Type Anatomy (Nick and Groove)

brockfrench's picture

It pains me to post this, but having no practical experience with metal type, I find myself in a quagmire... I'm looking for general information and specific/general measurements if they exist.

The Long:
I'm building a model of a metal type form. I'm under the impression that the Nick is simply a visual and tactile reference when working with type, and its size, shape and general orientation or height on the Belly are not specific?

As for the Groove, is there a contextual consistency held within each font, or are the ways of determining it's impression depth and orientation between the Feet?

My model is being made as if it were a 30pt piece.

The Short:
Need measurements for the profile of a metal type body at 30pts

Any help or advice is appreciated.
-Brock

brockfrench's picture

Bump?

Jack Curry's picture

I'm under the impression that the Nick is simply a visual and tactile reference when working with type, and its size, shape and general orientation or height on the Belly are not specific?
From what I can tell, this is correct – in my (limited) experience, the nick differs between fonts in order to visually determine whether or not all the characters being composed in a line are indeed from the same family. An example I can cite is when I was typesetting last week and inadvertently mixed up a 12pt Bodoni with the 12pt Walbaum I was setting my lines in – a quick glance at the nicks plainly showed that one character in my line was not of the same font. It could very well be that there is some kind of system that determines where the nick is located, but I can't seem to find any from working with metal type. The only pattern I can discern is that it tends to be in the top half of the character.

As for the Groove, is there a contextual consistency held within each font, or are the ways of determining it's impression depth and orientation between the Feet?
Like the nick, it seems that the groove can differ between fonts, but within the same font it stays consistent.

Need measurements for the profile of a metal type body at 30pts
I can grab a photo of all the sides of a piece of 30pt next to a pica stick for you this weekend if you'd like. Get in touch and let me know if you'd like a specific face; I'll do my best to accomodate.

brockfrench's picture

That would be great, and would surely be appreciated. I'll send some additional details to your e-mail in case you can provide hi-res photos, otherwise, posting them here will likely be of benefit to someone down the road.

Tom Parson's picture

The nick is a result of the specific body mold used in casting the type. Type foundries commonly used differing nick positions and multiple nicks to indicate a specific face, thus distinguishing among multiple sizes of a face such as Copperplate Gothic or Engravers Roman which had several sizes of Caps on the same size body. The nick commonly also was specific for a specific face, so wrong font characters could be noticed easily while setting. Since it was the set-up of the mold that determined the nick arrangement, variations occured as various foundries changed their equipment and procedures. Also, the mold normally used in Monotype casting machines had only a single position for the nick, so different Monotype faces and multiple sizes such as Copperplate often cannot be distinguished or sorted by this mark.

The nick almost always indicates the bottom position of the typeface design, thus allowing a visual check as type is hand-set in the composing stick with the nick facing up (with the typeface upside down but reading left to right as it is set). The only exception to this is when a type might have been cast upside down on the body due to some peculiarity in the matrix or design - I have one font of Hebrew type, for example, which has the nick at the top side of the letterform, and a couple of European fonts, and a couple of 19th century oddities resulting from use of old matrices to fit on more recent body molds.

The groove on the foot of the type results from the spew where the metal flowed into the body mold, which must be broken off and trimmed. The Monotype caster cuts this jet off flat, so there is no groove on monotype though there may be air bubbles in the casting that leave a pattern where the groove would be. Most foundry type has a groove in the center between the feet. Type cast on a Thompson caster often has the groove closer to one edge on the foot, though that machine could be adjusted to cut the groove in the center to look like other foundry type. The depth and shape of the groove is immaterial although it would indicate a differing machine or plough was used to cut the foot of that type, thus suggesting it was cast at a different time.

These markings are useful indications that something may be amiss in setting type, but variations and contradictions occur. They are consequences of the various possible ways type may be cast, and are part of the compositor's awareness though not always reliable.

brockfrench's picture

Thanks so much, Tom.

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