Wooden Type

Wooden Type

Repairing Wooden Type

For all those people suffering from having to used battered wooden type to produce their posters, here is a tip from the October 1890 edition of the New Zealand trade magazine Typo. There's no need to have all those unsightly bumps and kinks in your wooden type, making your poster look amateurish and unsightly — simply follow these instructions.

Mr Alton B. Carty writes to the Inland Printer:-I 
tried filling up the depressions with sawdust and glue, beeswax, &c., but the 
result was not satisfactory. Determined to conquer the difficulty, I mixed some 
warm glue with Spanish whiting, and after cleaning out the depressions-in some 
instances deepening them to give the preparation a better hold-I plastered the 
defects over while warm, thoroughly filling all depressions, not being careful 
to get a smooth surface. After it became hard, I filed it down close to the 
letter, and then treated it to a good rubbing with an oilstone, using oil, and 
the result was a polished surface as good as the wood itself, if not superior, 
the printing showing no defects whatever.
Article from the October 1890 edition of Typo.

The same tip as quoted in Jacobi's Printers Handbook from 1891

The last office I worked in (writes a correspondent of the Inland Printer) was stocked with battered wood type, of course caused by careless handling on the press; broken tapes, dirt, and an occasional falling out of one of the feed guides on to the forme while in motion had caused the trouble, and it was impossible to do good work with such an outfit. I tried filling up the depressions with sawdust and glue, beeswax, etc., but the result was not satisfactory. I determined to conquer the difficulty, and, after devoting considerable thought to the matter, I mixed some warm glue with Spanish whiting, and, after cleaning out the depressions well, and in some instances deepening them in order to give the preparation a good chance to hold, I plastered the defects over with the mixture while warm. I put sufficient on to thoroughly fill all depressions, not being careful to get a smooth surface. After it became hard I filed it down close to the letter, avoiding scratching the even surface of the letter, and then treated it to a good rubbing with an oil-stone, using oil, and the result was a polished surface as good, if not superior, to the wood itself; and, as I rubbed down the plaster even with the surface of the letter, the printing failed to show any defects whatever. Even the planer did not damage it, and I felt much elated in overcoming the difficulty.

Cutting Wooden Type

The following instructions come from Practical Printing by the excellent John Southward.

It is occasionally convenient to be able to augment a fount by single letters, or to cut a line of type in some particular style. This may easily be done by any printer if he supply himself with the necessary tools and suitable wood. The printers’ joiners sell wood in slips of various sizes and of a thickness equal to type height, ready planed up for this purpose. Should this not be procurable, select a piece of sound pine or deal an inch and a half in thickness, and get it planed to type height at the nearest Joiner’s shop or saw mill. It is better that the block should be slightly “low to paper” than “high,” for it can easily be raised by pasting a piece of card underneath, or, as it is called, being “underlaid.” Then finish off the surface with sand paper, and give it a light wash of whiting or chalk in solution.

Draw the letter required on a piece of tissue or tracing paper the way it is to print—not reversed. If you have a printed copy, this of course will not be necessary. Take a piece of thin carbonic paper, or of tissue paper rubbed over with black lead or red chalk, and place it with its face to that of the block. Turn thcT drawing or the impression over, and lay it face downward on the coated paper. Then trace round the outlines with a needle or a steel point. Remove the two papers and the design will be found transferred to the block the reverse way. If another letter is required, repeat the process, taking care that the two letters are close together and perfectly straight on the block. When not required to be reversed, the design may be drawn on a piece of thin paper and pasted down on the wood; the whole may then be cut through with the tool. For cutting large type, a knife-tool, chisel, and two or three gouges are requisite. The knife-tool can be made by fixing a graver in a straight handle, similar to a gouge handle, allowing the end of the blade to project about an inch. Then sharpen the bevelled part to an edge, so as to make a sharp point to it. The letter must be cut round carefully with the knife. However long the line may be, continue without stopping if possible. When you arrive at a line crossing be careful to stop, or your work will be injured. When curved lines have to be engraved, the right hand and the tool should not move, but the block shonld, if possible, be turned round.

Having gone round the outlines, cut away with a gouge all parts that are not to be black in the impression. In doing so, be careful to keep the edge of the letter as sharp and clean as possible. Work away from the outline, in the direction of the edge of the block, and let the open white spaces be gradually more deeply cut as they recede from the printing portions; if there is a large space, as at the top right-hand comer of the letter L, only half the thickness of the wood should be left.

When the blank spaces are all neatly carved away, soak the block in linseed oil for a short time. Then cut between the letters with a fine saw, if they are to be separated.

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