It’s a new day and a new year—and glory hallelujah, Alpha-Blox are back! Our first casting (2016) was a big hit and has been sold out for quite some time. The current owner of the original American Type Founders matrices (36pt) once again entrusted them to us, and we have produced a second casting of 90 fonts. You will find these listed on the Skyline site as Collection No. 34.
I can’t resist sharing some of the tech on this project. Depth-of-drive on these matrices is 0.0968″, which was proprietary to ATF. That depth plus the fixed body dimension of the mold must equal 0.9186″ for the type to be standard height. Our Thompson casters are not engineered for this drive; on the first casting our only option was to cast the type over-height and mill the foot of each piece, which we did. (Very tedious and laborious.) This time we went to the extraordinary measure of having one of our spare molds irreversibly altered by a machine shop so that it matched the ATF drive. This was successful and the type was produced to standard height, no milling required. Alpha-Blox were designed with a partially kerned beard on all four sides, automatically trimmed flush after casting by ATF’s Barth casters. Thompson casters will trim the top and bottom edges of the type as it is ejected from the mold, but not the sides. Thus manual dressing was required left and right. This was done, by yours truly, on every one of the types—of which there were 20,784 (that’s 1,107 lbs). Yes, we are dedicated to our craft.
Today is also auspicious for the official release of our new Collection No. 60. This is a collaborative project begun last March between the New Mexico History Museum’s Press at the Palace of the Governors and Skyline Type Foundry. The Museum recently acquired the archives of Gustave Baumann, an artist active in the Santa Fe region in the early 20th century. His many drawings include some ornamental designs that he termed “Quads”. Some of these were made into woodcuts, and there is evidence that Baumann had in mind to develop them all the way into metal type—but he never did. Tom Leech at The Press took this and ran with it, arranging with Ed Rayher of Swamp Press to cut matrices for eight of the Quads, and with us here at Skyline to cast the type and make it available to the letterpress community. The Press got a whole bunch of type for their own purposes, and in exchange Skyline gets the matrices and rights to cast and sell the type. Tom has done up a hand-set letterpress-printed insert to go with the type explaining the history; see the product listing for more details.
Ain’t it a relief to see 2020 fading away in the rear-view mirror. What a year! With some irony though, it was a remarkably good one for Skyline. Type sales were stronger than the previous two years, and The Junk Bin is doing a brisk business in used fonts. There has been some pandemic-related turnover in our crew, but Skyline remains well-positioned for growth and we continue to actively interview for a second casterman. I believe we’ll hit the jackpot in 2021 and connect with just the right person. Stay tuned for a good year.