Standing-up type for storage

Dear Briar Press,

I want to use some trays/drawers (of the California Job) for some type. Currently there is already some type in one of the drawers. I want to take this type out and keep/store it somewhere for use later.

- Could I just collect the type into a small box and “stand” them on their “feet”?

- I see types being sold on eBay, standing on metal galleys. I’m wondering if the seller has put something (e.g. wax) at the bottom of the galley to make the type stick and stand-up.


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The trays/drawers you’re referring to are called cases. California refers to the particular layout of a case of which there are many kinds such as New York, Yankee, News, etc.

It’s common to store fonts of type on galleys. Set a galley with the open end to the left as you face it on a slanted surface such as the bank of a type cabinet or some expedient in such a way that it won’t slide around. This will keep the type on its feet until you tie it up and help when unloading the stick. Set the type in the stick as if you were setting copy starting with a 6 point slug on the bottom with 2 point leads between lines. It’s possible to set it solid, i.e. without leads but this is harder to do and the leads make it very easy.

When the stick is full, i.e when you get about a 1/4 of the way from the top, empty the stick onto the galley so that the lines of type are parallel with the bottom of the galley (to your right) and into the lower right corner as you face the galley. The tops of the characters which were upside down in the stick should be towards the bottom of the galley in the same relationship. I wish I had a photo since that would make it instantly clear. And I would certainly recommend you pick up several of the standard works such as General Printing and Platen Press Operation, etc. if you haven’t already. They give far better explanations than I do.

Keep loading the stick and emptying it adding to the type already in the galley until all the type is out of the case. When I do this I find that setting the stick anywhere around 26 to 28 picas or so gives a good width to length (height) ratio for the type form for normal job fonts. Use a smaller setting for small fonts.

It’s not a bad idea to set the type alphabetically. This will allow you to pull a proof for future reference and easily see if you are out of sorts or short a few. Later when you distribute the type into a case this will make it easier. It will also help you learn the lay oif the case. Once all the type is in the galley tie it up with string. This will keep it from being pied (dumped into a mess) and you can easily remove it from the galley as necessary.

One thing to keep in mind is that many printers lacking space would double and even triple lay a case meaning that they would have two and sometimes three fonts in the case. Usually the fonts were different faces in different sizes so that it was easy to distinguish them from one another.

To specifically answer your questions:

1. It’s better to tie up the type on a galley first and then box or wrap it. Type sold by founderies was and is packaged this way.

2. You don’t need any kind of wax or other substance to keep the type in place.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

Here is a link to tying a form from General Printing, by Cleeton & Pitkin, 1953, McKnight & McKnight Publishing Co., Bloomington, Il., pages 38 & 39. Please click the link below:


when tying up a form wet the string first, then tie the form, when the string dries it will shrink and become tight. good luck dick g.

I have never composed type upside down, it could be a little rough on the face, I was taught to grasp the type between the thumb and forefinger and the middle fingers of the left and right hand, squeeze and slide the type onto the galley, then tie it up

I might add that if the old journeyman who taught me to set type (plural) ever saw me put type upside down thats where I would end up, upside down and out the door.

Not face down but with the character on the face upside down as in normal composition, i.e. the nicks towards the bottom of the stick and then when unloaded towards the bottom of the galley, the bottom of the galley being the side opposite the open end. Perhaps my terminology was unclear, or my explanation, or both.


Front Room Press
Milford, NJ

One tip I learnt from an old compositor, in my apprentice days some 60 yrs ago was if you have a solid set forme ( no leading) the best way to handle it and prevent pieing it is to spray a little water onto it; binding the type together for a short time until the water evaporates.

Rich: Thank you for the precise instruction. I actually understand it (ie. that the galley needs to have its open side facing left, since I will be holding the composing stick in my left hand). I will try this.

Paul & Dick: Thanks for the tying-up instructions and photos.

Bern & Vern: Thanks or inputs. Spraying water never occurred to me. The lead type won’t rust, but wouldn’t the galleys rust?

the galley could rust, we use a little type wash on the type when its still in the stick, really helps hold the type together. good luck dick g.