Strange question

Hi…I am jen and so far, I have only worked with metal on my Kelsey. I have purchased several old lots and printers blocks, etc. and have been really happy with the look and the items…except I don’t have the best type…which leads me to this question (sorry if it is completely air-headish), but with all the new fonts out there- everyone seems to be branding their own, etc.- something I guarantee won’t be happening with me…but since I don’t use plates…is it possible to have a die cutter make me an entire metal font/alphabet of the newest and grooviest fonts on Creative Market or!

Again, sorry if that is a silly question…I am wondering if this is strictly a polymer plate thing?



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You “could” have a plate made of an alphabet. A good engraver might even be able to cut it apart into individual letters. It would not be the same as having cast type though.

Thank you, Lammy…but I am not sure I 100% I understand…are you saying that they could not cast type say with my new favorite, called, “Denver;” a new Sans Serif? So they would engrave instead…I am confused but that is because of me for sure. I am still too new to printing and unfortunately wasn’t a fine arts major. :( If you can’t explain it any other way, I will try to meditate on it tonight and it might come to me. Haha! Thanks regardless! jen :)

Hi Jen3,

I would recommend watching this video, it is a really good overview of the process of how foundry type is made. While there are more modern processes of making matrices, this is where you are going to run into trouble, finding someone to make the matrices for you, and then fining someone willing to run these new matrices through their casting equipment. I have heard rumors of places that still do this, but I can’t speak first hand about recommending someone who could do it.

I’d also recommend this article, which gives an overview of some of the techniques that can be used to make new “wood” type.

I would also keep an eye out for an A.T.A. type comparison book This book is—in my opinion—one of the most valuable books in the type library and is super useful in finding type styles that suit specific needs. There really isn’t a substitute for printing for real foundry type, and maybe you can find something that exists out in the world that fits the needs you have.


Hey Jen3-

Definitely not a silly question. In fact, a great question, one which will teach you a lot as you search for the answers.

In addition to the valuable info Bowne already suggested, I also think I would also suggest you take a look at this video featuring the late, great, Jim Rimmer- Making Faces. Here is the trailer:

If you can watch the whole thing it’ll enlighten you about how type is not only cast but how ‘matrices’ for mass production were cut etc etc.

It goes over how a Mat, or “matrice” is made; this is a slip of metal that has a reverse, or indentation of a letter, cut into it by either handmade means or a machine. The ‘mat’ is put into a mechanism that forms a box around it, and fills that box with molten lead alloy type metal. Each casting of the box is one character.

So usually, people aren’t making a whole ‘slab’ of alphabetical figures all at once and then cutting it up- but rather fashioning an alphabet’s worth of ‘mats’ and casting as many of each character as they would require to fill the typecase with the appropriate amount of characters for setting. (You need more e’s for example, more of every vowel in fact than most consonants)

I suspect you’ll be learning a lot of really neat stuff as you research, but keep asking questions as you go!

Best of luck.

Nothing wrong with going off the deep end into punchcutting research, but if you are just looking for an alphabet in your favourite typeface, there are lots of engravers that will be able to sort that out. They’ll engrave the characters on a plate, mount to type-height and trim each character to size. A lot of more delicate designs were always made like this. It’ll be a fairly expensive alphabet, but depending on what your project is, it might be worth it.

And it’ll certainly be cheaper than having matrices made and casting a new face in foundry metal :) Even if you ignore the potential licensing issues.

At one time Corning Glass had developed a glass that could be etched (I believe) at considerable depth to form a relief or recessed photographic image, and I thought of seeing if it would be possible to have an entire alphabet I had designed so engraved on glass in relief, to a specified depth of the lowered surface. I would then have had copper electrodeposited on the glass, with matrix blanks for a Thompson positioned so that the etched letter would become a matrix. I don’t know if that technique would even work, or if the glass technology is still in use, but it seemed to me an ideal way to form casting mats for a type face.


Thank you everyone! Wow, a lot of great resources…I have my homework cut out for me! Again, thanks so much!


You might give these people a call; they’ve done thousands of fonts
Another resource to be sure.

It can absolutely be done—it just depends on how deep your pockets are. It will be very expensive and, at the end of the process, you’ll have a single size of a single style/weight of the font. There’s certainly a reason that new metal and wood type production is incredibly rare.

Keep us posted!