Tool identification


Needing to know the name of :
small rectangular flat metal tool, shaped almost like a house with slight increase in width to make the horizontal 2/3’s part wider than the top, or “roof.” Meant to go in a small horizontal upper pocket of a printer’s apron (that is, a very small pocket near the front top of the apron, shaped especially for this tool) for easy access — its own little “pocket”,quite near the top front “bib” edge of the apron.

I believe it was used to separate set lines of type in order to put additional lead between the lines without any of the type falling over, ie.,used for separating lines of type, as well as linotype lines.

12 picas wide by 10 high, often with “hook” on the side (which extends the horizontal measurement only on the top) to aid in lifting linotype lines. Also small hole on top often there, to put in pieces of twine to hang the tool up on a nail or small hook, ready for the next use. Can anybody name this tool?



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Make up Rule best james

Properly named a ‘make-up rule’, it would have been used in newspaper work to mark a place in a 12 pica column for corrections, and would have helped to lift a line of justified type. Linotype lines are easily lifted by themselves, but a make-up rule was a handy tool for scraping excess lino metal from slugs and tying up forms. According to the 1923 ATF Catalogue they were sold in lengths from 4 to 60 picas (I have several sets of composing rule in pica sizes up to 60), altho I have never seen a make-up rule larger than 13 picas. Never saw an apron like you describe, but I’m sure it would be a good thing to have around the shop.


Yes to the above. Another common use for the makeup rule was to tuck the string when tying up a form.

Any chance of seeing an image of the ‘makeup rule’? Intriguing.

NA Graphics sells them, and has a picture on their ‘Specials’ page.


Make-up rules were used in all kinds of composing rooms, and press-rooms too, not just in news work, and not just with slugs; working at a bank with a rule of any length, a good hand can separate lines of Monotype composition for leading. They are useful tucking the loop of string when tying up a form, and for pushing down leads and slugs which have worked up, and many other tasks.
The hooked rule is probably an Edy make-up rule. Below is a fuzzy picture of one shown in a 1970s Star Parts catalog. Another picture below shows various makeup rules and a couple composing rules too. Three of the Star make-up rules are shown, one from the earlier Automatic Saw Co., one from Star Parts, and third is the NA Graphics copy sold now

image: makeup.jpg


image: Edy.jpg


Not meaning to split hairs, but a composing or setting rule, and a make-up rule are intended for two different functions. Before the graduated composing sticks came into general use a composing rule could be used to set the line length in a stick, and was used (especially in solid setting) to set the type in the stick, being removed after a line was set and slid forward when ready for the next. The advantage of the composing rule is the small projection and the notch in the side allowed it to be levered out of the stick without disrupting the set line (see first rule in the included photo).

The rule with two projections is a steel composing rule. Quoting from the I.T.U. Lessons in Printing: “A composing rule speeds production. It is not easy to justify one line on top of another in a stick without an intervening strip of metal. The printer overcomes this difficulty by using a composing rule under each line he sets. This convenient little tool is nothing more than a thin piece of steel of suitable length and shape…Its smooth surface permits type to slide over it easily. A composing rule is useful also in making corrections, in removing type from a stick and in tying up.” It goes on to say that one can use ordinary brass rule, “but the lack of ears makes it more difficult to remove from between the lines.” The first two rules shown are type-high.

The third rule is a make-up rule (and I’m glad to see one that is longer than 13 picas), it would be used to divide pages and mark corrections, the hump in the rule made it easier to see in a galley or on the stone while the forms were being made up. By projecting above the form it would be much less likely to get to press without being noticed. I admit that it could be used as a composing or setting rule, but that was not the original intent.

The fourth rule has been altered with notches filed into it to make it easier to use tying up cords on a form. When new, the make-up rules would cut cord, but of the ones I own only the second one could still cut anything. The first rule (composing) is made of brass and altho it has a sharp taper to the bottom, it was never intended to be used to cut.

The brass composing rules I own came from England, where the tradition of using them for setting lasted much longer than in this country. I’m sure there are many hybrids and combinations of the two, but the difference in tool names and job descriptions leads one to conclude that the tools originally served different purposes.


image: printersrules.JPG


I now get it. I’ve used composing rules for years but I had never heard or seen makeup rules. Thank you for sharing this information and posting the photos.

I didn’t suggest that make-up rules and composing rules were the same thing; they are just in the picture for comparison. Composing rules were a necessity before graduated composing sticks were invented, to set a consistant measure, and for setting without leading. Ungraduated sticks continued to be made in the UK and Europe until the industry faded. Cornerstone was selling ungraduated sticks into the 1960s, where here Rouse graduated sticks (to say nothing of machine composition) had made composing rules obsolete a generation or three earlier (though one of my composing rules is from Rouse, the other ATF).

Thanks all, for most instructive answers, and a pix that included the two tools whose names were puzzling me.

I appreciate (very much) the depth of knowledge on this list!