Wood type without a press?

I have a set of wood type I’m using for a design project, and I’m planning on doing this without a press…

I have the ink, brayer and cleaning supplies. Now I just need a way to “lockup,” to lock the letters together so they are solid when I print.

Way back in the day, when I was a design student, I did a residency at Hamilton. I remember using something to lock a series of letters together so that I could ink them, place the paper on top, and use a clean brayer to make an impression. Now I have no idea how we did that.

Can anybody help with this one?

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They can easily be wedged into any rectangular frame by using long thin woden wedges in pairs.

In so doing, you’d be duplicating the method of locking up a chase using side and foot sticks that was standard until around the mid C19 when first iron side and foot sticks, and later mechanical quoins (e.g. hempel and wickersham) superseded wood.

The first two images on this page show pairs of hempel quoins at the upper side of the forme; wooden side and foot sticks would be used in pairs in a similar manner.

In other fields, pairs of wedges used in a similar manner are termed folding wedges. The fifth image on this page shows a pair of folding wedges http://bradfieldwoodscentre.blogspot.co.uk/2011_03_01_archive.html

Sorry, first page address didn’t paste. It was http://www.hevanet.com/ashiogi/lockup.htm

This is a good start. I’m kinda relearning all of this from scratch but I am starting to get an idea of how to do this.

Is there any good tutorial for how to lock up a printer chase using either of the techniques you’ve laid out? Can you suggest a good place where I can acquire some of these materials?

…or, you could get magnets to lock your type in place, You can get these from Letterpress things in MA, and elsewhere.

A really “low-tech” method that I have used is to get double-faced tape (an ATM dispenser is good for this); adhere your wood type to a cardboard base, ink the type with a brayer, and lay your sheet on by hand (you might rig up a guide to properly position it). I’m presuming you will then burnish with a wooden spoon or the link.

If you’re trying to do this without regular printing equipment you’ll be fighting it all the way. If you have access to a table saw and you understand how to use it, you could get a piece of 3/4 inch plywood several inches larger than the project and use the table saw to “plunge-cut” out a chase opening a bit larger than the project. Then using some of the scrap, cut 4 long skinny wedges and use them to lock up your type in the plywood chase, on a smooth flat surface.

If you decide to try the 2-sided tape approach, carpet tape from Lowe’s or Home Depot would be a good choice as it’s wider than ordinary 2-sided tape and pretty strong.


Two-sided tape is not a bad idea.

MAGNETS. I think that galley magnets may be what I’m looking for. If I can find an appropriately sized steel plate, I think I might be able to make this work.

Tie up the forme, and then use magnets to keep it from shifting easily. This is an old proofing method.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Thanks for your help everyone!