Spirographs, currency, etc.

      • I saw a pamphlet today that had a complex-shaped Spirograph-like design on the cover. It was regular (star-shaped) but the star arms were sort-of a combination of a diamond ansd a cross shape, that were drawn in a coiled script-type line. I’ve seen demos that could do simple circular stuff in fixed line width, but does anybody know any PC programs that can do this? Like, with the variety of a true Spirograph, is what I am curious about.
  • Which leads to,-the spirograph-style lines on US currency. How did they draw this stuff? By hand, or is there some machine they can use? Now we have digital image processing, but historically, how were these drawn originally? Like, say, 30 years ago? Actual size? By hand? - MC

Corel Draw, which I use all the time, can produce designs very similar in effect to your classic Spirograph look. The essential difference is that the pattern will consist of a number of discrete lines or polygons (although this might not be obvious unles you look really close), whereas a Spirograph pattern is of course one continuous line. You could tamper with the node points in Corel and make the design one continuous line, but it would be tedious and probably not quite as effective as one would hope.

As for graphics programs that will “do a Spirograph”, I confess I’ve never heard of one, and I’ve used a lot of graphics software over the past 20 years. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, of course.

Currency notes. The only information I have about this comes from a good documentary I once saw on the design of new printing plates for the Royal Mint here in London, and some work I once did for a hi-tech print company that handled a lot of ‘secure’ printing of stuff similar to currency notes.

Basically, the design and printing process will take advantage of whatever cutting-edge technology is available. If you go back far enough, you’re talking about a skilled engraver, or an artist + engraver team, etching master plates (one for each side of the note) in as much detail as they can muster. Their engraving would be actual size, although they would work using high-power magnifying lenses to achieve a hard-to-forge level of detail.

When photolithography came along, it became easier to use photo-reduction to cram in higher levels of detail. The originals could be larger than life-size and phot-mechancially reduced to produce master plates. More recently, it became possible to program a computer to guide a laser to etch into metal, and the design of the plates could become even more complex. Of course in addition to the actual complexity of design, advances in technology also make it possible to incorporate other security features, but these are a little adrift of your question.

Seems like you have two choices.

(1) Invest in the same kind of high-tech gear as used by your nearest currency printing presses. This could involve significant financial outlay, although of course you might consider ‘printing’ whatever it is you owe the suppliers. However, you will get visited by some people with all sorts of badges and credentials who take an interest in who wants to obtain such kit and why.

(2) Buy a Spirograph.

ianzin, I have a brochure right here from the Toppan Museum of Printing in Japan, it shows one of the little machines that does the circular engraving pattern. The patterns were done at actual size. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to translate the exact name of this device, as it uses some obscure kanji with an unclear reading.

Just entering spirograph in netScape gave me this page, which has some spirograph-like programs.

http://www.spirograph.com takes you to the Hasbro homepage, but I couldn’t find anything there (you’d think they’d at least have a search function! :()