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Jul 30 / Scott

A big learning curve

Everything about cutting wood type has had a learning curve. Producing type high polished end grain hard maple has been a challenge. Trimming wood type has been a greater endeavor. I have one of those orange five gallon buckets from Home Depot that sets next to my  trim saw full of wood type that I have ruined while cutting on the pantograph, or marred on the trim saw, or scarred during the trimming process.

I am trying to do the jobs of many different skilled craftsman from the last century  who spent years learning their jobs. I have been blessed in my type cutting endevures to share the opinions and life skills of many different printers, educators, and knowledgable people who run and work in the printing museums.

I have been cutting wood type for about 18 months now, and before that I spent  another 18 months building and renovating type cutting machinery. I love cutting wood type and hearing about the excitement my printer friends have putting ink on new wood type. I have learned to carry a piece of wood type in my pocket to explain what I am making. It makes it easier for the nonprinters and they are all very impressed with the smooth, hard surface.

I like producing wood type that hasn’t been made in the last 80 years.  That is why I prefer to cut historic type designs from Page, Morgans & Wilcox, Tubbs, Hamilton, and Stephenson Blake & Co. My daughter, a letterpress printer, calls all the new ornamants, stars, catchwords, and line ornaments “Printer Candy.” Many of the young printers who have been purchasing my new wood type say these are the only “special type” they own so far, and want to know what are the next pieces to go on sale. I am also cutting special type designed by friends, and student designed ornaments as part of a relationship with Miami University of Ohio.

People keep asking me why I go to all the trouble to build the machines and learn the new skills. I answer that my goal is… to provide letterpress printers with new, reasonably priced, wood type.  Everyone deserves a little “candy” in their print shop.


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