Using European wood type

I bought some wood type and am in a dilemma. Unwittingly I’ve bought some 26line European type but I’m in the uk so it takes a little bit of effort to get the cylinder of a Vandercook over the type. The type is beautiful though, I know I can reduce the packing a bit to ease the passage of the roller but I’m quite lazy and generally leave the packing alone. So my question is am I going to risk damaging the press if I keep using this type?
I’d appreciate any thoughts thanks

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Yes, you could damage the press and the type. Unless you have an adjustable press, you probably should not be using it.

The first thing you need to do is figure out how high it is, if it’s just a little you could get by by adjusting the rollers and the packing to print it.

The real long term solution is to mill it down to american type high. I have done this on some 54L italian type that was .977.

It’s a lot of work and takes special tools but it can be done.

It would seem that the wood type is the weakest link here. The press will destroy the type before it hurts the press. And your cylinder packing will be the first to go.

Scott Moore at Moore Wood Type occasionally planes down European type to .918 for his customers. I wonder if you might be able to find someone near you that can offer a similar service. Or speak to Scott!


Hi Alistair, You may find that Chris Daunt the supplier of blocks to wood-engravers may well be able to assist. Also
to be aware that there were many, many different type heights around the world. in some countries two or three were in use!! When Heidelbergs were making their big letterpress cylinders on a production line basis - one off the line every hour and a half i think it was, each one had a temporary tag on for labels to be in spanish or slovak etc and beneath that a figure showing the height that bed on that machine had to be made to, otherwise the presses were all exactly identical

Thanks for all the advice. Harrild I’m now speaking to Chris

Thank you

harrildplaten, there’s another difference on the Heidelberg production line: My .918 KS has English markings, but the .928 cylinders I’ve run and seen were marked in Deutsch.

Sorry for reference what is uk type high in mm please?


It might be helpful to know that wood letter used to be sold in so many dozen character founts. i.e. a 6 dozen fount got you 72 single characters, an 8 dozen fount etc etc. It was a commonplace to sell founts without a ‘Q: as so rarely needed. On the other hand printers in North Britain sometimes asked for and sometimes got a Mc character.
16 line is big indeed and would have been a very small fount as normally sold. Only the middle line, often a single word, in a poster, like say ‘SALE’. In passing, there is a special place in hell reserved for those folk breaking up founts to sell one letter at a time. !!!!!

Oh Harrild how right you are. This all stems from a dealer on eBay buying a large font of poster type from Italy and breaking it up to flog for profit - I unwittingly bought a set of capitals (wouldn’t have touched them if I’d known I was supporting the butchery, I should have guessed that an ‘alphabet’ of type was dubious) and now I’m stuck paying more to make the type usable

Well hopefully I will at least learn from this…