Lacquer on wood letterpress type/ornaments?

Good day. I’m somewhat new to briar press but am finding it an invaluable resource for learning the craft. My professor owns a print/design business and pointed me in this direction for the nitty gritty questions.

I recently bought some wonderful wood type blocks and about, 90 or so, metal and wood ornaments. The years have been kind to some, unkind to others but they’re all in fairly good condition.

Using some Crisco, Simplegreen and Mineral Spirits (in lieu of California Wash) I managed to get the majority of old ink and lots of grime off the pieces.

My question is, some of the pieces/blocks are unsealed and look like they were hand-cut. As such they’re unsealed or the wood is old, dry if not a bit crumbly. Would it be detrimental to the pieces (and printing) if I lacquered/re-lacquered the exposed areas of the block? These are not intended to be used for decoration or museum pieces, I would like to print with them.

Any help I can get on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.


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You have some very interesting things in that mix. All those blocks with the artwork cut into them rather than raised above the surface are casting masters for making letterpress type. They’re called matrices or mats for short and they came from a foundry like American Type Founders or the like. You can’t print with them, but there are folks here on Briar Press who might be very interested in buying them from you.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

The matrices are indeed interesting. I would be sure they came from BB&S or American Type Founders as they have holes drilled in the side for the slipper that holds them in place on a Barth automatic casting machine.

The person that could most likely use them is Greg Walters of Piqua, Ohio.

Where did these come from?


Sky Shipley is setting up to cast from ATF matrices as well.

The correct sealer for the wood type is shellac.

At least 3 of the mats are chrome plated. These indeed need to end up, sold or lent, to someone who can cast them as that is the only practical use. Most of the potential casting people are presently in Andover, MA attending the ATF conference. These can be cast with the proper adaptor on Monotype Giant casters—too bad all this material got scatered after the 1993 ATF auction.

A few observations from shots pictured herein:- the pieces in shots 5 and 4 respectively with 9 holes, 18 holes and 2 slots, will possibly prove to be Elrod (Type) strip material, stuck together to act as a mounting base, especially the 2 slot vertical item!!
Re the far less than type high (in appearence) artefacts, would /will possibly still cast printable items, but at varying different thicknesses and overall configurations, would need a massive range of Matrix Holders.???
Hand casting from infinetly variable Hand Moulds, Possibly?

Would very much like to see, and after the detective work, (if ever) the eventual answer/solution Posted on B.P.

Fritz 1, no disrespect intended, but your *chrome* plating would appear to be only half right, i.e. plated, but with nickle rather than chrome. See my well corroborated post from 6th. Sept, 2013, Headed, Monotype Matrix cases/SuperCaster mats. With shots on B.P.
I and others here have always assumed that Nickle was the method to use, (especially on Monotype Mats struck in Brass) for possibly 2 reasons, (a) nickle appears to be easily deposited and controllable on brass, and (b) chrome seems to have to be laid down/ deposited at considerable thickness, even at microns, and by implication altering the depth of drive to the face, to print,?
Messrs, Paul Teutul, Senior & Junior, @ Orange County Choppers, would of course Chrome Plate anything, up to perhaps 1/16” of an inch thick, possibly, and then polished back, beautifully, on a Chopper, so thickness of plating would be a benefit, not a drawback.
The fore going possibly conjecture, but I will state that the Adjustments for the descent of the Mats onto the Moulds on both the Composition M/c., from 5 to 14 point, and the Supercaster is quite critical, for sealing, especially on the composition @ 180 characters per minute, on 5/6 point, or the Supercaster @ 9, (nine) revolutions per minute, casting 72 point , full face, Cap *M* or cap *W* for example,
I have the scars on my right wrist to prove how MUCH pressure has to be sealed off, Molten Lead moves quite swiftly.
By default, the thickness of the Matrices and adjustments are critical, hence my comments re, How Many different Matrix holders might be involved.??

Most of the matrices look like fraternals, which are rarely used in printing today. Not sure if they are worth the expense to cast.

ATF used both nickle and chrome: Ref. “Practical Typecasting,” Rehak, 1993, pp 137 - 151.