Honey, I will move the furniture again, but why?

Howdy all. Pneubie question.

While defining terms related to letterpress has been relatively easy, I am wondering about why we use the word ‘furniture’ when referring to spacing? Not the definition of it, but why …

I am confident someone in this deep knowledge-stream will know.


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Surely because it furnishes the space between the type page and the chase!

a Type page would be called Form corecctly

No, the forme is the name given to type page imposed with furniture and quoins in the chase - the complete forme ready for printing.

Because it is/was wood

My go to for contemporary letterpress terminology, and that means the 1920s and 30s, is R. T. Porte’s Dictionary of Printing Terms originally printed in 1923. Porte established the Franklin Estimating system and his business is still in operation. His definition for furniture was: “Pieces of metal or wood, less than type-high, cast or cut to multiples of pica ems, used to place between or around pages or other composed matter in a form for the purpose of filling out blank space and to aid in fastening the form to the chase.”

My other source is MacKellar’s “American Printer” published in numerous editions starting in 1866 where he mentions “furniture” a number of times but apparently didn’t define the term.

Note that “form” is the usual American spelling, “forme” is the British usage.

small accessories or fittings for a particular use or piece of equipment.
That’s what furniture is regardless if used in cabinet making ,gun making, or printing. They all refer to certain elements as furniture.

Thanks to all who weighed in. If you are inclined to read, we close this thread with a post from another collection of knowledge, LETPRESS:

“The question has been asked, why the larger pieces of spacing in a letterpress form are called ‘’furniture.’’ And several members offered an explanation.

Well………………… I have never read such claptrap in all my life. None of you seem to have the sense of a goonie bird. Utter nonsense and drivel.

The correct answer is that in the old days this spacing was made from salvage furniture or left overs or ‘’oopsies,’’ from the furniture factories. I mean why waste such valuable pieces of wood when the need in the composing room was so urgent.

This my friends as the start of the re-cycling or re-purposed movement. You know, waste not, want not. And besides the price was much better than dedicated spacing fashioned from new material.

I really was surprised that this question was asked at all considering the ordinary, astuteness of some of the members of this fine Canadian List, sponsored by the University of New Brunswick.

Now I should fess up that old used and recycled household furniture was used, so was the old furnishings of large commercial buildings. You know, doors, window casings, hand railings. But wait, I am misleading you. Most by far of the hand railings where used to make planners for plaining down forms of type prior to locking up. This made beautiful plainers. I still have several in my old shop. And the beauty of this was the wood of hand rails is of such good quality. Two of the ones that I have left are hard rock maple and one is birds eye maple. Yea and yowsah.

Another source, of wood, but seldom available was the timber salvaged from the old Man of War square rigged 100 gun sailing ships that were salvaged in England during the transition to steam powered ships. Those were sad days my friends.

Also much of the source of wood in the days of the first settlement of the old west was from filched railway ties. Saskatchewan Printers was pore, but rather resourceful upon occasion.

There was along time rumour that city printers would in the still of the night go out to the near by farms and prise boards off of abandoned barns. But this is not true, as barnwood just plain smells so bad and staff employees complained so much.

I am near tuckered out now and have to lay down my poor head and rest a spell

More little known history about the orgins and etymology of printers words to follow just as soon as I can make them up…………. er, remember to remember what the hay, I am talking about.


The Old Master Himself.

Phil Ambrosi of Regina, aka, Kanterous Kermudgeon Canada Ink.”