My First Lock-up…(can’t get it tight) PICS


This is my first attempt at setting type and locking up a form. My problem is that I have no experience, and little reference.

I thought I would post a pic of this attempt to let folks tell me what I should be doing to get this right. Furniture placement, Quion placement, leads and slugs, what-have-you. I’m just putting this out there. Any constructive criticism would be great! This is going to be a broadside once I get it figured out. I haven’t even proofed it yet, of course.

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Your lockup has many problems with it, too many to cover in a comment! One is, it looks like there are three quoins?
Put this aside for now. There are many sites on the Internet that will cover this. Perhaps buy Cleeton & Pitkins or Ralph Polks books on elementary printing. You certainly wouln’t drive an 18-wheeler on the freeway without instructions or practice, so why do that with printing?
Buy the book, study, study, study!

I do know that I have many problems to work out. Thanks for the note about the quoins. And I’ll check out those books!

As a beginner, I can confirm that the books mentioned (and also Paul Maravelas’ “Letterpress Printing”) are very much worth getting. As an interim, here’s a quickly thrown together page with bibliographic information on these (and Frank Henry’s earlier work, which is online on Google Books) and scans of pp. 70-75 of Cleeton (3rd ed.) on locking up forms (Cleeton, 3rd ed., is in the public domain).

David M. MacMillan

Hi Chris,
Obviously you are in need of basic tuition; as one who spent 50 years in the letterpress trade and an ex graphic art student and teacher maybe I can help by outlining a few basic steps.

1. Always set the whole of a simple job to the same measure, or width of line.
2. Determine your lay edges ( usually left and base of the forme)
3, A solid piece of furniture at the lay edges ( no butting-up 2 pieces)
4. Place your type against these two pieces of furniture.
5. Then add furniture to the top and right edges of your type, making sure that the area outlined by the red circle does not bind when locked up.
6. Add a quoin to the top and right furniture. and fill the remaining space with furniture or reglets, and lock-up.
7. Lift the base of the forme about half an inch and test for lifting by gently pressing on the type.
8. If all is well, lower the forme, unlock a little, gently plane with a mallet & planer and relock.
9.You should now be ready to print.

image: lock up_2.jpg

lock up_2.jpg

Try to take a look at this flickr group
Gott grüß die Kunst

Chris: Many thanks to Bern Bennett for his suggestions. After printing out your photo and enlarging it, seems like you’re using a left-handed stick or you’re standing on your head. Looking at your form with a small mirror would help you to see what you’ve done, then distribute this form and start all over again. Also see:
Good luck, have patience, start with a line or two, lock it up, proof it to get the hang of it before you take on a page.

Bern, I think the lockup you show would be better with the lower piece of furniture shorter on the right end so that the piece of furniture on the right can extend beyond it for a true chaser style lockup. As it is now, pressure from the upper quoin on the right side of the form will be limited while on the left side it will not. In other words, there will be uneven pressure over that side of the form.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Stan is right. You have everything backwards. You’d probably better return this to the composing stick…


Hi Rich,
I specifically stated that the area outlined by the red circle should not bind, therefore the pressure will be equal.
If the lines of type are in a horizontal position then ideally the furniture butting the type at the top of the forme will be the same as the line measure; if the lines are in a vertical position then the furniture butting the type at the right of the forme should be the same measure as the type lines.

I’d take issue with the statement that all l;ines must be set to same length. It is very common to use other elements to fill out a solid type form other than setting the whole thing to the same measure in the stick. Metal and wood furniture can be used as such elements, or large hollow quads are also used this way.It does, however require that the entire assembled form must be a solid rectangular shape which can be locked up firmly in the chase.

In Christopher’s example there are some areas of the type form which are not receiving proper pressure.


My statement was for the benefit of someone just starting to learn letterpress, and includes the adjective “simple.”

Let the newbie learn basic typesetting, then they can progress to using the different spacing materials to correctly dress the forme.

For precision one should never use wooden furniture within the rectangular type area.

Bern: Yes, I somehow missed your comment about the detail in the red circle and you’re correct. But for myself I prefer a true chaser in which none of the furniture is exactly the length of any side of the form, all pieces being somewhat longer and staggered around it. That leaves no gaps, full contact pressure on all sides, and insures no “bottoming out” of one piece of furniture on the other. Of course, special situations call for exceptions.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ