What is this tool, used to transfer type into chase?

While visiting the print shop at the Gutenberg Museum in Germany I was handed a tool to use to transfer type from the composing stick into the chase.

It was a piece of solid brass, about 4 points thick, with small “out-notches” at either end.

I found it quite useful, and would like to acquire one for myself, but I don’t know what it’s called!

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It is called a setting rule. They usually come in sets from about 4 picas to 60 picas. The one you show has a 28 stamped on it, so it is a 28 pica rule. There are also setting rules that have an ‘ear’ on one end, and a notch on the other so the rule can be tipped up and out from one side, rather than lifted from both sides. See in the photo below: Top row L to r: setting rule, correcting rule. Bottom: Setting rule or correcting rule (I just ran out to the shop and made this with an old brass printer’s rule, bench grinder, file and sandpaper).


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This is composing rule. These were used with slider composing sticks:


Not needed with calibrated sticks such as the common American Rouse sticks.

A full wooden box of the brass version of these is a thing of beauty and highly treasured by collectors. Commands quite the price.


Even with a calibrated stick composing/setting rules are very handy when setting type solid (without leading between the lines). It allows you to set a line, slip the rule out, and place it for the next line to be set. In looking through my letterpress manuals it seems that in the U.S. they seem to be called Composing and Make-up Rules, and in Britain they are called Setting and Correcting Rules. They are almost unknown in the U.S., which is a real shame, because they are a real asset to a complete shop.


Most of these i have seen, have been, as DTP said fashioned from redundant and or damaged brass rule , a good use for something that is no longer suitable for printing . letterpress is the home of the inventive minds !!

NA Graphics had some copies of the Star Makeup Rule produced a few years back. They are only available in a single pica width of 13 picas- newspaper column width, I presume?


Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

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Setting Rule, as a trained typesetter you kept a box with new quads (48 pt) close by were you worked, and you sue it for nothing else than setting your stick. The stick is set with new quads to the desired with , tight.
You than use the corresponding setting rule, because it’s nickel plated, type slides real easy against it, drop it in the stick and set your Line, once the Line is justified, pull the setting line and place on top of the set line of type and commence.
Once the stick is filled, the Line, which has a angled blade at the bottom, is inserted at the backwall of the stick, use your thumps to push your ears forward and your fingers to apply pressure on the lines of type coming out of the stick.
Once you are used to it, it’s a piece of cake to transfer type out of the stick. Back in the days than I worked as a Typesetter by hand at Benteli in Switzerland, we had to do 1400 M an hour to make minimum wage. Every mistake cost you :)

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