Talk about smashing your metal type

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Who needs an expensive press when a $5 hammer will do the trick.

Oh god, oh no, he destroyed about four different sorts of type…. And made some really amazing art in the process. You people should get over it! Come on! And by the way, there are PLENTY of people casting type these days! It’s not the same industry- but by no means can anyone call it “irreplaceable” any longer. What a bunch of hooey- I suggest you just shut up with that crap right now. They are generic numbers, not some coveted, sought after 1890’s face that noone has the mats for. You could remake that type with a monotype machine tomorrow, or call the dale guild and request they cast it for you (if you could pay for it). And plus, Ebay is full of “wood type coffee tables” and all kinds of kitsch that doesn’t amount to anything- but this is a pair of works of art!

Real bad idea and the artwork is not that “really amazing” of a process considering the previous response. I would suggest being humble when speaking to those of us that use the process to preserve not destroy. Here on Briar Press you won’t find people that follow your line of thinking.

I don’t think too many people are casting type over 48pt, so yes, it is a big deal. Frankly, the art is nothing that special, of course it only needs to be special to the artist and a buyer, so I hope he finds a buyer for it.

48 is kinda rare in Foundry or even Monotype, there are only so many outfits still casting. Ludlow on the other hand can go to 144 if you have the mats.

He only used the numbers… read the text…

I think it is a shame to misuse type in the manner this artist has chosen. It shows a lack of respect for the materials, and the photo of the bashed type laying next to a hammer makes me shudder. I don’t suppose that this is any different than the people who insist on crash printing everything, but replacement types are becoming scarcer, and the replacement price is much higher. The matrices for most of the foundry gothic style types at ATF were bought by scrap dealers and melted down. Monotype is still available, but even it is getting scarcer as the old firms close and the matrices and machines end up in private hands. 48 point Monotypes are cast with a hollow body and can’t take the pressure that a solid foundry type can, but a hammer will destroy the very best and the very worst type the same.


Okay, maybe saying “shut up with that crap right now” was overboard for the point I want to make, but I am trying to make a point.
I apologize folks, but I have an intention in place as you’ll see below.

I stand by my statement that he used all of 4 sorts of type- which could be orphaned, for all any of us know- and I am okay with him destroying them to make his work.

Yes he could have “Made a mag plate” or any number of other techniques could have been employed- even used steel punches that were readily available on the internet via various jewelry forums.

There are alternatives that could have been considered and I spoke quickly, but I have to say I’m shocked by people’s seeming judgement of his work as frivolous, and I think a lot of that can be accounted for your “burn the witch” attitude towards destroying something to make something.

As an aside-
I don’t beat up type at my shop; I would never do something like this; I have a reverence for the materials that I have amassed in my collection, which is substantial to say the least (200+ cases and fonts of foundry type, lots of borders, ornaments, cuts, etc, even more in packages and undistributed).

But what I do not like, and what I cannot stand, is when people ascribe a viewpoint to another person’s usage of a material.

This is ALL according to taste.

What I realize here, is that it is no better for me to ascribe my viewpoint to you! But it feels kinda stupid to have something shoved in your face and be kind of insulted, right?

Conversely, telling this person that their artwork was not worth four pieces of type, because you simply disagree with their techniques and perceived abuse of a material, is rather unabashedly rude as well.

I happen to think they’re nice images; it’s all in the eye of the beholder, but I happen to also like Bob Rauschenberg’s carboard’s series, and a lot of other packaging inspired artwork. That’s my taste, I recognize it. But it’s kind of rude to beat up on someone for using what was clearly in their posession to solve a problem and meet a goal, make something, and work out how they could accomplish what they set out to.

I hope none of you are actually genuinely insulted by what I said above, and I won’t try to go back and edit the post or anything (not even sure I can).

Compound all this with the fact that anyone can find random numbers on Ebay for about 15-25 dollars, or spell their name, etc., and you have a source for what would be an orphaned, useless, overly/cost prohibitively expensive item.

You could even reach into the hell bucket for something like this; fact is, to do what the artist wants in this case, slightly damaged or already abused type that won’t print correctly anymore will also do the trick.

I just feel like there is a high horse argument going on here, people, and that not all of us really understand all the angles, variables, and are making a LOT of assumptions. So, even though I will catch some flack for my opinion/statement, I stand by what I said.

At least he isn’t turning a Linotype into an elk.

You’re right: “at least”…

@Havenpress. You can’t have it both ways, saying that you would never do that and respect your types, then in the next breath defending people who do is hypocritical. This is actually about using the right tool for the job. Indenting a character or figure into a piece of wood, with a hammer would have been better done with a steel punch, not a soft piece of lead. Isn’t it a shame that people feel they have to destroy something to create something else. And as for it being really amazing art……


“This is ALL according to taste.”

Really? Taste?


Ugh.. Come on, guys. This is all about a handfull of common sorts which could easily be cast again on a Supercaster. If this type had been galleyed and listed on eBay for less than the cost of metal it would find no bidders.

Foil stamping with type is done all the time and everyone knows that too is certain death for the type. No big deal- back in the pot!

Daniel Morris
The Arm Letterpress
Brooklyn, NY

You can have it both ways, Devils tail; You can and I do. Why would you say that, anyhow?

You’re either intentionally ignoring the point- that he used a few stray numbers to make the piece, generic numbers that have little to no historical value- or you are goading and trolling me.
Either way, you’re being a bit redundant.

-JUST because I would never do it with my own collection, DOESNT mean I can’t respect someone else’s right to do with what they own, whatever they wish.

-I already acknowledged that steel punches or other materials would do a better job.

But the point here is, this person found what they needed to make what they wanted, and used it; and you’re all judging them quite harshly for it, as well as over-reacting to the ‘death of type’ as if this guy had the last of the foundry type on earth, and just destroyed it.

Cmon- get over yourself. He used a couple of common letters that, as has already been pointed out, could have come from an orphaned type sale on Ebay or gotten through any number of channels. Hell, you don’t even know if he did have them cast or what the story is. You’re gut reacting out of dread here, people- snap out of it. Not everything out there that is type is a sacred item to be boxed and coveted….
My inclination is to box and covet what is rare, but not all of it is rare or irreplaceable and I acknowledge that.

And Gerald- Yes, taste. Poor taste, good taste, it’s all relative, man. Your taste involves polymer plates, right?

@havenpress: Your ‘anything goes’ attitude is part of the degradation of letterpress printing. If you respect the tools and materials, you should feel the same about someone destroying the same. The fact that you don’t says volumes about your dedication to the craft. I have spent over thirty years preserving type and presses and don’t intend to get over myself. Just as you have your right to defend other peoples stupid actions, I have the right to criticize something I see as destructive. Gerald Beiler like most other printers on this site works at creating fine printing with the best tools he has at hand. He embraces a process that is helping to buoy up the letterpress industry, and has worked for years teaching others the craft. I think you have misplaced priorities.

What is your motivation for posting a link like this on a letterpress preservation site? Did you think that it would create a mild discussion of alternative uses for lead type? What if this artist decided he would only use only the rarest types to hammer on, how would you feel about that? Do you feel the same way about people making type into jewelry? Do you decorate your house with wood type lamps and coffee tables? At what point DO you draw the line?

I’m sorry if there were feelings hurt in this heated discussion, because of the link I posted.
My motivation was to share a link.
Anyone here is free to share whatever they seem worthy of discussion.
I feel that expressing points of view can be constructive as long as it’s kept as civilized as one can.

Actually, after what I wrote, I’m not sorry for sharing the link.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts everyone.

…wow. a bunch of sour grapes. I appreciate the help and support of fellow members but wow, a few bad apples ruined the sauce.

Your work looks good. Thanks for sharing

Devils tail; in your 30 years… I can only assume you have far more experience than I do as a practitioner of the craft. I can only assume things though.

But do not assume or judge what I would/wouldn’t do with what I own, or tell me about my motivations for preservation based on how I respond to what someone did with four pieces of lead type.
If you really think you can judge based on the narrow statements and facts at hand, I feel sorry for you.

When you ignore obvious facts and choose to look at things from a perspective that openly assumes people’s worst intentions, with open judgements and closed assumptions, you’re not really getting anywhere yourself.

A lot of purist hooey gets spit out here about preservation and the need for certain limits to be set on the use of the craft and why are you using deep impression and we only kiss with our type here and blah blah blah blah……. Some of it is about two movements short of goose-stepping.

I value experimentation.

Keep on printing, however you wanna do it.

PS: Gerald, my comment was not meant to suggest anything other than the idea that we all have taste and allow it to direct our actions; I wouldn’t want anyone to judge you for printing from polymer, I print from polymer, a lot of people print from polymer… I was just pointing out a very well known fact, and I guess I wasn’t too clear about it.
Whether printing from polymer is in poor or good taste remains to be seen and I won’t be the one to make that judgement call.

PPS: this is a discussion forum. We are supposed to be presenting divergent points of view about things. Not everyone will agree. I suggest we agree to disagree?

@ havenpress. It’s a free country (at least last time I checked), and I will continue to voice my opinions in spite of your insults. I see that your intent here is to have a flame war, which I will leave to you. If your statements hadn’t been so narrow I might have made other remarks about your motivations. I did find it interesting that your above comments were copied and pasted word-for-word on the artist’s website, where I was not a participant. That leads me to believe that you have a singular lack of creativity. I’m really sick and tired of being told that the method of printing I spent years learning is “purist hooey”, it is not. It is the way these tools were designed to operate. To affiliate good printing with Nazis is really as low as I’ve seen anyone go on this site. It shows that you have a lot to learn.

Ok.. now I’m sorry I posted the link.
Note to self: do not start threads that might lead to sour discussions.

@enrquevw. Don’t be sorry, the problem is not posting the link, the problem is lack of civil discussion. My first post which was meant in jest (because although I think it is incredibly stupid to hammer type into a board, I really don’t care what they do, it can’t be any worse than half of the printing I see). But the immediate overreaction, and continued overreaction on another person’s part, coupled with insults that were not warranted that heated things up. It is interesting to see what other people do, but if I think it is stupid I should have the right to say so without being called a Nazi. A lot of the problem is the afore-said poster was copy and pasting reactions from the website, I’m not sure which came first, but I do know they were designed to be provocative. This is not they way to conduct a discussion. I stated my case, and the other poster attempted to chop me off at the knees by being emotive and accusatory. I restated and was offered another dose of overreaction. It happens all too often on this site.

after watching the video i think the hammer came from Sears, therefore this person believes he is the proud owner of a craftsmen press, i have a few of these presses myself.


what little i learned about printing
was on the shop floor

have my own thoughts about new age
letterpress printing


to make their art
artists are always
destroying things

causes controversy
more than often
desired by artist

yours truly

Dick, you’re a peach. The hammer wielded in a printshop was never more tragic than when Dard Hunter was fighting with a form on press. Of course he had made the matrices, types and paper, but some of the type was tapered causing extreme work-ups. In total frustration he started bashing the form with a hammer, and was stopped only by Mrs. Hunter who lay her torso on the press to protect the type upon which he had labored so long. When I have to have a hammer close to type in my shop I always hold the head in my hand, so to avoid any possible accident.


Good lord, “good printing” does not make you a nazi. Never said that. Peoples reactions to a small thing, though…..

Inability to be okay with other people bending some rules now and then, and not accepting that a small amount of resources lost, is a bit overly purist and HARLSHLY judgemental is sort of similar to it though!

I mean, people here are basically yelling, “BURN THE WITCH! BURRRRRN HEEERRRR!” when they see stuff like this, and I cannot believe how much FEAR is in their voice….

Good luck with your printing, however you’re printing.

Havenpress: it was you that brought up goose-stepping, and thaat can only mean nazis, and now you talk about witch-burning. You really should think more about pushing people’s buttons. You have a real talent for it.

The finesse of using a hammer in the press shop can best be exemplified by a lesson I once received from Prof. Emerson Wulling. When I visited Dr. Wulling as a kid, we set a piece to be printed and distributed in the APA bundle. There was a character which was not printing well, and appeared to be just a hair lower than the others in the line (through a bit of wear, most likely). He carefully pulled the character out and gave a little oblique tap to the foot of the piece of type. This was repeated at the back of the foot. This raised a tiny burr which would lift the character just a bit. When returned to the form alongside its fellow soldiers (this will be my only reference to a military allusion), the character printed perfectly well.

I have used this in my own printing over the years, and have been able to get good reproduction from characters that otherwise would end up in the hellbox.

I learned makeready from a master who would cut overlays with individual 12pt. characters circled and made ready by appliction of a .001” tiny piece of tissue to correct the same problem as above.

Which person’s method was correct? They both were and accomplished the same result. I think I choose most often to upset the foot like Dr. Wulling, as it takes a good deal of work to go back in and correct the makeready under the tympan on my cylinder press.

If I notice the defect when doing the original makeready, I will correct the problem then with an overlay.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

WOW! Finally got enough interest from the responses to go and check out what all the fuss was about. He bought some sorts in a junk shop for under $10 and used them. It looks like he “created” just a few finished pieces. He says he didn’t damage them, but that can be debated.

I know someone who uses metal type to imprint into wood. He inks his lines, places the type (usually locked into a stick), on a paper cutter, positions a piece of pine board on top of it, then uses the clamp to push the board down on the type to get a deep impression into the wood. The result looks fantastic!!!!!

Before you all start screaming I should mention that he also casts his own type, so whatever is damaged in the process is simply remelted and cast again. Fine type and serifs don’t lend themselves to this, but a good bold gothic or slab serif face works really well.

I actually have several fonts of iron type in my shop. Fairly big and bold stuff that was originally sand-cast. This was most often used to print of rough materials like cotton sacks, gunny sacks, etc. where the texture of the material itself would have quickly worn-out lead-alloy type. These fonts are a century or more old. I have considered experimenting with them to print on soft wood.



FYI: I may be known as a pundit for the photopolymer plate process but I also dabble with metal type on occasion. I’ve actually set whole books in it. Imagine that!

Something relatively recent:


I’m no stranger to your work, Gerald, I’m an admirer, I have a copy of your Flatbed Cylinder Press Polymer Plate manual… I’m familiar with your work with Aaron Horke (spelling?) and have seen some of the beautiful stuff you’ve set in lead too.

But then, it’s taste that dictates whether I like your work (and the methodology behind it), or not, now, isn’t it….?


My initial response was to the word. The concept of “taste” seems such a limiting, personal judgment. So is the word “like.” On Facebook, et al, one just pushes a button. Like. What does that really mean? one side of the fence or the other?

When I started out I took criticism quite seriously. And I got my share of it. What am I doing wrong? what do I need to correct this? what do I need to learn? I didn’t crap on the folks who knew more than I and told me so. While I did not like the sting of it, I appreciated the fact that someone would let me know.I desperately wanted to improve my skill set and knowledge of this incredible enterprise. I didn’t rest on the laurels of “look what I did.”

I guess that is quite old school, huh?



To clarify;

That’s not old school- that is how I started out myself, and how I try to approach new things and try to understand things for the first time. That seems to be the way people with reverence for education are passing knowledge down.
Maybe it’s not the norm now, I couldn’t say- because that was my experience in college and the jobs following it that I learned about printing at.

I am not “new” to letterpress though; while not a practitioner of 25+ years, I’ve been at this for give or take 7 years of actual experience with letterpress- printing in general, a bit longer (a decade now I think, including my wet behind the ears college period).

Nearly 1/3 of someone of 25 years, though not quite.
I have taken in quite a fount of knowledge from various practitioners in the field, and taught myself what I couldn’t get from other people.

I am normally a person of humility; but in the case of the judgements above, about how and what a person should be allowed to do with what they clearly own- That has nothing at all to do whatsoever with other people’s experience or mastery of our field. (I say our field because this is my job, this is what I do for a living, among other types of printing).

So I find it difficult to approach judgements with humility in this case.

I make a distinction here between what people would say has to do with industry acquired skill, and opinions about what “is fair game” and “what is not fair game”.

It’s like saying, “You can’t use that etching press to print type- that press is for etchings.”

It’s like saying, “You shouldn’t be doing that.”, but without really giving a pragmatic, accurate reasoning as to why.

It is kneejerk, and largely has to do with the finger-pointer’s TASTE. Or so that’s the way I see it.

If you think someone else shouldn’t beat up on type, to meet their aim, you should probably offer to buy their type to keep them from doing it, then put it into a museum.
Things that are meant to be used are hopefully eventually going to be used; ephemerally speaking, type has a short life-span anyhow. This stuff is limited in it’s scope of use, I am aware, and I understand that it was manufactured to be replaced- not permanent. It was recycled over and over. Maybe not everyone here realizes that, and I don’t have to tell you it Gerald, because I’m sure you know, being a practitioner with the experience you have gained and the off the press knowledge you have with regard to typography.

Sooner or later, it’s ALL going to have to be recast. This is why I don’t understand people’s horrified reactions to something being used, rather than turned into someone’s fucking coffee table.
And yes, I feel badly enough about that sort of thing to curse- but not badly about someone actually using type to MAKE something, which is getting to be all too rare these days.

Whether the thing they made is of value to you, or anyone else, well…. everyone has their own judgements, but I enjoyed these- so actually, thank’s for posting it Enrique- I wouldn’t have been able to see them otherwise, and interestingly enough I would never have been able to comment with my opinions of dissent and my slightly skewed little insults and own knee-jerk reactions.

I want to add that despite a bit of arguing, this has been quite an interesting ‘discussion’ for me.

The more we progress in the Timeline forward, the less the resources of having Type recast, fitted correctly and being able to use it. The steady decline observed in the Field of Letterpress and Printmaking, with the decline of the proper use of the Terminology, the replacement through digital media and the replacement of books and mentor ship with the ‘Truth’ of the Web and associated social enviroments, will render the ones still left with the proper knowledge and skill in the use of Tools, technik and materials insignificant.

And when all the presses are stilled, and foundries gone to scrap, there will be someone out there bashing the left-over bits with a hammer and calling it art.


Actually, I don’t disagree with you at all. I used to go into print shops and buy them out. I recycled the worn and ugly type and kept the best. I didn’t comment on what the fellow was doing, in fact, I found it interesting. He wasn’t pounding out anything that had pedigree or was extraordinarily rare and worth preserving. Most of its ilk was recycled into sinkers, bullets, batteries, etc., through the course of time.

My only comment was in regard to to the use of the word taste. This isn’t a matter of taste, or tastelessness. Anyone can buy tons of crap type on eBay and what they do with it is their concern. I doubt very much that his particular action is going to end the world of letterpress. Certainly not my world. Hell, I’ve taken a blow torch to set forms to create one-of-kind art pieces. It was crap type that was going to be melted down anyway.

Everybody just take a deep breath, and keep on doing what you are doing.


This thread =

Old people with too much pride, who are too set in their ways.

No, this thread = passionate opinionated people who talk about things instead of say nothing.

The internet is good for a few things- argument and discourse is one of them.

When I first worked in the printing field in the early 1970s I was smart enough to pay attention to the older printers who were my mentors. I learned a lot of tricks, and gained a lot of information by listening and asking questions. I didn’t view them as old and set in their ways, instead I saw them as knowledgeable craftsman with a lifetime of experience. I respected that they had the pride to turn out the best product they could on vintage presses, with vintage types. They taught me to set type, mix ink, set up presses and run them, the same way they had been taught by their mentors. They talked of a world which even then I recognized was disappearing. They talked about a man who printed ribbons on the same press for 60 years, literally wearing his footprints into the wooden floor, and the heels of his hands into the feed-boards. Not only did I learn respect for those elderly men and women, but I learned respect for my tools. I learned to use heavy impression on 5-part NCR forms, and light impression on business cards. I learned that the craft of printing takes time and lots of energy to do it correctly. Over time my mentors died off, but I continue to learn about printing every day. Every form is a new set of problems, sometimes easy, sometimes maddening.

I print from hand-set types. I have a lot of money invested in my type and presses. I can’t afford to replace every form I print, so I don’t print with heavy impression. I respect the capability of my presses and don’t ask them to do something for which they aren’t built. I was taught, like my teachers, and their teachers before them, to give a form the necessary ink and impression to make it print well and no more. This is a skill that seems to be lost on this newest generation of letterpress printers. Fads come, and fads go, but real quality printing is the stuff that earns my respect. Stanley Morison once said, “The fine printer begins where the careful printer leaves off.” That is my approach to printing.

I understand that youth always feels like they must re-invent the wheel. I guess I wasn’t that kind of youth. From my teachers I tried to develop a discerning and critical eye, and still, after 40+ years of printing I study it daily. I’ve built a library of examples from some of the best printers in the last 120 years; examples which I try very hard to emulate. I don’t assume that I know everything, but I am knowledgable about my craft. I pay close attention to what is being printed by letterpress today, and it makes me a little sad to think that 550 years of letterpress printing has come to this. What is even sadder is the inability of many of you to even understand what I am talking about, and respect me for the accumulated knowledge I have acquired. How many of you would bother to spend 8 hours of makeready for a one hour press run? Why spend time making ready a form, when smash impression will cover up any inadequacies? If I’m overly critical it is not because I’m ‘old and set in my ways’, it’s because I’ve spent your lifetime learning how to print like a master. I’ve taken the time to look at the best printing ever done and attempt to use that as my model. I’m content in my own abilities and no amount of badgering will change that.

mosst of my years in printing i’ve worked 2 jobs, so if i’ve been printing for 50 years that means i have 100 years experience in letterpress printing. in my 100 years like Devil Tail i asked questions and learned lots from my older printers i worked with, if they didn’t share their knowledge i wouldn’t have come this far in printing. Now that i’m one of the old guys i think its important to pass this knowledge off to the young kids entering this trade. things have changed a lot over the years, we old guys might seem like we don’t want the change but if it keeps this going then it must be good. A lot of the knowledge we have still applies today. i hope we can share with all you young guys and we might not agree on some things but we can agree to disagree and keep this trade going.

mosst of my years in printing i’ve worked 2 jobs, so if i’ve been printing for 50 years that means i have 100 years experience in letterpress printing. in my 100 years like Devil Tail i asked questions and learned lots from my older printers i worked with, if they didn’t share their knowledge i wouldn’t have come this far in printing. Now that i’m one of the old guys i think its important to pass this knowledge off to the young kids entering this trade. things have changed a lot over the years, we old guys might seem like we don’t want the change but if it keeps this going then it must be good. A lot of the knowledge we have still applies today. i hope we can share with all you young guys and we might not agree on some things but we can agree to disagree and keep this trade going.

To the fruit above who insults the old, prideful, set in our ways printers, you have offered no expertise in any of your posts on this forum, could you please move out of the print shop while you still know it all.

I must say that Devils Tail Press and dickg raise a very good point. Museums preserve history but the wisdom of experienced and true pressmen carry the legacy on to us younger generations of printers. I have only been printing for about two years now and am astonished at what could be and what I have learned from them. They not only carry the years of experience through the time they have been printing but also in the experience of pressmen before them that had taught them their wisdom. We should not think of the older generation as old and set in their ways. Anytime I have a chance to chat or printing alongside of these I think as Sir Isaac Newton: If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.


Next time you have a question that is of significant importance to you, you might want to add a note saying that you do not want any old people to respond.