This section is from "Scientific American Supplement". Also available from Amazon: Scientific American Reference Book.
A sectional view of the air-cushion is offered as a part of this communication.
The Frame, which Contains the Plate Glass, is made of thick board or plank, with the broad side of the board at right angles to the surface of the glass. A rabbet is made for the reception of the glass, and four strips of strap iron, overlapping both the glass, and the wood, and screwed to the wood, keep the glass in position. Strips of rubber are interposed between the glass and the wood and between the glass and the iron. The frame is hinged to the back-board by separable hinges, so that the glass can be unhinged from the pad without removing the screws. Hooks, such as are used for foundry flasks, connect the frame with the pad upon the opposite side. A frame made in this manner is very stiff and springs but little, and its depth serves an excellent purpose. The air-cushion and the frame are so mounted that they can be easily turned to make the surface of the glass square with the direction of the sun's rays. It is necessary to have a tell tale connected with the apparatus, which will show when the surface of the glass has been thus adjusted. The shadow of the deep frame is an inexpensive tell-tale, and enables the operator to know when the adjustment is right.
I have now described, in detail, the construction of the air-cushion with its back-board, as well as that of the frame which holds the plate glass, and I think it will be evident that the first cost of the materials of which they are made is comparatively little, and that the workmanship required to produce it is reduced to a minimum. It will also, I think, be evident that a uniform pressure, of any desired intensity, can be had all over the surface of the sensitized paper for the purpose of securing perfect contact between it and the negative. The blue copies that are taken with this apparatus are entirely free from blue lines when the negatives, chemicals, and paper are good.
The Mechanism for Adjusting the Surface of the Glass, until it shall be Perpendicular to the Direction of the Sun's Rays. - I have found many uses for the blue copying process in connection with the work of instruction at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Notes printed by it are far better and less costly than those printed by papyrograph. I will not detain you now with an account of the uses that I have made of it. I will merely say that more than a year ago I found that my frame, which has a glass 3 feet x 4 feet, was wholly inadequate to the work in hand, and I tried to increase the production from it by diminishing the time of printing. The glass of this frame was horizontal, except when one of its ends was tilted off from the slides which guided it when pushed out of the window; and I knew that it took three or four times as long to print when the sun was low as it did when the sun was near the meridian. I made plans for mounting this frame upon a single axis, about which it could be turned after it had been pushed through the window, but I saw that no movement about a single axis would give a satisfactory adjustment for all times of the year, and I considered what arrangement of two axes would permit a rapid and perfect adjustment, at all times, with the least trouble to the operator.
It was evident that when the sun was in the equatorial plane, the surface of the glass should contain a line which was parallel to the axis of the earth; and further, that if such a glass was firmly attached to an axis which was parallel to that of the earth, it would fulfill the desired purpose. For the glass, being once in adjustment, is only thrown out of position by the rotation of the earth, and if the glass is rotated sufficiently about its own axis, in a direction opposite to that of the earth, it will retain its adjustment. In order to have the adjustment equally good when the sun was either north or south of the equatorial plane, it was sufficient to mount a secondary axis upon the primary one and at right angles to it. About this the glass could be turned through an angle of 23½°, either way, from the position which it should have when the sun was in the equatorial plane.
I desired to have the mechanism as compact and inexpensive as possible, and to have the frame well balanced about the primary axis, in every position. I also desired to have a rotation of nearly 180° about the principal axis. The plan adopted will be most easily understood by referring to the drawing which illustrates it. The axes are composed chiefly of wood. They are built up from strips which are 3 inches x 7/8 inch, and from small pieces of 2 inch plank. They are stiffly braced. A pair of ordinary hinges permit the secondary rotation to occur, while a pair of cast iron dowel pins with their sockets, such as are used in foundry flasks, serve as pivots during the primary rotation.
The adjustment about the secondary axis does not need to be made more frequently than once a week, or once a fortnight. In order to prevent rotation about this axis when in adjustment, two cords lead from points which are beneath the back board, and as far removed from the secondary axis as is convenient. Each cord passes forward and backward through four parallel holes in a wooden block which is attached to the primary axis. The cords can be easily slipped in the holes by pulling their loops, but the friction is so great that they cannot be slipped by pulling at either end. It takes about twice as long to make the adjustment as would be necessary if a more expensive device had been used; but this device is at once so cheap, so secure, and has so seldom to be used, that it was thought to be best adapted for the purpose. To prevent rotation from occurring about the primary axis when it is not desired, a bar parallel to the secondary axis is attached by its middle point to the primary axis near one end. A cord passes from either end of this bar through cam shaped clamps, which were originally designed for clamping the cords of curtains with spring fixtures. These clamps are cheap.