The most common question I get at workshops and colleges is “Where do you get the ideas for your new wood type?”
The answer is “From historic references such as the Morgans and Wilcox 1893 Specimen book, The Hamilton Wood Type #14 Specimen of Wood Type book, The Tubbs and Co. 1905 #5 Specimen book, (owned by Paul Aken at the Platen Press Museum in Zion, Illinois) and the William Page 1888 Type Specimen Book. I have also been blessed to have friends with some of the largest collections of historic wood type specimen books who have allowed me to take digital photos or send me proofs and scans.”
Some of my best selling designs have come from European specimen books in the collection of Gregory Walters. The Haddon-Caxton List of Poster Wood-Letters, Ornaments and Rules has been an amazing source.
A good example of the process follows the two new ornaments I am adding to my on-line store. The Morgans and Wilcox Ornament #13 and the Tubbs and Co. fancy ornament #66. I scanned both of these images and dropped them in Adobe Illustrator. The resulting art will be both vector art and Raster art. The vector file will be used to make plywood patterns for the pantograph and the Raster art will be used on the laser to burn small line end grain versions that are too small to trim by hand.
Since type specimen books were printed with the actual type at the actual size shown, a scan or photo is the best quality available. Some modern book images have been photographed, enlarged, reduced and offset printed. They get fuzzy and distorted. Tracing them in Illustrator allow me to correct the math problems and in some cases slightly modify them to make them easier to pantograph cut.
My printer friends help with working names for each piece. The nicknames make them easier to discuss. I nicknamed the Morgans #13 a “Crown” and Erin named the Tubbs #66 a “Steamboat” after all the fancy trim on a riverboat.
There are now thirteen additional new catchwords in the Moore Wood Type Store. However, they are not reproductions of historical wood type. They are inspired by historical designs but new, original work.
The first set is the work of David Wolske. He is a well known Typographer, Graphic Designer, Letterpress printer & artist. David is a cofounder of Smart & Wiley, and runs the wood type and letterpress blog Letterpress Daily. He is the Creative Director for the Book Arts Program & Red Butte Press at the J. Willard Marriott Library, where he also teaches at The University of Utah, in Salt Lake City.
David is also one of the original members of the Advisory committee for Moore Wood Type. They are a group of printers, and friends, who I can e-mail my ideas to for feedback, and ask them questions for “Real working Printers”.
“I love reversed out streamer wood types and I love catchwords – combining the two seemed like a natural fit. The lettering derives from William H. Page’s No. 509 because of its allusive flexibility. I wanted the design to be somewhat timeless; to work comfortably in a contemporary design context while still implying antique origins,” explained Wolske.
I spent the past two years trying to figure out how to make plywood patterns that I could trace and cut on my pantographs. I ruined a lot of prepared maple, and made four different patterns trying to figure out how to cut the thin lines and little triangles in the design. Rick Von Holdt, another gifted printer from Iowa, and I finally figured it out by looking at the original tracing patterns at the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. They solved the problem by stacking the pattern pieces in thin layers, which allowed for cutting the thin lines with thicker tracers.
Though I have not yet tried the Hamilton method for cutting the Wolske Banners, I do now have the proper patterns. However, I have also discovered laser cutting provides a viable option. I have been a member of a local shared technology group for the past six months and now have access to a 60 Watt Laser. It has opened a whole new area of producing wood type. The set of banners I am now selling have been cut into the polished and sealed end grain slabs that I already use with my pantographs. They use the same Vector art files David created for the pantograph patterns.
All three sizes of banners, 6, 8, and 10 line, are laser cut. They are sold as a set or individually.
The other Columbia Catchwords are my design and will be covered in the next blog. I’ve got to get back to cutting type.