In the past four years of cutting wood type and working with printers from all over the world I have been amazed to find that with all the beautiful catchwords, ornaments, stars and snowflakes I make, they keep telling me how much they use the dots. I have always made dots from the beginning. Some just solid circles and some with designs cut out of the dots. I gave them away as promotions, as part of special orders, and mostly just as “free” extra new wood type to fill out the box on an order.
The dots are made from the many small pieces of prepared maple left from cutting out other type. Since there is no grain direction to worry about with end grain, you can get a 4 x 4, or 5 x 5 pica square out the long strips left from laser cutting wood type. You need to cut the larger dots out of nice new slabs of hard maple. You can get lots of dots out of a big slab when that is all you are making.
It is fun to make different designs. I have found inspiration in nature, patterns, and in old type specimen books. Some patterns are laser cut, some are turned on a wood lathe, and some made out the scrap pieces of plywood left from other patterns.
I took the 540 dots I had been making for the past three months and put them in nice gift boxes. Each “Box of Dots” contains 15 pairs of dots. Twenty dots are 4 pica, eight are 5 pica and there are two solid ones that are 6 pica. The solid dots are trapped .005” smaller than the pattern ones.
I have seen the dots used as flowers, eyes, wheels, borders, spacers, and what ever a creative printer needs. There are only 17 boxes this year and they are in the Moore Wood Type Store. (The link is also on the top right) I also will take special orders for any design at any size for a good price.
This summer, Don Black, of Don Black Linecasting in Toronto brought me one of my favorite challenges, a missing 10 of spades from a set of small scale, “Army Cards.” This full set of playing cards, including the face cards and the Ace of Spades were a hidden prize in a wood type cabinet my daughter helped him find in Ohio.
The cards are only 2 inches tall so that the full set could fit into the pocket of a soldier or sailor with room to spare. I have not been able to confirm this but I have been told by several “Older” printer friends that this is what these cuts would be used to print.
They are metal cuts that have been hand nailed to cherry bases to bring them up to .918.” It is not a very pretty job of construction, but they do register in the proper position when you check the math. I scanned the original 10 of clubs to get the proper position for the 10 spades, and the original 9 of spades to get the art for the “spade.”
I dropped these scans into Adobe Illustrator and created to proper pattern for the missing 10 of spades. It was drawn at three times actual size in the computer then scaled to the final size. For a laser pattern I had to reverse the card art to white and placed it on a black background. I have learned from experience you have to scale up the black negative space to allow for trimming. You also have to add .003” to the white impression area to correct for wood that is lost to the laser side heat.
The new 10 of spades was laser cut into new end grain hard maple along with two other printer’s replacement letters and trimmed to match the size and shape of the other pieces of card type.
Don seemed pleased with the replacement card, giving him the full set of 52 for his private collection.
One of my favorite parts of cutting new wood type is working with gifted printers and graphic designers on their special projects. One of the best joint ventures has been with Jennifer Farrell of Starshaped Press in Chicago. Jennifer is a friend of both my daughter and me. She has been on the Moore Wood Type Advisory Committee since I started four years ago.
When she and her daughter visited Columbus this summer, we spent some time planning about what new wood type designs we could work on together. She suggested a box set of snowflakes that she would design and I would cut in larger sizes with one of my pantographs and in smaller sizes with the laser I have access to.
We spent over a month working out the design problems and the limitations of actually cutting designs with a pantograph. She submitted eight designs that she created from actual photographs of snowflakes and settled on the six that we felt represented different variations that printers would like. We also decided to cut the set at 8 line and 10 line with the pantograph, and the exact same designs in 4 line and 6 line with the laser.
The deal was that I could make minor corrections to her designs to make them easier to cut on the pantograph. When I suggested changing the shape of one negative space to allow the pantograph tracer an easier path, she reluctantly agreed, but wanted to see an exact proof of what she had designed cut before I proceeded with my “Correction”. I am glad I did not make any changes to her beautiful designs.