Beginner: Purchasing Lead / Slugs & Spaces / Quads

Hello, I am a beginner and really interested in purchasing all the necessary supplies needed for my new Kelsey 5 x 8 tabletop.

Spaces and Quads: I found some quads and spaces for sale (I attached pics). But they are sold in strips that need to be cut. Cutting your own pieces from strips, is this something I will be doing alot, or can I order my quads & spaces already cut to the sizes I need? Any ideas on websites where I can order?

Lead and Slugs : Same question goes for lead and slugs. I noticed on NA Graphics, you can purchase strips?

Do most letterpress printers purchase a cutter to add to their equipment?

Thank you for any input!

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Buy a lead & slug cutter. They show up on eBay fairly often. or call up Churchman’s or Letterpress Things (see Yellow Pages here on Briar Bress) and order a used one.

You’ll use it a lot and they’re not too expensive. If necessary you can cut up used strip material when you run out of the appropriate spacing material.

Hello vmh,

I agree with Arie. I’m kind of a newbie, too, and at first I thought that a slug cutter was an esoteric machine that I might get “some day.” But I happened to run across a cheap one so I bought it, and now I don’t know how I could work without it. It’s important that your leading be just the right length or you’ll have trouble getting your form to lock up properly. I was trained to make all of my forms in increments of 5 picas wide, so I suppose that you could get precut leading in lengths of, say, 15, 20, 25, etc., but you’d have a lot more flexibility with your own cutter. You have to make sure that your leads are slightly shorter than your line of type so that you lock up your type and not the leading. Also, if you do any work with ornaments or other pieces where you might use the leading vertically, a slug cutter would be a must.

I haven’t heard of anyone cutting their own quads and spacing. Is this done? The spacing in your photo could be useful as it is to fill out short lines.


Quads and spaces aren’t sold in strips. They are cast to size, and can be purchased new from any type foundry (M&H, Quaker City, etc.). The packages you show are mis-labelled.
Leads and slugs are cut from strip material, but I think NA Graphics can sell you fonts already cut to size. Even so, a lead and slug cutter is useful, whether the tabletop variety (often on eBay) or the light handheld clipper made by Rouse.

I don’t cut anything thicker than 6 point slugs on my lead & slug cutter. It’s a small Golding that I picked up early in my letterpress days. Before that I cut with an old pair of scissors….that works but is not ideal.

Strip material does come in thicknesses up to 18 point and probably even thicker. Those you’d have to cut with a table saw like a Hammond Glider, etc. specifically made for cutting type metal. I’ve got a Glider but haven’t had an opportunity to use it yet.

I often cut up used leads and slugs to when I was starting out and didn’t have much spacing material to go with the little type I had. I have much more cast spacing now and don’t resort to it very often any more. Mostly I now do this around odd sizes of cuts. Owosso Graphic Arts is my favorite cut maker (usually copper mounted on wood) but they don’t cut to picas, so there is often the odd bit that needs additional spacing to lock up securely with the type surrounding it.

For a 12 point font, a 6 point slug can be cut, carefully, into en quads. A 2 point lead is a 6 to the em space. A 2 point and a 1 point lead equals 4 to the em. Two 2 point lead pieces is the same as a 3 to the em space. Etc. Doesn’t work out quite as neatly for 10 point and smaller but you can make it look good of you work at it.

When I started out, I didn’t have much in the way of brass and copper thin spaces either. Carefully cut pieces of card stock makes an acceptable if not exact substitute. For that I used the scissors.

Locking up a form with improvised spacing can be tricky, so you need to check your lock up carefully to avoid problems with type springing up or falling out.

I am also beginning to set up my press shop and I am looking for leading. I missed the answer to that one in the thread above.

Where can I find leading?

Also, I have had some luck using a pair of tin snips on lead (mostly the thinner stuff). That is what I plan on doing until I am able to get a slug cutter. Measure with a pica pole and score a line with a nail or stylus then snip snip! It is tough to get your cut square, but it can be done. Obviously, the slug cutter is a better option, but not the only option.


I have a lead & slug cutter for sale. The ad is in the classfieds.

try excelsior press, i think alan will cut leads and slugs to any size you want.

Wood furniture all sizes.
Challenge Hi speed quoins & keys (used in good condition) 4 1/2”, 10 1/2”,and 12”