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Apr 29 / Scott

Replacement Letter Math

One of the most requested services from Moore Wood Type is making replacement letters.  There are some beautiful wood fonts out there in a printer’s type case that are missing the K or J (these are the most missing letters in most wood fonts), or they have only one “E”, or no letter “A”.

When you look at fonts on E-bay or at Don Black’s much less expensive site of and run the letters and numbers you often don’t buy it because a few are missing.  Almost every printer I have talked with bring up that they need a replacement letter or some duplicate letters.  I am even working on making some duplicate border corner blocks (there always seems to just be 3 of them) for a good friend as an experiment.

A friend in the APA was working with me on a registration form for the June Wayzgoose at Hamilton. He mentioned in passing that he had a 20 line wood font that only had one  uppercase “R”. He wondered if I could make him 4 more R’s if he sent me the one he had?   The easiest way to make duplicate letters is to make a 1:1 ratio copy with the small pantograph.  However, some time there are some rough or damaged areas on the older type and it will not work as a pattern.  The original type is still useful to get an exact digital measurement of the base, and to check the “Heft” of the strokes on the new type.

This uppercase 20 line R had smooth sides, but the counter (center of the R) was very full of 100 years worth of dried ink.  I decided to scan it, drop it into Adobe Illustrator, and make a 1/4″ plywood pattern at 1 1/2 size.  The base block was also 0.022 inch short of 20 lines.

The additional pantograph math was the choice of tracer and cutter.  Because the ratio was 1 1/2 to 1, the tracer had to be 1 1/2 times as big a diameter as the 3/64″ cutter.

The biggest lesson I have learned in 4 years of cutting wood type is that the MATH IS EVERYTHING!  So much knowledge has been loss about the wood type industry.  I have learned so much about the process by experimenting. In the first year I filled up a 5 gallon Home Depot bucket with mistakes. This year it is only a small coffee can so far.


Apr 13 / Scott

Steamboats and Crowns

Crowns and Steamboats

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.

Feb 5 / Scott

Wolske Straight Line Banners

Wolske Banner Set of 6

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”.

Over two years ago I asked him if he would design some catchwords for me to cut.  I named his design for this set of six new catchwords “Wolske Straight Line Banners”.

“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.