The Amalgamated Printers Association, the professional association of people in the world interested in everything dealing with letterpress printing, will be holding their annual “Wayzgoose” convention the 3rd weekend in June. This year the event is being held at the newly reopened Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
There will be demonstrations on historical machines, lecturers, and workshops. I will presenting two workshops on the art of cutting wood type in modern times and a historical presentation on the history of wood type. I will take along one of my small line pantographs and the participants will spend the rest of the morning cutting their own wood type on a pantograph.
Although the Museum has volunteers cutting wood type on their own working historic pantographs, the public is not allowed to use it. I am one the lucky few non-museum staff to be allowed to cut a piece of type on the Hamilton Pantograph. On a recent visit to the Museum I helped them change the bearings in their air routers that cut the type. These pantograph routers run at 50,000 RPM, and are old enough to originally specify for maintence that you should “Oil daily with 1 drop of whale oil”. They now have modern high speed sealed steel bearings so no more need for whale oil.
One of the best parts of any APA Wayzgoose is the auction and swappers day. Some of the best deals on very old letterpress books, equipment, supplies, presses, and both wood and metal type can be found on swappers day. I will be there selling new pantograph and laser cut wood type at my sales table. If I can get my daughter to set at my table for a bit of time I will wander around the sale and pick up a specimen book or a tool I’m missing.
This year I have been experimenting with laser cutting historical designs in end grain hard maple. I have been lucky enough to already have the required vector art files for the laser since I have been creating all my patterns using Adobe Illustrator. I just now can make things much smaller with no trimming. I am also trying my hand at a few small line wood type fonts. I will also be selling new catchwords, fancy star box sets, and state outline box sets. Laser cutting new wood type has been a learning experience just like everything else.
I hope to see some of my on-line customers at Hamilton. It’s nice to put a face with a printshop name. It’s also nice to spend five days with my printer daughter and all m y letterpress friends
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 www.donblack.ca 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 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.
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.