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Re: [BKARTS] hot stamping
There is a large difference in kinds of type, which derives from the
purpose for which it they were made and, hence, the process by which they
were created. Historically, "type" was used in the process of letterpress
printing, with ink being applied to the raised surface and from there
transferred to paper. Since (until very recently) the whole idea was "kiss
impression", with the least possible amount of pressure applied during the
process, type could be used over and over again (not indefinitely, but for
tens of thousands of impressions).
In contrast, applying gilt lettering to leather bindings on a one- or
two-off basis required both heating the letterform and applying it with
substantial pressure to transfer the gold leaf to the surface...a very
different process. For this reason, the image of the letter was
traditionally cut out of brass and made with a handle for ease of use.
Moving into the late nineteenth century [bear with me; there's a point
to all this history] a lot of people spent a great deal of effort attempting
to automate the whole typesetting process. Their attempts ranged from one of
Mark Twain's investments (a machine that would replicate a human typesetter
by assembling individual pieces of pre-cast type), to other systems that
would cast letters or lines on demand. Because of the speed at which these
machines operated, it was not possible for them to use the same metal
formulation which was traditionally used for 'foundry type' designed to be
set by hand, and then re-used. Instead, Monotype machines used a somewhat
different formulation which was softer and didn't last as long...but this
wasn't a problem because after printing a single job, the type could just be
thrown back into the pot and re-melted.
So...that brings us to the present. For the kind of hot stamping that
you are doing, which requires a lot of heat and pressure applied to the
letterform, your choices in descending order of quality (and expense!) are:
1: CUT BRASS TYPE (http://www.finecut.co.uk/bookbinding/brass_type/)
Designed specifically for hot stamping and lettering bindings, brass type is
machined from solid pieces of brass alloy. It conducts heat well, doesn't
melt, and won't deform under pressure. It is more durable and more uniform
in shape than cast type, and deeply cut to give a clear and sharp impression
on both hard and soft material. Brass type is usually sold in small fonts
(providing just enough letters to make up a few words at a time, which is
all you usually need for stamping.) It is available new from bookbinding and
hot stamping suppliers, as well as used. Because it is a smaller market than
printing, and because fewer pieces (in absolute numbers) were/are made, it
is much scarcer than cast type.
2: FOUNDRY HAND TYPE (http://www.briarpress.org/pinmarks)
Designed to be set by hand for letterpress printing, this was the the
mainstay of the market for a couple of hundred years. It is made of a lead
alloy containing (ideally) 64% lead, 23.88% antimony, and 12.02% tin, with
traces of copper. The largest US type foundry was American Type Founders, a
conglomerate created in 1893 by a merging of all of the major foundries of
the day. ATF, which set the world standard for type, first went bankrupt in
1933, and then lived on in various incarnations until its final, tragic
demise in 1993. For more information (and a great, if sobering, holiday
present), see http://www.daleguild.com/ATF_book.html. Because of its
quality, anyone selling ATF-cast foundry type on eBay will likely identify
it as such. Just about the only 'foundry' type still being cast today is
from Theo Rehak, the Dean of American Type Founders, at the Dale Guild
3: MONOTYPE (http://members.aol.com/aapa96/foundry.html)
The majority of what you will find on eBay, and virtually all currently cast
type (with the exception of the Dale Guild type above) is Monotype. This
type is cast on a relatively small caster, a piece at a time, and is either
made up in batches of a single letter (on a Sorts Caster), or with
individual letters already spelling out the text to be printed (on a
Composition Caster). Monotype metal was traditionally 78.3% lead, 15.9%
antimony, and 5.8% tin. In recent years, however, a number of the Monotype
foundries have taken to using a slightly harder alloy in certain cases, with
higher percentages of antimony and tin but still not approaching foundry
So, the bottom line is that there is a vast difference in type when it comes
to hot stamping, which would explain why your results have varied. If you
can afford it, get cut brass type. If you're only doing a little bit of work
and need unusual fonts, look for foundry type. In a pinch, if you must, you
can use Monotype, but it may well deform after only a few impressions.
Following are some words from the horses' mouths on the relative merits of
different kinds of type.
o Theo Rehak of the Dale Guild on their foundry type:
"Many people ask us if our type can be used for hot-stamping work.
Whether it be locked up in a hand-pallet, a Kwik Print, Kingsley, or one of
the other machines in use, our Barth-cast type will produce more impressions
than any other lead-alloyed type. It is second only to zinc. Many of our
hot-stamping customers use our fonts of small-caps, which we font
separately, and are very affordable. At present, we have several faces in
stock. Limited edition binders make good use of our Hammer Uncial and Goudy
fonts as well.
"Slugs cast on Linotype, Intertype or Ludlow machines can be used, as
can types cast from a Monotype Composition caster, but they will be short
lived. The alloys used and the casting pressure determine hardness. Types
cast on a Thompson sorts caster produce a harder product, and the user can
expect about 100-150 impressions into tough paper or leather. Careful
surface imprinting will yield more. Our types are cast on rebuilt ATF Barth
foundry-casters, and will yield 6-8 times the impressions at less than twice
o Andrew Hoyem of M&H Type on their "foundry Monotype":
"Small sizes, generally through 12 point, are cast on Monotype casters,
using metal that is harder than Monotype metal but not as hard as the
foundry metal used for Thompson casters. All other font sizes are cast on
the Thompson and Giant casters, which use metal containing more tin,
antimony, and copper. Softer metal, a lead alloy of Linotype quality, is
used for casting leads, slugs, quads, and spaces. Monotype metal is used for
rule and border strip material.
o Rich Hopkins of Hill & Dale Press, producer of "Monotype University"
"Type of good quality can be made on virtually any typecasting device.
That includes Monotype composition casters, Thompsons, Giants, Super
Casters, the Bruce, the Barth - and even the hand mold. The Bruce and Barth,
as well as the various "foundry" casters used in Europe, all have the
potential for casting better type because they have the potential for moving
metal under greater pressure. That is, if everything is going well. But that
isn't always the case.
"There is no question but that ATF type is superior to what we
Monotypers cast. They do use better metal and they bought "new" metal, where
most of us use whatever comes our way...ATF Barth and Bruce casters cast a
more solid piece of type and that also is very important. Speed and
automation with the Monotype compromised these matters. But keep in mind,
the Mono was intended to make the user his own typefounder and Lanston
always strongly advocated "cast, print, dump."
I hope this proves helpful.
-David S. Rose
Five Roses Press
New York, NY
Introduction to Letterpress Printing
> From: "J. J. Foncannon" <bolu.bolu@xxxxxxxxxxx>
> Reply-To: Book_Arts-L <BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Date: Sun, 5 Dec 2004 08:49:44 -0500
> To: <BOOK_ARTS-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Subject: hot stamping
> This is a question to the group about hot stamping. Almost every
> set of fonts I have purchased--- mainly on EBAY--- do a great job of
> hot stamping. I purchased a set of 14 pt Roman type, however, that
> deform when stamping, even though I maintain a stamping temperature of
> 270 degress or less.
> Are all types suitable for hot stamping? If not, does anyone know
> the reason?
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