These are my ruminations on life, design, and the pursuit of happiness…

How Type is Cast

We stopped by the International Printing Museum this weekend, for my daughter to do some Gutenberg research for a history report. While we were there, Museum Director Mark Barbour demonstrated the historical process for casting type.

First a punch is created out of steel using files, gravers, and counter punches. After the shape of the punch is satisfactory, it gets hardened and tempered over fire.

Then a matrix is made by striking the punch into a softer metal (Typically Copper).

A hand mold is used for casting, which consists of 2 parts.

When fitted together, there is a cavity

to hold the matrix.

The mold is filled from the top side with hot type metal. This is an alloy of Lead, Tin, and Antimony, which has a melting point of 550º.

Type metal hardens very quickly. A good caster made about 2 letters a minute.

When the newly cast type is removed from the mold, it has a V shaped shank that needs to be removed. (You can see it here at the back of the casting)

After the shank was removed, the back end was filed smooth.

Gutenberg was not the first to create movable-type, (it was first was created in China around 1040 A.D. during the Song Dynasty by Bi Sheng.) Nor was he the first to cast metal type, (that honor belongs to Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty (around 1230).) However, Gutenberg was the first to create a workable system of moveable type, through precision manufacturing of interchangeable parts.

The type Gutenberg used to print his bible had an overall height variation of only 1/100th of an inch. This amazing feat of manufacturing was 300 years before the start of the Industrial Revolution, and 450 years before the manufacturing of Henry Ford!

Food Network Magazine has great taste in cards!

My artichoke card is currently featured in the January/February issue of Food Network Magazine. Rather exciting for me, I must say! These are available on my etsy site.

Here is a sweet response I got from a purchaser:

“…got your card the other day, looks great! I grilled artichokes on one of my first dates with my girlfriend 3 years ago – she had never had one before and she was trying to eat the entire artichoke leaf, we had a good laugh. Ever since, little artichoke gifts have always been something special between us. She loved the card!”

Less than a month until Valentine’s, so get your order in!

A week of type & printing

I spent a great deal of time this week at the International Printing Museum. I was also busy this week printing my recipe card for the Letpress Cookbook. (Letpress is a web server for letterpress printers.) I had my type cast at the museum last Saturday, ingredients cast in Ludlow and directions on the Linotype. Unfortunately, the fonts I was thinking of in my head, they did not have at the museum, so I had to redesign on the fly. Once I got the type home, I realized it wouldn’t fit the layout. However, I had 350 recipe cards to get out, printed in 2 colors on the front, and 1 on the back, and had to get printing on at least part of it. I decided to keep the ludlow type, and try to recast the linotype text later in the week. Monday I printed the Ludlow cast “Mandate” font, along with my bird linocut, and hand set “Vaudeville” for the titles.

Tuesday I had a field trip to the museum with both of my classes. (Last semesters trip here) we had a super fun time this semester, printing wood type and cuts on 2 Vandercooks, an 1850’s parlor press, and a proof press.

The Linotype operator wouldn’t be in until Thursday though, so when Thursday rolled around, back to the museum I went. Thursday was also Veterans day, so I had the kids with me, and got them started making some decorations for the Museums’ upcoming Dickens Day event.DickensDay10FlyerV3-791x1024
I finished printing the recipe card Thursday night and Friday, so now that project is at least done.

Saturday, back I was again at the museum, for the Book arts Guild meeting and lecture on Richard Hoffman.
Hoffman was a printer and teacher, known for his use of ornament, such as on this lavish cover
After the lecture we had hands on time printing with some of the museums ornaments,
and a viewing in the gallery of some of Hoffman’s printed works.
This cover was one of my favorites, with its inspired use of swashes.IMG_1559
Just when I was getting ready to leave, some fellow docents were printing a proof of these fabulous initial characters. Deco script initials
Stuff like this gives me chills, I like it so much! Here they are cleaned up a bit in photoshop, and alphabetized: script initials alphabetized Now we at the museum would like to find out where they originated from. If you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments below!