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Jan 26 / Scott

A Star is a Star is a Star

One of the most requested items to add to my store is a three dimensional star, or what I call a William Page #2 star. It is used digitally on everything from western theme menus, to T-shirts to Dallas Cowboy football helmets..

I hand made the pattern out of 1/4” Baltic birch plywood and had it laser cut from my interpretation of the Page star.  I worked in Adobe Illustrator from a scan of his 1878 type specimen book. Once I fixed the math from the scan, both patterns turned out very accurate. I have actually cut and hand trimmed about 10 of these stars for printer friends, special orders, and of course my printer daughter, Erin.

Trimming is the hardest part of cutting type.  I understand why there was a long apprenticeship for trimmers in the 1800’s. The pantograph cutter is round, so both the inside points and outside oblique angles need trimmed. Not to brag, but I’ve gotten pretty good at trimming simple stars. The hard part is the inside. The long points are stamped with a hardened steel stamp ground out of an old metal file, just like at Hamilton.

The center five points are the problem.  They can be cut to the proper point and shape with a trim knife. However, getting the center points to all meet at one spot without over cutting or leaving a gap is very hard. I also tried grinding a second steel stamp which worked out pretty well. My average for successful trimming is one good one for three ruined ones.

I am getting ready to cut and trim out 60 Page Stars in four different sizes to put in the MWT store. I needed to resolve the center point problem before I cut and trim them. I can not afford to waste 45 out of the 60 stars.

I did some research on this star that appears in every company’s wood type specimen book, and also checked my reference photograph collection. I discovered that everyone did it differently.  Some have a perfect center or an open center. Some have a solid area in the center, and some had a very small solid center area. The very small solid center is the easiest to trim. I will be stamping the inside 10 points, and trimming the outside points with a knife.

As my daughter keeps telling me, “Each piece of wood type I make is a work of art. It is not cut with a CNC mill or a laser. It is made by hand.” I will do my best and give printers a chance to have this star. That is why I call these Page Stars “Printer Candy.”


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