Wood Type Spacing Material

What do you wood typists use for spacing material with wood type? Thus far, I’ve only used single words on a line or maybe a couple words and could improvise something.

Soon (I hope) I will be receiving some lower case letters and numbers and have some potential plans to print something that will need more spacing material than I have on hand.

Can I go out to the shed and rip some mahogany blocks into thin strips for leading, then cut some of them off for spacing? If so, how do I determine proper thicknesses for the different quads and spaces?

Is there some kind of industry standard or is it by “guess and by gosh”?


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I use wooden furniture and reglet, so your idea of ripping mahogany sounds good. Just be sure to cut consistent typographically useful widths.

Those widths would be in picas - suggest 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, and maybe 20 pica widths.

Thanks. I guess my methodology would be to rip the 3/4” blocks into strips that are the width of the type, rip those strips into 1, 2, 4, 5, 10 and 20 pica widths, then set up a jig to cut the strips into uniform lengths that are equal to the height of the type body. I’m guessing I’d need some “leads” that would be about 6 points and some slugs around a pica.

Should be manageable.

Your methodology sounds reasonable, and by the time you’re done, you will have figured it all out. That’s how these things go… You might also want to use heavy cardboard or binder’s board for thin spaces.

You may need to put spacing material between some of the letters within words as well, to make the words look balanced. Some letter combinations result in letters which are farther apart, like AT, AW, etc., and some look like they are closer together like IK, IE, HE, etc.

When you get a word where some letters are close and some are farther apart, it looks better to put spacing between some of them. Like the word “THE” where the TH looks farther apart than the HE, so you would put a little space between the H and E, so all of the letters in the word look equally spaced..

To make a line of type look good and balanced, with the letters and words spaced in a pleasing manner, it is more a visual thing than a technical thing.

There are a number of guidelines which come into play when doing typesetting, and correct letterspacing is one of them.

It is not uncommon to find wood type letters where printers have “mortised” them so they can fit closer together. Letters with diagonals in them are most likely to have had some the blank part of their blocks notched out.

Sounds like a huge amount of work to me!
Just give me a call. I have huge boxes of reglets in all thicknesses ready to go as well as wood furniture strips in 24” lengths that you can cut to size if desired.
Both options inexpensive so call and we can discuss.
American Graphic Equip. Corp.

Well, probably an hour or so. I, like many, have just a bit more time than I have money. I’ve also got a bunch of mahogany blocks out in the woodshop that aren’t big enough for much else. Also, I don’t really need much as I suspect that most of my printing will be done with photopolymer plates for the near future and possibly 3D printed plates toward the end of my life.

Thanks though.