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Jan 7 / Scott

A new card to complete the set

One of the best things about making replacement letters is the opportunity to see all of the beautiful things that were used to print with on a letterpress.

This summer, Don Black, of Don Black Linecasting in Toronto brought me one of my favorite challenges, a missing 10 of spades from a set of small scale, “Army Cards.” This full set of playing cards, including the face cards and the Ace of Spades were a hidden prize in a wood type cabinet my daughter helped him find in Ohio.

The cards are only 2 inches tall so that the full set could fit into the pocket of a soldier or sailor with room to spare. I have not been able to confirm this but I have been told by several “Older” printer friends that this is what these cuts would be used to print.

They are metal cuts that have been hand nailed to cherry bases to bring them up to .918.” It is not a very pretty job of construction, but they do register in the proper position when you check the math. I scanned the original 10 of clubs to get the proper position for the 10 spades, and the original 9 of spades to get the art for the “spade.”


I dropped these scans into Adobe Illustrator and created to proper pattern for the missing 10 of spades. It was drawn at three times actual size in the computer then scaled to the final size. For a laser pattern I had to reverse the card art to white and placed it on a black background. I have learned from experience you have to scale up the black negative space to allow for trimming. You also have to add .003” to the white impression area to correct for wood that is lost to the laser side heat.


The new 10 of spades was laser cut into new end grain hard maple along with two other printer’s replacement letters and trimmed to match the size and shape of the other pieces of card type.

Don seemed pleased with the replacement card, giving him the full set of 52 for his private collection.


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