Skip to content
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.


Leave a Comment