Circuitous Root® Typefoundry & Press

Making Metal Type

Documenting the Tradition

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"... whereas the records of all other arts and trades are effected by means of typography, yet the records of its own progress are singularly deficient, and, for a trade of such antiquity, the data available are most meagre." - Lucien A. Legros. Typecasting and Composing Machinery. (1908).
If something can be remembered, it can come back. - The Doctor. The Pandorica Opens. (2010).
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Topic Index

This site is in fact logically organized - yes, really. It just isn't necessarily the logic you might expect. If you're here to find something specific (especially reprinted texts), you would do best to consult this Topic Index first.

If you do simply dive in without checking the Topic Index, please note that almost everything is in the "Mechanics: Type Machinery In Detail" section; the other sections are perhaps well intentioned but at the moment quite sketchy.

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Old news and out-of-date updates. Organization of this site.

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Surveys: Type Processes and Machinery

[NOTE: These survey Notebooks are very incomplete. Unless you're looking for something specific in them, you almost certainly want to go instead to the various "Mechanics: Type Machinery in Detail" Notebooks below.]

Historical, conceptual, and other general surveys of relief typemaking and printing techologies. Reprints of general literature of the field, including The Inland Printer . Typographic Examples and Instruction.

A List of Current Typefoundries.

Also: CircuitousRoot's equipment: a quick look, the state of the Typefoundry and Press, and type & matrix inventories. Rigging Tales.

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A Heretic's Guide to Type

Nearly all of what is being taught about the theory and terminology of "type" in the digital world is wrong, and simply perpetuates errors made by ignorant computer programmers in the late 20th century. If you try to use these concepts to understand metal type you will fail because they do not describe type.

Much of the history of type as it is now commonly repeated is a fiction created by type foundries and composing machine manufacturers in order to sell more of their products.

Also, a guide to Reading Metal Type Specimens.

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Mechanics: Type Machinery in Detail

"The machine has not killed good craftsmanship; the machine in the hands of the craftsman is merely a more intricate tool than any that was available to the earlier worker..." - Frederic W. Goudy. Typologia. (1940).

♦ Type Making & Composing Machinery ♦

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Hand Casting

The Typefounder's hand mold and its use.

(This section will also include material on those few auxiliary tools which were unique to hand casting (e.g., the ladle). But most of the tools of the hand caster also found a place in machine casting (e.g., alignment gauges). For these, see Noncomposing Typecasters, below.)

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Noncomposing Typecasters

Machines which cast individual types to be used in hand composition. The Thompson Type-Caster, and Nuernberger-Rettig (aka Universal) Typecaster, the Monotype Type-&-Rule Caster. Church's 1822 system. Type Foundry Specimens & Typography.

The Thompson (suitably equippped with now rare accessories) and (more commonly) the Monotype display machines could produce not only individual types but also strip material through fusion casting. For machines devoted exclusively to strip material, whether continuous-cast or fusion-cast, see the Strip-Casters Notebooks, below.

Also, a List of All Type Specimen and Matrix Information on CircuitousRoot .

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Composing Typecasters

The Monotype Composition Caster. General Monotype literature.

[IN PROCESS: Monotype Matrix Data, Specimens, & Typography.]

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Noncomposing Linecasters

The Ludlow Typograph. Reprints of Ludlow Literature. Ludlow Matrix Data, Specimens, & Typography.

[Nothing yet on the A-P-L or Nebitype]

As is the case with the Composing Linecaster Notebooks, above, these Notebooks concern details of the machinery, not its daily use or the acquisition of our own machines.

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Composing Linecasters

Linotype and Intertype: Principles, Practice, Maintenance & Restoration, Auxiliary Machines, and Reprints of Literature.

[NOT DONE: Linotype/Intertype Matrix Data, Specimens, & Typography.]

This set of Notebooks is indended to address fairly detailed technical issues in the construction, maintenance, and restoration of these machines. For the adventure of hauling home this equipment, see the accounts in Introduction II - Surveys of the Equipment . For their ordinary use (and daily maintenance) see " Composing and Casting Type," below.

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Noncasting Type Composing Machinery

The Paige. The Thorne/Simplex/Unitype. (Brief notes on a few other machines.) Logotype schemes and machines. Attempts at a taxonomy of these diverse machines.

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Making Printing Matrices & Types

Everything I can put together concerning the making of physical printing matrices and types except casting machines (for which see Noncomposing Typecasters, above). Punchcutting (hand and machine), patrix cutting (hand and machine), matrix electroforming, matrix cutting, typemetal, type finishing and fonting, etc. Bibliography of type-making and reprinted literature. Also some history of type design, but with an emphasis on punchcutters and typefounders. This is a huge topic, and what I have here is very incomplete.

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Machines devoted exclusively to casting strip material.

True continuous-casting strip-casters. The Elrod. The Universal.

Fusion-casting machine. [NOTHING YET] The Monotype Material Maker.

For fusion-casting machine capable of producing both types and strip material, see the Thompson and various Monotype display casters in " Noncomposing Typecasters," above.

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Common Casting Equipment

("Common" in the sense of "used with multiple kinds of casting machines.") Metal Feeders. [Remelting Furnaces and Molds (except Hammond and Monomelt).] [Thermometers.] [Typemetal Assaying.]

♦ Platemaking Machinery ♦

Note also that letterpress methods (both hand-set and hot metal type) have often been used for processes other than conventional letterpress printing. These are covered elsewhere, and include:

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Just some literature right now: "Electricaster." Hammond MatMakir, EasyKaster, RouterPlaner.

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Electrotyping of Printing Plates

The use of electrolytic deposition to produce printing plates. At present all that is here is some literature on the very early development of electrotyping.

Not Patrix Cutting and Matrix Electroforming or Literature on Electroforming Matrices, even though these process were also most typically called "electrotyping" in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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Nontypographical Cuts and Ornaments

In each of the three sections above ( Stereotyping, Electrotyping, and Photoengraving) there should be a subsection of specimen literature for cuts and decorative material offered from stock (as opposed to that made to special order for a customer). However, it isn't always obvious from the surviving specimens what process was used - so I've put them all in a single section here.

This section excludes ornaments cast as type or borders, cuts and ornaments sold by typefoundries (regardless of process), and ornamental material sold in linecasting or typecasting matrix, border slide, or rule mold form.

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Letterpress for Nonrelief Processes

Letterpress methods adapted for non-relief printing processes: The Ludlow Brightype System for photographing letterpress composition for offset plates. The Ludlow/Hammond Hot Metal Paste-Up system.

This is the opposite of photoengraving (see above) and photopolymer plate technology / flexography, which are the use of nonletterpress techniques (photographic and digital composition) to produce relief printing plates.

♦ Printing, Composing Room, & Bindery Machinery ♦

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Composing Room Equipment

Printer's Saw: Literature (Hill-Curtis/Hammond TrimOsaw, C&G/Morrison, Nelson). Honig (Universal Mono-Tabular) Rule Broach.

[NOT DONE] [Wiring the Hammond Glider G Trim-O-Saw.] [Making a Full Rouse Slug Cutter Out of Two Partial Ones.] [Derusting Galleys.] [Recasting a Morrison/C&G Wheel Guard]

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Printing Presses

Sigwalt and Kelsey literature. Golding Pearl trucks. Miller literature. Pointers to C&P literature. C&P Cylinder literature.

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Paper handling (cutting, folding) and bookbinding equipment normally found in an older printing establishment. (For similar equipment intended for an office environment, see An Office Miscellany up and over in the Typefounding, Lettering, & Printing set of Notebooks.)

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Use: Type Machinery in Operation

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Use: Type Machinery Operation

[Setting Type by Hand and Printing from It.] Casting Machine Operation: [Linotype/Intertype], [Ludlow], [Elrod], [Thompson], [Monotype Type-&-Rule]. [Presswork.] [Binding and Finishing]

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The Circuitous Root Typefoundry and Press is a strange sort of undertaking, I suppose. It is my hobby/nonprofit project to restore, research, understand, use, and (most importantly) to document a small collection of old typecasting and letterpress equipment and technical literature.

I think of it primarily as a typefoundry, because my interest is in all the ways of making and using relief printing type - but mostly making. I run both linecasting machines (Linotype and Ludlow) and typecasting machines (Thompson). In the future I hope to add stripcasting (Elrod), a Lanston Monotype display caster, and the making of matrices by various processes. CircuitousRoot is a private typefoundry and press, in the tradition of the "private press" movement. By this I mean only that I will cast and print whatever I wish, for myself and for my friends, rather than take on commercial business.

Even so, the primary product of the foundry and press will not be the type I cast or the sheets I print, but rather the collection of "Notebooks" which I am writing and presenting here to document my experiences with and research into this equipment. It is a great irony that while this technology produced virtually all of the world's print for well over a century, much of the detailed technical knowledge of its operation was itself never committed to print and has remained an oral tradition of a now vanishing tribe. I'm just trying to learn and preserve this knowledge before it is lost forever.

Note: In 2011, and a bit to my own surprise, I became a professional typefounder and linecaster as well. I'd like to keep my hobby/private typefounding/printing activities separate from my commercial undertakings. CircuitousRoot will remain the location and imprint for this noncommercial work. For my professional typefounding, LemurType LLC, see

"... a Typographer ought to be a man of Sciences. ... By a Typographer, I do not mean a Printer, as he is Vulgarly accounted, any more than Dr. Dee means a Carpenter or Mason to be an Architect: But by a Typographer, I mean such a one, who by his own Judgement, from solid reasoning, with himself, can ... perform from the beginning to the end, all the Handy-works and Physical Operations relating to Typographie." - Joseph Moxon. Mechanick Exercises [The Second Volumne], Or, the Doctrine of Handy-Works Applied to the Art of Printing. (1683) .

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