making wood type

I’m looking for resources for making wood type. I’ve found a wonderful machine for making it, called the “Carve Wright” and would like to start making it, but feel I need to learn the finer aspects first.

Types of wood? Does it have to be end grain? Is it a solid piece? or is the type mounted to a block? How much space between letter and edge of block? What were the traditional methods? etc…

Would this be a helpful book? “Adrian Frutiger: The Development of Western Type Carved in Wood Plates”

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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AMERICAN WOOD TYPE :1828-1900 by Rob Roy Kelly “wood” be the best place to start.

I would of thought your first stop if you are in the US is Hamilton, a woodtype museum and working manufacturer.

The last woodtype manufacturer in the UK, De Little of York closed about 10 years ago - all their equipment ended up in the type museum in London together with the Stephenson Blake archives and lots of Monotype material. Unfortunately it isn’t open to the public at the moment due to lack of funding.

I believe the 19th century manufacturers used timber like pear and cherry because of their fine grain.

Thomas- making wood type is not very difficult at all, it’s just rather time consuming. A few years ago (ok… actually more like 20yrs ago) we made a few fonts of a special type for posters. We used a pantograph with a small router, and thin plywood “masters” to carve out the type…. which is similar to how the old Wood type manufacturers did it. The same process is shown on the Woodtype website, as far as I know.

The wood was cherry, chosen not because it’s the best but only because that’s what we already had. We did not use the end grain. We just planed it down to type high and carved it out.

As far as spacing and so forth goes, I have to say I don’t recall. I do know that the cherry wood held up very well, and the fonts are still in use by a good friend of mine.

All great advice and references, although I have never heard of the Frutiger book before this.

A HARD, smooth and STABLE wood is required. The “old boys” used to let their wood cure for at least a year before cutting it. All of that is explained in Kelly’s book.

One thing to keep in mind is that you can only go so far with the machine because (I assume) you are using a round router bit. This will get most of the job done for you, but there is also some hand-finishing that has to be done (usually with a buren-graver) to get the sharp inner angles that cannot be produced with a round bit.

Someone who is still experimenting with (AND MAKING) his own fonts of wood type is Mel Arndt in Toledo, Ohio. He may be able to offer a wealth of information to you.

Mel can be reached at [email protected].

I’ve looked into doing this. There are a lot of discussion groups out that have talked about the carvewright machine. It appears to have lots of problems. Far too many for such a costly machine.

Thomas,Russ Clements makes wood type in Ohio, I think his kids run a site called typetiques. to my understanding he bought out american wood type that was in NY.Best james

Thanks everyone for their help with wood type. I’m still try to find a copy of Rob Roy’s book. On my quest for more info I found this if anyone is interested. Nick Sherman documents his process of making wood type, although he used linoleum, but it gave me a wonderful insight into the process.

Thanks again!

Hi Thomas,
making wood type is real fun. The only thing I would like to sugest you is not to jump on the first machine comeing in your way. I never worked with this Carve Wrigt, but from the first view I thought it is a kitchen aid.
Beleave me, after you made the first type you will like to do some other stuff also, like i.e. brass dies or other cuts.
A good place to get information about machines software and handling both is here:
Go to the forum. Beside alot of pros from around the globe you will also find a lot of hobbyists there. Maybe you get the chance to contact one of them and have a look on there setup before spending alot of money. You will also finde alot of adresses there for machines, tools, materials and so on.
As far as wood is concerned, hard maple is a very good one and is not necessary to have endgrain, but the wood has to be 100% propper seasoned, or you can also go for the strong beech-plywood used in patternmaking. This is designed to be machined.

Wish you good results and much fun