Wood type construction

tomatocake's picture

woodtype.pdf (36.4 k)

i'm trying to collect some technical information on the making of wood type and i'm having trouble understanding what i thought was a pretty simple and clear rule of typography. Shouldn't the curve of "rounded" capital letters like "O" or "U" go pass the baseline just a little? I know that this is necessary in order for the rounded letter not to appear visually smaller than the others...it is a little hard to explain...I'm attaching a file...thanks.

hrant's picture

Yes, overshoot is important to maintaining equal apparent size.

But you could say that the main contemporary appeal of wood type is in fact in its "naive" nature, so...


tomatocake's picture

i partly agree with you, but i think it is more of a matter of quality then...i guess that type in the olden days was produced by competent and incompetent people...just like today. I'm not talking about imperfections...

jim_rimmer's picture

If you have several pieces of the actual wood type in your hands you will see that (at least in all the many fonts that I have had experience with) that there is no overshoot built into the font. If you are looking at 20 line type, you will see that letters like Z and H fill the body, with only about two point of beard for the angle created by the pantograph's cutter.; not nealry enough room to make an ideal overshoot of about 5 points for C, O, Q, etc.

I think the woodtype makers considered it an unneccessary frill, or perhaps were just not that aware of typographical niceties.

I think that as Hrant says, its naivety is its charm.

If you take a close look at any Hamilton Woodtype book, it's almost a scandal, the rusticness of the letters' finish; but that is it charm.

Jim Rimmer

hrant's picture

It's worth pointing out here that the larger the type -and notably wood type's existence is tied to size- the less the [relative] overshoot needs to be.


tomatocake's picture

i honestly thought that it was more of a quality issue...because i have seen some wood type blocks that are really well constructed, and the overshoot seems to have been taken into consideration.

for example, look at the "H" on the hamilton museum website home page http://www.woodtype.org , you can tell that there is plenty of space on the bottom to accomodate an "O" or an "S" on the same size block...

any suggetion on a book that may talk about this issue in detail?


so my original question was: if i want to reconstruct let's say a Akzidenz Grotesk, should i follow the overshoot principle or ignore it?

aluminum's picture

FYI, call the Hamilton Wood Museum. They still have wood type craftsmen that you can probably get a hold of to ask them this directly.

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