A page about Type
From the old Excelsior
Press Print shop in Frenchtown, NJ
|Buying Type - ...
there are some things to know:.
1. Type fonts do not come with spaces; they must
be purchased separately.
Except in rare situations - fonts like Park Avenue
and some other larger-sized italics & scripts
- which are cast on an angle body and require
specific angle-body spacing (and wedges that let
you convert to using standared quads and spaces at
the end of the line), spaces and quads are
SIZE-specific, not FONT-specific.
A good supply of spaces and quads in a shop like
mine are kept in drawers of their own; the space
and quads boxes of my type cases may or may not be
full at any given time. When we distribute a
single line to a case, we drop the spaces and
quads into the boxes provided for them; it's
convenient. But when I buy new spaces and quads,
they go into my larger spacing type case and get
filtered down to the cases as needed.
Some folks like to store their new quads and
spaces in those little cabinets with small
drawers. While not "traditional", they are quite
convenient - and common.
2. Basic "spaces & quads" font of your chosen
sizes will get you started, but you may want to
order additional quad fonts if your layouts use a
lot of white space, or more spaces fonts if your
work is paragraph text.
3. Ems, Ens, 2-em and 3-em are QUADS; anything
smaller (3-to-the-em, 4-em, 5-em are SPACES. ) 1
point brass and 1/2 point copper thin spaces are
also handy for justifying lines and to tighten a
loose line durint lockup.
Yes, Sky Shipley at Skyline -
or Bill Reiss at Quaker
City - should not only have everything you
need, but be willing and anxious to explain it all
as well. I don't believe that either of these guys
would steer you wrong. They are both type
casters who do it as much for the love of the
craft as the (meager) income it provides. You can
trust their advice. (But please do not hesitate to
ask me at any time.)
Another recommended source for type is Steve
Robinson of Letterpreservation in Indiana. Steve
sells good used type on eBay from their
Letterpreservation store and I have been
quite favorably impressed not only with his type,
but the pricing as well.
And, one more thing about the fonts Steve sells vs
the fonts Bill and Sky cast; Bill and Sky cast
'hard metal' type on Thompson casters - and it's
not bad stuff. But that's only because they make
an effort to produce quality type. The Thompson
caster is not known for producing quality type,
but only fast type. It was designed as an improved
caster for the Monotype system where type was
cast, used, then melted down again and recast as
needed. It's only their personal interest in
producing quality type from these machines that
makes their type good. Rich Hopkins and a few
other amateur (skilled hobbyists) casters can make
good type on a Thompson...
On the other hand, ATF - American Type
founders - *the* premier American foundry of all
times - had their own machines designed and made
for them. This machine is known as "The Barth
Caster" - and can - and did - produce far better
type than the Thompson could even with the best
and most dedicated operator. ATF type will outlast
Thompson-cast type by a factor of perhaps 10,
perhaps 100 to one.
There are 3 Barth casters known to be in operation
at this time - at Dale Guild Type Foundry in
Howell, NJ. Theo Rehak , the cranky old guru of
type has finally accepted a young apprentice (the
new generation!) and they are casting top-quality
new foundry type like you cannot buy anywhere else
in the world.
Of course, this comes at a price - the Barth-cast
fonts sell for 5-10 times as much as the
Thompson-cast stuff, but it could be worth it, so
check out http://thedaleguild.com/
to see the new life these kids have brought to the
old master's web site...
And this type is GOOD. I mean, I bought some just
so that I could handle it. I experience something
different when I set ATF type than when I set
Thopson-cast type. It simply *feels* better.
Different metal composition, harder casting,
better shoulders, nicks and feet. When you really
get into type, you will learn - and appreciate the
The other issue is leads and
slugs - the spacing that goes *between* the lines.
LEADS are typically 2 points thick (although
1-point leads do exist).
SLUGS are thicker - typically 6 points. You can
stock fixed sizes (lengths) of leads and slugs, or
buy a slug cutter and cut them to length as you
For starters however, a basic start font of leads
and slugs should suffice. If you need some, I've
got a starter kit of leads and slugs defined - http://excelsiorpress.org/forsale/fundraising.html#Lead__Slug_Cutters
- and can also cut any quanity to any length you
need. Pricing is pretty much by the pound, with a
small fee for precision cutting to any length(s)
you may need.
So. If I've left anything out - or you have any
other questions, shoot me a message.