Market for casting Linotype Borders

Is there a market for someone offering Linotype Borders cast on Linotype slugs?

Is there a for letterpress customers for these Linotype Borders?

And what is a fair price per border line?

I was thinking about $2.75 per line.

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There is NO market for linotype typesetting or casting of border I have found.

Just asking on BriarPress won’t get you any customers. The vast majority here don’t know what a Linotype border is, or how to use it. You might take a look at
to see what kind of effort is needed to inform new customers. Ace Linotype was another that tried at a much smaller scale, and I haven’t seen anything from him recently. I think it will take a variety of faces with refinements to satisfy what few customers there might be for trade composition today. Five or ten families of type won’t satisfy someone who can turn thousands of faces into photopolymer plates.
Most slugcasters I know are doing both casting and printing for their customers, with little casting for the trade. Most of the trade casting I do is for a bookbinder needing slugs for foil-stamping, and also for one old printer who used to set on his own Linotype. The people who learned to design on a Mac, and the lithographers and foilers who have shifted into contemporary letterpre$$ just don’t need type or ornament on slugs.

Thanks parallel I joined the group because I wanted to be around real letterpress printer again.

Started out as a real letterpress man in the 60s. Work with Intertype, Ludlows, and photo computer setting of professional printing.

In the 90s the Apple computer came a lone and at first I love the fact I do design work on it.

But, after all these years I hate computers. The fun is gone. Any one can design work now, and I feel unwanted.

With real letterpress, (setting type in lead and designing forms with lead took a skill craftsman) now it NO fun.

Glad I am old!

That’s where printing what you want rather than what you are paid for comes in. Many a retired professional has set up a hobby shop and done fine work to their own satisfaction. It is a rare customer today who appreciates what goes into hot metal work. They do exist, they are older, and as for computers, they have problems with them too.
Personally, what I hate about computers is the continual forced upgrades. Software, hardware, peripherals, every company tries to extract the maximum amount of money from the user. Letterpress equipment just needs maintainance. Get it, use it; no user agreements, no licenses, any obsolescence is real rather than planned.

The computer is a tool, it doesn’t turn poor design into good design, it might be flashier in terms of colors, or faster than it would have been thirty-five years ago, but sloppy, untrained work is still sloppy and untrained.

Like a photographer friend of mine always says, an expensive dSLR doesnt make you a photographer, it makes you a person with a nice camera.

And buying a computer with Adobe software and a large-format ink-jet doesnt make you a designer or a printer.

The computer is a tool that allows you to make more, make faster, explore new concepts, share and learn.

I like the fact that I can design websites and print from type in the same day, and that the two activites are based on the same foundations and inform each other. How is that not fun?


I have been doing computer graphic everyday printing work, since 1992.
The fun is gone!

Back in the days when computers and letterpress worked hand and hand, the graphic artist would do some great work and we had engraving to lace with the letterpress slugs to design a printed page.

Now, it just, people that know little or nothing about the real look of a printed page.

Hey, I see great, creative work every day, be it web, interactive, ink-jet, laser, offset, wood, type or slug, the tools are not responsible for the lack of craft. Blame lazy designers, or clients that don’t realize the opportunities that still exist in print… in the end, it is their loss either way.

I think the “new generation” of letterpress enthusiasts is yet to be exposed to the wonder that is a Linotype. Let us hope that Linotype the Movie boosts interest, because there is no doubt in my mind that where fresh minds meet an old technology, great things can happen. Personally, I’ve never even seen one run, only standing still under a blanket of dust, didn’t stop me from donating to the film, because I’d like to see if it can enter the toolkit of modern designers, the potential is there.


Aaron—The question you pose regarding Linotype-cast borders and the replies to it received thus far are quite pertinent to my own situation. I cast my first lines day before yesterday on a Model 5 Linotype which I recently acquired. The payment I received for my investment and labor was the thrill of seeing that first slug ejected onto the galley. I have also acquired three presses, maybe 50 California job cases containing various sorts as well as all the other bits and pieces one needs to do letterpress. I’ve been asked what I’m going to do with all this equipment. My answer has been “…that I’m going to have fun with it, and maybe make a few bucks along the way.” “Making a few bucks,” however, is secondary—by a long chalk—to having fun. For me, owning and operating this equipment is like going back in time. While I was attending the technical high school from which I graduated (Tilden Technical High School in Chicago), more than a half-century ago, I spent three years’ shop time mostly in Linotype and some in hand composition. I also worked in several job shops. My first year in the Navy (the first of 22) was as a printer aboard an aircraft carrier. Early on in my Navy career I “changed my rate” to photographer, transitioned into photojournalism and spent the next 40-plus years as a field photojournalist, writer, editor and script writer. But I never forgot beginning adult life as a printer and indeed the graphic arts training and experience I had as a kid served me well when I was editing and producing various publications for a variety of government and non-government organizations. In a sense I am picking up where I left off all those years ago. I am continuing an apprenticeship begun in the ’50s, with the expectation it will be completed to my satisfaction when I am producing consistently good work—both composition and press work. As for making money—perhaps. There are a number of small presses (specialty publishing houses) here in Tucson that still use letterpress, so there may be a market hereabouts. If that is so, I may have “cornered the market” for linecaster-produced type. As far as I know, I have the only operational Linotype in Tucson and perhaps the only one in the state of Arizona (more’s the pity). Incidentally, I have a pretty good selection of 30-em border slides, but I don’t expect to use them very soon because I also picked up maybe 70 pounds of Linotype cast borders in the process of equipping my shop. Having arrived at what I call the “Give Back” phase of my life, I also hope to do demonstrations of Linotype operation and printing to interested individuals and groups. I think earlier posted comments regarding a market—or lack thereof— for linecast borders are right on the mark, but even so, I wish you success in finding a market for your wares.

Well said Bill,
Like you I’ve started setting up a letterpress shop first and foremost for my own indulgence. My intention is to print extremely limited edition books, on hand-made or moud-made paper for sale/distribution to hand bookbinders and the odd fine press collectors (yes there are still a few out there). The point of all my efforts is to preserve some of the craft of letterpress printing, with all its machinery and bits and pieces. The old guys that worked in the trade are fast disappearing so I have been frantically tracking them down, particularly those that can still operate hot metal machines.
If along the way I can recover some or all of my costs all well and good, but making it pay is not my primary motivation. I don’t disdain the computer as it was my main working tool over the last 10 years.I also find a use for photopolymer plates (though I will always try and set the type in metal or wood first) and I am always looking for interesting ways to use new technology to compliment my traditional tools and materials. I have recently enjoyed producing large sized fonts in immitation of wooden type by laser cutting out of perspex (genuine wooden type is very rare and expensive here in Australia as elswhere).
I love talking to people about all the presses and sundries I have, and if someone decides to go beyond a casual interest, all the better.
I’m in my late 50’s and have recently gone back to University to get a Fine Art degree. One of the great pleasures is talking to some of the recent school leavers about letterpress. There are people in their late teens/early twenties who have never seen a type sort or slug and when you explain how they are made there is a look of confusion, wonder and astonishment all rolled into one. Fortunately the doom and gloom of only 10 years ago when the extinction of letterpress was being heralded from the rooftops will not materialise. We humans are too smart to let such a wonder disappear altogether. Likewise the current doom sayers predicting the demise of the physical book are also only kidding themselves. I am quite confident I will be able to sell my modest books, and I am equally confident they will be appreciated as much as a fine piece of craftsmanship as a literary possesion.
So keep spreading the word, keep restoring the old machinery and talk to an old printer as often as you can.

Good comments Kim, Bill, Ron and others.
I too am an oldster and collect stuff, do printing and teach for the joy it brings. I get a huge ego reward in the teaching when I see the light go on over the head of the student.
Few of us were self taught. If you had a good teacher, pay it back and perpetuate the craft.

I have been thinking since I made my posting and why I got upset.

Been in the printing industry since the early 60s, and it felt like I was part of history.

With the computer, I feel that I am just a kid with a toy that layouts out pages to print.

A few weeks back I got to set type once a again on a Linotype. Setting the slugs, pulling a proof and getting it proofread, once again gave me the feeling of part of history.

Letterpress, from leading type to press work goes back hundreds of years. And only skilled people could produce work from their skill.

A person from that time frame could look back and see his/her work and say I was part of that newspaper, book, and mailer.

Now, it’s just NO FUN!

In a conversation with a mate last night he asked me about the popularity of monotype output over there . does that have greater use or is it also seen as too laborious to set by hand ? He was a caster operator for 40 years till redundancy in the growth of litho offset .I use little type at all as i spend most of my time die working on the machinery you are printing on . i do a couple of small jobs at home using hand set type , i dont see many references to it on this site . I dont like linotype it seems all the examples of it i have seen tend to be a bit shoddy in that lines of type appear to be all uneven and never a straight line , ! I always liked ludlow and am still looking for one that is affordable and local ,the simplicity of them appeal to me and fit with the space i have left . Aaron…. did you realise that in the uk you were indentured into the print trade ? your parents would sign you over to the mastership of your employer to train you and many of the jobs would almost be closed to anyone who had no family line in the trade ?

I just have to say i love the term used in one of these comments …PAYBACK , OR GIVE BACK time of the gentlemans life ,

In the US Linotype has always been used more than Monotype, even in book work, not the case in the UK, though many fine faces were developed and used there, faces designed by George Jones and even Eric Gill. Monotype was dominant in certain parts of the trade in the US, more complicated setting like math and tabular work, and also favored in fine press publishing, so there was a strong presence in trade (and government) typography. A little of that remains even now, but for both Lino and Mono, there is more of it in private hands today.
The wandering alignment is caused by worn ears on the Linotype matrix. It doesn’t happen when things are kept in good condition, so you probably have not noticed good Linotype composition when you saw it. The best indicator for Linotype is a non-kerning lower-case “f” (and that disappears with two-letter refinements) and the duplexed italic or bold being exactly the same width as the roman character, again sometimes leading to distorted “f”s. For a typographer willing to invest, special italic mats were available in some book faces.

You make sense of that because i have spent a lot of my working life on government work in the uk and we had mono casters but it was not my thing and the hand setting was off limits to me as i am a lefty !!! I was taken into the setting room and as soon as i held my hand out to receive the offered stick the instructor looked at me like a leper and led me to the print department !!!

Brilliant story Peter!

I was told just the other day that monotype casters were still in use for UK government work.

There’s definately Ludlow casting activity going on here and we’re buying it in when it’s appropriate.

Will Linotype lines work on a hot-stamping machine?

I have one of those tabletop Kwik-Print machines, and I want to use it to imprint hilarious phrases on pencils.

Linotype metal will work for hot stamping, but will have a limited life (100 impressions?). For something like stamping pencils, it will probably be much less, but you can always have multiples cast at one time. Ludlow machines use the same metal, so wouldn’t yield longer lasting slugs. I believe on the Hot Metal website there are photos of a company whose entire linotype output goes toward imprinting pencils and such.

Gentlemen—This is off the point of linecasters/letterpress, but if I read Peter’s and Ron’s comments correctly you are in Australia and UK, respectively. During my career in the U.S. Navy and afterwards as a freelance photojournalist and writer I had occasion to work and go to sea with both the RN and RAN. I was always treated with great hospitality and friendship during those times. I got on with those with whom I worked in London, Portsmouth and Garden Island in Sydney at least as well, probably better, than my own countrymen. It is a real pleasure to communicate with and benefit from the experience of all of you folks out in the Commonwealth, as well as the good people here in the States who have been so helpful to me as I resume my letterpress experience. Happy holidays to you all and the most prosperous, healthy New Year yet. Bill Powers, Tucson, Arizona, USA