Typesetting – behind the scenes

Friday 24 April 2015

The more eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that we have moved! We’ve only gone five miles down the road, but of course we have a different address, and that means printing new business cards.

I find it interesting that although there are lots of bits that need to be assembled to allow me to set the necessary six lines of text, when it is actually printed you only see the letters themselves. And so I thought I would share a behind-the-scenes style look at all the things I assemble to make something I can print from.

I need 182 items to typeset my new address, but only 100 (the letters, numbers, and punctuation) will be visible after printing. The remaining 82 items are show below…

Image of all the pieces of typesetting equipment I need to typeset my business cards

1 Composing stick

A small metal tray, which is adjustable in length, that is used to assemble or ‘set’ a line of type.

2 Spaces

There are six widths of spaces, as well as thick metal blocks called quads. The 26 quads are shown at the top in three widths. Beneath them are five em-spaces, five en-spaces, five thick spaces, five mid spaces, ten thin spaces, and one hair space. Spaces between words are thin spaces.

3 Galley tray

Once a line of type is complete it is held in the galley tray. All the lines will be assembled here. In the image the 100 pieces of type needed to set my address are shown in alphabetical order.

4 Leading

These are the thin strips of metal which are put between the lines of type to space them out. Leads range from 1/2pt to 6pt thick. The leads shown here are three 1pt leads, which I use in between the lines of my address, and five 6pt leads which I use above and below each section of information.

5 Chase

A metal frame used to hold the type ready for printing. When everything is locked in place this is known as a forme.

6 Furniture

These larger pieces of spacing material are used to hold the type block in place in the chase. Furniture can be made of wood, metal, or Resalite – a type of plastic, and comes in different lengths, and thicknesses. I have used seven pieces of metal furniture in two thicknesses, and a range of four pieces of Resalite furniture.

7 Quoins & key

These two expandable blocks are used to lock everything securely into the chase. They are expanded to fit the space using the quoin key.

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