News for February

Given the nature of current events, we continue to produce bold, spiky borders you can use effectively as a security fence around your copy. (Or maybe set up a line along the page borders to prevent entry of illegal foreign type faces.) Herewith is another English design, Border No. E-1365: a two-element in 24 point.

Other than that, last month I faced the music and went back to dredge up a couple of old projects that had run aground and sunk down to the bottom of the priority list. [How’s that for a metaphorical mess?]

The first unfinished casting that was taking up galley space and in need of resolution was Circular Script. This 1883 face resembling informal handwriting was revived by Charlie Broad, the Arizona typefounder who in the 1960s managed to get matrices recut for numerous antiques. This matrix collection is now in Skyline’s vault, including three sizes of said face. In mid-2019 we undertook to produce a hundred fonts of Circular. Charlie had cast the middle size on an 18 point body, but we found that size inadequate and super-sized it to 22 point, thus avoiding kerned descenders. Casting proceeded on schedule for the first 37 of 72 characters and then a matrix blew out. (The copper insert on electrodeposited mats is soft, sometimes porous, and prone to failure.) With considerable time and expense we were able to get an emergency replacement mat machined by Swamp Press, bless ’em—and then there was a second failure. These mats were done by some unknown source in the far east and not of very good quality. After examining the remaining mats carefully and giving it some long and hard thought, I adjudged more failures probable, and that the most prudent course would be to pull the plug on this losing project, and not invest any more of our finite resources. Into the hellbox goes a week’s labor …

The next alligator to be wrestled was the Arboret Ornament Suite. That set of matrices is unique in the vault as our only example of the elaborate and extensive sets of ornaments that were cut to accompany certain elaborate and outrageous type faces released in the late 19th century. (We are fortunate to have complete matrix fonts for the type face as well, in 12 and 24 point). The two previous Orn castings, totaling 130 sets, were long since sold out. A year ago we began a third casting of 100 more fonts. It’s a complex project of 24 elements involving multiple casting machines, point sizes and set widths (the thinnest being a mere 3 points), as well as a compartmented storage box of our own design and manufacture to facilitate easy use of the type. The project ground to a halt when there was excessive difficulty from the irregular mats, causing flash, and splatters from “bottle rockets”. It was shelved pending a decision on whether or not it was a viable project. Last month everything was hauled out into the light of day once again and given a thorough evaluation. Some of the elements needed recasting, some could be saved by hand finishing, and a handful were not yet cast. I made the decision to try to prevail by sheer force of will and I set to work, this time operating the caster myself. Success! All the problems were overcome. A dozen sets of the Arb Orns are back in stock, and the remainder will be added to the supply as we slog through the laborious processes of hand-finishing and box fabrication. Arboret 24 is in good supply. The sold-out 12pt is next in the queue for recasting, planned for this month. Get these while you can—in this world you never know when the window of opportunity will slam shut!

A form composed with both size fonts and the ornamentation, to illustrate how they are intended to be used together to re-create that over-the-top Victorian era typography.

Last month’s debut of Collection No. 60, the Baumann Quads, was our most successful new item ever! The entire run of 40 fonts sold out. It happened so fast that the project was still on the caster—so we lit the fire and produced another 30 fonts, and it continues to sell. Thanks for all the good reviews on that one.

Not to worry—I won’t leave you wondering what a “bottle rocket” is. That’s our own argot for micro-beads of molten type metal that sometimes escape from the machine at the moment of pump stroke, for one reason or another. They leave a tiny trail of smoke, hence the name. (And flash, if you don’t know, is little bitty fins around the face of the type caused by metal getting in between the matrix and the face of the mold.) Incidentally, we received some positive feedback for expanding on the tech details in last month’s bulletin, so we’ll include more of that from time to time.

Happy St. Brigid’s Day! That Irish gal of yore (c. 451-525 A.D.) is officially the Patron Saint of Printing Presses, and February 1 is her feast day. Enjoy.

Posted on