Reducing type height from .928” to .918”

I have some .928 items I’d like to reduce so I can use them mingled in with the .918. Mostly ornaments.
Is there any practical, accurate way of doing this?

I only have a few reasonably large items (roughly 18-30pt)

Ideas appreciated!

Log in to reply   13 replies so far

Is this metal or wood type? Scott Moore has done some work like this on his block leveler for wood type fonts. I have seen lines of metal type taken down in height on a milling machine. The type gets stood on the face and secured very carefully. It isn’t easy and must be locked up perfectly or it is ruined.


Finding someone with a Ludlow Supersurfacer could be one way of potentially dealing with this issue. It’s basically a very specialized surface grinder specifically designed to polish the print faces of Ludlow slugs after casting, but could theoretically be used to mill down the feet of type as well.

Michael Hurley
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

Yes as already implied perfectly feasible on conventional Milling Machine, BUT only working with a *Fly Cutter* assembly device, follows thus:-
With the type to be reduced, in height, Locked up face down with Dummy expendable characters, i.e. spare X,Z.Q, Dipthong, Ligature etc. at the end of each group of characters to protect the foot of the character on the *Run Out* of the Fly cutter, minute whiskers of swarf tend to build up without the *Dummy*

The FLY CUTTER, system is stated specifically because generally there are limitations to the width of cut per pass, from conventional milling cutters, i.e. not only does the material have to traverse left to right or vice versa, but also the width of the cutter can only be used per pass, up to 80% of total capacity.!! and requires more than one lateral pass, even with auto feed it makes for laborious milling.

The Fly Cutter system is basically One individual cutter mounted at the periphery of a large disc, far in excess of the width of the item,s to be milled, that gives an excellent finish, even when advancing down to the finished height at .001” -.002” per cut.

Yes!!! it has been done here U.K. (Kearney & Trekker 2 C.V.A. Mill)

Yes!!! we did fail miserably, initially, tried to take of too much material in one pass, printers lead does not take too kindly to conventional Cutters, End Mills, Slot Mills, inc.

Generally .010 (ten thou) is about the limit that can usually be removed, because even with Founders Type, generally accepted as superior to Standard Monotype beyond .010 (ten thou) the milling tends to show up inclusions (minute bubbles) in the body of the type especially in full width characters M W etc.

Great info, Mick. This relates pretty well to what I saw Theo Rehak set up at The Dale Guild. It wasn’t fun, but it did the trick.


The Supersurfacer clamp holds slugs of 6 or 12 point thickness. That hinged mechanism couldn’t be trusted to grip anything much thicker.
Is there any reason these types couldn’t be taken down one stick at a time on a composing room saw with a sharp blade, carefully set?

You can underlay the .918” area of the form and let the higher types stand on their feet on the bed. This will allow for even inking, and adjusts the height for pressure as well. I often have had to do this with wood mounted cuts to match type height. If the type lines are intermingled, it makes for some fancy cutting, but works fine.

John Henry
Cedar Creek Press

Thanks for the info folks.
I don’t have enough .628 sorts to experiment with, so I’ll continue with the makeready.

Appreciated as always!

This is no help to the present problem, but I just found another method of milling type matter, the Linotype Surfacing Machine. It is shown on the back of the 1934 “Useful Matrix Information” booklet, but I haven’t seen it in any other publication by Mergenthaler or in the recent Romano book.
It was a small tabletop machine that dressed the face of slugs, four clamped around a rotary table.

image: Lino-surfacing..jpg


This problem has been addressed a ways back and I found an answer in the ATF newsletter #24 from 1999. Dan Jones of Newmarket, Ontario modified a Ludlow Supersurfacer and he reported “There must be a limit to the amount of metal the machine can mill away from a piece of type but I have not found that limit yet—it works fine in cutting down type which measured about .923” before milling.” He further stated “The holder (slug holder) was set up for the thickness of a Ludlow base (12 points), but seems to accept type from 12 point to 72 with no difficulty.” Dan made a modified holder and offered anyone a copy of his drawings.

The ATF newsletters are a wealth of information concerning type—its making and use. A limited number of each issue are printed and circulated, primarily to those who belong to the ATF (American Typecasting Fellowship).

Boy, Fritz, that was a long time ago! The Supersurfacer works well in this adaptation, it is a very precise machine. Heavy cuts should be done in two passes. All I really did was make a new holder but without the hardened slots, a drawing really is not necessary. There needs to be a stop on the one side, left side as you face the machine. The stop has to be located so that the first piece of type is under the clamp. Note that the clamp actually has a bit of a curve to it to hold down one slug, Rich Hopkins overcame this by adding a bit of cut hose to spread the clamp force out to individual pieces of type. At MonoU #3 or #4, we ran some of Paul Duensing’s 72 pt. black letter casts from the Super Caster and cut down the type, it worked well. I would hesitate cutting down type on a milling machine unless you limit the travel of the table to a short measurement, since a letterpress printer is looking for accuracies of plus/minus 0.005” max and most mill tables can be worn way past this tolerance, worse, the height could vary once you are done. Know your machine. My next venture for the Super Surfacer was to modify one to cut down cast type that had overhangs from engraved matrices, lots of thinking, no action so far.


It may not surprise those who know me but my bed-time reading is related to printing and letterpress in particular. There are a couple of stacks of bound Inland Printers, some loose copies of the magazine, and a set of mint perfect ATF newsletters that Dan Morris recently sent me. These were the file copies from the Dale Guild Type Foundry.

And for those who have never seen an ATF newsletter, these are beautifully printed booklets done by Rich Hopkins and are a labor of love. Rich mixes letterpress work done on his 10x15 Heidelberg along with exceptionally nice offset from his commercial shop. All the type in the letterpress sections is set on Rich’s Monotype casters. In the issue referenced here, issue 24, there are 38 pages, everything letterpress except for the cover, and multiple pages in 2 colors, and the body type set in Scotch Roman. And Dan’s article on the Ludlow Supersurfacer was on page 9 that also included an inset showing a specimen of Concave, a Kelsey face that Rich and his students at Monotype U cast and then milled to proper height, using the Supersurfacer to show that it can be done.

Someone following this might be interested to know that there is now a Ludlow Supersurfacer for sale right here on Briar Press. I can’t recall seeing another posted here before.


The ‘official’ way of doing it was a general practice in German type foundry’s where all type was cast on ‘foundry height’ and milled down to the customers wishes. With the exemption for large orders the casting machines were adapted.
It is still being done at the only surviving working type foundry in there occident in Darmstadt, Germany by Mr. Gerstenberg. I posted a video on Flickr from earlier this year where you can see the whole process.[email protected]/20183412742/in/dateposted-pub...

Kind regards
Patrick, Antwerp, Belgium