metal v. wood type ?

What are the pros and cons of wood versus metal (lead) type? Does each have its own set of uses? Does lead type last longer? Thanks!

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Hi Planetspatula,

Wood type is largely used for large work, such as posters, where the difference in weight between wood and metal makes a big difference.

By way of illustration, I have a set of metal 72pt type on a 3A synopsis and it takes two hands to lift the full set. An equivalent size in wood would be nothing like as heavy.

I’d assume that wood will wear out quicker than metal if you were to compare a similar number of impressions.

Hope that this is helpful.

Yes, that makes sense. Thanks for the help!

Updated. There are other folks on this list that know more than I but here are my thoughts.

Metal was cast up to 72 pt for text type while wood was made for display faces. And a case of 72 pt metal type is too heavy.

Wood type has some very nice characteristics when printed. Sometimes the age of the type will have irregularities or even print a bit distressed. With metal type the characters printed will not show any irregularities unless it’s been worn down or scarred.

I use both metal and wood type on my posters.

I also like to overprint the wood type because the transparency of ink can produce a third color and this can only happen with larger type.


The further artistic avenues presented by wood type are certainly a plus. Of course, one must have a large enough press…

Thanks for your thoughts, cmcgarr.