To Set Type:

You will find it best to start with something small and simple, such as a card, or one or two short lines of type. Shown here is a sample of a business card. Let's begin by setting this card, but use your name, address, etc., with any other alterations you may wish to make without getting it too complicated.

Setting a card

In typewriting, you adjust your margin stops to the longest line you are going to write, and in printing you start with spacing-out material as long as the longest stretch on the card, which in this case is from 6 of 61 Worth Street to the 0 of 3810, and you will find this measures three inches. Printers call three inches 18 picas, their measurements making 6 picas to the inch. If you have one of the standard assortments of furniture (wood blocking) you will find several pieces in it three inches (18 picas) long, which you can use in this set-up. If you received a composing stick with your outfit, set the movable part (called the knee) so that it will hold a three-inch line, using a piece of wood furniture that length to get the right measurement, but allowing just a trifle more - the thickness of a heavy cardboard, or about a 72nd of an inch (one point, as printers call it). This is done so that when you tighten up your finished form the squeeze will come on the type and not on the furniture.

To set up this job you may want something thinner than the wood to put between the lines, and if you do, the metal leads (line spacers) are made for that. If your leads are all longer than three inches, you can use a lead cutter, cut them with shears, or file a deep notch in them so that they will break in two. Be careful, though, that the finished length is the same as the furniture.

Setting type

Hold the composing stick as the picture shows, in the left hand, with the open side away from you. Put a piece of three-inch lead or three-inch furniture in the composting stick, then with your right hand, pick up the first letter (if you are following the sample card, it will be a W, or whatever first name you are setting up). Place it face up and with the nick AWAY from you, in the lower left hand corner of the stick, holding it in position with your thumb. Then pick up the next letter, put it in the stick next to the first, and so on.

Removing a chase

If you have no composing stick, take the chase and chase bed from the press as shown in the picture, and lay them with one edge on a block, book or magazine about an inch high, so that the tilt will keep the type in place until you are ready to lock (tighten) the form. Arrange some furniture (wood blocking) in the chase so as to leave just the space in the center, needed for the form, then start putting in the three-inch spacing material and the type, just as described above for the composing stick.

Having set "William" (or your own first name), put a three or a four em space after the last letter. As you will see from the illustration, the difference between three or four em spaces is a matter of thickness, and you can take your choice. Set the initial and period, put in another space, then set the last name.

Setting type

What you have set will by no means fill out the three-inch space, so fill in on each end with the quads (thick spaces, see picture), being sure to use the same amount on each side of the type, to have the name properly center ed. You can get this exactly in the middle by the use of the spaces. The line should be just tight enough (if you are using a composing stick) so that if it is lifted up it will stay where put without falling down, but no so tight that it is hard to shove spaces in.

You now have your first line set up, and can put some spacing material between it and the next one. If another line is to be close, like the work "Insurance" in the sample, you may want to use a lead (already mentioned-line spacer) which should be cut or filed to the right length. If you want more space, or are going to leave out that line and get down the address, you can use the wood furniture-enough of it to space the first line far enough away from the bottom one.

Distributing type

The street address and the telephone number (or perhaps you prefer the city and state) can be spaced out so that one is at one end of the line and the other at the other, as shown.

If you have been using your chase, the type form is now ready to lock or tighten. If you have been setting in a composing stick this is the way to pick up your type:

Put another three-inch piece of wood furniture or lead at the bottom-perhaps several if you have the room, so as to give you something to hold onto. Now, do as the picture shows-grasp the type form (still with the bottom line away from you, as you see) with your inside fingers pressing against the edges, squeezing tightly on ALL sides, lift carefully form the stick and place in the chase, which you have previously taken out to the press and laid on a flat surface. (Better use the chase bed for the surface unless you have something else you know is perfectly true and smooth).

All this may sound as if using a composing stick were more difficult than setting type in the chase in the first place, but there are numerous advantages, particularly on work with more lines. It is easier and quicker to set up type in the stick and you can be entirely sure of getting all the lines "justified"-that is, spaced with an equal degree of tightness, which helps to keep everything where it belongs, with no drop-outs when you have turned up the screws along the edge of the chase.

If you have been setting up the sample card, and are in a hurry to proceed, you can now skip as far as "Locking Up Form". However, if you are setting up something in column formation like the lines of this guide, or any work a little more complicated than the card, you will want to know a little more about spacing out your work. Suppose you are setting a line like this. Set up your line until it almost comes to the end, using three-or four-em spaces between the words. If there is no room to get in another word or syllable, increase the space between the words either by adding thin spaces until the line is filled out-(neither too loose or too tight-as already described)-or pull out one or more of the smaller spaces, and replace them with the next size larger. Similarly, if all but one or two letters of a word will fit in the line, you can reduce the space between the words by substituting smaller spaces as far as necessary to get in your letters.


Setting type Setting type
Substituting one space for another size

If you are setting big type you may find it necessary to cut spaces from paper or cardboard to properly space out the line, or use thin brass or copper spaces (you will find these listed in the catalog).

Between the line you have just finished and the next one you can place a two point lead, cut to the right length. Lines can be set without any space between them if you wish, but you will find it best to put a piece of lead or brass rule as a divider between the two lines when you are setting them, so that the individual letter os one do not bind on the other, moving the divider forward after each line is properly spaced.

As in the case of the card on which we started, more space can be put between the lines by using more two point leads, or six point slugs (printer's term for six point leads) wood blocking (reglet or furniture). When you have as many lines set up as you feel you can move from the composing stick to the chase safely for the first time, do the same as described with the card. Better take only three or four lines at first, until you get familiar with it.

In the beginning, we spoke of making the lines as long as the longest you expect to set. If some of them are so long that to do so would not be practical, you can break the short ones down into groups, just as the tabulating key does on a typewriter, and set these groups in your completed job just as you would individual forms, being very sure to make the spacing everywhere equal, so that turning up the chase screws will give a purchase on all parts of the entire form.


How to arrange a page with lines of unequal lengths

Arranging a page

Example:  Set 'A' (top and bottom) one length, set 'B' short length (slightly less than 1/2 of 'A') set 'C' separately, and fill in on each side to make exactly the same length as 'A'.  (All lines represent lines of type.)

Locking Up the Form

"Form" is the printer's term for the body of type and other matter you have set up. "Locking a form" means tightening it so that when it is lifted it will hold together-in other words making it ready for the press.

Remove the chase bed and chase from the press and lay them together on a bench or table. Place the completed form as near the center of the chase as possible, with the first line toward the screws, if lines run lenghthwise of the chase, or toward the solid end of the chase, if lines run crosswise. Around the form, put furniture (wood blocking), long pieces the long way, and short pieces on the short side. The iron strips furnished should be placed next to the chase for the screws to bear on.


Planing           Locking form

Make sure that the type all stands squarely on its feet, that all the lines are of the same length and that everything is true and square, so that pressure will hold all evenly. Now turn screws just enough to press form together lightly, then lay a smooth surfaced block (planer) upon the form and strike lightly with a mallet to push down any letters that may stick up above the others. Now lock up firmly by the screws, holding the fingers of one hand firmly on the furniture near the screws to prevent it from springing up. Do not tighten the screws all on one side, nor any one screw as far as it will go, at first. To do so may break your chase. Tighten each screw a little at a time, first on one side, then on the other, and so on until all are tight. Different presses have different arrangements of chase screw; some have more, some less.




On some presses (not the Excelsior) quoins (wedges) are used to lock the form instead of screws. Proceed as outlined, but put quoins in the chase, with furniture on both sides of them. Tighten each quoin a little at a time.


When locking any form, whether with screw or quoins, do not lock any tighter than necessary to hold everything firm. Both screws and quoins exert an enormous pressure and, if too tightly locked, will spring the form or break the chase screw, or even the chase itself.

Never allow type or furniture to project below the bottom of the chase as it will prevent the chase from resting squarely against the bed, and you may not be able to get them together so that the chase latch on the press will fit over them and hold them securely in place. The bottom of chase, chase bed and, in fact, all parts of the press, must be kept cleaned of dirt, rust, dried ink, etc., for the best work. 

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