Composing Sundries
Com­pos­ing Sun­dries

Assum­ing you find or have found a small press and a few cas­es of type, what more will you need? Per­haps it’s rather a mat­ter of iden­ti­fy­ing what else came with it? Type needs to be assem­bled, togeth­er with non-print­ing spac­ing mate­r­i­al, into rec­tan­gles of met­al, firm­ly locked togeth­er.

Those spaces resem­bling the shanks of the type are quads and the square sec­tion ones, approx­i­mate­ly the same size as the shank of a cap­i­tal M, are called em quads or mut­tons, those half that width are en quads or nuts. Thin­ner ones are used between words, em quads and thick­er fill up the ends of short lines. To sep­a­rate the lines of type, which if set sol­id might print an over-dense page, one needs sets of leads — strips of thin met­al which, like quads are less than type-high — cut to lengths slight­ly less than the cho­sen width of a col­umn of type set with an em quad at both ends of each line. Quads and spaces are inter­change­able between type­faces of the same point size; nev­er­the­less one needs a sur­pris­ing amount — the same goes for leads.

To fill out the chase (the met­al frame which fits onto the bed of the press) one needs a selec­tion of lengths of wood, plas­tic or met­al called reglet: which is also less than type-high. Large hol­low Quads, called clumps,are also use­ful to fill out the chase. You must, how­ev­er, leave space for quoins (expand­ing wedges) along two adja­cent edges of the chase, these will, when tight­ened, lock the forme of type firm­ly in place.

To set lines of con­sis­tent width, one needs a com­pos­ing or set­ting stick and it should be accu­rate­ly square, rigid when locked to length, and light enough to hold with sev­er­al lines of type assem­bled in it.

This guide kind­ly con­tributed by John R Smith of the Old Forge Press. Orig­i­nal­ly appeared in the newslet­ter of the Oxford Guild of Print­ers