Ideal Stencil Machines

Ideal Stencil Cutters


The Typewriter of Stencil Cutting

The Ideal Stencil Cutting Machines were quite something compared to the machines from Bradley, Diagraph and Marsh. They were also called the «typewriters» of stencilling.

Note: The first Bradley stencil machines (Long Bradley) were also advertised as shipping department typewriters. Of course, the type of a Bradley stencil machine looks more like a typewriter typeface.

The oil board was clamped on a movable carriage, similar to a typewriter. These machines were built with automatic attachments, having an automatic carriage that grips and spaces the oil board during operation and returns it to its starting point after each line is cut.

The Ideal machines were advertised for the production of perfectly straight letters and parallel lines of text. These features should also lead to a better use of the oil board space, thus saving costs.

Operation of the Machine

The operation of the machine is very simple. The line spacing lever, the upright lever on the front of the machine, is turned to the right and the carriage is pulled out, then the lever is turned to the left. The release lever, located on the top of the round part just to the left of the line spacing lever, is pressed against the stop and the gripper carriage, the long notched bar near the front of the machine, moves to the right of the machine to its starting point. The handle on this carriage is then pressed down and the oil board is placed underneath.

The hand wheel surrounding the dial is then turned either to the right or left and the pointer moves to the characters on the dial, which is set at a 45-degree angle. When the pointer reaches the character to be cut, the handle on the right side of the machine is pressed down with enough force to cut through the oil board and then pulled back into position.

To space between words, the spacer is pushed up and the handle is pushed down, then both are released and the handle is pulled back into position.

When the first line is cut, the line spacing lever is pressed to the right and the carriage advances one line, then the release lever is pressed against the stop and the gripper returns to its starting position and the second line can be cut. When the last line has been cut, the handle of the gripper is pressed down and the stencil is removed.

Model Overview

models of IDEAL stencil cutting machines
Internal Model No. Machine Name die (punch) size market launch
0 SM BIG IDEAL NO. 0 2 inch ? ca. 1980
1 SM IDEAL NO. 1 1 inch Q1 1913
2 SM IDEAL NO. 2 5/8 inch April, 1913
3 SM IDEAL NO. 3 7/16 inch January, 1916
4 SM IDEAL QUARTER ¼ inch Q2 1956
5 SM IDEAL 3/16 3/16 inch after 1961
6 SM IDEAL EIGHTH 1/8 inch after 1961
7 SM IDEAL 3/32 3/32 inch after 1961
8 SM IDEAL 1/2 1/2 inch ? late model
9 SM IDEAL 3/4 ? 3/4 inch ? late model
10 SM BIG IDEAL NO. 0 with 1 ¾ inch ? late model
> Air Power unit machine modification Q2 1958
> Extra lines option for models 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9 SM.
Ideal Comp. has also produced a number of machines for embossing.
Available in the sizes of 1/2, 7/16, 3/8, 1/4, 3/16 and 5/32 inch.

Oilboard (Stencilboard) Sizes

Recommended Oilboard / Stencilboard Size
Internal Model No. Machine Name 2 lines 3 lines 4 lines 5 lines 10 lines 13 lines thickness
1 SM Ideal No. 1 4½ x 20" 5½ x 20" 6½ x 20" - - - 0.15
2 SM Ideal No. 2 2½ x 16" 3½ x 16" 4½ x 16" - - - 0.15
3 SM Ideal No. 3 - 2½ x 12" 3½ x 12" 4½ x 12" - - 0.15
4 SM Ideal Quater - - - - 4½ x 12" - 0.07
5 SM Ideal 3/16 - - - - 4½ x 12" - 0.07
6 SM Ideal 1/8 - - - - - 4½ x 12" 0.07
7 SM Ideal 3/32 - - - - - 4½ x 12" 0.07
8 SM Ideal 1/2 - - - 4½ x 16" - - 0.15
9 SM Ideal 3/4 - - 4½ x 16" - - - 0.15

Ideal No.1

1" stencil size


Depending on production time, model No.1 comes in different versions. It is the oldest, the core model of all the machines that followed. The color of certain machine parts also changed. It depended on the production time and the customer. Early machines were black with some gilding on it. About after 1920 the gilding was omitted. Later models often have a dark gray or green body with a red dial and red handle.

  • size: 23" x 21" x 13"
  • weight: 120 punds

  1. image: very early model No.1
  2. image: very early model No.1, illustration
  3. image: model No.1 from the 1920s
  4. image: later model No.1


Type specimen of the 1 inch, early Ideal No.1 stencil machine. >>> To start editing, click the text line!

If you like this font, you can buy a license at astype fonts.

Ideal No.2

5/8" stencil size


11. Okt. 1980

Ideal No.2 was intruduced around April of 1913. The later models have a slanted Ideal logo.

  • size: 18" x 16" x 10"
  • weight: ? punds

  1. image: very early 1913 No.2 model
  2. image: late No.2 model, ca. 1990

Ideal No.3

7/16" stencil size


Some later models have a slanted Ideal logo.

  • image: model No.3, ca. 1960s
  • image: model No.3, ca. 1960s
  • image: model No.3, Cyrillic version, ca.1980s
typeface specimen, Ideal No.3 stencil machine

typeface specimen, Ideal No.3 stencil machine

Ideal Quarter

¼" stencil size

Q2 1956

After 43 years Ideal introduced a new model for ¼ inch stencil type - the Ideal Quarter. In the same year the electrification, the Air Power (addon) unit was introduced, to semiautomate the stencil cutting process.

  • 43 letters per running foot
  • 10 lines per four-inch depth
  • size: 19" x 19" x 12"
  • weight: 70 punds

  • image: model Quarter, 1956

Ideal No.0

2" and 1¾" stencil size

ca. 1980

The Ideal No.0 or Big O is an extrem heavy and very rare machine, probably developted around the late 1970s.

  1. image: model No.0
  2. image: model No.0

to be continued ...

Ideal 3/16
Ideal Eighth
Ideal 3/32
Ideal 1/2
Ideal 3/4

We are looking for more details and the introduction years of the machines: Ideal 3/16", Ideal Eighth (1/8"), Ideal 3/32", Ideal 1/2" and Ideal 3/4".

Please do not hesitate to send manuals and specs or any good photos or illustrations of Ideal stencil machines. Thank you.