Copper and Brass thins

Howdy yall,
So I’ve seen a handful of auctions on eBay for copper and brass spacers and I’m still shocked at the prices they bring.Does anyone manufacture these seemingly simple items at an affordable cost?I certainly hope so…

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Try Excelsior Press in New Jersey, he must have some for sale. If you want to save money you can cut pieces of index card for your thin spaces, i always cut 1 point leads for each size type i had. Dick G.

I don’t know what they cost on eBay but you can buy most sizes from N.A. Graphics online.

NA Graphics actually manufactures them - and they cost less in bulk than in small packets. Of course, they are a specialty item, and the raw material is not cheap either.


Shocked at market prices? Hmm. Simple items? Well find a huge lot of no-longer made one-pt brass or half-pt copper spacing in long strips, pick up a used machine for cutting them into point sizes, and you are in business. Having done these very simple steps, what would you charge, if you went into business selling a very scarce item?

Main problem? finding the strips and the machine.

It’s letterpress. Without customer support, the suppliers go away. If you need the tools, supplies, and equipment, buy them. Stop whining about the pricing. It’s high when you can find it because folks were too cheap to support it when it was available. Thus, it went away.

Folks try to make their own DIY toner-based film or process their own photopolymer plates today because they claim Boxcar and Elum charge too much. Plate processing prices are about the same as they were two decades ago. Silver-based film negatives are even cheaper than they were two decades ago. Support your suppliers or they will go away.

There is a reason no one has bothered to manufacture a high-end printing press for the newly emerged letterpress market; no one would support it. They are too cheap.


The brass and copper situation is not quite as dire as Gerald reports. We have ample supplies of both 1/2 pt copper and 1 pt brass. We can have it rolled and delivered to spec within 10 days and we buy 300 pounds of each metal at a time. Copper has been running over $4.00/lb. on the spot market ( but when rolled to order, the prices go up plus transportation. We use ATF standards for the thickness of the metal.

We own and operate the cutting machine that ATF used and it was built in the 1890s and works like a charm. The point standards came with the machine and have various foundry names stamped on them. The 60 pt standard, as an example, is dated 1887 and is marked for the Central Type Foundry. In addition, we use a point micrometer that came from ATF via Theo Rehak.

Brass and copper are put up in standard ATF 2 ounce boxes. And that’s a lot of spacing. A one pound quantity of any point size is a lifetime or two worth of spacing and I don’t recommend individuals buying that much. We supply bulk brass and copper to Quaker City, Howard Imprinting, and John Barret.

Brass and copper were chosen by the type founders association in 1886 as the standard metals for these point sizes because of the difference in color to easily distinguish the 2 sizes, and for no other reason.

We can make any point size. I just discovered I have some 32 pt type from the Cincinnati Type Foundry so I can make that up and have it running on the machine in a few minutes. We make several custom sizes for Colonial Williamsburg as an example.

When I see the sweepings off the floor being offered on ebay and people actually bid on that junk, I cringe. Excellent new material is easily available and reasonably priced. Our prices have not changed for this material since 1996, and as Gerald points out, many letterpress items have not advanced in price that much in the past few years.

Fritz/NA Graphics

I love the shiny new coppers and brasses I bought from Fritz. What I’d like to know is, where can I get quarter-point steel spacing?



I cut strips of paper (24lb. bond is close to 1/4 pt.) to the height of the spaces and then use my lead and slug cutter to cut it to the proper point size. I’ll admit that it is darned difficult for type sizes lower than 12pt., but it can be done by using the front guide on the slug cutter, set to just a hair less than the type size.

You can also cut index or cover stock down to come close to 1/2 and 1pt. You can use paper color to code the spaces.

1/4 point, i can’t even see 6 pts.if it needs less than coppers i don’t want to set it. Dick G. (try tin foil)

The thing is, John and Dick, I slip thin spaces into lines already set in the stick. You can’t slip in paper or foil because of their floppy nature. For me, the quarter-point steel spacing works beautifully to achieve perfectly even line lengths. I check my line lengths three ways. First I wiggle the line with my thumb to see if it wiggles the exact same way as the other lines (the wiggle, actually, is hardly perceptible). Then I take a small stick and press on the right end of the line to check how much it compresses, which somewhat depends on the number of coppers and brasses in the line, which make it more or less springy. Finally, if I think it might need an additional half or quarter point, I insert a thin space and judge the amount of pressure required to slip the thin space into place for a snug but not forced fit. I can’t tell you how many times a quarter point would have been perfect, if I had one.

So you are looking for a space 1/2 the thickness of a copper, maybe some kind of shim stock, didn’t linotype have a really thin space that was steel and was hand inserted that would fall out of the line as it transfered to the third elevator, or am i dreaming. Dick G.

Here’s a photo, Dick. The few that I have have a bluish iridescent sheen.

image: Quarter-point steel thin space.jpg

Quarter-point steel thin space.jpg

Barbara, i think i have a few of these, if i can find them is there any interest. of course i’d want a lot for them, but would settle for postage. I have a four car garage full of letterpress stuff, i know i have some bluish leads that are really thin, i think they came with a franklin table top foil stamping press, let me know if your interested and i’ll take a look tomorrow. Dick G.

I’m interested, Dick, but don’t put yourself out looking for them. I’ve been hobbling along without them for quite some time. ~Barbara

Barbara, i’m attempting to clean up my shop so i’ll keep my eyes open for these. Dick G.

Barbara, i found some steel leads, only problem they mike the same as a one point lead. Will continue searching. Dick G.

Sorry Fritz

I should have mentioned NA Graphics as a source for these.