H.B Rouse Brass Ruler, Does anyone have any info on this.

Good day Briar Press members,
I have acquired a few of these H.B Rouse brass rulers, I have looked and found limited information on them and I was wondering if anyone knows or has an idea when they where manufactured and their value. I have a few of them and just cleaned this one up that was caked up with dirt and paint, the 2 1/2 weeks of meticulous cleaning was worth it.

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Brasso would help greatly for cleaning.

The thing with Brasso is that it will remove the old paint, it’s an abrasive compound. I just boiled some water and a cleaning solution that my grandfather gave me and this was my result. I will post up some pictures of it before the cleaning.

Was what the cleaner you used? I do not know the answer to your question but have collected several brass rulers from different companies and some could use a good cleaning.

Sorry, I wrote my last post incorrectly! I am a lousy typist. Thus no linotype experience, only presswork!

Anyway, WHAT was the cleaner you used on the ruler? I have several old ones that would benefit from a good cleaning but haven’t found anything that takes the old ink off without also removing the black paint from the ruler.

Because so many of the rulers look like they were made by maybe only two different companies, but just with different company names at the bottom, I have also been curious abut the same question you ask above. Who were the master manufacturers of these?

Any answerers or advice would be appreciated!


JohnThePrinter, Look up Line Gauge.
When I was in trade school, if you called a Line Gauge a Ruler, it would be taken away by the instructor.
Some people collect just brass Line Gauges.
Best james

When the word “paint” is being used in this thread, is it meant, “paint” or are we really meaning “ink”?
On another point, do we know what these gauges could be used for?

James, you are right about not using the word ruler. I can be used that way but my instructor felt the same way - They are LINE GAUGES not rulers! Just a slip of the tongue, so to speak.

Pressed Letters - The line gauges were brass (well, until the stainless steel ones came along.) I am pretty sure the background black IS paint. The black paint in the background served to offset the brass color of the markings on the line gauge. You will notice that all of the line markings, the number measurements, the company name and such, are not painted black. I have line gauges where someone has “cleaned” them and ALL of the color is gone: ink AND the black background. So it may be a “Turtles” or “Rouse” line gauge but it just doesn’t have the “look” it should have.

I want to clean my gauges so the black stays on the metal but the only way I have found to get the ink off is scraping and that mars the metal or the paint.

Line gauges are used for measuring anything having to do with the printing process but primarily when locking up type. I believe they were originally brass because brass was less likely to mar the lead type (that’s what I was told, anyway). When offset came along, the line gauges started being built of stainless steel, but they still had the black painted background. However, now the marking are silver colored vs brass colored.

To John the Printer - I have seen good clean Rouse and Turtles brass line gauges sell on eBay for between $20 and $40. If eBay is the market, then I guess that is what they are worth. I have seen other brands sell for $10 or less and some for $50. I am not really sure about what determines their worth. I think people like Rouse and Turtles because one saw them in school or at work and so that became the “standard”. Some old Turtles ones the old printers used were almost twice as thick as some of the ones you see now days. However, a good brass ruler with another company’s name on it is just as useful. I just bought one that looks like your Rouse but has “Kelsey” on it. Just like anything, if it is old it is “worth” more. You can sort of tell age by the nicks and dings, the thickness of the metal and almost always, there will be a printers name engraved into the back of the gauge. In school and in the shop where I started working, you had to buy your own and you didn’t want it to “walk” off!

The brass line gauges were out of Rouse’s catalog by the late 50s when they started using aluminium. And I doubt that they actually made them. There were several manufacturers of these, the ones still at it are Gaebel—two companies, Arthur H. Gaebel in New York and the split off Gaebel now owned by Lithco in California, and there are others as well. The stainless steel version is lighter in weight, thinner, and easier to use than the brass ones, though brass has an aesthetic appeal. We buy them 100 at a time and have a custom logo etched in the ones we sell.

I never liked my Rouse aluminium line gauge except that they were easier to cut through with a paper cutter and did less damage to the blade. I managed to do that once and have paid attention ever since.

Drifting a bit off topic.
The old rule was to never put anything on the cutter bed you were unwilling to have cut.

Inky, I used to collect brass line gauges, my mom and I printed together for 20 years in her cellar, she liked using the brass line gauges, she almost always left them on the paper cutter, many got cut in half. when you were in my shop I think I showed you one that I had left from my mom that was cut in half.

Maybe I missed it but I am surprised that no one threw in the term “pica pole” which was apparently a regional usage. In 1950s New England they were line gauges.

My dad was a self-taught printer mentored by journeymen in Rochester, NY from 1937 to 1942 and a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology 2-year printing degree program after serving in WW2. He called his pica gauge a pica pole.

Nothing regional about Pica Pole—used almost everywhere I’ve been, and historically printers, especially comps, travelled far and wide during their careers. Often one of the things a retired printer kept (and still does) was his line gauge/pica pole, and often a composing stick. I visited a friend recently who retired after owning one of the largest printing companies in Colorado—in his den he displayed a brass galley, composing stick, line gauge and type high gauge. And when he retired, his was a full offset house with web offset and over 200 employees. And out in the garage was a type stand he kept from his father’s original shop. Those were things he valued from his over 50 years in the business.

I think ‘pole’ likely stems from traditional/historical use of the term as a standard tool of measurement. It is common in surveying and similar in concept to rod or perch.


The only problem I see with the term “Pica Pole” is that it seems to ignore the other point sizes the line-gauge can be marked with. Aren’t poles round and stand on their end? When learning to cast-off and mark copy, I found the gauge had a myriad of uses. When it came to laying onto wood or patent bases, stereos could be positioned with hairline accuracy.
Yes, I still have my original 18” line-gauge, setting sticks, slug scraper, Notting quoin key and my father’s box of brass, shaped hand-setting spacers used when he set line after line of text matter. I value the samples of his work, which got me interested in printing as a very young boy.

The term “pica pole” has been around a long time maybe longer than the term “windmill”

I spent the greater part of my printing career (45 years) in Texas.

On this site I have been chastised for using the word “ruler” in relation to a line gauge. So I didn’t use the words “pica pole.” But in Texas we used all those words. Line gauge - ruler - pica pole - stick; just about any word that came to mind.

On the other subject of what NOT to do, I left my original stainless steel line gauge on the extended delivery of a Multilith 1250 with the cover open. I knocked it into the chain delivery with the press running. Obviously, the line gauge was massively ruined, as was the chain delivery and many other parts having to do with the delivery mechanism. It came close to costing me my first job in the printing business, which may have been the end of the career. Fortunately, I didn’t get fired and managed to spend quite a few more years in the biz.

In my experience on the West Coast and here in the Midwest, Pica Pole and Line Guage have always been the commonest terms.

I do have to disagree with Hunter6 that “stick” was also used. “Stick” has always meant “composing stick” in any shop or studio that I have been in. Lets not get too carried away when tossing “information” around. It is important that we pass the correct terminology along to others.


I have always called them Type Scales, got a few more but they are in my shed somewhere, including a couple of Rouse, but these are some from indoors and pictures from a catalogue.


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Here’s one from the Mergenthaler Linotype Co.
Not sure if it’s rare or not.

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Just been looking at a 1957 McGRAW-HILL book by Hartley E. Jackson, Late Head of The Printing Laboratory, San Jose State College, San Jose, California, and on page 31 there is a line drawing of a Printers’ Pica Gauge with the heading, a Printer’s pica ruler, or gauge, so I guess you can call it what you like as long as it works for you,


Hunter6 beat me to that Kelsey brass lingauge on e-bay.
Ive been slowly building up a full Kelsey shop.
I really wanted that thing.

I do historical re enactment, especially printing.
Our group uses a family collection of historical equipment.
We lug an old winescrew press out to Ren Faire.
We do a whole 1800s shop at Dickens Christmas Faire.

2 years ago, the grandson of Arthur Gaebel and his family popped by.

I ended up doing a video for the family about why the Gaebel 612-H is my favorite pica stick. It has everything I need and nothing I dont.

To: texxgadget. I might have an extra Kelsey line gage in my shop somewhere. If interested do let me know.
To: Mike Conway, this is the first time I have heard that term “Pica Pole”. I have run into many that have corrected me in the past, I usually called it a letterpress ruler (my mistake) until I started getting corrected by others.