Has Anyone built a sorting tray

Hi all,
Built a sorting tray?? I am going to be receiving some loose type and I am going to need a sort tray.. I am a woodworker also so building isnt the problem.. I have the idea that its just 1” strips laid out in a stair step type pattern???? Any help would be great!! Thanks!!

Log in to reply   8 replies so far

Sadly I don’t have any advice, but would be very interested to hear about how this goes. I’ve wanted to do this myself for some time but haven’t gotten around to it.

I use a tray originally manufactured to store Lino- & Intertype matrixes – it’s very useful :-)
You can see it in action on this photo
Gott grüß die Kunst

Hello mhein68,

I use Linotype matrix storage trays, too, though mine are made of Bakelite. The wooden ones that Jens uses are great, too; I just have a thing for Bakelite.


Thank you all for the help and picture.. Glad to see so many helpful people!! Thanks!

The matrix trays are indeed very functional for this sort (pun intended) of thing, especially for larger sizes of type.

If what you are sorting is smaller body sized type then I usually use a galley slightly propped-up on an incline. I set the sorts in lines and put a wood piece of pica-thick reglet in between each line as I start up from the bottom. This gives enough room for your fingers when you go to start picking out your specific sorts. So that the remaining type in the lines doesn’t eventually fall over as things are removed, I simply slide everything left in the lines to the left edge of the galley as holes appear in the lines. This way, as the lines get shorter, they are still solid.

I have probably sorted at least a ton of pied type in the 30+ years I’ve been collecting it. Sometimes it was obtained by the bucket-full. There are others out there that have stories of acquiring type by the barrel-full. Yikes!!!!!


I use different styles of Linotype mat trays for sorting as well, but there also was another system, once sold by AWT. Imagine a composing stick made of wood, and a sawtooth tray that held three or four of these sticks at a suitable angle to keep the types from falling over. The avantage here is you can sort different types into the sticks and then carry the sticks to the cases, rather than carry the whole tray.

Here is what the AWT Type Sorter looks like. It will be in my annual sale. - See Classifieds.


image: AWT Type Sort 2.jpg

AWT Type Sort 2.jpg

image: AWT Type Sort 1.jpg

AWT Type Sort 1.jpg


That is amazing!!!! In all my decades of scrounging around for letterpress paraphernalia I have never run across one of those. I do plan on being at your sale.

When faced with multiple fonts all pied together (as in buckets, etc.) My basic plan of attack was to pour it all out on a table or bench and quickly (now there’s a laugh) sort everything by size, nicks etc. to try to separate the actual fonts into their own individual piles to be dealt with later. There will invariably be some things missed or put in wrong piles, but this gives me a tremendous head-start on sorting the fonts themselves.

And yes, some real jewels have been gleaned from the dreck this way.