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Metal type casting?

Started by Siobhán, April 26, 2013, 12:02:13 AM

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Siobhán

Hello,
I'm new here and about to ask what is probably a very silly question, so bare with my ignorance. I'm a graphic designer about to start a masters in creative media, and would love to design a type face and produce it  both digitally and in metal for letterpress. Haven't the first clue about how to do it, but have two years to figure it out. Cue silly question... Is there such a thing as an independent/artisan foundry that would cast a custom font?

That's it. Snigger at will :)


Dave Hughes

Hi Siobhan and welcome to the forum.

Your question isn't as silly as you may think.

"Tooling up" to create a new typeface certainly used to be a very costly and time-consuming process.

The digital revolution has brought many benefits, including a resurgence in interest in the letterpress process, but has it managed to streamline/simplify the process for producing a new font?

I don't know, but I'm sure there will be someone visiting this board who does.

Like you, I'm looking forward to finding out.
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Siobhán

Hi Dave,

Thanks for replying so quickly. There's a small letterpress printworks about an hour from me. The woman who runs it has a Hidleberg (don't know exact model) - motorized with a kind of windmill action, from the 1950s I think. Do you or anyone else think wood block type would be viable? Or would wood block be just as difficult to manufacture as metal type?      Lots of woods/woulds in those sentences :)

Also, would be interested to hear peoples thoughts about what to consider from a functionality point of view when designing metal type. Are there things I should avoid? Are there features metal type doesn't like? Or features metal type handles particularly well. I'm an absolute novice, so any advice or tips are welcome.

Thanks,
Siobhán


Mechanic

Hi Siobhan,

You don't say where you are located, however here is a site that may help:-

http://www.circuitousroot.com/artifice/letters/press/tools/type/typefoundries/index.html

Good luck with you project.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast
Queensland
AUSTRALIA

Dave Hughes

Siobhan, I think the wood or metal question depends on what size type you are planning to produce.

Wood tends to be used for sizes 72pt and above.

I have seen videos of people hooking up computers to milling machines to produce wooden type.
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Siobhán

Hi Mechanic, Dave,

I'm in Ireland. Thanks a million for the link. Will go through it thoroughly. As for point size, hadn't quite thought it through yet. Was originally planning a kind of book/booklet affair, but then large display type on posters could be good too. I imagine I'll be guided by whatever a foundry and my pocket allows.
Really hope there's a mad foundry owner out there looking for a challenge.

Siobhán.

Dave Hughes

Thanks to Andy Taylor of The Elrod Press for sending in this suggestion (via Twitter)

Making Faces by Jim Rimmer;

http://makingfacesfilm.blogspot.co.uk/

Also of interest Stan Nelson showing the process of punchcutting:

QuoteThis is the first in a short series of videos detailing the process of type-founding. Stan Nelson, historian of printing history, hosts these segments. First developed in the 15th century, this process was critical to the world's ability to communicate until the rise of modern offset printing technologies in the 1950s.



1-Punchcutting at the Atelier Press & Letterfoundry
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Mechanic

What an interesting set of videos Dave. A true Artisan Tradesman at work. I had never seen type made except by a Monotype or Linotype.
Thanks Andy, I'm sure you have given Siobhán something to work with.
George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast
Queensland
AUSTRALIA

Siobhán

Hi guys,

Thanks for the links again. I'd heard of Rimmer's 'Stern' font, but hadn't seen the film. Thanks so much for that.

I may have found an alternative to needing a foundry to 'tool up'. A student in the states is experimenting with plexiglass and plywood.
http://end-grain.net/?p=1599

I'd love to see my type in metal, but until I reach Rimmer's status, plexiglass may have too do. Do any of you guys have experience with this? Any advice would be welcome.

Thanks,
Siobhán.

Siobhán

Hi guys,
Update....

According to myfonts.com, The Dale Guild Type Foundry is the only foundry that casts new fonts using Benton Engravers. Unfortunately, as of April 13 they're on hiatus and looking to downsize for relocation purposes. April 13th - 2 weeks ago!

http://thedaleguild.com/news/

I don't suppose anyone knows of the existence of another working Benton Engraving machine?
Any help gratefully accepted.

Thanks,
Siobhán.
.

Dan

Let me add an alternative to traditional engraving.
A first step would be to locate casting machines that are close by.
Almost any operative casting machine would do, so long as it uses a flat matrix.
Langston sorts casters, giant caster, english display machine or thompson would do - there are more than one or two out there.
It will need to involve a very patient proprietor who is inclined to experimentation.
You would need to experiment with the metal engraving process, with negatives and reverse images.
A reversed zinc engraving is your intermediate step - you might need to order several duplicates depending on the next step. Don't worry too much about matrix drive, you can always grind the type's feet.
A good machine shop is the next logical step - obviously to shape the engraving to conform to your caster's flat matrix dimension. Obviously the top surface would need to be protected.
A very talented machinist who is willing to test the boundary of his milling machine might be able to grind the bottom and sides of the "matrix"
Engraving materials are likely to be difficult to cut and mill, especially on such a small scale.
Dan Williams

Dan

The photomechanically derived Zinc cuts and foil stamp dies are still available from various suppliers, according to client artwork & specifications.

John B Easson

Mechanick Exercises on Printing (1677) by Joseph Moxon (reprinted by Oxford University Press: I don't know if there's an electronic version yet) is the earliest description of how it was originally done, and goes into a lot of detail. So if you really want to start from scratch...
Best of luck, sounds a fun project, but not any easy one.

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