Literature on Electroforming Matrices

(and some pictures)

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1. If your interest is in actually making matrices yourself, the best resource is Mike Anderson's "Practical Electrotyping Guide - How to Make Your Own Matrices" (below) .

2. If your interest is in understanding the importance of patrix engraving and matrix electroforming in the history of 19th century type-making, or if you doubt that it was a major method (it was), see ../../ Making Printing Matrices and Types -> A Matrix Miscellany -> Patrix Cutting and Matrix Electroforming.

3. There is no standard terminology in this area. I have attempted to be uniform in my own usage. This in no way invalidates any earlier terminology. (a) What I term a "patrix" was more commonly termed a "pattern type" in the 19th century. (b) The process I term "electroforming" (which is a modern usage to distinguish heavy plating from thinner "electroplating") was more commonly called "electrotyping." I avoid that term, however, because of the risk of confusion with electrotyped plates. (c) Often in writing of these methods 19th century writers such as Loy employ the term "metal" when they mean "typemetal"; when the metal they mean is steel, they say steel.

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The Printer. (1859, recalling early work)

[author unknown, probably David Bruce Jr.] [title unknown, probably Bruce's "Art of Type Founding" series] The Printer. Vol. 2, No. 1 (May, 1859): [pages unknown].

A biographical sketch of James Conner, sections of which (on electroforming matrices) were reprinted in Ringwalt's American Cyclopaedia of Printing (1871) (see below) . This is the only near-contemporary record that I have been able to discover so far which discusses the origins of the matrix electroforming process at the Conner foundry before Starr's 1845 patent.

The icon here links "up and over" to the as-yet-non-presentation of this article in the Notebook on James Conner.

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Ringwalt. (1871, recalling early work)

Ringwalt, J. Luther, Ed. American Encyclopaedia of Printing. (Philadelphia, PA: Menamin & Ringwalt, 1871.) This article contains an extract of the material from the 1859 article in The Printer (see above) on Conner's early matrix electroforming.

The icon at left links to a PDF-format extract of the article on James Conner in Ringwalt (29 Megabytes).

The icon here links "up and over" to the presentation of this article in the Notebook on James Conner.

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Starr. (1845)

United States patent No. 4,130. Issued 1845-08-04 to Thomas W. Starr. "Improvement in Preparing Matrices for Type by the Electrotyping Process" (n.b., on the drawing it is entitled "Type Machine").

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Schraubstadter. "Electrotype Matrices." (1887)

Schraubstadter, Jr., Carl. "Electrotype Matrices." The Inland Printer Vol. 4, No. 6 (March, 1887): 382. There is a lot of important historical information packed into this brief article.

Schraubstadter's article dates the origins of electroformed matrices to a period before Edwin Starr's patent of 1845. In Schraubstadter's account, Starr's contribution was to perfect the process by introducing the planchet, replacing earlier methods of (a) electroforming a shell and backing up the matrix with lead, (b) the same, with zinc, and (c) electroforming a complete matrix in solid copper. As an aside, I might note that matrices of type (a) were made in the 20th century (and used by, at least, Sterling Type Foundry on their Nuernberger-Rettig casters) and that matrices of type (c) were made by Andrew Dunker (and are as technically impressive as they are beautiful).

This article is one of only two references by contemporaries of which I am aware to Linn Boyd Benton's early cutting of roman faces by machine. (The other reference is by Nicholas Werner, who, in his discussion of the earlier direct cutting of matrices by William A. Schraubstadter at the Central Type Foundry, acknowledges that Benton was the first to cut specifically roman faces (the Central faces were of simpler form.)) It is the only contemporary reference which indicates explicitly that Benton was engraving patrices.

The version you get when you click on the image link here is cropped a bit and saved, lossily, as a JPEG; it is still 4.9 Megabytes in size. Although it probably doesn't matter, and isn't a great scan in any case, click here for the original scan, in PNG format (19 Megabytes).

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James M. Conner. ["Electrotype Matrices."] (1887)

In late 1887, James Madison Conner, of the James Conner's Sons type foundry (the United States Type Foundry, in NY) wrote a response to Carl Schraubstadter's March 1887 Inland Printer article (see above) . It was published in the Conner foundry's house organ, The Typographic Messenger. I have not yet seen a copy of this, but his (Conner's) article was reprinted in a New Zealand printing trade publication called Typo (see below) .

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James M. Conner. "Electrotype Matrices." ([1887] 1888)

Conner, James M[adison]. "Electrotype Matrices." Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review. Vol. 2, Issue 15 (1888-03-31): 22. This is a reprint of James Madison Conner's 1887 article in The Typographic Messenger (see above) .

Several volumes of this periodical have been reprinted digitally by the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection at the Victoria University of New Zealand Library: They've licensed their digital versions of this material under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand license, which is compatible with the licensing of this page - so here is an extract of Conner's article.

In this article J. M. Conner objects to electroformed matrices on all grounds, technical and moral, and discounts the importance of patrix engraving. He does, however, confirm both the Conner foundry's claim to have originated this process (by his father, James Conner, working with Edwin Starr) and identifies John M. Wehrly [Wehrle] as "having first cut type in metal [meaning typemetal patrices] in this country." Conner also lists Wehrle as having cut Penman Script and the Double Great Primer size of Rimmed Shade".

The icon at left links to a PDF of the page containing the article. Here is the original JPEG image: typo-nz-v02-issue15-1888-03-31-Har02Typo025.jpg It can also be accessed at its original site:

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Schraubstadter. "Electrotype Matrices." (1888)

Schraubstadter Jr., Carl. "Electrotype Matrices" [letter to the editor] The Inland Printer, Vol. 5, No. 4 (January 1888): 279-280.

In this letter, Schraubstadter responds to a critic of his 1887 article and in the process provides solid information for the extent of patrix cutting and matrix electroforming in contemporary practice.

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"Regulation of Electrotyping Solutions." (1915)

United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Standards. Circular of the Bureau of Standards. No. 52. "Regulation of Electrotyping Solutions." First Edition, Issued January 25, 1915. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1915.)

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"Regulation of Electrotyping Solutions." (1916)

United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Standards. Circular of the Bureau of Standards. No. 52. "Regulation of Electrotyping Solutions." Second Edition, Issued June 28, 1916. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1916.)

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Nuernberger/Duensing. (1931/1966)

Neurnberger, Phil. T. Electrolytic Matrices. (Kalamazoo, MI?: The Private Press and Typefoundry of Paul Hayden Duensing, 1966.) 18pp. Engravings "furnished through the generosity of Mr. Leonard F. Bahr and the George Willens Company". It was also distributed at the 1966 annual meeting of The Typocrafters.

This booklet consists of the text of a letter writtin in 1931 by Phil. T. Neurnberger (co-developer of the Nuernberger-Rettig Type Caster and a typefounder of deep experience) to Archie J. Little of Archie Little Typographers, Seattle. Little was Duensing's mentor when he began printing.

Please note (as Duensing does) that this text "is presented here in its original form because of its historical importance, and not primarily as a document of scientific or practical instruction."

This original 1966 version of this publication is in the public domain as it was published without copyright notice at a time when such notice was required to secure copyright. However, Ginger Duensing has requested that Paul Hayden Duensing be acknowledged in all works that he printed and/or wrote. I am therefore licensing this reprint under the " Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - ShareAlike 3.0 unported" license. In using it under the terms of this license, please attribute Phil. T. Nuernberger as the author, Paul Hayden Duensing as the editor and publisher, and Dr. David M. MacMillan / CircuitousRoot for the digitization.

The icon above left links to a presentation of this booklet at The Internet Archive, where it may be read online. Here is a local copy of the PDF (158 Megabytes): nuernberger-duensing-electrolytic-matrices-0600rgbjpg.pdf

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Type Matrices. (1954/1968)

Type Matrices. (Kalamazoo, MI: The Private Press and Typefoundry of Paul Hayden Duensing, 1968.) This is an authorized translation by Duensing of Chapter IV of Gustav Bohadti's Die Buchdruckletter. (West Berlin: Im Deutschen Verlag der [in the German publishing house of] Ullstein A.G., 1954.) It covers several methods of matrix making, including electroforming.

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Soulé. (1980)

Soulé, A. R. "Electro-Formed Matrices." Published and presented at the Second National Conference on Metal Typecasting and Design [that is, the second American Typecasting Fellowship conference], 1980. It does not include the slides presented by Soulé at the conference.

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Rice. (1982/1999)

Rice, Roy. "Matrix Making at the Oxford University Press." (Atlanta, GA: The Recalcitrant Press, 1982 and via the Web in 1999). This is online as follows (cut-and-paste the URLs; I haven't encoded them as clickable links because the underlines often used to indicate that interfere with the underscores in the filenames):

This essay seems to have suffered in its transition from DOS-based sources to the web. Several images don't appear properly in part 3. They are there, though. The easiest way to find them is to bring up a directory listing of all of the images and download them individually:

Note: The Oxford University Press is now merely a publishing house; it neither prints books nor makes type.

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Rehak. (1993)

Chapter 12 of Theo Rehak's Practical Typecasting. (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 1993), ISBN: 0-938768-33-6, is devoted to electroforming matrices.

Rehak's book is of course in copyright and I can't reprint any of it here. That doesn't matter, though, because you should buy it anyway.

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Anderson. (2002)

Anderson, Mike. "Practical Electrotyping Guide - How to Make Your Own Matrices." Originally in the American Typecasting Fellowship Newsletter, No. 27 (March 2002). Reprinted here from the version presented by Anderson at his presentation on electroforming matrices at the 2010 conference of the American Typecasting Fellowship in Piqua, Ohio. Reprinted here by the kind permission of the author.

In the ATF Newsletter No. 31 (October 2006) Christopher Manson published a short article reporting success using Anderson's method and giving further detailed suggestions. This article is not yet reprinted here.

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At some point I should do a rational, step-by-step photo-essay on this process. But although at this time I've put together all of the equipment, I haven't yet done it myself. Here, instead, are various photographs that I took at and soon after the 2010 American Typecasting Fellowship conference in Piqua, Ohio. They are primarily of apparatus made by, or presented by, Mike Anderson. These are just PDFs made up of individual photographs, without any editing at all. (If I were to take the time properly to edit them, I'd never get them online.)

Note that many of these matrices were grown into planchets made from scrap matrices. The matrix identification numbers punched on these have nothing to do with the new matrices electroformed into them; they should be ignored.

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Electroforming Tank (Anderson)

The simple matrix electroforming tank made and used by Mike Anderson for his demonstration at ATF 2010, Piqua. Shown empty and in use. 23 Megabyte PDF.

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Electroforming Power Supplies (Anderson)

Two of the very simple power supplies for matrix electroforming shown by Mike Anderson for his demonstration at ATF 2010, Piqua. The smaller of these is a means of adapting a simple DC "wall wart" power supply. 17 Megabyte PDF.

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Anderson's Meter

In his ATF 2010 presentation, Mike Anderson referred often to a VTVM. A true VTVM (Vacuum Tube VoltMeter) is now a relatively rare item. All that is required is a simple multimeter (analog or digital), and indeed in his article this is what he calls out. Just to clarify this, here is a photograph of the meter Mike used during the demonstrations at ATF 2010. 2.3 Megabyte PDF.

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Electroforming Form using Quads (Anderson)

Several views of electroforming forms as made up from quads and other material by Mike Anderson for his demonstration at ATF 2010, Piqua. The first icon links to views of two forms. It also shows in-process results (there was not sufficient time during the conference to electroform the matrix completely). 28 Megabyte PDF. The second icon links to a more details set of photographs of one of these forms, taken by me a short time after the conference. This form is made up and taped, but not yet waxed. 48 Megabyte PDF. The third icon links to a form that has been made up, taped, waxed, and partially electroformed. If my memory serves, this electroforming was done during the conference. 46 Megabyte PDF. Anderson's method of using quads and printer's material to create forms is advantageous to those who do not possess the workshop facilities for creating machined forms.

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Electroforming Form by Dunker

Views of a matrix electroforming form made by the late Andrew Dunker. The first icon here links to a PDF of photographs of it as I photographed it during Mike Anderson's presentation at ATF 2010 (57 Megabyte PDF). The second icon links to a PDF of photographs of it in various states of disassembly, taken shortly after the conference (coincidentally, also 57 Megabytes).

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Electroforming Form Made of Brass

A matrix electroforming form machined from brass. Made by Mike Anderson, and shown by him at ATF 2010, Piqua. 20 Megabyte PDF.

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Electroforming Forms Made of Steel

A set of matrix electroforming forms machined from steel. One is shown empty, another with a piece of type to be copied in place, anotehr waxed up for use, and another with the wax removed after electroforming and the "flower" of deposited copper still in place. (I'm pretty sure there are four different forms shown here, but it's been two years since I took these photographs, and my memory may be faulty.) I don't recall for sure who made these forms. Shown by Mike Anderson at ATF 2010, Piqua. 93 Megabyte PDF.

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Electroforming Form Made of Typemetal

A matrix electroforming form which appears to have been cast from typemetal. Shown by Mike Anderson at ATF 2010, Piqua. 19 Megabyte PDF.

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Matrix Planchets for Electroforming

Various matrix planchets prepared for electroforming. I can't recall for sure, but I suspect that the last one in this series is actually an example of a matrix which failed in use. The holes in the planchets should be bevelled. I recall from the conference that ideally they should be bevelled on both sides, but primarily on the non-casting side. The greatest risk of failure is not by the electroformed portion being punched through the mat during casting, but rather by it being held back by adhesion to the cast type - pulling it out of the matrix. Shown by Mike Anderson at ATF 2010, Piqua, and photographed by me shortly after the conference. 115 Megabyte PDF.

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Unfinished Matrices, with Flower

Several matrices which have been electroformed but not yet fully finished. These show the "flower" of extra material produced during electroforming which will be milled off to make a finished matrix. The first icon links to photographs of several shown by Mike Anderson at ATF 2010, Piqua (as passed around during his talk). 30 Megabyte PDF The second icon links to pictures from many angles of a single matrix, also from Mike Anderson's presentation (as photographed by me shortly after the conference). 38 Megabyte PDF.

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Matrix Electroformed into Scrap Planchet

A matrix electroformed into a scrap Monotype display matrix (so ignore the numbers stamped on it). Shown by Mike Anderson at ATF 2010 and photographed by me shortly after the conference. This shows the appearance of a finished and probably castable matrix. 13 Megabyte PDF.

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Matrix Electroformed into Brass Planchet

A matrix electroformed into a newly made brass planchet, milled flat using a flycutter. Shown by Mike Anderson at ATF 2010 (and made by him, I believe) and photographed by me shortly after the conference. Photographed along with the piece of type from which it was electroformed and a piece of type cast from it. 40 Megabyte PDF.

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Matrix Electroformed as a Solid by Dunker

A matrix electroformed by the late Andrew Dunker. Shown by Mike Anderson at ATF 2010 and photographed by me shortly after the conference. I know nothing of the provenance of this matrix, but know from its physical characteristics that it is by Dunker. While most makers grow their matrices into a hole in a planchet, Dunker electroformed his matrices each as one single object. He also used a metalworking shaper to cut these matrices to their final size; the metalworking shaper leaves a distinctive pattern of straight lines (quite unlike the patterns left by either milling cutters or flycutters). (One can see these lines on the non-printing shoulder of type cast from Dunker mats.) 16 Megabyte PDF.

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Matrix Electroformed into Copper Planchet

A matrix electroformed into a copper planchet. The matrix markings on this mat may be relevant, since it is not made from a recycled Monotype mat. Shown by Mike Anderson at ATF 2010, Piqua. 19 Megabyte PDF.

I do not recall who made this matrix. It is not one made by Andy Dunker, though. While Dunker also produced all-copper matrices, this one differs becase (a) it is not perfect (Dunker mats are amazing), (b) it was electroformed into a copper planchet (Dunker electroformed the entire matrix as one object - also amazing), (c) it is milled with a flycutter (Dunker mats show the characteristic parallel lines of the metalworking shaper).

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Matrix Electroformed Imperfectly

A matrix electroformed imperfectly; voids in the electroformed portion appeared as it was milled down to final form. I would not care to attempt to cast with this matrix. Shown by Mike Anderson at ATF 2010 and photographed by me shortly after the conference. 17 Megabyte PDF.

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Matrix Planchet Milling Fixtures

Photographs of several ingenious matrix planchet milling fixtures for making Type-&-Rule Caster compatible matrix planchets. Also a gang electroforming form. These were on display at the ATF 2010 conference. I never did find out who made them, although I'm sure everyone else in the room except me knew (I'm still very new at this, and in 2010 was a complete novice). I would very much like to find out who made these. 48 Megabyte PDF.

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