Can You Help Me Figure Out What This Roneo Vickers Thing Is?

Can You Help Me Figure Out What This Roneo Vickers Thing Is?
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My mom just gave me something that used to belong to her dad, an engineer who worked at PACCAR for many years before retiring.  Grandpa passed away years ago and the family doesn’t know what this set of tools is, so I made a short video to ask the world what this thing is!

It’s a zippered pouch labeled “RONEO VICKERS – RONEO LIMITED” on the front.  Inside is a tool with several different tips that perforate or seem to have no real use from what I can gather.  I’ve used Google to search online for it and have come up with nothing!  That tells me this item is either really old, really useless to the general public, or it really is limited – hah!

Please check out my video and let me know if you have ever seen this Roneo Vickers set.  I could probably use the perforating tools if I wanted to make a few tear-off ticket stubs or if I wanted to add a straight edge of perforated dots… but I want to hear what your ideas you have for it.

What is the original use for this set of tools?  Is it for embossing leather??  Thanks for your help!!

About Stephanie Chumbley

Growing up in the shadow of the Space Needle, I loved drawing portraits with a #2 pencil and sometimes a ballpoint pen because I liked the challenge. I collected pens and pencils and enjoyed looking at fonts and logos and replicating them by hand. I was in AP art classes in high school and took some graphic design classes at Seattle Central. While in college, I had a part-time job making signs for Drug Emporium / Longs Drugs with my "Steph Font." In my 20s, I made a lot of invitations for dinner parties and later, when I bought my Cricut Expression electronic cutter in 2008, I started making cards for all occasions. In 2009, I discovered Close to My Heart and enjoyed being my Consultant's best customer... but in May 2011, I finally gave in and became and Independent Consultant. It was a very good decision! :-) Nearly everything I make is given away or sold so others can enjoy some handmade art. I've made over 1,000 cards and projects and this blog serves as a way to share and hopefully inspire others to create projects of their own. Someday I hope to catch up and blog about all the cards I've made.

14 Responses »

  1. I am pretty sure this is used for copying drawings…you said he was an engineer, yes? I think you use the different tips in your handle (we used those to hold lead back in the SCCC design class days, remember?) and then run it along different parts of a blueprint or other drawing so you can use lead or ink to copy it through to the paper below. Dotted and dashed lines mean different ways of cutting or folding things, so I’m most familiar with those types of dielines created for packaging.

    • Thank you, Jenn! Yes, he was an engineer and I do think it must have been used at work or at home as he planned projects at home like the pool house. I still have my grippy pencil lead holder and this did remind me of that. It makes sense that this set would be used to impress copies through the pages of plans, like you’re saying. I thought of a map legend and how the dashed, dotted and solid lines mean different things. This is all starting to make sense now! I think I can still use a few nibs for my cards. Maybe I’ll do a “Roneo Vickers Cards” blog post sometime. 🙂

  2. Stephanie,
    I think your friend, Jennifer is correct. As a sign painter, I used a similar tool, without different tips, to perforate patterns for designs and lettering we were going to be putting on semi-trucks. We would draw the designs on butcher paper, perforate the lines with a similar tool, flip the butcher paper over, lightly sand the back, which would open the perforated holes more. Then we would tape the butcher paper on the truck. Using a cloth bag filled with charcoal powder, we would lightly tap the bag against the butcher paper, then rub it with the bag, pushing the powder through the perforated holes, onto the truck. We then removed the butcher paper to reveal the pattern on the truck so we could letter it. I hope this helps you understand how that tool is used. As far as the other shapes, I’m sure they were all related to the same process. I’m going to show this video to Ken…he may be able to tell you what the other tips were for.

  3. Stephanie,

    Jack Eisamen or Bob Howell might be able to help you with identifying this tool. Ken agrees with Jennifer also. He thinks the pointed pieces might be used with ink. He thinks a lot of the other pieces were used with carbon paper to copy drawings or blueprints.

  4. Dear Ms. Dawson – What you are showing is what was called a “Stylii Set”. It was used with the old fashion “stencil”. Thomas Edison invented the “mimeograph machine” which was used from the turn of the last century right up to the present(Risograph). The stencil was a wax coated sheet of tissue paper and when you typed or drew with a stylus you peferorated the wax leaving the tissue intact. When ink was pressed threw by means of a hand roller you would get an image. Through the years it was done by a rotary process(cylinder). In fact the word Roneo came from this devevelopment. Roneo was the combination of Rotary Neostyle and manufactured in Romford, UK. In the 1960’s Vickers, Ltd, world famous(Infamous) for manufacturing steel, ships, guns, airplanes(The Spitfire), WW1 and WW2. How do I know all this – I was the Roneo dealer in Washington, D.C. for 38 years and loved every minute of it. Google and Wikipedia will reveal it all.
    Thank you for your interest.
    Bill Powdrell
    PS – The American counterpart was A.B. Dick Company.

    • This is fascinating! Thank you for taking the time to share a detailed reply. I love knowing that you were the WA, D.C. dealer for so many years. I appreciate your comment and I love knowing the history behind this special product.

  5. Stephanie – Thank you for your site. An old friend found me by googling up “Bill Powdrell” + “Roneo Vickers” – leaving in the quotation marks. In 1967 Vickers celebrated it’s Centennary and I was given a movie called “Vickers Centennary”. I think I have the only copy that exists. I have put it on a disc and if you gave me a post office box address I would be happy to send you a copy. It won the Cannes Film Festival for Industrial Division and was narrated by Sir Anthony Quayle.

    Bill Powdrell

  6. While looking for anything pertaining to Romford or Roneo I found this site after spotting the “Romford” sign post under google’s “Images”.

    Here is the story I sent –


    The Romford Story

    Dear Editor –

    Today while perusing the internet for articles regarding RONEO I found your site in the Google Image section which showed the “Romford” sign post. And “wha-la” here I am sending you this story of mine.

    In 1959 I became a Roneo dealer in Washington, D.C. and continued for approximately 38 years. I got my hands dirty working first for the A.B. Dick Company Dealer. They had just been broken up as a monopoly by the federal government. AB Dick had no competition then and Gestetner was just getting started. In approximately 1964 Vickers absorbed Roneo into it’s Group and things really started to roll. In 1967 I was in a movie theater watching the very first James Bond movie called “Dr. No”. It wasn’t long into the movie when Bond comes into Headquarters and walks into the office to see Miss Moneypenny and right by her desk was the Roneo 750. I leaped out my seat screaming “There is a Roneo”. Needless to say everyone thought “what the devil is a Roneo?”
    My sales pitch then became “Go see Dr. No and the Roneo.”

    In 1967 about 20 top dealers won a trip to London and Romford. No trip in my life will ever be as wonderful and as exciting as that first trip. Our hosts couldn’t do enough for us. At Vickers House at Milbank we were shown the movie “Vickers Centenary” and then realized Vickers built the Spitfire. In my youthful days I loved motorcycles and mine was a BSA Spitfire. We were taken to Romford where we were given a complete tour of the factory and then a wonderful lunch under a charming tent just outside the factory.

    My 2nd trip to the UK came in the 70’s and there I was introduced to Lord Robens , Chairman of the Group. He had a wonderful sense of humor and I told him that “This was like meeting God”! He reminded me in looks and personality of the late actor Peter Ustinoff. We were also wonderfully treated to a tour at Romford where we were shown some new “weapons”.

    Sometime in the 80’s I was sent the movie “Vickers Centenary”. A friend lent me a sound projector so I could watch the movie. If I played it once I played it a thousand times. Sir Anthony Quayle is the narrator and it plays like symphony and closes like the “1812” ending. If this movie doesn’t give you goose bumps then nothing will. In the nineties I had it put on a disc and just recently a friend of mine put it on youtube, which I have enclosed. – “Vickers Centenary”

    I had heard that the movie won the Cannes Film Festival for Industrial Movies in 1967.

    PS – I have often wondered – When Winston Churchill flashed the “V” sign, was it for “Victory” , “Vickers” OR BOTH?


    Bill Powdrell

    PS – I noticed that Vickers House at Milbank was even “V” shaped.

    (4 hours ago) Bill Powdrell said:

    PS – I just found the scene from the 1967 movie “Dr. No” in which James Bond is standing next to Miss Moneypenny with the Roneo 750 behind them. Isn’t the computer wonderful?? The scene takes place at about the 38 second mark. Godspeed

    (6 hours ago) Bill Powdrell said:



    • Hi Bill/Stephanie I came across your posts whilst researching a project on print apprenticeships. I was the last apprentice compositor at Roneo Vickers Romford between 1967 and 1973 and on completion of my “time” I was presented to Lord Robens along with a number of engineering apprentices. I can remember the marquee going up on a number of occasions for what we thought were visiting VIPs. Technology, of course, has left the stencil duplicator and the need for the stylii kit far behind. The Romford site is reduced to one office block dedicated to the Neopost brand of franking and mail handling systems. The rest of the site is now occupied by a supermarket and a D-I-Y warehouse store. The works canteen has been acquired by the local authority and is hired out for social ocasions such as wedding receptions and birthday parties. Keep well Adrian Hillyer Roneo Vickers employee from 1967 until 1978.

  7. Hi Stephanie , I am wondering if you wanted to sell this set ? I have one myself and love it and use it for miniature leather stamping and embossing . I have not been able to find these and would love if you sell this one . I would be lost without this tool and fear the day mine actually breaks …
    Kirsteen haley

  8. Hi Stephanie, my dad, a watch and clock maker passed away earlier this year, he had a set of these tools and thanks to this posting I now know how I might use them (thank you Bill that was so enlightening and interesting!) I’ m not an engineer but a textile designer – I draw a lot and now I know how I might use them and hope I will put them to good use.. they’re very special tools as you say ! Thanks -, Sam Pickard

  9. Hi Stephanie,
    I have just stumbled across your video about the Roneo tool set. I realise its quite an old post but did you ever find out?

    I was a Roneo engineer in London during the 70s. The mainstay product of our duplicating business was the various stencil printers that we made. This may well be something you have not come across before but companies who wanted to print large numbers of a document would produce a Stencil which was then fitted to a printer and hundreds of copies could be produced at a fraction of the cost of a printer or a photocopier. How did it work? I hope my explanation makes sense.

    The Stencil was a special sheet that had perforations across its top edge. These allowed it to be held on a revolving drum. The rest of the sheet was two layers thick. The inner layer was porous but the outer layer was a non porous wax. The Stencil was put into a type writer and was typed on in the normal way.
    If you look at a typewriter you will notice that they had a colour ‘key’. This could be set to black or red, the two common colours on a typewriter ribbon. You will also notice the was a white option. What this did was to move the ribbon right out of the way so that the keys would hit without the ribbon. This was for use on Stencils.
    The keys hit the stencil and broke the non-porous layer but leaving the back intact. This was important as otherwise the centres of the letter ‘O’ would have been lost. You then had a typed stencil.
    This was then fitted on the outside of a revolving drum containing ink. The operator then either turned a handle or switched on the motor and it would drawer the sheets of blank paper through. They were pressed between a roller and the stencilled drum and the ink came through the stencil and imprinted the paper. ( The whole thing was easier than it sounds).
    Now to your tool set. Sometimes you might want to put things on your stencil that the typewriter couldn’t do. You would ‘free form’ these using the hand tool set. These were designed to allow you to draw onto a stencil without cutting right through it. Some people got quite good at it in fact and produced some pretty fair artwork.

    Hope this explanation is clear enough, if not, contact me. I guess if you had one of the old 865 or 870 machines in a collection you might like to have your set with it. They were quite rare even back when most offices had one of our copiers so it would be even rarer now I guess.
    Kind regards,

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