Painstak­ing as the process is to assem­ble indi­vid­ual char­ac­ters to form a line of words, the process of putting it all back is only mar­gin­al­ly eas­i­er.  This task can only be avoid­ed if you have the equip­ment to cast type, so get used to it!

We’ll assume you have the type on the com­pos­ing stone hav­ing fin­ished print­ing.  You’ll need to slack­en the quoins; remove the fur­ni­ture and chase and put these things away.  You’re left with a block of type.  You’ll need to sep­a­rate each dif­fer­ent face so that you don’t mix the types with­in each case.

In your left hand (or non-dom­i­nant hand) take as much of the type as pos­si­ble: start with sin­gle lines or parts of a line and work up to mul­ti­ple lines.  In your right hand (or dom­i­nant hand) take as many let­ters as you are com­fort­able with.  This amount will grow with prac­tice.  Your grip should be just enough to hold the type but not too firm.

Advance each char­ac­ter from the line of type between your fold­ed fin­ger and thumb.  It’s best to remem­ber what char­ac­ters you hold; so you don’t have to look at them and delay the process.  Note the char­ac­ter and find the right place in the case for it.  Have this ready to drop and hov­er over the right com­part­ment, release the type to drop from about 1″ — 2″.  Any more might dam­age the type; and you should nev­er throw type back in the case.

If you drop a let­ter in to the incor­rect box then search for that and cor­rect the prob­lem before mov­ing on to the next piece of type.  type dropped on the floor or anoth­er hard sur­face might be dam­aged and so should be inspect­ed before it is returned to the case.

Spaces can be prob­lem­at­ic because mul­ti­ple space widths might have been used.  If you can tell space widths from one anoth­er then they can be dis­trib­uted in the same way as let­ters.  If you’re not yet able to dis­tin­guish between each space then reserve these on the gal­ley to sort lat­er on.  It’s use­ful to place them side-down on the gal­ley and run your fin­ger over them to ensure they are the same sidth as each oth­er.