So, those wooden boxes displaying matchstick toys, trinkets and wooden type hung on D’s walls were once all plan chests of alphabets, fonts and points ‘Type Cases’. On this course we got to rummage in stacks of drawers and pick our way through little pieces of lead to mirror write phrases, sentences and experiment with symbols.


I did this course the day following the Single Section Case Binding at LCBA, by the end of the weekend I had learnt two new processes and my mind was a whir of ideas and information.


This course was the smallest group, there were just 3 of us, and this was probably because the process was so fiddly and time consuming. We were mostly using small lead type, the type you would find in a book or on a newspaper. The other people in the group experimented with wooden type, and I used some old advertising picture blocks ‘Copper half tone blocks’, these are what photographs in newspapers would traditionally be printed with. I decided I wanted to make a very thin outline with decorative corners around a sentence I wrote as my main practice piece. This was a very fiddly thing to set up as you have to measure and fill all the blank space between the type and the thin brass lines, whilst supporting all the elements and adding tension. I finished the day with several prints of this, but there would not have been time to make another sentence. It was important to know how time-consuming the process was.



Here are notes of things I found informative:


  • LCBA has a Proofing Press, this is incredibly useful for making fast prints to either proof, or if you are working on something you want to keep adapting, or don’t want many copies of.
  • Imposing stones, this is a stone surface you work on to set up your type, as it has to be completely flat.
  • In order to create white space on a page around the printed word you use ‘Furniture’, these are tiny I-beams of metal in varied lengths, these sit within a metal frame ‘chase’ and are held in place with tension from small expanding clamps ‘quoin’, and expanded using a ‘quoin key’.
  • We used oil-based inks. There are 14 colours that can be mixed to make up all the Pantone colours.
  • The production press was developed in 1400-1500
  • Sorts’ are the individual case lead pieces. Typesetters used to get lead poisoning from smoking whilst handling type without washing their hands. When using lead type it is really important to always wash your hands before eating, and avoid touching your mouth.
  • There are 12 points in a Pica. 6 Picas to 1 inch.
  • We used type scale rulers to measure lengths of furniture require to fill spaces.
  • When making a sentence you spell it out on a composing stick, and decide the width of your text. You hold the stick in your left hand if you are right handed, placing letters upside down with the nick in the side facing outward.
  • You can print other items on the presses at LCBA such as Lino prints, but everything has to be raised to ‘type height’.
  • Quad spacer is a square shaped bank spacer. You would use this were you have an ‘M’.
  • For a space between words you use a ‘Mid’.
  • 24 picas is a good starting measurement.
  • For Wood type the measurement is called ‘Line’.
  • Galleys are metal shelves you use to save your work on
  • When opening pots of ink, there will often be a skin on top. Peal back a tiny piece and dip pallet knife in.
  • The press is made up of: Feed Board, Bed, Rollers, and Steel Rollers.
  • You ink the type three times then make a proof onto newsprint. The ink is applied to the steel rollers and the press is rolled across the type to ink it.