equipment in use at the Excelsior Press

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 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 difference.

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 need them.

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 - - 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.

contact Alan Runfeldt