Using Ludlow matrices without Ludlow type caster

I have two type cases full of brass Ludlow matrices and all the accessories associated with a Ludlow type caster. (Please don’t ask about the type caster - it will make you cry).

Is there a way to use these matrices without the type caster. i.e. can I melt lead in a smelting pot and pour into the matrices using a ladle?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s essentially what the Ludlow type casting machine did - or am I missing something important?

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You’re missing the injection process and finishing process, wherin the casting machine injects lead into a mold through jets that would be heading up from the bottom of the slug (iirc); after this the slug with characters cast atop it is ejected and run up against a knife that cuts the bottom slightly and makes it the correct height.

I think you’d be hard pressed to duplicate this process in a safe way without the machine itself, even with all the proprietary tools you seem to have.

Look up a type-o-fix casting machine on here and have a look.

I need a good cry tell me what happened.

What Ludlow Fonts do you have?

find someone with a Ludlow and see if they would let you cast it on their machine, maybe call Theo Bell so you both can cry together.

R.B.C. Sir, Sincere commiserations, (bin there done that, got the “T” shirt etc. but with Monotype equipment).
Good thinking, in trying to re utilise but virtually impossible, because even though Type-O-Fix or derivative may seem to offer an olive branch, Ludlow Mats, as With Linotype/Intertype mats, are made/constructed with every mat, struck with open sides to abut the previous/next character and in both cases the metal (lead) is contained on casting, by the stop ends of the Ludlow Setting stick or the equivalent on the Lino.!!!!!
In the case of Mats (matrices) for use with a Type-O-fix, (sometimes, hand graved/cut) or as with Monotype, the Mats are struck as individual, stand alone items, the face of the character is struck/driven into a blank and contained top/bottom left/right, to produce, stand alone Mono, (Singular) characters.
It would appear to dictate that, some serious engineering expertise would be involved.???? To produce a special purpose Matrix holder.
Unless of course one has a Buddy with access to the back door of Fort Knox, or A.B.N.C. Banknote Printing Plant, just a thought… . Do some homework with your Mats, (if all else fails) i.e. interesting size or face, may generate some goodwill or payback. … Good Luck

Mick, thought you might have been on vacation.

Dick, Apologies didnt mean to demeen your suggestion, *top hole, Sir* but keeping in mind the distance(s) you Good ole Boys have to contend with, just nipping 200 miles down the Interstate to get a line cast might be expensive???
Because the U.K. is probably smaller than Texas, end to end, and most everybody within the Game knows or knows of L/Press Fanatics, Know alls, Old goats etc I have to remember, that distance has to be taken into account.!!!
In U.S.A. Context.!!! Obviously the wide open spaces can be a double edged sword.
As witness the other day, when One of your colleagues was pleased to observe that there was another, (Lady) L/Press printer within The State.
SEE **Back Posts/Archives about 3/4 days ago.???
Dick No vacation, just, 1,000 miles round trip to collect a cornucopia of Monotype equipment, before the snow gets there, (Edinburgh) its in the Highlands of Scotland already, the borders are only 150 miles south.
Apologies and regards. Mick
>>> Chairman of the U.K. Old Goat Society.<<<

HavenPress is quite correct that there’s more to a type-casting or line-casting machine than just pouring in typemetal. But you have some options.

As Dick noted, if you want slugs of type the easiest thing to do would be to find a friend with a Ludlow.

If you want individual types, then the best approach would be to find someone with a typecasting machine with suitable mold equipment to handle Ludlow matrices. This is possible, for example, on the Thompson. (It might be possible on the Monotype Supercaster - it could do just about anything - but I don’t really know.) Ludlow molds for the Thompson are relatively scarce, though. Skyline Type Foundry is now equipped to cast from Ludlow mats (and just cast Ludlow Stygian Black; see ) I have a Ludlow mold for my Thompson, but, sadly, discovered it was a bit worn and needs some time with a machinist before it can do any production work.

In theory, you could also make a hand mold suitable for Ludlow mats. Type so cast would of course also require subsequent work (dressing, plowing the foot), but for 400 years hand molds were state-of-the-art. Here are some photographs of a hand mold:

The best reference for hand molds remains Stan Nelson’s article “Mold Making, Matrix Fitting, and Hand Casting” which appeared in the journal “Visible Language,” Vol. 19, No. 1 (Winter, 1985): 106-121. This article is still in copyright, though, so you’ll have to track down a physical copy of this journal.

Stan has made some beautiful hand molds. They aren’t complex devices, but I don’t know of anyone else who has made one. (I have not; I should.)

As HavenPress also noted, there were various machines for doing more-or-less “emergency” or makeshift typecasting. Most of these involved also making a temporary matrix from an existing type, not using an existing mat. At time they also involved improvising the equipment. Stan Nelson has done this as a demonstration. Stephen O. Saxe wrote this up in an article:

Saxe, Stephen O. “Following Isaiah Thomas: Casting Sorts in a Composing Stick.” The APHA [American Printing History Association] Newsletter. No. 78 (July/August 1987): 1-2.

This is online at:

However, before you dive into either hand molds or makeshift typecasting, I would very strongly advise that you get some significant hands-on experience with ordinary typecasting and/or linecasting machinery. Typecasting can be done safely, but there are also ways that it can “bite” a beginner and cause serious injury. (I assume you’re a beginner because you speak of a “smelting” pot. “Smelting” is the process of reducing metal from its ores; it does not occur in typecasting. You meant “melting.”)

To take an example, there is a video online which shows a demonstration of hand-casting (in Spain) using a mold that seems to have been rigged from an old typecasting machine mold of some kind. After casting, the demonstrator plunges the mold into a bucket of water to cool it. I pointed an experienced hand caster at this video, and he was horrified. If any moisture remained in the mold, then on the next cast it would flash into steam and expel molten typemetal under great pressure. A beginner’s mistake such as this - something which might not be apparent if you did not have experience casting metal - could injure someone very seriously.

In summary, it would seem that the best thing to do would be to get these matrices into the hands of someone either with a Ludlow or with a Thompson or other type-caster equipped to handle them. There are in theory other options, but there are no other easy options - they all require a serious committment to learning to cast type. (Though, speaking from experience, learning to cast type is a wonderful path to take in life - if this is your start on that path, I wish you success.)

David M.

From my persective, a Ludlow is easier to get than a good run of mats. Machines are sometimes given away—that’s how I got mine—but you have to pay for good mats, higher than scrap value of brass.
The only existing options for casting are a Ludlow or a Thompson with Ludlow molds (were they ever made for Supercaster?).While hand casting is a theoretical possibilty, nobody has made hand-molds for Ludlow mats, even in text sizes.

Swing by southeastern Massachusetts and we’ll cast type for you on our Ludlow, better yet i’ll show you how and you can cast your own, just replace the metal you take and i’ll be happy. Parallel imp is right, machines are given away or sold for about scrap price, there might be one coming up for sale in my area.

A well tooled Super Caster has lots of matrix holders, however none were made for Ludlow mats. On a tangent, I once fitted up an adaptor for Linotype matrices, the ideal match would be English Lino matrices which I’m told are 0.050” depth of drive, same as Monotype.


Thank you all for your insightful comments. I really didn’t think the idea through and had forgotten that the lead is injected into the mold. I figured, at most, I would have to figure out how to trim the slug to type high.

David M: your link to the hand mold was very informative and the mold itself was a work of art… way beyond my skill level.

I will be on the watch for a donor or next to nothing Ludlow in my area. As a new retiree, gone are the days of traveling the country picking up letterpress equipment. I live in central Illinois.

For those interested, I picked up the Ludlow et. al. after traveling to St. Louis to pick up a pair of type cabinets I purchased on Ebay. The seller practically gave them to me. I returned home to find the farmer down the road who used to unload equipment into my barn for me with his tractor has passed. The Ludlow sat, covered with a tarp, on the back of my trailer for 2 years. Even covered, the moisture had made the machine a giant block of rust with a few bits of brass piping. It ended up in the scrap yard.

I was still a novice and didn’t realize the importance of what I had. It’s one of those “If I knew then what I know now scenarios.” And I would have made more effort to find logistics help.

Keeps the posts coming though. I am learning a great deal.

You should check with Dave Seat, he travels the country fixing these machines, if there is anything near you for sale he would know about it.

do you still have your matrix cabinet? I have the reverse problem: the Ludlow machine with very few matrix.