Fancy-schmancy wood type

Hi, all,

Through Horatio-Alger-like pluck and luck, my letterpress needs have all been met. Wants, though—that’s another matter.

I yearn for a very fancy wood font. You know, one of those faces with any combination of scrolls, dots, cutouts, curlicue serifs, etc.

I recently bid on a font like that on eBay and went rather far beyond my normal budgetary range…but I was outbid by more than $1,300. Yipes. I mean, yay for the person who sold it, but…alas for me. (And of course, I hope not alas for the type…I hope the buyer intends to love, cherish and honor it, not bust it up for resale, although they can do whatever they want…)

So—just throwing it out there. Should you ever have a font of fancy wood type you would be willing to part with, and you care where it goes, please let me know. Thanks for listening to me bay the moon.

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I had to laugh when I read your latest rather literate missive. I am a kindred spirit who shares the same want and desire, yearning and pining. My heart races when I look at images of wood type on certain Flickr slideshows, and in the recent book The Art of Wood Type, not to mention Rob Roy Kelley’s American Wood Type.

I’ve heard accounts of printers literally shoveling “obsolete” wood type into woodstoves back in the day, and it sickens me to see full fonts sold off one piece at a time on eBay. Although the price for ornamental wood type may be out of our range, at least the collectors with deep pockets know what they have and it won’t be split up or treated poorly. A danger with museum type is that it may be sealed away from the public, or worse yet, de-accessioned quietly by those less impassioned as you or I.

I just bought a font of 30-line French Clarendon for more than I’ve ever paid for any single item in my shop, including the presses, but I did so knowing that I would USE it — and I’m just a hobby printer. Luckily our tax return hit our bank account at the right instant! I’ve spent lots of time in the past regretting “the font that got away.” There are lots of great stories out there of how folks were in the right place, at the right time, and came away with a treasure trove.

No one lives forever, and you can’t take it with you. Someday you might find yourself in a position, facing more type and equipment than you have room for. You might have to buy the entire contents of a shop, or at least a whole cabinet, just get the type you desire. Right now there’s a nearby shop that’s closing out it’s letterpress department, but they won’t split it up. It’s an incredible amount of wood and metal type. They’re selling everything, including a Heidelberg windmill, for $5,000. Even if I had that kind of money, I sure don’t have room for a Heidelberg!

So in the meantime I talk to printers, read what they have to say, add my own two-cents worth and realize that we’re not alone.

—David S.

Nicely stated, David! *sigh*

There are some interesting items of new wood type from India on eBay right now. I cannot tell what kind of wood they are made of, but the designs are completely new. grom the photos, they look pretty well made.

Here are links to two of them.

If someone takes a shot at one of these I’d love to read a review.

I was in a shop about 25 years ago that was going out of business. They would send me small jobs they didn’t want to print, so as they were closing i knew i wasn’t going to see my money so i worked out a deal to take their ludlow and all their type. While i was moving out my new treasures the owner was trying to move a cabinet that looked like california job cases, i asked what he was doing with it and he said its going in the dumpster, i told him i’d save him the trouble and throw it in my truck. The cabinet was full of wood type, some cases had 3 different fonts, i’m not big on wood type, i had about 3 fonts and thought that was plenty. After a couple of days a man i’d only known for a couple of years stopped by my print shop, he had a large collection of antiques, i mean everything you could possibly think of. He was about 78 years old and had run an engraving business for years before retiring. I had seen his collection of antiques and it took almost a whole day to go through everything he had. His passion was wood type and there was quite a few fonts. He heard i had the wood type from this print shop and told me he had bought a rack of type years ago from the shop and thought the type would go well with what he had. Well he had a sock knitting machine in his collection, and seeing how my wife collects these i told him i’d trade all 20 cases of wood type for the sock machine for my wife, he wouldn’t part with it because he said it was his mothers. About a week later he came by my shop and told me to get the box from the back seat of his car, it had a very old sock machine but it wasn’t the one my wife was looking for, he told me to bring it home and show my wife. Of course she is going to want it but its not complete so i’ll only give you half the type, he said its a deal if she wants it. Two days later he called me and asked if she wanted it, i told him to come by and pick up his 15 or so fonts of wood type, before i hung the phone up he was in my shop, his eyes almost popped out of his head, i asked him what he had paid for that sock machine and he said put the type in my car then i’ll tell you, after 3 or 4 trips i put the last galleys of type in his car, when i turned around he was right in my face, grabbed me by my arms and said “you got screwed, i only paid $5.00 for the sock machine”, my reply was “no. you got screwed, i got the type for nothing”, we both got what we wanted and had a good laugh.

dickg, I learn something new every day. Who knew there were sock knitting machine collectors? Great story!

Lead Graffiti, I was wondering the same thing…is there some reason *not* to buy some of the type from India? I just might have to try some. If I do, I will review.

Armchair Detective…indeed, you truly get it. May all type-y dreams come true one day. Sigh.

If you look carefully at the listing you’ll see that the wood type on Ebay is about 48 point — not exactly poster type, though the designs are interesting and it’d be fun to play with in handbills. I wonder what kind of wood it is and how well it holds up to printing.


Although still quite a newbie, I also pine for the old wood type, and hope to be able to find that allusive retiree looking for a home for his equipment. A pipe dream perhaps… but still hopeful!

David S: just curious… where is the closing shop located?

I wish there was some way to STOP the parting out, scrapping selling by the piece, and what ever else doesn’t keep the history intact. Those money grubbing bass________. Sorry just had to vent.
And then these idiots over paying what things are really worth.


The shop is in central indiana. After reading the listing on Craigslist and looking at photos, I went up there today to check it out. Well, other than the Heidelberg, the rest of the letterpress equipment was a disappointment. The wood type cabinet was already empty — 24 blank cases, well, blank. The metal type was nondescript — serious run of the mill. There is a lot of lead strip material, and they have a decent Hammond Glider. It was like going fishing — sometimes you hook a big one, while other times you come up empty. Oh well, at least I got outside on a nice spring day!

I was curious so I asked the guy on Ebay what kind of wood he carved his Woodtype from and this was the reply.
“All the types are hand crafted and the wood which we use is of specific type which felicitates (sic) carving and is also solid enough to withstand pressure of printing press.”
He did not understand what endgrain or plank was when I enquired.
He certainly makes some interesting fonts in any case.
It would be great to see how they print/perform.

Armchair, thanks for the intelligence from the front. When we see these sorts of ads posted, showing a teasing handful of pics with descriptions of more behind the curtain, the imagination runs wild. Good to get an actual report from the scene, so we can stop kicking ourselves for not being nearer, quicker, richer. I’ve gone on these goose chases, too. Like you said, you had a nice day out - best way to look at it.

The original querry here was about how does one find/buy Fancy-schmancy wood type.

Well boys and girls it is out there at reasonable prices. Scott Moore is cutting wood type and ornaments at Moore Wood Type. You can contact him at [email protected].

Just a few years ago Stan and Mark Harris were cutting FANCY-SCHMANCY wood type fonts on hard maple, end grain. I assume they are still doing this. You can e-mail them at [email protected]

I have a display sheet showing the six fonts they were offering a few years ago. The fanciest (in my humble opinion) was the knock-your-socks-off 10-line Clarendon Ornamental (think Circus-type). $350 was the cost a few years ago. Very intricate which accounts for the expense.

The other fonts were:
7-line Gothic Tuscan Italian - $190
7-line Oklahoma - $190
10-line Oklahoma - $225
7-line Runic - $150
10-line Tuscan Outlined - $300

All fonts are comprised of a total of 62 characters (3-A) with one ampersand and one exclamation mark.

They may even have more faces to offer by now????

Contact them and find out.