I’m new to Briar Press, but have recently been interested in making a typeface for wood type. I’d like to take my type design skills one big step further and actually get a typeface on some 0.918 inch-tall wood blocks. :)
Does anyone know where a good place to order custom wood type would be? As a university student, my budget is not the largest, so I’m looking for somewhere that has a good price. I’d probably get a 3A set of (probably 2-inch) letters. I’ve been looking around a little bit but I thought the online experts would know for sure!
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Tudor Petrescu in Romania makes excellent wood type.
Scott Moore at Moore Wood Type is a great resource stateside. For a custom font, you are probably looking at having something cut on a CNC or laser cutter. I don’t know what your budget looks like, but I would assume a custom font of that size would be in the 400-600 dollar range.
A handful of people are making wood type for themselves, all you really need are some tools that most universities have and maybe a friend with some woodworking skills. A couple of things to keep in mind:
1. Face grain is way cheaper and easier to source than end grain. It is not as hard, but is historically used for larger fonts and would still last thousands of prints if you are using hard maple or an equivalent. Just source some thicker stuff and then run it through a planer and sand smooth (which most universities have in the wood shop).
2. Laser cutters are pretty easy. You can either laser cut your new font directly onto your wood or mount a thinner material that you have cut onto a base. Plexiglas and acrylic are a similar hardness to hard maple and can be cut with lasers quickly and with just a vector file of your font. It can then be mounted with epoxy to something you have planed down to .918 minus the thickness of your acrylic.
It can be a big project and does not look as pretty, but with the help of a university laser cutter I have made custom fonts for myself for about a tenth of the price you can purchase them.
You can find type high wood at
Call a Hardwood lumber supplier and ask if they have 5/4 Hard maple and can finish (plain and sand) the wood for you at or near .918 or .920. The finished wood will vary .001 - .003. Most of my wood type is .918 - .926 so even the the manufacturing process 120 years ago was inconsistent.
Purchase 5/4 hard maple and have it finished as stated above. If the type is cut by Router then ask what size wood (length and width) is best for that model of router. Usually you can gain several characters up on a piece of wood. Example: a finished piece of wood cut down to 12” x 8” x .918” could yield a lot of 6 or 8 line type.
You can set the type in Adobe Illustrator or similar vector program. Set the line height you want cut, gang several up depending on the size of wood. A CAD program is the next step where you’ll decide the depth of cut using several different bits. This could cost a $$ for the processing time. Vectric VCarve Pro CAD Program is an excellent program.
Hope this helps,
Inky Lips Press
As Thomas says, Delia & Tudor Petrescu make very good wood type. Bear in mind that modern equipment (laser/CNC) will allow very fine detail which old pantographic cutting systems would not allow, and this is not always desirable as very fine hairlines can easily break during cleaning.
Steve Garst, you mentioned using acrylic or plexiglass. I have also heard that ink can be difficult on this material. Are you satisfied with the results? I’d love to see some pictures if possible. Does it stick well; oil-based better than rubber based?
I hope you are on your way to some wood type, Hannah!