Making WoodCut Type

maj's picture

I was wondering if anyone had some good information (online) and suggestions for reffrences (offline) as to makeing woodcut type. Any information would be appreciated, cheers.

hrant's picture

You might ask the Czech type designer Frantisek Storm, who happens to be a proficient woodcarver.

hhp

jim_rimmer's picture

Mark

If you are planning to actually cut type fonts in wood (or do you mean digital renderings of wood type?) look up Hamilton Wood Type Museum on the web. They are a working museum in Two Rivers Wisonsin operating with all of the old Hamilton Wood Type Company's equipment and patterns.

They make new wood type from the patterns and sell it to those who still want it. You might recall that a couple of years ago Matthew Carter designed a new wood type face that they have produced in wood.

If you could manage a trip there you would probably learn a lot if you get there at the time they are actually working on some wood fonts.

If you are planning on simply cutting it out by hand, this will not apply a whole lot. If you plan to cut multiple letter fonts you will probably need a pantograph, like a Gorton or a Deckel or a number of other makes.

The other day I made mention of Hatch Show Print in Nashville, Tennessee. Their site is certainly worth looking up. Additionally, they have recently publised a book showing their poster work from a hundred and some years ago till the present. Look em up for inspiration.

I have cut a few wood letters here on the pantograph (Chinese characters) as props for a photo shoot.

Best of luck in your quest. If I can help, let me know.

Jim Rimmer

hrant's picture

We have three large American White Oak trees in our backyard, and one of them is slowly destroying a bedroom wall... Unless we can effectively apply what's called a root barrier, we'll have to bring the majestic old thing down. I dearly hope it doesn't come to that, but my question is: the arborist will end up with big chunks of oak which he will take away. Should I keep any of it and try to make my own wood type?! Like an arboreal Neuland or something. Is oak the right kind of wood for this? How hard would it be to get the face level type-high? Or is raw wood something that will actually find a buyer on eBay? :->

hhp

jim_rimmer's picture

Hrant

From what I have seen, woodtype is made from endgrain rounds of woods like maple, pear, cherry plum and apple in sizes up to about 20 line. This wood is finihsed off to near thickness and stored for many years before it is milled to type-height and hand rubbed to a mirror-like finish. There are some details about this in the Hamilton Woodtype Museum website. In larger sizes it was cut in flat grain of the same woods.

I am not an authority on the woods, so there are no doubt others that were used. I know that in recent years woodcut illustrations and some wood type were cut on birch and poplar plywoods. Both are apparently almost grainless, and can be cut with knives and gouges to good effect for illustration. Chris Manson of Rockville MD uses these plywoods exclusively for his illsutration work.

I have cut a good many blocks for illustrations in medium density fibreboard and something sold here called Ranger Board. Both are nothing more than highly compressed paper fibre, but can be cut in very fine line and will stand up to heavy impression for long runs. The downside is that it can't be exposed to dampness, or it will double in thickess and will be useless for futher printings.

Oak as endgrain might be too pronouned in the winter/summer growth rings and as flat grain planks I am certain the pronounced grain would get in the way of making a clean, untextured image. On the other hand you might get a heap of money from a furniture maker or somebosy who has a lathe.

After reading the Hatch Show Print book through time after time, I have become interested in pantographing some wood letters at my shop for poster printing. It's amazing how much inspiration one can pick up from reading and observing work like Hatch.

I really urge everyone to pick up the book.

Good luck with your tree. I hope you can save it.

Jim Rimmer

hrant's picture

Jim, thanks.

> endgrain rounds

What's that - the outside part? I guess that's the opposite of "flat grain"?
A total lumber novice, am I.

> plum

Now you tell me. We had a plum tree that died*, but the only thing left now is some small chunks I use to smoke while BBQ-ing - the aroma is just great.

* Of old age, as far as we could tell. Which means it was already nice and dry (see below).

I went to a woodcutting fair a few months ago, and I remember they relied a lot on basswood, whatever that is. It's very light and white. Actually, I have some in the garage. Hmmm....

> stored for many years

I guess that's to dry it, to reduce volume change. Some searching I did on eBay seems to indicate that some people use kilns for that, bringing down moisture content to single-digit percentages.

Interesting and highly useful insights about oak. Maybe the texture can become part of the character of what I do with it? It's going to be massively rough anyway.

Oak is indeed supposed to be highly valued for furniture, so much so that it's a protected tree (over here in Glendale at least), so maybe like you say I can find a buyer. But I'd rather it stay right here, upright and in one piece...

> Hatch Show Print

Will get it from UCLA on Thursday!

hhp

John Hudson's picture

From the woodtype I've seen over the years, you need a really dense wood, which will dry and polish up to a really hard surface that will allow for a sharp edge to the letters and an easily cleanable surface. Basically, you want wood that emulates the printing hardness and durability of metal type, so you can get repeated clean impressions. Remember, wood type exists because casting metal type at that size is too expensive and weighs too much, but the goal in terms of printing quality is the same.

The endgrain is the cross-section of the tree. This is the same surface used for making woodblock prints, and it is desirable because it can be easily worked but also polished to a completely smooth surface. If you cut across the grain, it is more difficult to work, and parts of the grain may appear as a pattern on the surface, no matter how finely you sand and polish.

The wood is dried to harden it and also to ensure that any cracks form before the type is cut, rather than after it.

hrant's picture

Useful, thank you!

hhp

jim_rimmer's picture

Mark

In doing a deep cleanup of paper etc. I came across a small woodtype catalogue (36 Pages) put out by Hamilton Wood Type, in the late fifties, I think.

It is not in-depth on their process, but there are a few pictures and text about how they go about it: wood cutting and preparation, pantographic cutting and hand finishing with gravers.

It's yours if you want it. Your address?

Jim Rimmer

jim_rimmer's picture

Mark

In doing a deep cleanup of paper etc. I came across a small woodtype catalogue (36 Pages) put out by Hamilton Wood Type, in the late fifties, I think.

It is not in-depth on their process, but there are a few pictures and text about how they go about it: wood cutting and preparation, pantographic cutting and hand finishing with gravers.

It's yours if you want it. Your address?

Jim Rimmer

maj's picture

Sorry it has took me so long to respond, I became a little busy. In response to how I am doing it, I am planning to do it by hand mainly as I don't have money to do it any other way, and just build my own tools. Lately I have been doing many things by hand as a learning process, as an artistic process (I'm an Artist along with being a Designer), and just to get my hands dirty. I honestly find it great for learning, and its nice to get away from a digital setting off and on. Besides this I have also been doing calligraphy, and weekly book binding; along with setting up a screen printing area and dark room in my house.

The way masters used to work just inspires me quite a bit. Not quite related, but still related, I rember going to this exhibition about two years ago where this lovely lady had created a book where she had made the paper, bound the book, and created all the type with in it (wood cut, 400 pages) it just greatly inspired me.

Jim I would be very grateful if you sent that book to me, I will private message my address to you, thank you very much.

timd's picture

http://www.lawrence.co.uk/shop/index.html?loadfile=catalog14_0.html is a shop that deals with high quality wood for engraving and carving for type, that used to be at the splendid address of Bleeding Heart Yard in London.
http://www.andyenglish.co.uk/ has a how to section on his site that I browsed through the other day.
http://www.woodengravers.net/ Wood Engravers of North America could be useful, it was in the links on Lawrence site.

hrant's picture

Superb resources! Thank you.

hhp

Toby's picture

Anyone knows where to get high res scans of wood type prints?

maj's picture

An odd question, but is their any organization archiving older typography information like this. I know their are organizations that archive old books and information in general. In a age thats becoming more and more digital however does anyone else feel that their is a need to archive older information on typographic processes such as this, so they don't get lost in time?

John Hudson's picture

...is there any organization archiving older typography information like this?

http://www.woodtype.org/

hrant's picture

Jim, I checked out "Hatch Show Print" - what a great story, and what great work. And some bit of good news: it seems they used two kinds of wood for engraving, basswood and maple - and the former is pretty easy to acquire (around here at least). Thanks again for the ref.

hhp

jim_rimmer's picture

I know I have posted this address before in regard to woodtype, but look it up anyway. Very inspirational, and a new twist to the handling of woodletter and image.
www.sternandfaye.com

Jim Rimmer

maj's picture

I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it feels relevant:
http://www.archive.org/texts/texts-details-db.php?collection=millionbooks&collectionid=WoodCarvingDesignAndWorkmanship

If you haven't looked through the books on archive.org, they have some geat stuff, including a nice type speciman book and a manual on lino type/type in general.

Mark

jordy's picture

Mark
The best book on the subject of wood type is American Wood Type: 1828-1900 by Rob Roy Kelly, originally Van Nostrand, 1969. It is out of print but you can sometimes find it on eBay or in used book stores. There is a lot of digitized wood type out there, especially on my own site at http://www.woodentypefonts.com
Jordan

Syndicate content Syndicate content