Typesetting tips wanted

Sometimes it’s difficult (for me) to create forms using a composing stick because the sorts and ornaments don’t fall into straight lines and/or because the form includes large spacing pieces. So, I construct the form directly on a brass galley, starting in a corner and working out and up. Everything seems tight when I press the form this way and that against the galley sides, but when I lock up the form on the press bed (I use a Vandercook), there are places where some of the pieces wiggle slightly. So I find myself adding copper thin spaces to make the form solid (see next comment for a link to a photo). Is there some other way to approach a typesetting job like this?



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Somehow original discussion topics don’t display links. Here’s the photo.


Hi Barbara, finally found your pic, think I can see your problem, if I remember rightly the cut outs in sorts where 18 or 24 point nuts which usually fit perfectly to stop any movement of the ornamental sort, unfortunately you can start getting slight wear which does tend to allow movement, one thing I used to see the machine men do is to paste a thin piece of paper on the back of the form to stop this, don’t know if this helps. Will try to remember something else that might work.

Sorry Barbara, forgot to mention it was the press you mentioned we always new it as the Eagle press, but that was the nice name, I am not very big and to try and pull a proof on a Eagle press was virtually impossible as I usually ended up going underneath. When I was an apprentice I had to take a box around with me as I couldn’t reach the top letters in the case.


It looks like you have a pretty good handle on imposing such forms.

As Austin indicated, you might have some inaccuracies in the metal quads/furniture you are using. They might have been dropped on occasion or have gotten a burr somewhere. Next time you might try insulating the border from those inconsistencies by placing a vertical slug inside the border in the form as you did with the slug alongside the type characters.

If setting up in a galley, make certain the sides of the galley are good and square. I use a brass makeup galley for this kind of work and it has the added advantage of having stamped measurements on the rim.

When I use piece borders, I generally try to use corner quads which help to reinforce the right-angle nature of the corners on the inside and outside of the border form, but sometimes there just isn’t room.

If the border is forgiving enough to allow adding a copper here and there to tighten it up, that’s great. Other borders with more solid and rectangular images are not so easy to work with.

John Henry

instead of copper you can use a piece of index cut to size and dampened slightly, when it dries its like paper mache, i’ve seen this done by old timers, when in doubt or frustrated i sometimes use a nail, but only on a ludlow slug so it can be melted down.

Hi Barbara,

If you are careful to make the filler spaces flush on the overlapping border, and you have an accurate measure side-to-side, you should be able to run the type and the surrounding spacing material through your stick, and get a more accurate set-up. On piece border I do (when I can) a set-up similar to what John Henry recommends. Run slugs up the sides, and across the top and bottom, but make sure they are a little short to allow for compression of the form, then build your form to a standard measure through the stick (spacing material and type). It really helps to have spacing material the height of your type so any inconsistency in the smaller spacing material, when it is piled up, doesn’t contribute to the distortion at the end of the lines. Also, if you can fit leads or slugs between the lines of spacing material or type it will help to keep your form more square and solid.


If it is a short run you might consider throught the press twice border first then text. Also with a rubber eraser scrub the spacing material clean and free of any oxide or ink. Also maby a setup within a setup set and lock the border then set and lock the text separate. Dave