Copper and Brass thin spaces in the UK??

I’ve just moved to the UK and I’m volunteering at a museum’s print shop. After composing my first line of cold metal type into my composing stick, I asked where the brass and copper thin spacing material was kept - back in my own shop it was always at my elbow while I was composing. I was told that they don’t use them in the UK! How do you get the stick tight so you can get a good lock-up? Cardboard.

Does anybody else in the UK have some insight into this question? Is it true that thins aren’t used here? Would they be helpful? Should I try to introduce coppers and brasses into the shop for better control of spacing and lockup?

I’m happy to learn the UK way; I’m already spelling Chapel with one ‘p’! :-)


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Effra press & type foundry ( makes and sells brass & copper spaces, so SOMEONE in the UK must use them. I only use paper when 1/2 point space is too thick.

I’ve always used half point copper and one point brass in my settings. Lately I bought both from NA Graphics in Colorado Springs USA, - the lovely Fritz Klinke. I also used
to stock one point typemetal one point hairs on my website (now closed) for sale, nobody ever bought any!!! I made these on the little hand operated hairs cutter made by the Monotype Corporation as a useful accessory. Want some anybody, in the UK? The UK trade always had them around in the long ago, and the better quality firms actually made use of them!. eg house custom one point before ! and ? DONT get them into the scrap bin.

We still sell brass and copper thin spaces made on an original American Type Founders machine dating to the 1890s. We also have their 2 pt. cutter for those thin spaces which we sell in 4 ounce quantities. We have the brass and copper rolled to order to the original specifications. And we use point standards made by several type founders dating back to 1887. All this was purchased at the 1993 ATF auction for $10. One of the point standards is this 60 point one from 1887: We still do a healthy business, including Great Britain, of selling this spacing.

A good comp should rarely, if ever, need to obtain good justification by using hair-spaces: the standard spaces of mutton, nut, thick, mid and thin used in combination should enable him to achieve this when hand setting!

I’m with Kenneth Burnley, when I did my apprenticeship in the late 60s only the normal spaces were permitted when hand setting.

Not all spacing between words is equal because of optical illusion, the height/shape of the last letter of the first word to the height/shape of the first letter of the next word, so adjust the space accordingly.

Also keeping in mind that you don’t want rivers of white space going down the page.

If altering an existing forme card inserts could be used..

Stephenson Blake at some time produced copper spaces but brass spacing has never been used in the UK whereas Barnhart and Spindler supplied brass and copper spacing.

In spacing out within words, especially in display sizes, the copper and brass spaces come in very handy. I have always objected to paper or card stock because it can be easily crumpled, absorbs fluids like type wash and has a short useful life. The thin spaces have been used in the US since about 1887, so we at least we haven’t been bound by absolute rules as our friends across the pond.

We too used ‘hair’ spaces but only for letterspacing caps and small-caps – and very rarely for justifying text. Those hair spaces cast specially for the purpose were usually OK, though small air-bubbles in the casting often caused ‘fat’ hair spaces which had to be discarded. Hand-cut hair spaces of brass, copper and type-metal often gave burrs which, unless sanded or filed down (a tedious job!) resulted in problems on the stone during imposition and other problems for the pressman on the machine during printing. And, of course, the brass and copper hair spaces had to be carefully removed from diss material before being melted down.