Further Bits and Pieces

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