Wood type

Good morning - I have my name in wood type that i picked up years ago. I’m now going to frame/mount them, along with an old brass em ruler. Anyway, looking at them closely i am wondering how these letters were made? I am guessing with a die? And what sort of timber was used and when did they stop making them? Oh, and can they be bought now?? Thanks to anyone who can answer these questions.

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Jillday…Check out an excellent book on the subject by Rob Roy Kelly (1925-2004): ”American Wood Type, 1828-1900: Notes on the Evolution of Decorated and Large Types and Comments on Related Trades of the Period,” was originally published by Da Capo Press in 1977.

The usual wood of choice was hard maple although apple, boxwood, cherry, holly, mahogany, and pine and dogwood were also used. The letter form was cut into the wood using a pantograph router. There was some work done using a die to outline the letter form. There are some being made and sold today by the successor of the Hamilton Wood Type Company, now the Hamilton Wood Type Museum http://www.woodtype.org/

There is a good history available at http://www.woodtype.org/museum_information_about.shtml

In addition I have successfully cut an 8 line font of a Fraktur using a CNC milling machine into end grain hard maple.

Thank you both very much for your response - most helpful!

Hi jillday,

eBay is a good source of used wood type (both mounted sets and individual pieces) often with beautiful varieties of patina and colour that come with age and use.

Just perform a search on ‘letterpress’.

All the best,


Thank you Ian, i’ll do that - the old ones are soo beautiful - because they’ve ‘lived’.

I took a few snapshots of my copy of American Wood Type and it is on my blog. If you can find a copy it would prove to be a valuable treasure!


We’re in the midst of editing a documentary centering on the Hamilton Woodtype and Printing Museum that will answer some of your questions Jill. The film uses wood type as the foundation for discussions about the relationship between traditional printing methods and contemporary art and graphic design. It also has some history and beautiful pics of wood type. You can read more at www.typefacethefilm.com