Quoins - new vs used

Recent discussion about quoins reminded me of a question I’ve had for years. Did original, new, out-of-the-box from the manufacturer quoins have a rough surface where the connecting quoins rubbed? Or… were they always smooth? I’ve used many quoins, and seen hundreds, but never have I seen a new, unused pair as it would have come from the factory.

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If you’re speaking of the old wedge type quoins, yes, the casting on the inner surface was as rough as the surface on the outside. I have a full box of new No. 2 Challenge quoins as proof.

Never cared to use the old wedge type quoins. In the mid 60s when was starting in letterpress I owned many. After a few locks came apart on the press,I saved up and purchased the speed style.

The wedge type quoins work great on proof press with less movement.

A long time ago in U.K. standard quoin keys could usually be re squared with replaceable inserts, often with double ended facility i.e. standard one end, reversible to narrow margin on the other end.!!!
Wedge style keys were a different story, so we made our own THUS:- few inches of mild steel bar, 1/4” or 3/8”
2 or 3 practices, and then in a normal bench vice 4 flutes filed into 4 flats, with 3 cornered file, it did not matter if the flute(s) tapered of to the full square, only a small %age of genuine keys mesh with the teeth on the quoins, then one of 2 options either 3” of round bar at 1/2” with 1/4” round hole (of course) opened out with a square file to accomodate the shaft of the key!!! not exactly rocket science, or second option, small bi-hexagonal socket to fit exactly (interference fit) onto key shaft and operated with *T* bar from minature socket set, exactly as screwing/unscrewing small nuts, D.I.Y. wedge key for a few cents???
Long service need, merely (well documented) gentle hardening of the tip, *first grade at Senior School* not that hi tech.?? …Just made one (Wedge Key) for a new devotee who wants to stay as traditional as possible, printing small posters with Wood Type & Wedge keys, I cheated and welded the *T* handle, as opposed to filing a square. My effort is in use!! for which I traded 5 kilos of usable lead type. Apologies for the ramble, or Good Luck

John… Yes it was the cast wedge quoins that I was referring to…. the type primarily used late 1800’s-1940’s+/-.
Aaron… The hi-speed quoins were a vast improvement as you say.
Mick… I’m amazed that you haven’t cast a press of your own yet.

Common sense would make me think printers periodically roughed-up the mating surfaces to provide additional grip. I just never read any discussion of them doing so. Over the years I’ve broken down a number of old forms and the quoins were always smooth and worn.

I once purchased a box of Challenge Quoins which were described as new, and the box was pristine.
The quoins looked unused everywhere except for the shiny, smooth, angled surfaces. Led to my confusion. I think John clarified my suspicions.

Thanks for your responses.

I was looking at some old Challenge wedge quions we have and noticed that there is a letter and number stamped on the top of the quoin (eg. B32). Anyone know what these would indicate?


I had always assumed that the numbers were used to identify the pattern used when casting that particular quoin. If a number of quoins turned up defective, it would be easy to chase the problem back to the offending pattern and fix it.

I’m assuming a number quoins were cast from a single pour, the number and letter probably indicate which ‘parent pattern’ and pattern that particular quoin came from. An simple way to check this theory is to find two quoins with the same marking, and compare the imperfections.