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Aug 2 / Scott

New wood type from historic designs

One of the most common questions I get when a make a presentation on wood type history at a college or university is “Where do you get your designs for your wood type?”

Two of the new items I am getting ready to add to the MWT type stop are perfect examples.  They are the MWT Line ornament #32 and MWT Line Ornament #33.

I had first noticed these line ornaments two years ago when going through an old type case at Paul Aken’s Platen Press Museum in Zion, Illinois.  I never fail to leave his Museum without pictures of rare, old wood type he has collected.  When I got home, I started searching through historic type specimen books.  I found both of them from two different wood type producers.

Number 32 uses round elements and spokes in a fan shape design.  It was first made by the Tubbs Manufacturing Company and is found in the 1905 specimen book.  They called it a #66 Space ornament.  It is also found in the Hamilton #14 Type Specimen book as Fancy Ornament #16.  Both versions are similar but show some variations.

I put all three sources into an Adobe Illustrator file and started correcting the math.  All wood type design is math. The resulting vector art file can be used to make large patterns for the pantograph, and the smaller, the same vector file controls the laser I use to cut wood type in end grain hard maple.

This design is very involved, with lots of hand trimming.  The round ball were distorted, the spokes of different widths, and one version has a central round dot and the others had a round dot with a shoulder within the spoke area. I am very happy with my final design. This ornament is laser cut at 4, 6, 8, and 10-line size.  12 lines and larger is cut on the pantograph.  When laser cutting wood type you also have to distort the stroke on some line values to correct for the .003″ lost to the laser “Kerf”.

Line ornament #33 is found in the Morgans and Wilcox Specimen book form 1893. It is called Fancy Ornament #13.  When Hamilton bought out Morgans, they included it in their specimen books.

I have been selling them at type conferences and given them away to printer friends for over a year. Both of these new items will soon be available in my on-line store and I will follow the tradition of selling them in pairs.


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