top where the scroll is.

You scroll the paper out so that only a single label is showing, then quickly stamp down the WM. The motion makes the blade at the end swing, cut, and paste down the label in one motion. Done in a repetitive manner, you're basically bouncing the whole device (in between scrolls and removing the top paper) until you're finished with a stack.

I tried this, and I was terrible. The blade kept getting stuck because I was using too little or too much power. Just lots of muscle-memory involved with it I guess.

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