Announcing the Virgin Wood Type Manufacturing Company

I recently acquired the font patterns and pantograph that used to be used by the American Wood Type Manufacturing Company and have everything set up to begin producing wood type from the antique patterns.

I have the pantograph up and running and am learning how to produce type high end grain maple to carve into fonts. Yesterday I carved an 8A 6 line capital font from the pattern “Rugged” which is a copy of Neuland. Later today I am going into the print shop to see if I can lock up the type without it springing out of the form and to see if the type is consistently the same height. If it prints and all I will be ready to start producing type that would be useable.

I am considering this as all “beta” at this point because I have a lot to learn and a lot of work figuring out how much to charge and what kind of service I will be offering.

Any and all suggestions and encouragement is appreciated.


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Go Bill!!!
Good Luck

Neuland in wood interests me, please post some pictures.

Neuland yes. I would like to see too. Good luck and keep us posted.

Here is a photo of Rugged in its virgin state.

The patterns are ancient routed plywood that have seen better days. The plywood is varnished and around 27 picas high and some of the edges are warn away. The U is especially bad.

image: Rugged-virgin (Neuland).jpg

Rugged-virgin (Neuland).jpg

That looks promising! Worn patterns could always be replaced I presume. Have you printed any of them yet?

OK. Here are the prints.

I need to make a note about what I am testing for here—mainly can I make a large number of letters type high so that they will stay in the chase and print without a lot of makeready. My conclusion is that I am getting there.

The printing surface is almost there. I will try sealing the surface with shellac and try to lessen the grain that is showing on these prints. Maybe all wood type shows more grain on its maiden printing—until the ink has had a chance to fill in the larger pores.

I need to acquire a real type saw (Hamilton Glider or equivalent). The blocks were square enough to lock up, but could still be better. Also it is a bit terrifying to saw little things in a regular table saw.

As you may be able to tell by the roughness of the outlines, I need to work a bit on technique on the pantograph and learn what it takes to “finish” the type. My pantograph has 2 cutting heads and I think I need to perfect one cutter doing rough work and the other cutter doing the edges with a smaller bit.

I am soliciting any advice that you have on making my type better.


image: RuggedPart2.jpg


image: RuggedPart1.jpg


Engraving on a Pantograph is done with Endmills or engravers. A engraver has a pointed Tip , a endmill a straight shank form with 2 to 8 Flutes, Endmill allow the rapid removal of materials. Usually one would go from rough to finer endmills, the finer the flutes, the higher the speed, the better the cut and finish.

Typenut—I am trying to get a handle on the bits for this machine. It came with hundreds of what probably are engraver bits. Most of them dull, I suspect.

On some of them I can read a diameter which corresponds to the width of the tip.

My next trial will be to put my 1/8” spiral bit in the first cutting head and get that close to the final outline and put one of the engraver bits in the other cutter to cut the final outline. When I tried the engraving bits to remove all of the non-printing area, it took forever to clear large areas and the outline was not too good either.

This cutting of Rugged was not for getting the finest outline for the typeface—it was to test whether I could get close to type high for many characters and get the bodies square.

Looking good, like something straight out of House Industries.

Keep it up… I wouldn’t mind going down this path some day myself.


Congratulations! This is fantastic. I have a 12-line font of this type. Along with what you have already accomplished with the pantograph router, there is another equally important step that needs to be mastered. All if your inner angles (the M for instance) are rounded because of the nature of the router bit. To get those to a sharp point, some hand cutting with a graver is necessary. This step was all done by hand as the routed type was passed along to the finishing department for this step in the process.


That’s great. Yes, a printer’s saw is pretty much a must. A Hamilton Glider pretty much the best for this kind of work.

Aside from full fonts, if some of the patterns cover the more common wood type faces (the various flavors of Gothic), there will be a tremendous demand for sorts. Also, depending on the ability of the pantograph, cutting duplicates of supplied sorts would be a wonderful service.

If you can keep up the supply of wood, you will have no problem staying busy. I look forward to seeing more from this.

What an amazing feat you are accomplishing. I applaud you, as I’m sure does every member of the letterpress community. May you prosper with every endeavor.

I’m sure that I would be proud to assist you in any way possible as would most anyone here.


Would love to see images of the pantograph machine.



Hi Bill,

I wanted to contact you about an order but my email was bounced. Have you got a new e-address?

Many thanks, Rob Firth [email protected]

Normal practice with these machines was always producing a reduction in size from the template Ideally the end result would be no larger than one third of the master or less ,to preserve nice lines . and obvoiusly hide the imperfections , which by the way you can repair with carpentters stopping and tidy up with a mini tool like a dremel or similar. As for the amount you are having to remove you will normally change cutter from the outline to a larger one for the large areas, its sound awkward but you would normally do runs of blocks in your case ten o’s with the outlines cut then remount for removing the big bits after you have done the detail on the pre run .

Excellent !
All the best with your new enterprise Bill.
Can’t wait to see more posts.

For those who may not have noticed, this thread was started in 2010. Virgin Wood Type’s website is: