Wanted: VintagePortStencil

jdaw1's picture

This is a request for a font, either existing (best—saves effort) or new (great project for a typophile). It’s non-commercial, so payment can only be in the form of acknowledgement.

I’m part of a group that hosts port tastings — for ourselves, not as a business. Port bottles used to be labelled with a physical stencil (you can see where this is going) through which white paint was sprayed or painted. Examples of such bottles: 1 2 3 (with apologies for the focus problem in the second and third pictures).

At a tasting it is important that people don’t get confused. There must always be a clear answer to the question What is in this glass?. For which purposes there is PostScript program (author: yours truly) that makes all the paperwork required to organise a large tasting.

Within the manual page is a paragraph of links to examples of the output, or readers might prefer to start with a simple PNG example.

The titles in the centre of the circles should be a font which really should be called VintagePortStencil. Characters needed are:

  • abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz;
  • 0123456789 (upper case only);
  • áñçé (as in Cá (Cálem), Mñ (Quinta do Mañuela), Pç (Poças), Cç (Morgadio da Calçada), Ré (Réccua));
  • + (as in Pt+);
  • & (as in Silva & Cosens, Marks & Spencer);
  • ? (as in unknown).

Is there such a typeface already? Does anybody have the time energy enthusiasm to make one? Am I asking in the right place? Does this forum have a rule banning such requests?

FYI, I have started (a currently content-free) discussion on the same subject at www.ThePortForum.com/viewtopic.php?t=4105.

Thank you very much.

blank's picture

You guys have enough money to get together and drink port as a leisure activity but you can’t cough up some money for a font?

jdaw1's picture

Thank you.

A typical port house might declare a vintage of a few thousand cases: call it twenty thousand bottles. Some houses many more. So the physical stencils had to be very robust.

Plantain Stencil has several delicate cuts, not needed for the purpose of holding together a metal stencil, and delicate in appearance. E.g., compare with example 1 the ‘K’ (top-right cut) and ‘N’ (both cuts redundant).

From the other list the obvious choice is Stencil Antiqua, which has the same problem in the ‘5’ and the ‘N’, though the ‘K’ is excellent.

I’m after a robust stencil, in style late-Victorian or early-20C English. These modern stencils could withstand hundreds of thousands of digital uses, but not twenty thousand physical bottles.

Edit: happy to cough up for the right font. But not to pay thousands.

Arno Enslin's picture

It’s non-commercial, so payment can only be in the form of acknowledgement.

This is indeed naive or bold, because it wouldn’t be a conjoint project. You ask, whether somebody can do something for you. You don’t ask, whether somebody is interested in a conjoint project with task sharing. The absolute minimum payment would be an enhancement of the designer’s reputation, but in case of a non-commercial winetasting I assume, that the designer couldn’t increase his reputation. So his only motivation could be the interest in your project. But he could not really participate, if it remains only your project. I doubt, that you find someone, who is willing to invest months of work just for your acknowledgement. Renovating my rooms would be also a non-commercial project. But in those cases I am asking my friends, which requires a counterperformance sooner or later, or I am paying a craftsman. But I would not ask strangers, whether they are willing to help me just for fun.

jdaw1's picture

Arno: that’s very fair, but partly flowing from my failing to express myself clearly.

I don’t know how much work it is to derive a stencil font. If a pile of labour, then that’s difficult. Paying thousands for a custom corporate typeface exceeds my budget. But — what I meant, even I failed to say — if somebody is willing to add such a typeface to their library of fonts for sale at ‘usual’ cost, I’d buy one. If many copies can be sold, fabulous, more money to the designer.

> payment can only be in the form of acknowledgement.
is missing the word “material”.

Is that reasonable?

kentlew's picture

Throw in a case of 1985 Smith Woodhouse and I might be interested ;-)

Arno Enslin's picture

Mmh, I don’t know, where the word material is missing, because a material acknowledgement would be more than only an acknowledgement.

if somebody is willing to add such a typeface to their library of fonts for sale at ‘usual’ cost, I’d buy one.

This would be naturally okay. But I doubt, that the designer can simply make a stencil font from one of his existing fonts, because the outlines cannot become arbitrary broken. And most fonts could probably not changed in that way, at least not, if they shall not be pure deco stencils. It probably would be less work than creating a stencil font from the scratch and not necessarily worse. But if the designer was not already interested in creating such a font, he probably is asking, how big the market for such a font is.

jdaw1's picture

Put “material” immediately before “payment”.

Anyway, “how big [is] the market for such a font”? Sorry, I don’t know. My guess is not big.

> Throw in a case of 1985 Smith Woodhouse and I might be interested.
A man of good taste—albeit impractical transport arrangements. How about I throw in a large and very useful piece of software for organising tastings?

aluminum's picture

To get back to your original question, yes, there are a LOT of stencil typefaces with a large character set that would meet your needs. Have you looked through some of the offerings out there? For instance, a quick search on veer:


You'll want to check the character set before purchasing, of course, but more than a few of those should meet your requirements.

jdaw1's picture

I had searched, but did not know of veer.

But even search.veer.com/stencil?producttype=TYP doesn’t have one that does my job: close matches are Stencil Antiqua Regular (with its digital non-metal cuts in ‘5’) and EF Stencil (cuts in ‘5’ because Stencil fonts have cuts, even if metal wouldn’t be cut there).

Please, where else should I search?

Ray Larabie's picture

Check Jeff's Fonts next week and you'll see a close approximation to this font.

jdaw1's picture

> Check Jeff's Fonts next week and you'll see a close approximation to this font.
Thank you. (Though I won’t have access to a computer next week, nor the week after; please don’t interpret slowness of reply as indifference.)

Also, at www.ThePortForum.com/viewtopic.php?p=36390#p36390 my attention has been drawn to an image from the most recent Bonhams category. In the linked thread I comment “The cuts in the ‘A’ (meaning the non-cuts in the metal) are good and thick. Not sure the ‘L’ needed to be cut so thick, but there it is. Solid imposing paint-can-get-through-this throughout”.

jdaw1's picture

Mystery stencil is way too light, and nothing like the lettering seen on bottles of vintage port. But thank you for looking for me.

A non-obvious observation on minuscules. Minuscules don’t usually appear on stencilled bottles. But the placemats need them. In the centre of each circle ports are generally identified with an abbreviation. These abbreviations are becoming quite standardised. E.g.:

  • G70 = Graham’s 1970;
  • S70 = Sandeman 1970;
  • C85 = Cockburn 1985;
  • Cr85 = Croft 1985;
  • CR83 = Croft Quinta da Roeda 1983;
  • Pç77 = Poças 1977;
  • RO85 = Royal Oporto 1985;
  • Ro85 = Rocha 1985;
  • Cá85 = Cálem 1985.

Ray Larabie's picture

Sorry, that was posted in the wrong stencil font ID thread. But do look through Jeff's collection as he's digitized about a hundred stencils. http://new.myfonts.com/foundry/Jeff_Levine/

jdaw1's picture

Thank you. Of those the closest are Book Report and Evidence, though both are more seriffed than was the practice in labelling port bottles.

bojev's picture

I think those would do as Stencils as the serifs are most likely rounded and softened in the stencil painting process on the bottles.

aluminum's picture

Looking at the sample image here:


I'd say that's pretty much 'Stencil Bold' is it not?


kentlew's picture

> A man of good taste—albeit impractical transport arrangements.

Yes, I realized that after checking your profile. And obviously, I was being a bit facetious.

> How about I throw in a large and very useful piece of software for organising tastings?

Well, my neighbor (and the source of most of my vintage port collection) is the publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine and he keeps me straightened out, so I’m afraid I have little use for tasting software. Sorry. ;-)

Julian, I think the challenge here is that you have very specific aesthetic requirements which any currently available face is unlikely to meet. There have been several reasonable approximations suggested, none of which is close enough for you.

I do understand why these don’t satisfy your sensibilities (I was just looking at some Kopke bottles the other day); but as you acknowledge, any font that does will not likely have any other commercial potential. So this project would essentially be a labor of love. And unless you can find someone with the skills and time *and* who shares your specific interest in this pet project, it’s not likely to materialize.

You may have to decide whether to compromise with one of the given suggestions, in order to get something at least a bit more suggestive of stenciled port bottles, or just stick with what you have. Finding a perfect match is looking unlikely.

Best of luck to you.

jdaw1's picture

Everything you say seems reasonable. But there’s no harm in asking: it is on this website that somebody who had the same problem might have posted the answer; or somebody who wants a problem with which to inspire such a labour of love. Rejection was always possible.

Several times I have linked to www.jdawiseman.com/papers/placemat/placemat.html, and I have found it a little surprising that typographers have taken so little interest a program, 9k lines of hand-coded open-source PostScript, that does precise page layout. Please take a look. It is a labour of love, used by fewer than a score of people, that deserves to be more widely used. Your Wine & Spirits neighbour might love it too.

bojev's picture

Standard Stencil blurred in Photoshop

jdaw1's picture

Stencil Bold! Very good—I can live with the difference in the ‘N’, as the others are similar.

But—sorry!—Croft 1985 is always abbreviated to Cr85, not CR85, as that would be the (non-existent) Croft Quinta da Roeda 1985. The absence of minuscules is therefore a problem. (See other examples above.)

jdaw1's picture

Blurred! {Thinks to self: how best to do that in PostScript, in a manner that doesn’t massively increase PDF file size? Hmmm.}

Edit, mostly as an aside to self: would a very slight greying suffice? gsave gsave 0.75 setgray 0.48 setlinewidth stroke grestore 0.5 setgray 0.24 setlinewidth stroke grestore 0 setgray fill ?

bojev's picture

The actual blur needs to be clean after it is done - font shape is blurred to achieve bottle stencil glyph shape then hardened to look like paint (adjusted levels to remove grey) - grey stroke may make it look soft.

jdaw1's picture

Drifting further off topic, and it’s all my fault…

The next tasting for which placemats are being prepared, Utrecht 9th July (thread), has placemats that are a mere 2¼k per page. (Cue the audience being impressed.) I’d like to keep things tight.

Size would obviously be increased by embedding fonts, but adding a stage in PhotoShop would increase production complexity, and reduce the number of machines that can use my code. Not so good. So I am really restricted to what can be done reliably in PostScript.

Would a thin (0.48 setlinewidth?) stroke in 0 setgray black achieve similar?

bojev's picture

Thin stroke is better than thick but to get shapes right the letters need to be degraded from the basic Standard Stencil by blurring - Julian, e-mail me and I will see if I can make you a simple blurred stencil font (Caps and Numbers only?)

jdaw1's picture

“(Caps and Numbers only?)”: sorry, smalls important too. Search above for “Roeda”.

Ray Cruz's picture

Hello everyone! Just checking my password.

Northbay's picture

Julian, the examples you posted in your first post are — as Darrel mentioned — Stencil Bold. Obviously distorted when the actual painting occurred. As noted, is does not contain any lower-case letters.

Looking though the thread on your forum I found this image, something slight different, a real stencil beaut:

Do you have any more pictures of/similar to this one?

jdaw1's picture

Posted in both threads (other) are all I have (see comment-418124). Sorry, no more for the moment.

But the gaps (gaps in ink, metal on template) are far wider on the physical bottles than on the digital cuts. The digital typefaces would not survive a production run of a few thousand bottles.

riccard0's picture

This one seems nice:
But unfortunately it doesn't meet the diacritics' requirements.

akaczun's picture

If you are looking for a real heavyweight stencil try:


'fontspring' great place to look for stencil font ideas.

jdaw1's picture

I’m back from being away, and www.fontspring.com/classification/Stencil is indeed laden with Stencils.

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