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Category Archiveinventory / important type

Studio projects & Tour de Lead Graffiti 2014 & inventory / important type Friday June 27 2014 01:15 pm

Display typefaces for Tour de Lead Graffiti 2014

Each of the three years we’ve been doing our Tour de Lead Graffiti project we’ve used a different set of two main typefaces. Forcing these typefaces onto the series of 23 posters provides both an element of continuity as well as giving us something to play with.

We don’t give much through to how well the two typefaces work together, but rather just two typefaces that might be fun to use together. This year we are making Neuland (top) into wood type and Jefferson Gothic (bottom) into copperplates.

We have both typefaces as part of our metal type collection (Neuland in 24, 36 & 48 point and the Jefferson Gothic in 60 & 72 point) and we regularly use them.

Each year we do some typographic element to represent ‘riders.’ This year we created the >> in Jefferson Gothic for this purpose. We had 24 of them made. We thought they might look good to represent the peloton when it is stretched single-file or maybe just piled on each other for a major crash.

. . .

Below are two pieces using our metal type versions of the typefaces.

Neuland was used as the outside border for a certificate requested by a former student of Ray’s to remember a friend with a strong interest in typography who used to say “explore every possibility.” We would set one side of the border and then print it four times, rotating the square piece of paper 90° each time. The next time we would move the first word to the third word so that the quote would continue to wrap around the certificate. The layers were printed in red, yellow, & blue. We printed the darker blue on top to help the type read.

This poster uses both of the typefaces. The Jefferson Gothic is quite condensed which is a type quality we’ve really come to enjoy using in our work.

Handsetting metal type rules

Both display faces are always made into 12 line (12 picas or 2 inches) utilizing only the uppercase letters. That makes them large enough to take up some visual real estate, but not so big as to discourage too many compositional options.

The Neuland wood type is cut out with a CNC router using an Illustrator file we made from a scan of the original typeface from a 1932 type catalog. The image below shows us in the process of routing the typeface.

routing Neuland wood type

The Jefferson Gothic is from our metal type, also using some different letter variations we have in a typeface called Phoenix. We’ll see how they work out. Because the Jefferson Gothic is so condensed the router bit wouldn’t do a very good job of cutting into those arrow inside corners and the copperplate version avoids that problem.

For anyone that is wondering the cost, the copperplates was $415 and the wood type was essentially $250 for the wood (made by a Pennsylvania woodworker out of random pieces of endgrain rock maple and $200 for the routing from a nearby sign shop. We actually did the routing work ourselves and just paid to rent the machine because we wanted to understand all of the details to help us with making more wood type in the future. Both typefaces were made with essentially the 3A fonting scheme. For non-letterpress pieces that means “A=3, B=2, C=2, D=2, E=4 and so on. We also cut most all of the accents

inventory / important type Tuesday February 16 2010 11:32 am

Handcut ampersand

This is our favorite single piece of wood type that we have in our collection.

handcut ampersand

Sometime if I get a serious bit of energy it would be wonderful to try and develop a typeface based on this one ampersand.

When you look at it you can just see the wheels turning in the person-that-made-it’s mind as he has a general idea of a way to make shadow type.

Anyone out there got another that looks like it might be part of this face?

inventory / important type Tuesday April 21 2009 10:15 am

Kerned type / Excelsior Script

During our basic type composition workshops one of the projects we do is a specimen card. This helps us put samples from our collection down on paper and gets our participants to really look at a job case. This past Sunday one of our participants was composing with Excelsior Script, originally from the McKellar, Smiths, & Jordan typefoundry in Philadelphia. I think the pin mark on these had an AT on it (I’ll go and look that back up). It was the first time we had used this type.

As it turned out it has quite an odd architecture to the sorts. We hope we can find someone that can explain the logic.

The type is an ornate face which requires a great deal of kerning, requiring many of the letters to overhang their neighbors. Normally when letters overhang like this the overhang is flat and physically rests on the shoulder of the adjacent sort. In the instance of Excelsior Script the bottoms of the overhang aren’t flat, but supported by a triangular buttress you can see below.

The obvious question is why have that angular support versus the flat overhang that would gain support from the adjacent letters? And why would they be at different angles? That seems like a lot of work to go to and also magnifies the potential for damage to the type.

We broke two Ts trying to do the specimen sheet and decided to quit before we completely ruined the font. We weren’t using much impression at all. Our font has no capital Ws to start. Anyone reading this have a W or maybe a whole font (especially if it is from McKellar, Smiths & Jordan) they would part with just so we have a complete version?

Anyone know of any other typefaces that use this kerning strategy?

inventory / important type & trips Tuesday February 24 2009 12:52 am

Be careful what you wish for, especially if it’s heavy

It’s strange how an experience can seem inconsequential, but over time can mutate into an obsession. We have two such letterpress experiences involving large pages of large metal type, both occurring in England. And while I took dozens of photos at both spaces I didn’t take a single one of the images of the type that would come to haunt us.

The first experience came in 2004 when we were taking a week-long letterpress workshop with Claire Bolton at Alembic Press, just outside of Oxford, England. She would print large book pages for the Reuters news service each time a Reuters journalists was killed in the line of duty. Reuters would write a short biography and Claire would print ten copies of the bio on two sheets. These would be distributed to the various Reuters offices and placed in an unfortunately ever-expanding book. The typography was 30 point Garamond with 18 points of leading set on a 75 pica measure and printed on her Albion iron hand press. The field of type was stunning.

Claire Bolton (right) during one of our visits with a group of my students.

The second experience came on a visit to the studio of London letterpress printer, Ian Mortimer. He printed a large sheet listing important donors to the Royal Academy of Art. As I remember, there was the year in red, followed by names of important donors in black. The next year he would add the new year in red and continue down the sheet. The whole page was treated as one continuous paragraph with the texture of those colorful years sprinkled down through the sheet. The page might have been as large as 24″ x 30″ or so, printed on Ian’s Albion.

Ian Mortimer (center) showing type specimen sheets from his book Ornamented Types which was the catalyst for us starting our lives as letterpress printers.

When we first started looking for an iron handpress, we had these two projects in mind. We wanted to do large pages of type. Speeches, dedications, opening sheets in large portfolios, etc. So, finally we got both a 25″ x 38″ Hoe and a 21″ x 29″ Albion iron handpress which shifted our focus to obtaining large metal type. We could do one of these pages in photopolymer, but we wanted to be able to do it in metal.

On Thursday, February 19th we traveled to Washington, D.C. to see Roland Hoover at his Pembroke Press to pick up that large type that we think will realize our field of dream type. Roland was in desperate need of some space in his crowded shop to accommodate a number of cases of wood type and had offered to sell Lead Graffiti a run of Garamond (roman & italic) from 14 point to 72 point. Additionally, he was willing to part with 72, 84, and 96 point Caslon (roman & italic). Almost all of the large type is foundry metal.

A sample of the 96 point Caslon.

For some photos of moving the type, click here.

inventory / important type Sunday October 26 2008 07:38 am

Lead Graffiti spacing material cabinet

We’ve developed a system at Lead Graffiti to keep our metal type spacing more easily organized. Typically there are cells in type cases for the various widths of spacing (double/triple quads, em-quads, en-quads, 3/em, 4/em, 5/em, brasses, and coppers). Our system keeps the spacing all in one place instead of spreading it out over lots of cases (few of our cases have it sorted very well and fewer still have a complete offering). It is time consuming and frustrating to need 4/em spacing and to have to hunt for it among our 500 cases of metal type.

So, we designed a cabinet that would hold cases for all of our spacing material for each type size.

It works quite well for us (especially for workshops). We can see exactly what we have, find it quickly, and redistribute the spacing fairly accurately after a job.

In our search, the best spacing case we found was at Home Depot ($4.95 as we remember). Sold as a clear, plastic, lidded case with customizable compartments for holding small parts, it is about 14″(w) x 9″ (d) x 2″ (h). There are subtle things about the Home Depot cases that work better for us than others that we found either in hardware stores or online. Each cell has a rounded bottom which makes it easy to grab and slide out even the smallest metal spacing. The cases are made with rigid horizontal dividers which add support: a full one can weigh about 10 pounds. Even so, each case is quite portable to wherever we are working. The downside is that if the case is dropped, the plastic will shatter. The illustration below of a 24 point spacing case shows how we generally organize the cells.

spacing case

Sometimes there are variations between the different sizes as some of our larger type can have 6, 8, or 12/em and others have 1.5 em-quads. We just add appropriate vertical dividers (there are plenty of extra ones that come with the cases) to keep them organized in descending widths.

We also built a cabinet to hold all of our spacing cases shown below. This cabinet holds 6 point to 72 point (with 16 point and a second 18 point shown here). Even though it’s just a simple shelving system, it’s makes the individual cases visible and more usable since stacking and unstacking heavy cases to get to the one you want gets old in a hurry.

spacing cabinet

Now, when we are distributing type back into the cabinets we sort the spacing separately which might take a bit more time, but allows us to be much more accurate in keeping the 4/em and the 5/em and everything else in their correct places.

Since going to this system we have decided to add a second cabinet. We have too much spacing of some sizes to fit into one case. Also we have some less frequently used sizes (16 point) and the didot, which would be good to keep separate.

If anyone is interested I can supply you with the exact dimensions of the various pieces. Should you decide to do something like this, we suggest buying all of the cases you THINK you want for the foreseeable future. Likely as soon as you get started, your source will change the style of cases they sell.

inventory / important type Saturday August 30 2008 09:00 am

Pencraft typeface from
MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan, c. 1892

A recent and mysterious addition to the Lead Graffiti type collection has been identified by some nice sleuthing on the part of several Briar Press TSI  (Type Scene Investigation) agents. Here are my original photos of Pencraft.

Above: Three of the 36-point sorts showing the mortising. The M has both a top and bottom to the mortise. The P and T only have the top or bottom.

Above: a specimen sheet of the 36-point Pencraft mortised initials.

Above: a specimen sheet of the uppercase and lowercase 18-point Pencraft. Interesting that the uppercase is different from the 36 point. I’ll want to compare both uppercase and see if there is any logic. The 36-point initials would likely be used only a few times through a body of text.

Above: a bit of it set up in a composing stick showing the 36-point mortised ‘M’. You have to fill in above and below any of the 18-point type beyond the mortise with 9 points of leading.

Above: Showing the kerning at the top of the sorts.

Above: The MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan pinmark.

Above: Pencraft is displayed on page 56 in the Compact Book of Specimens: MacKellar Smiths & Jordan Company published in Philadelphia in June, 1892.

Pencraft was designed by Herman Ihlenburg (alternately spelled Ihlenberg) for McKS&J and was patented on September 29, 1885. The page lists the mechanical patent as March 31, 1885 (for the machine that casts their sorts?) and registered as number 22,315 (for Pencraft?). The prices listed were

    8 A, 32 a, with 4 A initials - $5.25
    8 A, 32 a, without initials - $3.50
    32 a, lowercase only - $2.05
    4 A, initials, separately - $1.75

“Ihlenburg was born in Berlin, Germany in 1843 where he studied art and worked for several German type foundries. He served apprenticeships with Trowitzsch & son and afterwards with Haase in Prague, Flinsch in Frankfurt, and Batten in Paris. He emigrated to the USA in 1866 and worked for the L. Johnson & Co. foundry, later MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan (which became part of American Type Founders). Ihlenburg died July 31, 1905 in Philadelphia.” (Typophile, Klingspor-Museum).

A list from the Klingspor-Museum in Germany lists 89 typefaces Ihlenberg designed for MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan and the American Type Founders between 1868 and 1902.

I notice the Pencraft specimen page from Compact Book of Specimens shows an accented é, but I don’t seem to have any. Anyone else out there have Pencraft?

Following is some of the information contributed on Briar Press.

“The face, I suppose, could antedate the purview of McGrew’s book. It appears that the face was cast on a pivotal caster and hand-dressed, rather than a later Barth-style machine, though I have never operated either,” - DBurnette

“According to Annenberg’s Type Foundries of America and Their Catalogues, MacKellar, Smiths & Jordan only operated from 1867-1892 (and then became part of ATF), so that would explain why this font doesn’t appear in McGrew.” - Gamewell Press

Now I’m excited about both this font and MS&J so I’m going to start doing some of my own digging. Special Collections in the University of Delaware Library seems to have a pretty nice selection of MS&J specimen books.

A nice history of MacKellar, Smiths & Jordon by Luc Devroye.

inventory / important type Tuesday February 26 2008 11:14 am

Ned Heite’s type collection

When I was teaching at the University of Delaware Bill Deering and I talked with Ned Heite of Camden, Delaware about his type collection. Ned seemed interested in donating it to Raven Press at the University of Delaware, but there were too many strings attached for us to be able to accommodate his wishes.

Ned passed away on April 17, 2007 at the age of 66. His type collection was willed to a family member. They contacted Bill who contacted Ray who bought the collection you see below.

The collection consisted of 230 cases of type spread over 14 cabinets and another 101 galleys of various type, spacing and leading. It will be fun to go through it and see what ends up being there.

When we first started talking with Ned about acquiring the collection one of the typefaces that most intrigued us was one put out by American Type Founders called ‘Satanick.’ ATF had approached printer William Morris of the Kelmscott Press in London, England, and the designer of the typeface, Troy, to see about producing it for commercial purposes. Supposedly, William Morris told them to “Go to Hell.” So, they did it anyway and apparently in a moment of whimsey named the typeface ‘Satanick.’

Sometime soon we will get around to putting a photo of it with this post.

inventory / important type Saturday June 16 2007 08:03 am


Lead Graffiti is proud to announce the addition of a nice run (20 cases) of foundry Melior from 12 point to 60 point. The font was designed by Hermann Zapf in 1952. I was especially knocked over by that ‘y’.
Here is a sample.

inventory / important type Tuesday May 01 2007 09:05 pm

Type for printing textiles

On eBay we just bought this typography for what we believe is printing on textiles. We thought it would make a wonderful addition to our collection of typography.

The wood blocks are 2.75″ tall. The metal which is quite thin and is simply driven into the wood. It has kind of the same feel as on old printing cylinder for printing wallpaper which is often is metal outline driven into wood and then filled in with some kind of mortar.

We aren’t exactly sure how they work as they are not even close to the same type height to each other.

inventory / important type Wednesday April 11 2007 11:13 am

30 line Extra Condensed wood type

A very nice font of wood type we just got off eBay. The type is 5″ high and contains both the uppercase and the lowercase characters in a dusty but very well preserved surface. Overall it covers a 30″ x 40″ area. Should be fun to print.

inventory / important type Wednesday April 04 2007 07:46 pm

Goudy Oldstyle, 60 point in metal

We are starting to get excited by Goudy. I wasn’t particularly fond of it as a designer, but as a letterpress printer it has a lot of appeal. Some letterforms are really quite nicely designed. Anyway, we got this one today.

inventory / important type Monday April 02 2007 09:51 am

New eBay wins to add to the inventory - 4/1/07

After two days of photographing citizens of Newark, Delaware for the Histories of Newark: 1758-2008 eBay offered a nice diversion with some new letterpress things for the studio.

42 point Garamond Outline in foundry type. We’ve never seen this before.

6 line Goudy Italic in wood. We’ve had Goudy in wood before but never the lowercase. Has some nice letters.

This woodtype looked like it would make some nice Copperplate initial caps somewhere.

inventory / collection & inventory / important type Tuesday November 21 2006 11:12 am

36 point Aigrette

This was a nice full upper and lowercase font that we thought might be good for printing names on certificates. There is enough of it that you could set a number of names before needing to redistribute.

inventory / important type Tuesday November 21 2006 11:10 am

12 line Gill Sans

Our first full wood typeface and it was nice to make it Gill Sans. Gill Sans has been one of our favorite typefaces for a while now.  We even did a gravestone rubbing of Eric Gill’s grave site in Spean, England.

inventory / important type Tuesday November 21 2006 09:38 am

10 line Cheltenham Condensed Outline

An eBay buy in a nice complete font of Cheltenham Condensed Outline. Now if we can develop the mechanism of producing our own wood type it would be nice to create the insides so we could print these in two colors.

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