Equipment for your Printing Works

The build­ing blocks of your let­ter­press print­ing works

Chase, fur­niture and bor­ders (from Alan Brignull)

Print­ing works of all sizes hold an unhealthy fas­cin­a­tion for me.  Since see­ing my first com­mer­cial book print­ers at the Incline Press, and then works ran­ging from the small (like St. Mar­garet’s Press) to the largest (Hand & Eye Let­ter­press), I have been keen to doc­u­ment what is needed to make a print­ing works.

In try­ing to help new print­ers, I want to be able to say ‘here is what you will need’, and ‘here is what to look out for’.

I have used a num­ber of sources and tried to bal­ance this list with my per­son­al exper­i­ence.  Here you will find my list of everything you will need — aside from type and press.  I have also divided the list in to a ‘starter’ sec­tion and an ‘advanced’ sec­tion — although you should be able to pro­duce top-qual­ity work from the ‘starter’ sec­tion, where space and money per­mit you can prof­it­ably move through to the ‘advanced’ section.

I would truly appre­ci­ate any com­ments you might have on this list.

Compositor's Tools

Starter Advanced
Type Scale: met­al if pos­sible, then plastic, then wood Set­ting rules: gradu­ated, pre­ci­sion-cut brass rules to set the com­pos­ing stick to a determ­ined length
Tweez­ers and Bodkin (although the use of each of these is discouraged) Make-up gal­ley: a spe­cial gal­ley with one side that can be set to the line length.  As lines are moved from the stick, they can be set in this gal­ley to be sure that lock-up will be an easi­er activity
Com­pos­ing Sticks (ideally 8″ and 12″)


Starter Advanced
Fur­niture: wood, lead or steel, but see ‘advanced’ for bet­ter options.  Stand­ard sizes are 24, 36 (or Nar­row), 48 (or Broad), 60, 72 (or Double Nar­row) and 96 pica (or Double Broad) More pre­cise fur­niture: made of alu­mini­um or plastic (Formica)
Leads: typ­ic­ally in 1, 1½, 2, 3 or 4pt.  In start­ing out you might want to stand­ard­ise on length (usu­ally mul­tiples of 5 or 6 pica) and width (usu­ally 1½ and 2pt) Inter­lock­ing Fur­niture: this con­sists of iron bars with mitred ends that can be assembled togeth­er to form large ‘frames’ of space bordered by met­al bars
Reg­let or Clumps: usu­ally 6 or 12pt wide.  Reg­let is the term for wood (usu­ally oil-soaked) and clumps for metal
Quo­ta­tions or Quads: essen­tial to fill small area of white space


Starter Advanced
Quoins: ideally Not­ting but pos­sibly Wick­er­sham, Hempel or — as a last resort — wood Pres­cision quoins: torque quoins (that exert a giv­en force), or register quoins (that have mark­ings to show the exact amount of force)
Lead and rule cut­ter: with micro­met­er adjust­ment if possible Mitre­ing machine: either rotary (a ‘bowl­er’), ver­tic­al, or powered
Slug cutter
Powered saw
Machine chases (those that come with your press) Spe­cial­ist chases: book, fold­ing, jobbing
Page cord to tie up blocks of lines, ideally using fur­niture with chan­nels to acom­mod­ate the cord “Quick‑S Lockup” inter­lock­ing met­al corners with sprung edges
Impos­ing sur­face: start­ing with a gran­ite chop­ping board or thick glass; to steel surfaces Type-high gauge
Mount­ing sur­faces for blocks

Furniture (for the works, not for the forme)

Starter Advanced
Small type cab­in­et and cases: usu­ally Adana cases in vari­ous sizes Full-size print­ers typecases and cab­in­et, spe­cial­ist cases for blocks, script, wood­let­ter, rule etc.
Lead stor­age: can be a box divided in to stand­ard lengths Lead and fur­niture racks
Gal­leys to store stand­ing jobs Ran­dom top on which to put type cases while set­ting type
Space bins