Which spacers, which quoins, which leads and slugs?


I’m just getting started with my Kelsey 6x10, and am gathering my materials list in order to outfit my press.

I’m planning to buy some Caslon 12pt and 18pt to start with…and now I’m trying to figure out what I will need regarding spacers, leads, and slugs, and quoins. I will be printing “broadsides” of poems, etc.

BUT WHAT SPECIFIC SIZES of the above items will i need for that type size, and given that size chase?

The difficulty is that there is no store where one can go to LOOK at items and make intuitive decisions about size.

I know i need these items, but I don’t which SIZES i need.

This list is full of such generous people, to be answering everyone all the time. I hope to do the same once I am up to speed.


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For the 12 and 18 point type you’ll need a quantity (depending on the font sizes) of 3-to-em (the usual size for word spaces), 4-to-em, and 5-to-em spaces as well as en and em quads, and for much poetry setting 2-em quads are also very useful. The supplier of the type should be able to furnish these. You’ll have to decide what line length you plan to use depending on your page size and layout. Your line length will determine the lengths of leads (2-point thick) and slugs (6-point thick) and the number of lines you’ll want to set at a time will determine the quantity of each. I mostly use 2 point leads when setting 12 point and double them for something as large as 18 point. Leading (space between lines) should be your aesthetic decision based on the layout and type face.

Hope that helps.


The usual quads and spaces for use with a font are those with boxes provided in a type case:

3M quads
M quads
N quads
3M spaces
4M spaces
5M spaces

Traditionally 3M spaces are used between words so the box for them is the largest to hold a lot. You’ll need quads and spaces for the point size of each font you have.

The most commonly used leads and slugs are 2 point leads and 6 point slugs. Most lead and slug cases are designed to hold quantities of each of these in the most commonly used even pica lengths from about 4 to 28. You’ll likely want to focus on the middle ground sizes between those numbers unless you can stock up on a full case or know what size range of broadsides you’ll be printing.

Generally speaking, quoins can be the iron wedge type, Wickersham, or Challenge High Speed. The iron wedge type are readily available and inexpensive while not as convenient as the other two. The Challenge are the easiest to use and perhaps have the best and most even gripping power but are the most expensive. The iron wedge type have been used for over a hundred years and are more than satisfactory.

You’ll need furniture and reglet as well. If you write to my friend Alan Runfeldt of the Excelsior Press he has starter kits of all of the above items for sale.

[email protected] press.org

All of the above is very basic. Check a few of the standard works on letterpress printing like Platen Press Operation or Elementary Platen Press Operation. Here’s a site that lists many resources:



Front Room Press
Milford, NJ