Posts categorised: letterpress

    NOER: creating new wood type

    A few notes on NOER, a wood type designed by Richard Keleman and cut by pantograph in to hard Maple. Richard is a Hungarian designer who spent some time with us during summer ’14.

    I’ve had a big blue box sitting in the corner of the press for the best part of 6 months. The laser cutter came from China and engraves/cuts in to wood very precisely whilst I stand nearby, eyes streaming. It has been handy for a few projects but somehow it feels like cheating. So I had been looking for a way in which to combine it with a more analogue process, with something for which I would need to use my hands & brainpower.

    I purchased this model of pantograph, a David Dowling, from a jeweller who used it for incising wrist watches and pendants and at a guess it dates from the ’60’s. He told me the key to cutting fast and accurately is to make sure you are looking at the cutting blade, not the stylus, whilst you work which is not easy.

    The pantograph has a spinning blade which takes direction from a stylus. As your hand guides the stylus around a pattern, the cutter follows in the same direction, cutting in to wood as it goes.

    Before beginning to cut with the pantograph the patterns and the ‘blank’ wood need to be prepared. We found the preparation of wood to be the most time consuming part of the process, especially in plaining it down to exactly type height (0.918″). Layers of shellac and pumice are then worked in to the surface and repeatedly sanded down, leaving a smooth, hard finish. The patterns are easier, cut in 3mm ply using the laser cutter and mounted on to more 3mm ply.

    The pattern and the ‘blank’ wood type are both secured to the bed of the pantograph where printing furniture and quoins come in handy. We found we were more consistent when making two cuts. The first cut is a rough cut which relatively quickly removes most of the inside of the letter with a wide ended blade. Then a smaller, angled blade moves anti-clockwise around the letter leaving a crisp edge. The type is then trimmed by saw before the inside angles of the type, impossible to make with a spinning rotary blade, are finished by hand.

    Presstival 2013

    The Whittington Press’ next Open Day, aka Presstival, will be on Saturday 7th September 2013 from 2 p.m. onwards. As usual it will coincide with the annual Whittington Summer Show, with all its many attractions including a dog show, the white elephant store and a welly-wanging competition.

    Nearby Whittington Court will be open to the public and the Press will be showing off its latest works including Matrix 31 and Posters from Whittington. In the Monotype room Neil Winter will be cranking up the supercaster in order to cast some 72-point Caslon Titling. Outside there will be usual array of printers, binders, marblers, wood-engravers and paper-makers, showing off the myriad skills that go into the production of a properly produced book. Whittington is 40 miles west of Oxford, 5 miles east of Cheltenham, just off the A40.

    Please click here to view the 2011 open day, colour photos by Sarah Dixon/Spider Shooter, black-and-whites by Karel Prokes of Avant Garde Letterpress in Prague.

    And click here to read the Counter Press’s blog from last years event.

    This year will feature all the usual suspects, including Hand & Eye, Typoretum & Dennis Gould as well as some new tables displaying the work of The Elrod Press, The Print Project and Peter Gauld’s New Basement Press.


    In January I finished a new poster, Typeslotting, inspired by the Trainspotting poster which spent a good few years pinned to the wall in my bedroom. I found a full case of 42-point Goudy Modern in the Monotype room which has hardly been used there was just enough to finish the job, though as you’ll see near the end i had to improvise when running out of o’s. I chose Goudy Modern because it seems to me to be almost a bold face – Goudy says that it came about after ‘I put a proof of one of the larger point sizes (of Goudy Open) on my drawing board and filled in the “white line” solidly in ink . . . and thus procure another type which would complement the Open already made’. It stands out alongside the 20-line wood and I love the quirky ascenders and pregnant italic ampersands (swapped for Roman).

    After originally printed black onto a cream white paper i was asked to reprint another 110 copies for the Fine Press Book Association’s journal Parenthesis 23. Having a tight deadline and realizing i was out of white stock i used this brown  saved from a previous job with silver ink and the result is as striking as the original if not more so. The orange is printed twice, firstly as an opaque white followed by the orange to ensure the colour is not lost against the dark paper.