Left-hand composing stick?

Any lefties out there in Briar Press land seen one of these lately?


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It looks to me to be a saw length gauge rather than a composing stick, but I could be wrong.

John Henry

It is from a saw - notice the notch.

There are no left-handed printers.

Dick G , certainly but there is us cack handed ones !!
Being left handed is a curse to all but pressmen , then it is a great advantage .

Yes, I would guess it’s a saw length gauge with a notch, from a left-handed saw!
dickg: If there are no left-handed printers, why would anyone make a left-handed stick?

Yes, I would guess it’s a saw length gauge with a notch, from a left-handed saw!
dickg: If there are no left-handed printers, why would anyone make a left-handed stick?

Yes, I would guess it’s a saw length gauge with a notch, from a left-handed saw!
dickg: If there are no left-handed printers, why would anyone make a left-handed stick?

Yes, I would guess it’s a saw length gauge with a notch, from a left-handed saw!
dickg: If there are no left-handed printers, why would anyone make a left-handed stick?

Yes, I would guess it’s a saw length gauge with a notch, from a left-handed saw!
dickg: If there are no left-handed printers, why would anyone make a left-handed stick?

I think I typed that left-handedly on a right-handed keyboard! Sorry!

SAW attatchment/device, highly unlikely, one of my most useful machines is a MILLERS, Printers Saw combined Router, supplied From the States to the Monotype Corporation in Redhill, U.K. a long time ago.!!! … The identification plate specifies, *Millers Saw Trimmer, model STL186 Patent Date, U.S.A. March 27th 1917*
It is calibrated in 1 em increments (click stop) to 134 ems, with micrometer adjustments of 1 point at every em click stop.
Surely it is inconceivable that after that date any manufacturer would have gone backwards and made a dedicated saw that needed a separate, heavy, measure checking device.???
Perhaps check out locally (stateside) the Super caster or Giant Caster equipped with exactly such device for checking the accuracy of a whole line of characters when on display 18-72 point, instead of checking every other individual character with a micrometer.
Guaranteed, (if He had the time) Sky Shipley, *Schuler* would show you a ringer from the Giant Caster.

I just checked my saws: a C&G and a Miller Pedestal saw. I think they’re both right-handed as this left-handed apparatus doesn’t seem to fit either!
When I need to get a point measure for 1 character I would set 12 pieces of a like character, then put them in a micrometer stick. Whatever the pica and point measure is for twelve, equals the point measure for one!

Ahem! Stop picking on us lefties! We’re the only ones in our right minds!

God couldn’t make everyone perfect, so he made the rest right-handed. I have never met so many left-handed printers, I thought I was the only one.

Listen to Johnny Cash,s *The One On The Right* seems to fit (sentiment wise) quite a few B. P. contributors.
Elizabeth Cotton, Was the only American who (if such were ever made???) would have been able to set type upside down /back to front and in reverse!!!
The only other living person who has come close is ME, and only because, in 19 and 62 at The Monotype School in London A Monotype Caster was doing it for Me, *?*?*?*?*?Composing/Casting Arabic, Upside Down, Back to Front, reading right to left and coming off the Caster, being lifted up, from column pusher/delivery gate over the line delivery mechanism and assembled/pushed from right to left, instead of vice versa.
The spools were keyed by an Arabic Speaking operator with special adaptations on the keyboard.
FOLLOW THAT name droppers???.
Provable from Conscription, (Draft Board records) they footed the bill for the attendance period!!!


You are not alone. Left on!!!!!!!!


More inventive , more adaptive ,more atttentive and more artistic evidently . how then do you hold and use a right hander stick if its wrong to have it in your right hand ?

If you notice 6 on the stick and 30 they correspond to 1” and 5” on the tape measure. Maybe it’s a composing stick for hebrew type? And who cares what hand you use.

Peter, we can do it because we are more inventive, more adaptive, more attentive and more artistic.

We struggle less with the heidelberg clutch lever too !!

Every time I run the windmill I always say that whoever came up with this must have been a lefty.

Us lefties have been left with no choice but to conform to a right-handed world on most levels…I do, however, have a left-handed circular saw. (By the way - Jimi Hendrix was left-handed, he played his guitar upside-down!)

I probably have over 6-dozen composing sticks in the shop. I try to collect the models/lengths that I don’t already have. They are all right-handed. My favorite among them is a small set-width stick made out of solid brass. Its charm lies in the fact that there is a significantly worn edge where the compositor rested his thumb. Just how many thousands of times was it held and used in order to wear down the brass????? It simply boggles the mind.


Rick, it amazes me how many different sticks were made, like you I often wonder how many lines were set this way.

Hi Dick,

I used to think I had a fairly impressive collection of sticks, but Paul Aken has at least twice as many at his Platen Press Museum in Zion, IL. His collection is AMAZING.


Rick, my last full time job was setting hand type, from the late 1970s till about 1985, I always set hand type at my cellar shop, thought I had a fair collection of sticks, around 20 or so but you blew me away. The job where I set hand type never set type below 18 point, a lot of wood type, they had a wooden composing stick that had to be 18 or 20 inches long, only wooden stick I ever saw.

Fasten you seat belt Dick, I currently have 9 wooden composing sticks. They are almost all about the size you describe. However, I do have one monster that is 41.5 inches long - suitable for hand-to-hand combat!!!!!

I will be taking one of them with me to the Hamilton Wayzgoose in November and donating it to the museum there because it actually has Hamilton Manufacturing Co. stamped into the bottom of it. This is the only wood stick I have with a makers mark on it.

I guess I’m just a handset-kind-of-guy. No linecasting equipment and no photopolymer.


LEFT HANDED CONVENTIONAL COMPOSING STICK, S.P. started a multiple post discussion about an enigma or an anomaly, that probably does not exist????

Precision, HEAVY checking device, maybe, as in my description.

As the English Language, and presumably that which is spoken in U.S.A. reads from, and is hand set from LEFT to RIGHT, if one had a setting/composing stick with the movable side block that normally comes under the thumb, of the left hand and moves from Left to Right, as each letter/space is assembled, transposed to the right hand, surely, NO CERTAINLY!!! the leftie would have to put the last, letter/space/full point/hyphen in the stick and under the thumb of the right hand. and then set R>>>L wake up at the back or use a mirror, try it.

How would that work, our own indigenous U.K. *expert* ought to be able to post a disclaimer, on behalf of left hookers???
P. S. P. yes J. H was a left hooker and so is Paul McCartney along with many others, BUT they reverse the strings so that the hand that does the business approaches the Bass “E” first and the top “E” last, (another Red Herring in the mix).
Elizabeth Cotton, did it the Real Hard way, but even that Amazing Lady would have struggled to set English Language type in a reversed Composing Stick.
Unless of course She had access to correct reading type, and then reversed it prior to imposition and printing, ???
One would have thought that with the alleged number of B.P. members at least one contributor could have posted a picture of Hand Setting, LEFT Handed, with a Left Handed stick???
There is a massive collection in The Museum, I will investigate and post a selection of shots, and IF an obviously L/H one is seen to exist I will grovel and post an apology to all concerned, on B.P. and right up to The White House and The Pres.
On Tolbert Lanstons, life I swear!!!

Mick, when I worked as a hand comp. we had a font of 12 point right reading type that was cut down to the height of the spacing material. It was used to make code words or numbers, we would made a bakelight mould from the type forms then cast a rubber stamp which was used to print on corrugated boxes. That right reading type wasn’t used very often, it was a little harder to set cause it wasn’t type high. I must agree with you, can’t see how a left-handed stick would work.

Ebay auction on the so-called Left Hand Composing Stick has closed. Four bidders had made six bids with a winning bid of $135.13.
“And now you know the rest of the story.”—Paul Harvey

“… at least one contributor could have posted a picture of Hand Setting, LEFT Handed, with a Left Handed stick???

No need, Mick, as all sticks are left-handed - left hand takes the strain and puts the thumb pressure on, while the right hand merely ‘picks and puts’. If you hold a stick with the right hand, the type falls out.

I don’t think it is a setting stick if it is its all out of proportion,
I think its a type holder/stick for dressing type. Sticks were used like that for dressing type after it had come out of a pivotal caster.

Quoted from A.P.L. (c) 1940, by Frank Dewitt, Department of Publishing and Printing, Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute, Rochester, N.Y.

For setting full lines longer than 42 picas on the All Purpose Linotype, a special assembling stick, 126 picas in length, with an adjustable stop is used. Lines are set and justified as in the regular sticks and then transterred to a 42 pica stick by breaking it up into convenient portions, any remaining space being quadded out in the right-hand end of the stick.”
This is followed by a description of the sawing of these slugs on the A.P.L. saw.
The A.P.L.* was Mergenthaler’s answer to the Ludlow, consisting of the casting unit of a Linotype minus keyboard and enabled it to cast Linotype, Intertype, A.P.L., Ludlow, and other matrices from six point to 144 point.
Mats were set face up, unlike Ludlow mats, which Linotype claimed made it possible to space a line with greater accuracy.
*Contrary to popular belief there were no left-handed printers harmed in the manufacture or use of this stick.

Left-handed composing stick

image: Left-handed composing stick.jpg

Left-handed composing stick.jpg

Here’s another left-handed composing stick. I found this one in a bin at Turnbaugh’s in Pennsylvania. Homemade, but real.

image: Another left-handed composing stick.jpg

Another left-handed composing stick.jpg