Skyline’s primary specialty is antique type faces, but we also have a thing for the rare, unusual, strange, bizarre, or just plain odd. Here’s more proof of that! Behold Quartz in 36 point. This one is so uncommon that it will be a surprise if anyone out there actually claims to have it in their shop.
Here’s the backstory. In 2010 Skyline bought out Barcotype, the last remnant of Chicago’s great commercial typefounding industry. Owner Si Patel was of Indian heritage and had some typecasting connections in the old country—a number of the matrix fonts we acquired in the deal were made in India. This particular face was present in 14, 18, 24 and 36 point. The mats are very well-made and of the English Monotype style. It’s a full title font (sans $) and emulative, obviously, of the alphanumeric displays found on electronic equipment and clocks. Quartz clocks. I was nonplussed at first by the two different colon characters, then it dawned on me that one was for use in a numeric time display (and no, it doesn’t flash!). Most likely Quartz is adapted to metal from an optical or transfer alphabet, like several others from Barco including that charming Smiley that we cast in 2019. Now the rubber meets the road: will anyone buy Quartz, or will April Fools Day 2021 be commemorated by Skyline’s biggest flop?
Restock castings checked off in March: Collection No. 46 and Border No. 1460.
We get a steady stream of inquiries from folks brand-new to letterpress. They’re invariably enthusiastic, but often blissfully free of any knowledge whatsoever on the subject. To help pass along some of the basics, a couple of years ago we launched a new page on the Skyline web site called Best Practices in Using Type, a series of illustrated essays. I’ve just done up a new one that’s a comprehensive guide on ordering new rollers. It’s not a simple matter to get rollers just the right diameter for a press with 120 years of wear. This worksheet will take you step-by-step to the perfect specification, right down to the thousandth of an inch. These essays are all downloadable PDF documents and part of Skyline’s give-back to the craft. We hope you find them useful.
For two months now we’ve been casting “bold, spiky” borders, and making weak jokes about using them as a fence to protect your copy. I wasn’t planning to ride that lame horse into another month. But quite by chance the matrices selected from the vault for the next new release were yet another bold spiky border, and in my estimation, of superior elegance to either of the previous ones. The back story is that these were among a large quantity of matrices Skyline fortuitously rescued several years ago from a defunct foundry in India. In sorting them all out, it appeared that these two were corner and runner for the same border design. The latter was a stamped aluminum display mat of the style that Lanston Monotype produced in the post-WWII era, and the other a mortised, electrodeposited brass foundry-style mat. Very different, and requiring different fittings on the casting machine to produce. Inspection of trial casts laid to rest all skepticism—the elements did unquestionably go together. Both were marked for a 12 point body, but oddly, that was too small: the face measured right at 13 points. We changed up to a 14 point body and that worked out just fine. Here then for your printing pleasure isBorder No. U-30. Despite the mismatched mats, this project came out particularly well, and is indeed a lovely classical design. The nearly vertical beards resulted in excellent alignment and contiguity of the printed image. We’re proud of this one.
As planned, an 80-font recasting of Arboret in 12pt was successfully completed in February. Both sizes of that face, and the accompanying Ornament Suite, are now well-stocked and available. The never-ending list of other low and soldout items was whittled away a little bit, with restock castings also accomplished for Borders No. 1313, 1558, and Collection No. 43.
Remember our one-day Free Shipping special staged each fall on National Letterpress Day (9/18)? That event has been so successful that we’re launching an annual spring sale as well. And what better date than Pi Day, 3/14! (A tip o’ the pica pole to our friend in zip code 84124 for this inspiration.) For those of you who are really new at this, the Greek letter Pi not only represents a mathematical constant, but also is a traditional letterpress term for metal type that is accidentally dropped, spilled, or otherwise hopelessly mixed up. On March 14 only, enter Coupon Code 3/14 when you place an order on the Skyline web site and you’ll get a discount equal to our flat $10.00 domestic shipping charge. First, last and only notice, so load up your wish list and be ready to pounce.
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!
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.
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.
Survived another month—certainly hope you did too! This year just seems to get weirder, and it ain’t over yet. But here at Arizona’s Premier Type Foundry we just keep on calmly plying our beloved craft. New for this month is Border No. E-1240 in 36 point. The matrix is English. This prickly single-element Border would make a fine security hedge around your copy.
Back in stock is good old Collection No. 1, our seventh casting of this ever-popular set of decorative corners. New listings in The Junk Bin for November came to 52.
Skyline has adopted a mile of Arizona state highway for litter pickup near our offsite warehouse, under the flag of the Order of the Blessed Eutectic. And what (I hear you thinking) in tarnation is that?? The O.B.E.—of which Skyline Type Foundry is headquarters—is the unspoken bond of fellowship shared by all those artists and craftsmen who have a passionate, even spiritual, connection to creating things of beauty from molten metal. Eutectic is a metallurgical term essentially meaning a metal alloy in its liquid state. If you have ever made anything out of liquid metal, and got a thrill from it, you are in the Order.
December of course brings us the two big winter holidays: Brumal Solstice and Boxing Day. As we anticipate these, keep dodging that virus, don’t believe everything you hear, and happy printing!
Greetings on All Fonts Day! Er, All Saints, that is. [We got lots more of the former here than the latter.] In honor of all our dear departed loved ones we bring you the classic three-element Border No. 33 in 18 point. It’s the very thing for a hand-printed memorial card, is it not? Wait a minute. Leaves of three, little white berries—kinda looks like it might be poison ivy—
Fall is of course time for the grand Los Angeles Printers Fair staged by the International Printing Museum. Events like this are pretty well shot down by the pandemic, but Mark Barbour and crew have taken a bold step into the present and gone virtual with it, for the entire month of November. Skyline is a featured vendor along with some 70 others. We encourage you to check out their home page and show your support in these troubled times as IPM bravely ventures into new territory.
In conjunction with our virtual sales table at the LAPF, we brought in a film crew and put together a modest 18-minute video tour of the Skyline foundry and pressroom. This is now live on YouTube and you may view it here (failing that link, just type in our name). Feel free to post your comments!
Discount of 3% for payment by mailed check is now automatic, no coupon required. Fifteen new items put up in The Junk Bin last month and always a variety of interesting projects underway or in the queue. We’re still looking to hire a second casterman. If you’re making a ton of money by staring into a computer screen all day and rearranging the pixels, then good for you, knock yourself out. But if you’d like to earn a living wage practicing a rare 500-year-old craft with mechanical and intellectual challenges, and enjoying the admiration and respect of letterpress printers worldwide, then let’s talk.
September brought us an unexpected treasure hunt! Came that phone call that instantly starts the heart pumping: “We have all this old type and stuff from a printing shop that closed years ago; gotta clear the building, is it of any value or interest to you?” My personal policy on that (learned the hard way) is Drop Everything and go after it—the window of opportunity can slam shut without warning. Road trip! The take amounted to a full truck & trailer load, including one 48-case cabinet of type, some wood type, a nipping press, and the usual profusion of strip material, quoins & keys, imposing furniture, chases, and etc. The bad news is that it was stored in a severely critter-infested shed. Some of the type cases were level-full of … well, more than type, and I’ll leave it at that. But I’ve seen such before and there are ways of dealing with it. We just moved a new 40-foot cargo container onto the property at Skyline’s offsite warehouse, so there’s plenty of room to stash it.
Meanwhile back at the foundry: for October we bring you the delicate 2-element Border No. 1423 in 18 point.
Now restocked is Cloister Old Style, 36 point. The month saw 34 new listings posted to The Junk Bin—including two fonts of wood type from the above adventure, the first we have ever offered.
Restoration work has begun on the Vandercook No. 4 cylinder press rescued last year from a remote mining town near Death Valley. It will get a complete tear-down and full rebuild just like the previous one, and come out looking (and performing) as if it just left the factory. This press will be available for purchase at completion. If you have interest in possibly reserving it in advance, feel free to contact us. At this point you could even specify what color it will be.
Interviewing continues for hiring a second full-time casterman. We had two serious candidates last month including a young lady who traveled down from Washington state for a three day hands-on introduction to Skyline, but at this point the position is still open. Would you like to become a typefounder?
It’s a twofer! For September we present a brace of new single-element ornamental borders. These two little art nouveau swirligigs are historic—the exact origin/date are unknown, but they make a discreet appearance in the American Type Founders specimen book of 1923. ATF used them chromatically, with the “Open” element overprinted in black on the pale orange “Tint” element. We made a valiant attempt to do the same—but the proof is in the proof, and it just didn’t work. With a minor modification to the label form it became Borders No. 32 & No. 34 together in one package.
A restock of 24pt Schoeffer Old Style begun prior to the pandemic [castus interruptus!] has now been completed and is available for purchase. Likewise Cloister Old Style 36pt, it’s off the caster and will be packaged and in stock within the next few days. We also finally got the various production makeups cast on that darned tricky 36pt Relievo. Customers on the waiting list for that have been notified and it’s once again in stock on the website for purchase. Yep, the gears are turning here again, and it looks like the fierce and relentless heat of summer 2020 is finally abating so we can get back to doing what we do best.
The Junk Bin saw 44 new postings of used and NOS type in August.
It may be true that all the printers’ fairs are cancelled this year, but we can still celebrate National Letterpress Day. When is that? Why, 9/18 of course! Just like last year, Skyline will offer free US shipping (or $10.00 off int’l) for all orders placed on that date. Listen up, letterpress dudes and dudesses, this is your only notice: coupon code 9/18 will be active on calendar day September 18 only. Plug that into your online Checkout and you get the discount.
Skyline is still seeking to hire a second casterman. For the right person, this is a rare opportunity to learn the craft. For further info see our Help Wanted classified on the Briar Press web site, or just shoot us an email through skylinetype.com. Come join us in this historic endeavor.
No new type projects to announce yet. Our new caster-gal has unfortunately been sidelined with a broken wrist. But there’s always some good news with the bad: sales remain brisk, even better than last year month over month—especially The Junk Bin, where a record 61 new items were posted in July (and some were snarfed up within minutes). The long-planned installation of additional windows and doors in the pressroom is complete and construction has begun for expansion of the foundry building.
Skyline is positioned for growth and the time has come to get more people involved here at Arizona’s Premier Type Foundry. To that end we are seeking candidates for a second full-time casterman. Job description: operation and routine maintenance of Monotype-Thompson type casting machines with minimal supervision. No typecasting experience necessary, we will provide on-the-job training. Male or female. Preferred qualifications are letterpress printing experience, a passion for type, strong mechanical engineering skills, willingness to work long and hard, and open to living in a beautiful place in the central highlands of Arizona. Skyline is one of the very few places in the world where the ancient and esoteric craft of typefounding is being preserved and practiced, and you can be an important part of that. Expect a low-key interview process with observation and hands-on time that will give us both a chance to decide if it’s the right thing for the right person at the right time. If this appeals you, let’s talk. Email Sky through the contact form on this site.
June was our target month to resume casting operations and I’m pleased to report that we have indeed done so. There aren’t any new products to report, but we’re winding up some unfinished projects that were interrupted by the COVID stand-down and then we’ll be positioned to resume doing new things.
Our longtime casterman Troy “T.H.” Groves elected not to return to employment at Skyline following the stand-down, and is off pursuing other things. Troy has been a central part of the operation for the past few years and we wish him all health, happiness and prosperity. The times they are a-changin’ here—as indeed they are everywhere.
The good news is that we now have a new caster operator on board, and he’s a she! I did my best to scare her off with an unvarnished description of what it’s like to operate an 80-year-old iron beast with a smoking, simmering gas-fired pot full of molten metal, and even invited her to hang out and observe production for a day. She would have none of my scare tactics and calmly insisted she was ready, willing and able to deliver the goods. Training went very smoothly and now she’s on full time. Say hello to Debra!
Skyline has many overseas customers and we can easily ship type anywhere in the world. Due to repeated problems sending by the US Postal Service, we have switched to a freight forwarder called Parcel Monkey. Our experience to date is limited but impressively positive: delivery in three days, with detailed real-time tracking, using major couriers such as FedEx. Cost is about the same per pound but unlike USPS, there is NO weight limit. We have yet to work out the details for accurately quoting shipping cost in online orders—for now, overseas customers should just send us an email with your want list. We’ll get a freight quote and shoot you a pro forma invoice for final approval. Easy!
Seventeen new postings in The Junk Bin during June, some selling within minutes. And just for fun, hidden among our product listings is a dog-lover’s special. Click it if you can find it, and get a free treat for your furry friend!
This month we bring you (drum roll please)— Relievo! No, it’s not an antiflatulent or indigestion tablet, but one of the most spectacular of 19th century type faces. It’s also one of the most difficult to produce. Reverse faces (white characters on black background) have an image that’s contiguous, and in order to get this effect each individual type must be cast with the beard kerned or overhanging on both sides and then dressed off. (If this is not quite clear to you, look at the illustration on Skyline’s Best Practices page.) The only way to accomplish this is for the casterman to manually drop in a quad ahead of each type as it’s delivered from the mold and pushed into the receiving shoe, which has trimming knives for the top, bottom and foot. A very tedious process. Then, after all the type is cast, each piece must be hand-dressed flush left and right by drawing it repeatedly along a flat file. Even more tedious—and only then can the fonts be assembled and packed up. This is actually our second casting of Relievo. We did 60 fonts back in 2013 and that’s been long sold out. The magnitude of the challenge involved has left this restock project languishing as a low priority. But now the first 12 fonts are hot out of the shrink-wrap oven and available for purchase (with 48 more to come as we slog through the hand-dressing and recast some defective characters).
Also back in stock are Collections No. 48 and No. 49. These are the sets of linecast decorative dashes that we introduced just 18 months ago, and they proved very popular. Got plenty of these on the shelf now and we’ll try to restock before they sell out next time. New listings in The Junk Bin totaled 33 for May.
We continue to send orders out promptly, excepting overseas shipments which remain suspended due to unreliable delivery. Foundry operations are still standing down (except for the boss running the Linotype) and the employees staying safe at home. We do fully expect to start rockin’ & rollin’ again this month though, and there will be plenty of work for everyone.
As the zombie apocalypse drags on, we’re anything but idle here. Our two employees are keeping body and soul together quite nicely on the enhanced unemployment benefits now in place, and busy with their own home projects. Back here at Arizona’s premier type foundry, sales are down somewhat, but orders are being promptly filled and shipped as usual. I’m tackling secondary tasks that have been languishing at the bottom of the list. First is a major cleanout and reorganization of the offsite warehouse, where we keep spare machinery, presses awaiting restoration, and 3500 or so fonts of used type that are in line for sale on The Junk Bin or reincarnation in the melting pot. I also set to diagnosing a persistent back-squirt problem we’ve had on the Model 5 Linotype. Traced it to a broken part deep in the machine, got that replaced, and she’s running like a champ! (So far as I know, this is the only operational linecasting machine in the state of Arizona.) Restocks are well underway on sold-out Collections No. 48 and 49, the linecast decorative dashes. And some long-contemplated remodeling is in progress at the Skyline pressroom. A windowless 10-foot overhead door has been replaced by double 10-light French doors plus a glass-block sidelight. Other windows and more electrical outlets have also been installed, making the place a brighter and more pleasant working environment.
We do have one new item to offer this month. It’s Collection No. 59, the last of our antique dingbat sets, and the theme is Wings, Wheels, Rails and Sails.
This Covid thing will jolly well blow over and it’s no reason to put your life on hold. So go to the bloomin’ web site, order up some shiny new type, dust off the press and ink the old blighter up, and bob’s your uncle!
What can one say about the month of March, 2020? All of us have seen major and even catastrophic disruption in our lives. It ain’t over yet, and even when this COVID thing finally cycles down, the economic repercussions will take years to play out. Here in Arizona the governor promulgated a stay-at-home order just yesterday like many other states have already done. This means foundry operations are standing down indefinitely at Skyline. But I hasten to point out that the office remains open, we have over 34,000 lbs of type in stock, and orders are shipping out as usual. Business so far remains steady.
New this month we offer our penultimate set of antique dingbats, Collection No. 56, on the theme of Humanoids. My favorite is the little guy carrying a sign displaying a mug of beer. This may be related to the end of prohibition in 1933; there are photographs from those historic days of men marching in the street carrying signs declaring “We Want Beer!”
Also new this month are two new sizes of the very popular Granjon Arabesques: Collection No. 57 in 24 point and Collection No. 58 in 36 point. Skyline has offered this previously in 18 point but we’re unable to restock that size due to a failure of one matrix.
Restocks accomplished are Sans Serif Light 18pt with Deco Alternates, the Ataraxy Initials (now including tint blocks for two-color effects) and Border No. 4. There were 31 new items posted for sale in The Junk Bin.
Interest is stirring for another session of Thompson Tech. This is Skyline’s intensive week-long, hands-on seminar in the operation and maintenance of Thompson Type Casters. It’s limited to four (4) students and the dates will be determined by what works best for everyone–after things settle down. There are certain prerequisites, but if this is of interest to you, give a shout and I’ll tell you more.
Here’s a spot of bright news! Do you remember the name Dan X. Solo, a man well-known in the typographic community some decades ago; producer of optical fonts and many Dover books of antique type? He was present at the liquidation auction of American Type Founders, and rescued quite a few good matrices, many of which by a roundabout path and sheer luck ended up here at Skyline. (But that’s another story.) Unfortunately there were many mats left unaccounted-for after Dan’s death. Last month we got a call out of the blue from one of Dan’s sons. It seems he was cleaning out the garage and found a box of ATF mats, and did we want them? Ahem! They are now safe in our vault. Lots of the mats were people-figures, all of which I found and identified in the ATF 1899 catalog, in sets such as Speakers, Klondikers, and Lady Golfers. Unfortunately, at 60 point and up, we are presently unable to cast them–but there are machines in existence which can, so never say never!
Alas, there will be no Bay Area Printers Fair this year. Other major Letterpress events, including the L.A. Fair and the APA Wayzgoose, are on wait-and-see status. Let us hope. Printing is good peace-of-mind therapy. We will prevail, friends.
Continuing on with our antique dingbat series, this month we present Collection No. 54, with a classical theme, and Collection No. 55, odds & ends left over from all the other themed Collections. Two more of these still to come in future months!
There are times in the typefounding business when we come face-to-face with failure. Last month a recasting of the sold-out Arboret Ornament Suite was undertaken. This was known to be a very challenging project due to the irregular nature of the matrices, but we have successfully accomplished two castings before. After investing considerable time and labor, with the end in sight, mats began to fail. (They can deteriorate from continued shots of molten metal at high temp and pressure.) With no source to have replacements made, we are forced to admit defeat. The listing has been pulled down and we cannot produce this product again. Nothing left to do but dump the completed type into the hellbox, put the calamity behind us and move on to other projects. Such is life.
Back in stock: Latin Ornate, 24pt. New postings to The Junk Bin in February totaled 28. You are cordially invited to view specimens and details of these and all our other Fonts, Borders, Initials and Collections elsewhere on this site.
We spent the month of January laboring exclusively on our series of antique typecuts, and launched the new year with Collection No. 52, Animals. All told, the project amounted to six Collections. For February here’s Collection No. 53, Manmade Objects (mostly), with the eagerly-anticipated ham roast, gaucho hat, and charter oak which were leaked on the media. Includes a nice little acorn-style printing press. The remaining four Collections are Classical Designs; Humanoids; Odds & Ends; and Wings, Wheels, Rails & Sails. These will be released in coming months.
Meanwhile our attention has turned back to the perpetual task of restocking some of the many soldouts. Presently in progress are Latin Ornate, Arboret and (gasp!) Relievo; with Sans Light and Schoeffer Old Style in the queue.
The U.S. Postal Service did not fail to enact their annual January price increase. This will drive the knife a little deeper for our overseas customers, but we’re standing firm at $10.00 flat rate postage for any order shipped anywhere in the U.S.
Eighteen new listings were posted to The Junk Bin in January, including some very rare initials and fonts that didn’t last a day! Keep an eye out, we’ve got a warehouse full of the good, the bad and the ugly and are continuously posting more.
And so we chalk up another trip around the Sun. Happy New Year, all! It was a robust year here at Skyline. Type production for 2019: 11,308 lbs. Orders filled: 549. Stock presently in the warehouse ready to ship: 34,771 lbs. And grand total production since our humble beginning in 2004 comes in at 11,980 Fonts, 5,401 Borders, 3,655 Collections, and 1,066 Initial Sets. Our sincere thanks to you our customers for your continuing business, your enthusiastic encouragement, and for stopping by to visit.
Starting off with a blast from the distant past, our first new casting for 2020 is Bruce Ornamented No. 881 in 24 point. This outrageous Victorian was issued by the Geo. Bruce Foundry in 1865, with earlier origins in France. The matrices are from the collection of Chas. Broad, who cast and sold it in the 1960s as “Circus”.
For several months now we’ve been searching the matrix vault for antique typecuts and casting all we can find for a series of Collections. For January we present the first of these, Collection No. 52, Antique Animals. Ain’t they cute? Stay tuned for more good stuff in the coming months.
We don’t normally go in for skullduggery, but here’s Border No. U-29 for all you skull fans. We were cranking out this 19th century typecut as one of the pieces in the new Collections. Our casterman T.H. was insistent that we break it out and offer it as a single-element Border also. There was some debate in the foundry on this matter; he eventually won, so for better or worse, here it is. We’re dying to see what you do with it.
Got an update on Smiley, released last month. This face has been identified as a 1975 design by French artist Claude Mayet. It was done for the French company Mecanorma, which was a major producer of dry-transfer lettering. Our thanks to Stephen Coles and Florian Hardwig on fontsinuse.com for ferreting this out.
Restocks accomplished in December are Borders No. 1424 and U-20, and Border & Ornament Grab Bags. Twenty-five more used type fonts were listed for sale in The Junk Bin. And lastly, we’ve written another article for the Best Practices page (in the About Skyline menu), this one titled Twelve Ways to Avoid Smashing Type and Other Stuff in Your Press. Enjoy.
Here at Skyline we have an affinity for the rare, the antique, and the unusual, even bizarre. You can get Garamond and Caslon (ho-hum) from other sources, but most of our fonts and specialties can’t be obtained anywhere else on the planet. That said, get a load of this happy-bomb: Smiley in 24 point!
You can’t be serious! Not with this type face, anyway. Smiley may rate a “WTF” or two, but it’s for real. (One of our regular customers, when this project was leaked on social media, declared he would buy a font just so he could smash it up!) The face was acquired in Skyline’s 2010 buyout of Barcotype, Chicago’s last operating type foundry, and nothing else is known about it. So rare it’s not listed in McGrew’s American Metal Type Faces. The matrices are a peculiar style, and the type casts nicks-down.
While producing Smiley, it occurred to our casterman, T.H., that a type face this goofy needs a companion border just as ridiculous. So we pulled out the cap O, which is simply a smiley-face, threw in some hippie flowers for corners, and backed it all up with solid dots for a two-color design. We’re calling it Border No. U-28, in 24 point. Are you brave enough??
On a more sane level, we’re pleased to introduce Border No. 1628 in 18 point. This eye-grabbing Border was a tough one to do. Using our standard precision-alignment procedures, the design just didn’t prove out—those little white lines gotta match up. The 30-font initial casting was reluctantly dumped in the hellbox and we went back to the drawing board to develop an alignment technique specific to this Border. That worked better; the proof from the second casting passed Quality Control and it is hereby proffered to you for your printing pleasure.
November was an uphill month in other ways, too. In a two-week restock project of Della Robbia in 14 point, we experienced an inordinate number of failed matrices, necessitating mucho recasting. Fortunately we had a second font of matrices but even some of them failed, threatening to eighty-six the whole effort. Miraculously, a third font was found in the Reserve Matrix Library and we narrowly dodged the bullet—but there will be no more castings done for that size of Della unless we luck into more matrices.
Last month we launched a new page on our site called Best Practices (found in the About Skyline menu), and published an illustrated essay about handling type. Here’s a fresh presentation for this month, entitled Type Case Vandalism: A Moral Tale. Check it out, and your feedback is invited. Twenty-two new listings were posted in The Junk Bin for November.
It is said that there’s nothing finer than printing on a rainy or snowy day. So throw another log on the fire and do up something beautiful—with or without Smiley.
This month we offer another big, bold and bodacious antique revival in 42 point for your printing pleasure. The face may be familiar—it was cast and sold as “Bailey Shaded” by Charlie Broad in the 1960s. Where and when that name was given to it is unknown, but it originated about 1854 with the Caslon Foundry in England, as their Ornamented No. 1513. It proved up very nicely for us as is usually the case with type from pantographically-milled brass matrices. You gotta have this one.
Also new: Border No. U-27 in 36 point. A rather curious single-element border of unknown origin.
Restocks accomplished in October are Moorish + Moorish Open, Border No. U-17, and Border No. F-1631. Sixteen new listings of used type and other printing hardware were added to The Junk Bin.
Since last June’s visit to Skyline by Terrie Reddish, one of our two favorite New Zealand lady printers (yes Christina, you’re the other!), we have been engaged in an ongoing email discussion about the best/proper ways to do things. The subject of Nicks Up or Nicks Down? arose. One thing led to another and I ended up writing a presentation on the subject, and publishing it on a new page on our web site called Best Practices (found in the About Skyline menu). You’re invited to check this out, especially if you’re new to letterpress printing. And I already have notes for the next few such essays, so there’s more to come!
Dunnage. Do you know that word? I learned it from my eccentric old typographical pal J.F. Killie, who rescued the four Thompson Type Casters that I in turn rescued in 2004 when he shuffled off this mortal coil (and whence started the clock for Skyline Type Foundry). It denotes any materials used to pad or insulate merchandise in shipment. You know it as bubble wrap, packing peanuts and such. Well, here at STF we do a pretty fair amount of packing and shipping, and go through a lot of dunnage. In the past we have purchased a synthetic construction material called “rigid insulation board”, or RIB. It serves very well but is darned expensive. Lately we’ve been looking to less costly and more environmentally responsible sources, and re-purposing all kinds of stuff—including, most recently, a quantity of offcut and reject foam-rubber bra cups that arrived here as dunnage in a shipment from China. We’re also making good use of honeycomb-plastic political signs, furnished to us (after elections) by a local political volunteer. So be ready for anything when you unpack that next bomb-proof shipment of Skyline type!
This month we bring you four new items. First off, Border No. 266 and Border No. 267, both in 18 point. These two Monotype elements appear to have been cut from the same pattern and the consecutive numbers might support that theory. Monotype does not show them in combination, and they’re not cut for two-color use, but they were chosen for production by our casterman T.H. who wanted to experiment with them in chromatic composition.
Next is Border No. 1625, a delightful 3-element “starry sky”, also in 18 point. This is one of Monotype’s later designs and is not shown in their big pre-World War II specimen book, but does appear in a subsequent undated leaflet.
Lastly we are pleased to present another antique revival: Bruce Ornamented No. 5. This spectacular 1869 face is yet another from the matrix collection of Chas. Broad, who cast and offered it in the 1960s with the contrived name of Old Carnival. It predated the standard point system but fits nicely on a 42 point body. (We do not cast or sell new quads & spacing of that size, but these are readily available from our friends at M&H Type in San Francisco. For V.I.P. treatment tell ’em Skyline sent you.)
Restocks accomplished in September: Egmont Decorative Initials and Border No. U-21. There were 24 new listings posted in The Junk Bin.
Coming up on Oct. 11-13 is the fourth annual Southwest Print Fiesta in Silver City, New Mexico. It’s a lovely town and a lively event, complete with steamroller printing! Skyline set up a table there last year, but we found that it’s really more directed toward art than printing, and do not plan to attend this year. Instead we’ll be busy packing up for The Big One–International Printing Museum’s Los Angeles Printers Fair on Oct. 19-20. The Skyline crew will be there with a double table and lots of shiny new type. (Online orders placed before the 18th will be hand-delivered free; when you check out, select Local Pickup as the shipping option, and add a note reminding us to bring it to the Fair.) Full info can be found at: https://www.printmuseum.org/event/2019-los-angeles-printers-fair/ See you there!
This one’s for you, Zip Code 84214: Here’s Dormer in 18 point. Originating in 1888 with Chicago’s Great Western foundry, their successor Barnhart Bros. & Spindler renamed it Pekin and continued production into the early 20th century. This type is from the matrix fonts in the Chas. Broad collection. Partway through casting, the lowercase C mat failed catastrophically. But by pure luck one of the font’s two duplicate mats was this character, and the project was completed. Nevertheless, first proof revealed that the matrices were in poor condition; we noted at least seven characters with visible, if minor, flaws. The decision was made to go ahead and offer it for sale (with disclaimer)—but given the rundown condition and high failure probability of the mats, Dormer will not be cast again.
Also new this month is Hadriano in 24 point. Inspired by Roman inscriptions mentioning the emperor Hadrian, Frederic Goudy designed it in 1918. (Sol Hess applied tooling to the face in 1932 to create Hadriano Stone-Cut, which Skyline has also cast.) FWG was fond of the capital Q and this is one of the faces in which he provided an alternate letterform for that character. There is also a font ornament—it’s a neat little element, but seems rather odd in that while the type face is a chiseled or engraved design, the ornament is clearly calligraphic. As with our casting of the Stone-Cut, we have manually mortised the long-tailed standard Q and U to provide perfect fit. Skyline offers our most sincere thanks to Mark K in California for generously furnishing the Hadriano matrices.
And now back to the task at hand—figuring out how we’ll celebrate International Letterpress Day. (And when is that? Why, 9/18 of course!) Hey, got it! For the first time ever, Skyline will offer FREE SHIPPING (USA), one day only. Watch for a banner on the web site revealing the Coupon Code. This is the only advance notice, so write yourself a reminder!
We continue to plumb (yes, Pb pun intended!) the depths of the Charlie Broad Matrix Collection, and this month’s new typographical treasure is Vaudeville in 36 point. This face is unknown prior to Charlie’s casting of it in the 1960s. A number of his releases were apparently done from 20th century optical type faces (including our Galena Title) and there is strong evidence that this is the case with Vaudeville. There’s a fair amount in circulation within the hobby letterpress community, so it evidently it was one of his more popular types.
Also new is Piranisi Italic in 18 point, a graceful script designed in 1930 by American Type Founders. It was ostensibly a companion italic to their Piranisi (a delicate, decorative roman), but oddly, the two faces bear little or no resemblance to one another.
Our 1st-of-the-month News is normally released at the crack of dawn. This time we were delayed until afternoon—and even before noon, emails were coming in wondering Where Is It? The reason: we were scrambling to get a proof and box labels printed for our third new item, Collection No. 51, the full set of 12 Lanston Scissorcut Ornaments. Check the listing for historical details.
Restocks accomplished during July are Hadriano Stone-Cut 24pt, Massey Two-Color Initials, and Border No. G-69; with 22 new postings in The Junk Bin.
Ready for another antique revival? Here’s Thunderbird in 18pt. This big fat road hog dates back to the mid 19th century, although the precise origin is not known. We have already cast his slender cousin T-bird Extra Condensed in two sizes. Also new this month is Border No. U-23 in 12pt, one more good ‘un from the Indian matrices.
On the restock front, we now have fresh supplies on the shelf of Boston Gothic,Bewick Roman 36pt, Collection No. 48 (Decorative Dashes), Prisma, and Clematis. In a sincere but possibly futile attempt to get ahead of the power curve, a couple of these were actually recast before they sold out. (Yeah, I know, we have 40 other things that ARE sold out–we’re workin’ on it, we’re workin’ on it!) The Junk Bin saw 22 new items posted for the month.
Our young new hire Jared is fitting in well and learning the fine points of getting newly-cast type from the galleys into packaged fonts. This includes brushing off the flash (we call that “flicking boogers”), determining line breaks and transferring type between galleys to perfect that; lifting type line by line into the font boxes, inserting filler blocks, and tagging, labeling, sleeving and shrink-wrapping. And of course learning to work for a detail-obsessed boss all the while.
A high point for June was the reception and open house that Skyline threw in honor of visiting New Zealand letterpress artist Terrie Reddish, who was traveling through Arizona to see family. There was a good turnout of local letterpress folk and a fine time was had by all. We do like visitors here!
In the golden age of metal type, the big foundries had entire departments devoted to composing and printing their catalogs. These were top-quality hardbound books displaying not only specimens of all their type faces, but tasteful examples of them as they might be used. The Skyline printing office (equipped with eight platens and three cylinders) produces all our own package labels and specimen cards, as well as promotional handouts and the occasional typographic broadside or pamphlet—but our specimen book, as such, exists only on the web site. One of our best customers has been urging us to at least provide an online document that could be printed out and held in one’s hands. Setting this up proved to be relatively easy; now on the Skyline site, if you scroll down to the bottom of any product listings page, you’ll find a blue button that will generate an illustrated PDF in real time of all the products in that category. This can be viewed online, or downloaded to view or print out at your pleasure. Check it out and see if it’s something that would be useful to you.
Things are plenty busy here at Skyline! In May we signed on a new employee (for a crew of four now) and logged a very productive month. Just completed for your printing pleasure: Goudy Text Shaded in 36 point. This grand face was only cut in the one size, and it joins standard Goudy Text and the complementary Lombardic Initials (both in 48) in our product line. Also new is Border No. F-784, a single-element design in 18 point.
Have you taken a look at The Junk Bin lately? Forty-four (44) more items were posted for sale last month—used and new-old-stock type fonts, borders, dingbats and hardware. A good many of these are in Dutch Auction, where the good stuff is; prices are marked down 4% every week and the oldest listings there have come way down. In the Equipment category we listed a set of five Ludlow composing sticks; and imposing furniture with cabinets, both full and pony fonts.
It’s APA Wayzgoose month! Our chief casterman T.H. (he sez it’s for “Type High”) will be making the long road trip to Nashville and representing Skyline with a limited selection of new type. We offer FREE DELIVERY of any order to the ‘Goose: when you place your online order, just select Local Pickup as the shipping option and add a note “Deliver to Nashville Wayzgoose”, and it shall be done.
This month’s single new casting is rather modest, but here for your printing pleasure is Border No. U-25 in 12 point. It’s a classic Byzantine design and the last (for now) of our production from that fabulous trove of old foundry matrices from India.
We’re still pushing hard to get more of our numerous soldouts back into stock. In April that was accomplished with Della Robbia in 24 point (despite an undetected mold micro-failure that necessitated hand-dressing the foot of all 540 lbs of type in this casting). Also back on the shelf are Border No. U-15, and—brace yourself— Freak!
This is one of the coolest antique faces ever, originating in 1889 with the Great Western Type Foundry. That firm evolved into Barnhart Bros. & Spindler, which renamed the face Bamboo and continued to offer it well into the 20th century. The face was ditched when American Type Founders absorbed BB&S, but it was revived in the 1960s by our patron saint Chas. Broad, whose matrices we are fortunate to have in the Skyline vault. Our first casting of 50 fonts in 2012 sold briskly. A second casting ended in disaster when one of the matrices failed, and this shot the project down, since there was no source to have a new one made. That changed recently when Swamp Press (bless ’em) came to the rescue and cut a replacement for us, and another 100 fonts were successfully cast. So get one while they’re hot, and let your Freak font fly!
The big deal this month is the launch of our new category in The Junk Bin called Dutch Auction. We’ve been hoarding up the more valuable and desirable old type fonts from our treasure hunts and holding them back against the day we could set up a system to let the world at large (other than eBay) determine their fair market value—and this is it. Items are posted for sale at an admittedly optimistic price, but this decreases on a regular schedule. The first one willing to Buy-it-Now at the current price gets it! We’ve opened Dutch Auction with a bang, posting 33—count ’em, 33—items for sale; and a few have already been snarfed up even before today’s official opening. Standing bids are accepted. (Your bid will of course be absolutely confidential.) The price is marked down 4% each week—if and when it reaches the highest standing bid, the sale is closed. (If multiples are available, you may purchase one, some or all at that price each.) Check it out; this is where the Good Stuff is.
Meanwhile back at the foundry our two new items this month are Border F-1063 and Border F-1064. Both are simple 12 point Borders; the latter a single-element and the former a two-element. Good basic decorative material to have in your shop (studio, for you newbies).
And now having posted this before dawn, I’m on the road to rescue a long-lost Vandercook for restoration. But the high point for April will definitely be the Bay Area Printers Fair, hosted at History Park by the San Jose Printers Guild. This is an outstanding event that just gets better every year. Don’t miss it! Skyline will be there with several tables loaded up just short of collapse with shiny new Fonts, Borders, Collections and Initials. (Free delivery to the fair, just put in your order on skylinetype.com, select Local Pickup on shipping, and add a note to bring it to the BAPF.) See you there!
Still working from the mother lode of foundry matrices rescued from India, here’s a fine treasure: Border No. U-20. It has a corner and runner in 24 point (both of which are subtly asymmetrical), and not one, but two medallions on 48 point em-body. These elements can be used in combination to create a design that stands out among typecast piece borders as uncommonly elaborate.
Also new this month is the very robust 19th century face Staccato in 36 point, another selection from the Chas. Broad matrix collection. It complements our previous casting of this face in 24 point, and was quite a substantial project—we did up sixty fonts, totaling over 550 lbs.
Back in stock is Concave. The original Concave design included two font ornaments: a Maltese cross to be used between words, and a matched pair of decorative brackets to gussy up the line ends. Our matrix font did not include these. However, for our second casting in 2012 we searched the matrix vault and found a cross that was a very close match. Then for this, our third casting, we came up with an ornamental bracket of unknown origin ( but probably 19th century) that, while not identical to the original element, is of the perfect weight to accompany Concave and looks right at home with it. These ornaments can be seen in the specimen shown on the product listing.
Are you using P22 Blox, those scaled-up Alpha-Blox done in plastic as a collaborative project between P22 Analog and Starshaped Press? If so, you may be interested in our new wood furniture product, a set of 40 pieces cut to 6 x 6 picas that will be useful as quads in combination with P22 Blox. Or with 6-line wood type, for that matter. You’ll find this in our Products menu under Imposing Furniture.
Like any other business, Skyline gets nicked for a 3% fee when customers order by credit card or PayPal. We’d rather give that money to YOU than to them! Just select the Pay by Check option when you checkout, enter Coupon Code 3FREE and the discount will be automatically applied. This’ll cost you a stamp, but the break-even point is less than $19.00, and on a big order it could save you big bucks. (For the fine print, visit the COUPON! page on our web site.)
Logged another treasure hunt last month, this time to a very remote near-ghost town in the California desert. Came home with a full load of scrap type and rusty junk, including a Chandler & Price 8×12 press manufactured in 1900 that had been a yard ornament for the last few decades. It’s complete and has no welds or breaks. She’ll get a full restoration, Skyline-style, and will then be up for adoption. We’ll keep you posted.
As we continue on with castings from the matrices rescued from India, here’s a little cutie: Border No. U-24. This is a conventional 12 point two-element Border whose design is of unknown source, and probably has never before been available in the U.S.
It’s old. It’s tired. It’s worn. It’s incomplete. And it’s a rare historic find: Type bearing the pinmark of St. Louis Type Foundry, the very short-lived predecessor to the famous Central Type Foundry of that city. You can see this font in The Junk Bin, our used-type department, where a dozen new listings were just put up.
Postage rates have almost doubled since we began shipping type 15 years ago—but we’ve only raised our flat rate postage charge once, from $8.00 to the current $10.00. (Any order, anywhere in the U.S.A.) The U.S. Postal Service has just enacted their annual January price increase. That’s bad news for us, but not for you: we’re sticking with the current amount. Subsidizing the cost of shipping has been good business: it encourages you to place a bigger order without having to cough up any more for postage. So don’t hold back!
We had the pleasure of welcoming numerous visitors to Skyline last year. Come on out to sunny Arizona some time and we’ll roll out the red carpet for you too.
Notwithstanding our solemn promise to give more attention to restocking the soldouts and less to new castings, we have three new products to introduce this month. First and foremost: to launch this auspicious new year in style, here’s Collection No. 50, our starry salute to Chicago’s Jennifer Farrell and her Starshaped Press! Jen is renowned for the letterpress artistry she creates with metal type. In addition to being a longtime Skyline customer, she continually offers inspiration and challenge to the entire letterpress community, and to us here at the type foundry—all on the STF crew are competent letterpress printers, with combined experience of over 63 years, and together we own some 28 presses (11 of which are in the Skyline pressroom) and several thousand fonts of type. Thus our 50th (Collection, that is) is presented in celebration of the 20th (anniversary, that is) of Starshaped Press, founded 1999. Congratulations, Jen!
In October we announced a major special commission to cast Weiss Roman in 18 point for a noted fine printer in Great Britain. That project is now complete; full fonts and lowercase supplements are in stock and available for purchase.
Continuing with decorative material cast from the matrices rescued from India, our third new item for January is Border No. U-19 in 12 point. This tidy little two-element Border is beautiful in its simplicity. (Caution, if you gaze at it too long you’ll develop an unaccountable thirst for Diet Pepsi.)
Some 20 new-old fonts were listed to The Junk Bin in December and sometimes they sell within a day. By the way, we finally got the Sort By feature straightened out and now you can view the latest additions first. Looking back on 2018, it was a record year by far at Skyline. Numerous projects are underway and in the queue for 2019, including, this month, our eighth staging of Thompson Tech, an intensive week-long training seminar in the operation, maintenance and repair of Thompson Type Casters. And yes, we did do a restock casting—Collection No. 5, the Dwiggins Abstract Florets, is back on the shelf. Thanks for your business and Happy New Year.
We continue to cast ornamental material from that treasure trove of matrices rescued from the defunct type foundry in India. This month we present Border No. U-26 in 12 point. It’s a seven-element outline design, with three different pairs of mirror-image runners and a corner that’s unique in that it’s not diagonally symmetrical. The source of this design is unknown but it seems to show influence from both the arabesque and art nouveau styles.
It’s tempting to just produce new products, but the fact is we have several dozen items that are sold out, and many more that are running low. That’s what happens when business is good—so, no complaints here! Nevertheless, we’re endeavoring to shift the balance back a little. To that end, restock castings have been done for Borders No. 245, No. 601, No. U-2 and No. U-3. All of these are now in stock and available again. Interest in The Junk Bin (our used-type department) continues to run high and 29 new listings were posted in November. (Still working on straightening out the Sort By feature on that page; it’s requiring extreme measures.)
So throw another log on the fire and enjoy your latest order of shiny new Skyline type—printing in a snug shop on a snowy day is as good as it gets (excepting you high summer folks Down Under!). Catch you again on New Years Day.
Treasure Hunt! Those of us in the letterpress community who have been active collectors for a long time have lots of stories about the old shops we’ve closed out, and the treasures we’ve found. (Ask RvH to tell you the Amboy story sometime.) I myself have cleared out more dim, dusty, junk-strewn rooms full of type and equipment than I ever stopped to count. A family member wants to empty Grandpa’s garage so they can sell the house, or a building’s been sold and the owner’s gotta get all that rusty old printing junk out by the end of the month, or a printer friend moves on to the next world and the widow’s looking up the number of the nearest scrap metal yard. That unexpected phone call gets the heart pumping, and you immediately start clearing the calendar so you can hit the road in a rental truck and swoop in for the rescue. It’s hard, filthy and exhilarating work.
One good’n was an old newspaper office in the near-ghost town of Baylis, Illinois. The place looked like 1930, with a Linotype, rare C&P cylinder press, and ancient Stonemetz flatbed newpaper press. (I left that.) Treasures found there included an 1895 ATF/Central type specimen book, and a heavy rectangular block that had been used forever as an ink mixing slab—it turned out to be the marble tombstone of a 6-year-old boy born in 1851. When Skyline relocated from Illinois to Arizona in 2011, I figured the treasure hunts were probably over, but the best one was yet to come! It was a private junkyard in the old mining town of Globe, Arizona, where in multiple trips we hauled out four presses, eleven cabinets of type and lots of other stuff.
Last month, after road trips to the Southwest Print Fiesta and L.A. Printers Fair, I launched for Colorado to drag out twelve cabinets of type from the old Silverton Standard newspaper building. Driving an overloaded Penske truck over not one but two 10,000+ft passes, on a two-lane road with few guardrails, added some adrenalin to that one! This and other trips have landed many thousands of pounds of used type in our warehouse. All will be carefully evaluated and sent to either the caster, for reincarnation into new type, or the Skyline web site for sale in The Junk Bin (to which 19 new listings have just been added today).
With all that travelin’ we’ve gotten about half a cycle out of sync on production—some of October’s new releases aren’t even fonted up yet, and we have to scramble to fill orders. Several new projects have been cast. But to help us get caught up, we’re releasing just one of them for November:Border No. E-1348in 18pt. This is another English Monotype design by Jack Townend, a companion to the E-Border we released in August. Enjoy. —Sky
If you keep an eye on the Skyline web site, you’ve noticed the tally figures at the bottom of the front page indicating how many Fonts, Borders, Initials and Collections we have produced since our beginning. Last month, after updating these with the new releases, the Fonts total came in at 9,999. This means that the very first font to be turned out this month is number Ten Thousand! Who’d a thunk it back in 2004 when Sky, our—uh—founder, took in several forlorn old typecasting machines to rescue them from an ignominious fate, and began tinkering with one. At this auspicious milestone, we offer our sincere gratitude to the Letterpress Community for your patronage and ongoing appreciation of our efforts.
As mentioned last month, we’ve been casting Bernhard Fashion in 24 point to complement our existing 18 point font and 42/36 Initials. That project is now complete and type is available for purchase.
Meanwhile, work continues on casting from the large lot of matrices obtained a couple of years ago from a defunct type foundry in India, and here are two more new ornamental borders from that treasure trove. First, Border No. U-21, a three-element certificate border that can be composed either as 24 point or 48 point. It’s a compelling design with distinct art-nouveau styling, and invites experimental composition. Pick up a font or three and give it a try!
And our casterman was so taken by the 48 point em-body corner that he persuaded Skyline management to spin it off by itself as a single-element border. Thus we also present Border No. U-17 for your printing pleasure.
Weiss Roman. A well-known British fine printer, one of our good customers, has dropped us a major commission for this book face in 18 point, and sent a font of Intertype matrices from which to cast it. If you want some foundry-cast Weiss, now is your golden opportunity; let us know ASAP and we’ll work out the details. The Intertype mats will be for sale afterward as well—full font, new condition. Email if interested.
October will be a travelin’ month for us. On the first weekend we’ll be setting up shop at the Southwest Print Fiesta in Silver City, New Mexico. This is the event’s third year and our first time there; from all indications it should be a lot of fun. Check it out at www.southwestprintfiesta.org. Then the following weekend is the incomparable Los Angeles Printers Fair staged by the International Printing Museum (https://www.printmuseum.org/events/). They too have a milestone (10th Annual) and are celebrating it by expanding the Fair to two full days. Bravo!
We’ll be glad to provide free type delivery to either of these events. Just place your order on skylinetype.com and add a note to that effect. Happy printing, and hope to see you at our table!
Always drawn to the odd, unique and archaic in our matrix vault, this month we present a face you’ve probably never heard of: Granby Inlined, in 24pt. Granby was a product of England’s historic Stephenson-Blake type foundry and the Inlined version was released in 1932. There’s nothing too unusual about inline or tooled letterforms, but this one is a little different in that the lines continue past the end of the stems and go right on out into the world at large. Betcha don’t have it, and here’s your golden opportunity to fix that.
Several months ago we came out with Bernhard Fashion in 18 point, and it was so well received we decided to keep riding that horse and do the other two sizes for which we have matrices. The 24 point font is now in progress and slated for release next month. Meanwhile, feast your eyes on Bernhard Fashion Initials, 42-on-36pt, complete with alternates! These delicate, opulent letters will give the finishing touch to your formal printing with the smaller sizes of Bernhard.
Just posted yesterday: 20 new old type fonts to The Junk Bin. Still trying to get the “Sort By” function working on the web site, but the harder we try, the more intractable it is. The new items are placed at the beginning of the listings, but the software seems to have a mind of its own and they may turn up somewhere else.
Of Skyline’s four type sales categories (Fonts, Borders, Initials, Collections), the slimmest by far is Initials, with only six different sets to choose from—until now, that is. This month we introduce Ataraxy Initials in 36 point. The truth is that they happened by accident: our casterman received routine orders for a restock of the ever-popular Massey Initials, and he inadvertently drew the wrong set of matrices from the vault. By the time this was realized, the project was well underway. So he changed his story to “I meant to do that!” and thus we have something new to offer you. These elegant little floral letterforms were given only a number by Lanston Monotype, their manufacturer. Oddly, the same number was assigned to a completely different set of initials cut only in 24 point. To avoid confusion we elected to give them a name. (Boo-Boo was nearly selected, but lost out to Ataraxy.)
But of course there’s more. And like a couple of other recent Skyline items, this one represents new territory for us. Behold Border No. E-1346 in 18 point: our first Border to be cast from English Monotype matrices (yep, that’s what the E represents). And we are fortunate enough to know the designer and time frame, thanks to our friends at Red Eel Press in England. This border was designed by Jack Townend and released by the [English] Monotype Corporation in 1958. Townend, who was born in Bingley, West Yorkshire, taught graphic design, lithography and printmaking at the Ruskin School of Art at the time he designed this and certain other decorative elements for Monotype (1952-1961). Townend is also known for writing and illustrating a number of children’s books. This peculiar artistic style of stark geometric solids and lines surely must have a name, and here in the U.S., at least one of the linecaster companies cut a fair number of border/ornament elements in that style. If any of you art historians out there in letterpress-land can shed some light on this, we’re anxious to hear from you.
Just returned from a major mission to southern California where we bought out the entire type holdings of a long-time fine printer: some 521 fonts of book, classic and antique revival faces. You may expect this to start showing up in The Junk Bin, available for purchase, as we undertake the long process of evaluating and fonting this treasure trove. We’re really in the used-type business now!
Just back from a fine time at the APA Wayzgoose, and three cheers for the Denver letterpress community for a bang-up job on staging it. Typecasting resumes as usual now, and in the foundry we’re sweating out Prescott’s hottest time of the year and looking forward to the arrival of our cooler rainy season sometime this month.
For July we’re pleased to present yet another antique revival: Old Boweryin 30 point. According to McGrew in American Metal Typefaces, it was released by the Bruce type foundry in 1854 as Ornamented No. 1007. This is one of the few antique revival faces produced by American Type Founders in the 20th century, and now it’s alive and well once again in the 21st!
Also new, here’s something we’ve never offered before: linecast Ornamental Dashes. Check out Collection No. 48, with nine different Dashes, and Collection No. 49, with twelve. There are five of each Dash per Collection, for a total of 45 pieces and 60 pieces, respectively. Just imagine all the uses these will have in your shop.
The Junk Bin continues to enjoy good popularity; a bunch more used type fonts were thrown in at the end of June. We’re working on a way for newest items to be displayed first (or give you sort options), but that’s been problematical We shall prevail. Meanwhile a fourth product category has been added—Equipment—for various other new and used letterpress hardware, including a Pilot press and the new Skyline Roller Keepers. We got lots of that kind of stuff and will be populating the new category with it.
Things are hoppin’ here at Skyline! Three weeks ago we took on a full-time intern—Michael L, a grad student in art at Arizona State U—and this has upped our game considerably. (And the boss is that much busier now trying to keep ahead of the crew.) New this month: Staccatoin 24pt. This robust face has its origins in early 19th century wood type, variously named Tuscan Extended or Expanded. The first appearance in metal that we found was in 1867. When and how it acquired the name remains a mystery, but the matrices (milled) are from the Chas. Broad collection and were probably made by his Japanese source. At least two of CB’s faces are known to have been cut from optical fonts. Staccato, identical in every detail, appears among the numerous 19th century revival optical fonts published by Dan X. Solo. But Solo’s work was mostly released in the 1970s and Charlie died in 1965, so the shroud of mystery remains.
Also new: Border No. U-18 in 18pt. What is it?? We don’t know! But if your initials are H. H., you need this. (I’m talkin’ to you, Zip Code 05672!)
A certain fine printer in California has been pleading with Skyline for years to cast Deepdene in 16 point, and possibly the companion Italic as well. The roman alone would be at least two solid weeks of casting, and we’re just not sure the demand is there to justify the project. But we promised him we’d run it up the flagpole and see who salutes. Would you buy 16 point Deepdene? If so, drop a line. If the demand warrants, we’ll just have to knuckle under and do it.
Here in the Kingdom of Skyline we maintain strict political neutrality, but an issue has arisen of late that could really screw things up for us selling type to you. Clouds are gathering in D.C. to enable state taxation of artisans, entrepreneurs and small businesses who sell their work online. A petition is being promoted by eBay to oppose this. Check it out and sign if you will. ‘Nuff said.
One last thing: you gotta see this 3-minute video, titled Inkiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Art, featuring Graham Judd, one of Skyline’s good customers down under in New Zealand: https://vimeo.com/263582214. If that doesn’t get a smile out of you, then you’d better check to make sure you have a pulse!
On August 23, 2016, we began the casting of a certain decorative type face. Before the project was completed, that caster went down with mechanical trouble. (Technically, the Choker Bushing became so worn that the Choker Valve was not seating properly, and the liquid metal under pressure of the Pump Piston was bypassing the Choker Valve back into the main part of the pot, resulting in poorly-cast type.) The machine was dismantled and the offending part taken to a machine shop, where the Choker Bushing was experimentally counterbored and sleeved, with the intent of restoring the integrity of the valve seat. This all seemed to go well, but upon reassembling the machine it was found that for reasons incomprehensible the Choker Valve now did not align properly with the Nozzle orifice, causing it to leak molten metal onto the deck of the caster.
Further attempts to repair this repair were unsuccessful. So a different worn-out part was scrounged from the junkpile and sent to a different machine shop for a different experimental repair—face-milling the Choker Bushing and compensating for the increased rearward travel of the Choker Valve by adjusting the linkage of the Choker Cam Lever Roller Yoke. With much time and labor the machine was carefully reassembled, adjusted, tested, and found serviceable. Production was successfully resumed. But before the project was completed, the Matrix Carrier Cam Lever snapped and the machine jammed, shearing the teeth on the gear segment of the Mold Body Lever. The few old used spares in our repair department were similarly broken. Parts were pulled from a caster in storage, once again the machine was carefully repaired, adjusted, and tested; production was resumed. Our determination prevailed and the project was finally finished last week. With much blood, sweat, grease, and pride, we present to you one hundred shiny new fonts of Bernhard Fashion in 18 point. A Spanish Accent Supplement is also available.
Why bore you with all this technical stuff? So you know how hard we work to bring you these typographical treasures. A substantial part of what goes on at Skyline is the maintenance and repair of our 70 to 80 year old machines. The company that made them is long since scattered to the four winds, and we have only our wits and creative engineering to keep ’em going. And we love what we do.
Casting type in the larger point sizes has its own set of engineering challenges—both mechanical and metallurgical. Skyline’s Thompson machines are capable of sizes up to 48 point. But because of those challenges, and consequent quality control issues, we have produced very little type larger than 36 point. Thanks to determined research and experimentation by our shop foreman, these issues have been conquered and we’re now seeing consistently big, beautiful, solid type come out of the machine. We have plenty of 48 point matrices in the vault waiting to be cast; both fonts and decorative. To celebrate this breakthrough we have produced Goudy Text in 48 point. This 1928 stylized blackletter face is one of Fred Goudy’s most distinctive and beautiful typographical designs.
But that’s not all! FWG also designed a set of ornamental initials specifically intended for use with Goudy Text. And so we were morally obliged to cast the Lombardic Capitals in 48 point as well; initials elegant by any standard. These are furnished in a complete alphabet plus the original alternate T and Celtic ornament.
Last month we introduced our new product category The Junk Bin, and it continues to be populated with overruns, quads & spacing, new old ATF stock, and in general a clattering collection of caliginous junk. Lots more waiting to go in as it gets photographed and listed. Take a look, you’ll find some good deals.
Later this month we’ll be loading up the old pack mule and heading off for the Bay Area Printers Fair, Saturday, April 21. Although smaller than the legendary LAPF, it’s a high-energy event and Skyline’s sales are consistently better. The San Jose Printers Guild has a very nice vintage Printing Office there in History Park, and they do a bang-up job on this event. Don’t miss it!
In the course of buying up scrap and surplus type to reincarnate, we get a lot of material that’s still perfectly usable. Some of this gets sold back into the letterpress community. But we still have quite a bit of strip material, spacing & quads, and new-old-stock type still in the package (including ATF) that’s too good to shovel into the remelt furnace. Therefore a new category calledThe Junk Binhas been added to the Products menu on our web site. At present it contains only one item: a 10-lb package of assorted spacing and quads, including brass and copper thins—but keep an eye on it, we’ll be posting all kinds of interesting and useful stuff there in the future.
Best practice when locking up a form is of course to have the lines of type parallel to the rollers. But when printing a box border, or any form with rule or a line of type perpendicular to the rollers, the full length of that line will contact the surface of the roller at the same place in its circumference, which results in poor inking. Ever heard of a “bias chase”? These can be seen in old printing equipment catalogs; the interior opening is rotated at a slight angle to the exterior dimensions. Why? Setting the form at an angle will make the initial contact of the rollers on the type smoother—but the primary advantage to a biased form is that with a slight angle, the vertical line or border will contact the surface of the roller in a gentle spiral rather than in the same place, which results in much better inking. Bias chases are extremely rare, but today we unveil Skyline Bias Furniture, the easy way to convert any chase to bias. It consists of four pieces of our standard birchwood imposing furniture cut to a slight angle. (We consulted our alchemist’s charts and determined that the optimum angle for this would be 1 degree, 7 minutes, 24.6 seconds.) Bias Furniture is a simple, elegant and inexpensive way to facilitate a permanent improvement in your platen presswork. Sets are in stock for 8×12 and 10×15 presses, but we can make them for any chase size—just send us an email with your request.
Remember Alpha-Blox? A couple of years ago we did a casting of these in 36 point from the original ATF matrices, and proffered them in a custom handcrafted hardwood presentation box of our own design and manufacture. We have limited that edition to 40 and they are now sold out. This being the case, Alpha-Blox fonts are now available without the box, and at a correspondingly lower price. Get some while the gettin’s good, the stock is finite.
A couple of major casting projects are currently underway here. They’re two Goudy designs, intended to be used together, but each can also be used alone. We had hoped to have them ready for release today. One is finished but the other still needs quite a bit more labor, so next month. We had to have something new to offer for March, so we knocked out Border No. 423 in 24 point, a two-element design that looks pretty ancient. Happy printing.
We’re trying to get back in the groove of offering a new antique revival face every month. Say hello to Jim Crow, in 30 point! This face first appeared in 1850 as Dickinson Type Foundry’s ‘Gothic Shade’. It’s one of several antiques presented in revival castings by American Type Founders in the 20th century, and thus is fairly well known. Charles Broad at Typefounders of Phoenix also cast it in the 1960s and this type is from his matrices, with 30 point being the largest of the three sizes he offered.
Back in stock: Sans Serif Light in 36 point, complete with the full set of Deco Alternates. Happy Ground Hog Day to everyone.
The Letterpress Revival continues with unabated enthusiasm, and demand for metal type remains strong. Looking back on 2017 the records show that we cast 7,981 pounds of type in the calendar year. Although that figure is somewhat below 2016, it’s about the same as 2015 and well in excess of every year prior to that. And there are two good reasons why production was down from last year: first, Skyline bought some property in a nearby industrial park and we spent much of the summer preparing it for use as offsite warehouse and workshop space. We’re out of room here at headquarters! The second reason is the major redesign of the Skyline web site. This was done in-house, and like everything, ended up being a much bigger job than we anticipated. The new site went live on November 20 and performed well from the start. Our work is paying off—the number of orders that came in for the month of December on the new site was more than double the monthly average on the old one!
Production is now back to normal and we have two new items to release this month. Collection No. 47 is the last and final set of 12 point em-body decorative elements cast from matrices acquired from a defunct foundry in India.
Border No. 1, also 12 point, is a delicate two-element Grecian pattern.
These and all our other Fonts, Borders, Collections and Initials can be viewed and impulsively purchased here on skylinetype.com, and we invite you to do so. Did you know that you can receive our monthly news bulletins automatically on the first of every month? Just scroll to the foot of any page and enter your address in the Subscribe box.
Best wishes to all for a typographically exciting New Year!
Last Monday we held our ears, pulled the trigger, and the promised new Skyline web site went live! It was a long and complicated task, and we did it in-house. It’s a state-of-the-art setup with a Wishlist, a Cart, instant online ordering and payment by credit card or PayPal, and it’s adaptable to every personal electronic device known to man. It will save your contact information and recognize you when you Log In. With the launch of this new system, Skyline will now absorb the credit card or PayPal transaction fee, and no longer add it to your order as a surcharge. And for the convenience of our international customers, the Cart automatically calculates and displays the total weight of your order. This represents a big leap forward for a business that’s a hundred years behind the times! There will be fine-tuning as we go forward, but orders are already being processed and shipped through the new site. You are invited to explore it, try it out, and send us any feedback or suggestions.
Meanwhile, back at the Foundry, the casters are still spitting out shiny new type. New for this month are Border No. 1313 in 12 point (an eye-catchy black-and-white geometric design) and Collection No. 46, yet more of those lovely and diverse 12 point em-body decorative ornaments from India.
Back in stock: Della Robbia 30 point and the neat little laurel design, Border No. 1329. Happy Winter Solstice to all and we’ll be back with more treasures for you on New Years Day.
Another new moon, another new casting from Skyline. Behold Collection No. 43: a set of twelve different ornaments, all cast on 12pt em-body, from a bunch of old foundry matrices recently obtained from India. The source of these designs is not known but some of the other matrices in this fortuitous acquisition were the Primula Ornaments originating with Typefoundry Amsterdam. These elements are quite possibly from there also, or English Monotype. The Indian-made mats are rather irregular but we’re making the best of them.
Back in stock (finally!) is Crayonette in 12pt. This project was begun over a year and a half ago and proved to be very challenging. Most of the first production was rejected due to inconsistent alignment, which was traced to a small broken internal part in the casting machine’s matrix holder. There were further problems with the makeup production and some of that had to be rejected. But eventually we prevailed, as we usually do, and now there are 50 new fonts on the shelf ready to go. (Zip Code 25550, are you there?)
We do normally produce more than this in a month’s time. Much of our labors in October were invested in a major overhaul of the Skyline web site. Dinosaurs though we are (living and working quite happily amidst early 20th-century machinery), it has not escaped our notice that the rest of the world is barreling headlong into the future–and that many of our customers increasingly live their lives through small hand-held electronic devices. Though our present web site was launched only two years ago, and was a vast improvement over the original do-it-yourself mashup it replaced, the time has come to make Skyline accessible via the technology of the day, complete with an electronic shopping cart. (A sneak preview was leaked on Facebook and received a surprising amount of good press.) The new site is in the final stages of development and we plan to pull the trigger some time this month. Stay tuned for an unscheduled announcement.
Fresh off the caster, another 19th century gem from the Charlie Broad matrix collection: French Clarendon Extended, in 6 point. Here, let me save you the trouble– “Six point!?!? Why the heck would they cast that in such a small, useless size!?” The answer is, that’s the one and only size in which dear old Charlie made matrices for this face. At Skyline we are determined to cast every face in the collection, so it was either now or later. In planning this project we figured nobody would ever want to set it solid in 6 point (except maybe NRBY, but we all know he’s crazy), so it’s cast on 12 point body for ease of composition.
We also present Border No. U-7, in 12 point, for your printing pleasure. The runner element was a stray matrix of unknown origin and we selected the em-body solid diamond as a corner to complement it.
Clear the road, we’re packin’ up the ol’ Typemobile for a run to the 9th Annual Los Angeles Printers Fair! It will be held Saturday, October 14 at the famous International Printing Museum in Carson–it’s huge, don’t miss it. Full info can be found at printmuseum.org/printersfair. Stop by our tables, say hello, and take home some shiny new type.
This month we are pleased to present the fruit of labors begun here back in the late spring. The University of California is doing a project involving hand-press reproductions of 17th-century English ballad broadsides, and contacted Skyline in search of type. We were fortunate to have Cloister Black in the matrix vault, which very closely matched the face originally used, and doubly fortunate to have matrices for special characters, including German accents and the archaic long-s and its ligatures. A commission ensued and we did full-font castings in both 14and 24 point. Here’s the 14:
In the larger size there are two different variants of the archaic specials: lining and descending.
Altogether the font contains 102 characters. The casting of 70 fonts took 10 full days and amounted to 42,656 individual types with a total weight of 574 lbs. We now have plenty of both sizes on the shelf, should you have an urge to do up Shakespeare or other material from that era. Here’s the 24.
Just back from a successful mission to the Wayzgoose in L.A., where type sales at the Swap Meet were good. Our southwest heat wave finally broke in mid-July and the rainy season commenced—the most glorious time of year here. Didn’t get back to casting right away though, because Skyline has acquired some offsite storage/workshop property and we needed to do some work on that to prepare it for use. It’s located in nearby Grapevine Industrial Park. To commemorate our expansion, for August we present Border No. 675, a two-element grapevine design in 18pt. (Price Code D)
We’ve been standing down from foundry operations for a couple of weeks now, due to unrelenting heat. Prescott is in Arizona’s central highlands, and at 5400 ft elevation, we don’t often get temps over 90. But there’s been a record string of 100+ degree days, and that ain’t no kinda weather for typecasting! Then the Goodwin Fire struck 25 miles south of here. Our casterman T.H. lives down that way and was ordered to evacuate. As of today it’s still burning, but the army of firefighters has mostly gained control and it should all be over pretty soon.
We were able to complete one new project before all of the above; an example of the “Egyptian” faces that enjoyed great popularity in the mid-19th century. It’s cast from matrices in the Charlie Broad collection. He called it Egyptian Shaded Extended, but you won’t find it in any old specimen books. In researching it, the trail ultimately led to Dan Solo, who in the late 20th century created popular optical fonts from a multitude of type faces old and new. The evidence indicates that these mats were cut from Solo’s face named Galena. A lowercase is shown for it, but those mats were not cut, so we’re calling it Galena Title (24pt).
We’ll be back in production when conditions permit, and keep on delivering the good stuff. Meanwhile, come July 20, Pack Your Box With Five Dozen Liquor Jugs and head to California for the 2017 APA Wayzgoose at the International Printing Museum! It’s open to all friends of letterpress. Skyline will be there presenting a hands-on Typecasting Seminar and of course peddling all manner of shiny new type at the Swap Meet. Everything you need to know is online at www.apawayzgoose.com. (BTW we have an extra bunk at Motel 6 available—send an email if you’d like to roomshare.) See you there!
It seems like we spend half our time doing maintenance, repairs and problem-solving to keep these venerable old casters running—but every month we manage to have something worthwhile to show for it. So let’s go railroadin’! In Collection No. 44 we present that famous old Figgins train, as shown in the 1887 specimen of England’s type foundry by that name. There are two sizes of it (24 & 30pt) in the Collection. They are identical in design except that in the smaller size the locomotive has been reversed and is now westbound. Lots of multiples for each piece.
On the next track we find Collection No. 45: eight different locomotives, all 19th century, and again plenty of multiples.
For printing your tickets and timetables, here’s 18 point Pacific, a delightful Victorian released by American Type Founders in 1892, their first year in existence as an amalgamation of numerous regional foundries.
At Skyline we have never linked or endorsed any other business on our web site. But there’s a first time for everything, and Josef Beery’s little Book Beetle is so —uh,—impressive, that we can’t help but urge you to check it out. It’s a neat little tabletop wooden hand press that he has designed, put into production, and is selling quite reasonably. (This was brought to our attention by a customer who pointed out that he was recommending Skyline type in the Book Beetle instruction manual.) When you have a minute, take a look at his cool web site, www.bookbeetlepress.com, and we’ll see you next month.
This month we took a diversion from our usual obsession with antique revivals and made a foray into the typographically fertile land of pre-Nazi Germany—and came back with Homewood in 36pt for your printing pleasure. This unique face originated as a variant of Metropolis, which is a classic example of the forward-looking and rapidly-changing design styles happening in Germany at that time. The matrices used for this casting are those of the recutting of Metropolis Lined done by Baltotype in the 1940s.
Times being what they are, it seems only appropriate for us to offer something peculiarly suited to all our left-leaning printer friends. Behold: 24pt Delraye, a face that goes all the way back to the days of Whigs and Mugwumps (the philosophies of which could also be viewed as strangely apropos these days!). This backslanted, oblique, shadowed face actually originated with the Figgins type foundry in England. You can use it to print titles on manifestos, petitions, and propaganda leaflets. Tories be warned—don’t stare at it too long or you might start listing to port.
Moreover, furthermore, and withal, say hello to another 19th century face, Thunderbird Extra Condensed in 48pt. This being the largest size we are able to produce at Skyline, it complements our previous casting of T-bird XC in 36. Plenty of both are in stock.
Our third new item this month is Collection No. 42. It’s an array of stuff specific to the printing craft, including a gaggle of those cute little colonial printers. And there are a couple of things in here just for our Canadian friends.
Happy Spring—the days are growing longer, and time is running out on your excuse that it’s too cold in the shop to print!
Last month’s Border No. U-6 has been positively identified by one of our sharp customers as Element #26 of the Central Type Foundry’s spectacular Floriated Border, as shown in their 1892 specimen. Thanks, Laura.
For this month’s new font we present Figaroin 36pt. Better known in the U.S. as “Old Towne”, it was a 1940 design from British Monotype. The face is one more version of French Clarendon Condensed which was enormously popular in the mid-19th century—and now for us in America, it’s strongly reminiscent of the old west.
Fun with Explosives! That’s what we’re calling Collection No. 40, new this month for your convenience in blowing things up. And we’ve done three more new borders in the Floor-Sweepings-From-The-Matrix-Vault Series: Border No. U-6, a single-element antique floral (there’s undoubtedly a story behind this; perhaps it’s one piece of an elaborate 19th-century ornamental set). Border No. U-15 is a dainty little thing that looks delicate but is a single element, 6 x 36 points, easy to compose. And then there’s the heavy-handed Border No. U-16 in 36pt, also one element. Attila the Hun used this one on his wedding invitation.
Back in stock after too long an absence is the favorite antique Tuscan Graille. Press on, and have a fine Ground Hog Day!
We’re calling this month’s new stuff “Floor Sweepings from the Matrix Vault”. Collections No. 37, 38, 39, and 41 all consist of single-element ornaments, oddballs, orphans, and designs that just don’t fit in with anything else we have. No. 37 was done from four matrices we got from a defunct foundry in India, including a lotus blossom, their version of a hippie-flower, and Ganesha, the Hindu elephant-god who is revered as the remover of obstacles and patron of new beginnings, and of letters and learning. The three calligraphic flourishes in No. 38 are actually ATF designs. The other ornate decorators probably originated with 19th-century type faces, and that sine wave is likely a chemical or mathematical symbol. The special-occasion goodies in No. 39 are matrices from Barco Type, which Skyline bought out some years ago. In No. 41 you can figure out for yourself what they are and what to do with them. The two martinis could be overprinted chromatically. Here’s your chance to get creative!
Back in stock now is the very popular Tuscan Floral in 36 point. (That ornate end-bracket in Collection No. 38 would go beautifully with it.)
From the beginning, our philosophy at Skyline has been to preserve and perpetuate the ancient and esoteric craft of typefounding, and to keep new type within reach of all in the letterpress community. In general our prices have been about half of those of our friends at M&H Type, the country’s oldest and largest foundry. As 2016 draws to a close, however, the numbers reveal that our costs have exceeded revenue for the year. Therefore the current revision of our online Specimen Book & Catalog reflects an incremental price increase. We sincerely thank all our customers for your continued friendship and loyalty.
And so commences another loop around the sun in our Spaceship Earth, the 2017th since counting began. May it be a journey of fellowship, successes and our best printing ever!
Our two press-restoration projects have been successfully completed and as of yesterday, the business of typecasting has resumed. In progress at the moment is a restock of Tuscan Floral. While doing up a routine third casting of Border No. 88, casterman T.H. Groves let his imagination get loose and started talking about what one might do design-wise with this two-element border, especially if there were multiple complementary sizes at hand. It is, after all, a modular sort of thing, which of course is all the rage in metal type right now! So in addition to the 36-point restock, we hereby present Border No. 88 and Border No. 89 in 18-point. (The single element No. 89 is simply the corner piece used with No. 88.) You can see our experimentation with it for the label, but that only suggests what could be created with a supply of the three borders in two sizes. Who wants to be the first to try it?
December is upon us, the cooler weather is good for typecasting, and we have an endless list of cool stuff to cast going into the new year. As always, so many matrices, so little time!
We’ve slacked off from typecasting of late, to direct our time and efforts to working on machinery. In addition to bringing another casting machine up to operating condition (not quite there yet) we’re doing complete restorations of two presses: a 1954 Vandercook No. 4 and a 1901 Chandler & Price 8 x 12. These were both rescued here in Arizona from distressed situations—the C&P was holding up a mailbox out on a nearby highway! Nevertheless we continue our longstanding policy of presenting at least one new casting every month. So for your printing pleasure, November’s offering is Border No. F-1202 in 36pt.
Some years ago we cast Neuland and its companion Inline in a variety of sizes. They sold well, and supplies were exhausted within a couple of years. They’re long overdue for restock and this month we’re pleased to announce Neuland 24pt and Neuland Inline 18pt as the first two. Also back in stock is Collection No. 3, a rather remarkable set of six “stacking” ornaments, each of which is furnished in both decorative and solid versions, allowing for chromatic use
if you so choose.
This will be brief, and a couple of days early, because we’re launching early tomorrow morning for the Los Angeles Printers Fair. It’s gotta be the single largest Letterpress event in the country, and nothing short of spectacular! Skyline will be on deck with our full line of Fonts, Borders, Initials and Collections. Full info is available at:
In developing the intricate Alpha-Blox presentation box over the past few months, we gained a fair amount of woodworking experience. And this has led to the realization that it would be comparatively easy to produce the wooden item that printers use most: imposing furniture. So as of this month, we do!
It’s kiln-dried birchwood, precision cut, sanded, and hand-rubbed with boiled linseed oil. The length of each piece is stamped on the end. This is the way it was done in the old days, and the tradition is carried on at Skyline. You can get
a single piece or a full set—see the new Furniture page for details.
But we’re still a type foundry, first and foremost. New this month is a face so rare it’s not even shown in McGrew: Caption in 30pt. Introduced around 1940 by Mergenthaler Linotype, it was not a success, and quickly fell into obscurity. I’ll bet even Rick von Holdt doesn’t have this one.
Leaves, leaves, and more leaves! Just in time for autumn (or spring, depending on your hemisphere and ink color), we invite you to have a maple-leaf-fest with our new 36pt Border No. F-1631. Or bury yourself in oak leaves and acorns with 24pt Border No. G-69, and let your significant other try to figure out which nut is you. Lastly, Border No. F-1617: this elegant 24pt three-piece foliage border was designed by Rudolph Ruzicka to go with his Fairfield type face. Skyline salutes John Horn who made this one possible by furnishing the matrices.
Celebrate International Letterpress Day on 9/18—print something!
We often get requests to cast this or that typeface. Sometimes the matrices are in our vault, sometimes not—sometimes we can take on a custom project, and sometimes we decline. The request most often received is for a certain set of combinable decorative elements produced in the 1940s by American Type Founders. I had no idea whether these matrices had survived the 1992 ATF liquidation auction, and if so, where they were—and up until recently, Skyline did not have the necessary hardware to produce type from ATF’s style of foundry mats. Then I became aware that the mats had in fact survived, and were safe in the collection of a longtime friend and fellow typefounder. This gentleman graciously agreed to make them available. Casting proved to be a major undertaking, and we’ve been working on it in deep secrecy for several months.
But the curtain can now be raised, and we proudly roll out Alpha-Blox in 36pt.
It was understood from the beginning that a product this extraordinary called for very special packaging, something like a treasure chest. We have two Hammond Glider saws in our shop and I had often toyed with the idea of using this precision instrument to replicate the finger-jointed wooden accessory boxes that originally came with our Thompson Type Casters. So I proceeded to sketch out some ideas and do a little experimenting. Many days and many buckets of discarded box parts later, I had what I considered an acceptable prototype. More refined examples followed, and the process was captured in full detail to enable quantity production. The finished product is a felt-lined birchwood box, 7½ x 13½ inches, with brass hinges and latch, and gold foil-stamped legend. To the left and right sides of the type are compartments where quotation quads (not included) may be kept for use in composition, with each side able to accommodate 26 em-body quads. A card is furnished, printed on Skyline’s 1890 Chandler & Price press, that shows all the various elements and their layout (yep, just like Whitman’s chocolates). The box and contents weigh in at 15¾ lbs.
A link to ATF’s original 1944 specimen may be found on the Type & Borders page. Alpha-Blox were made in three sizes, of which this is the largest. They consist of two different sets of designs: the Linear, with 19 elements, and the Reverse, with 23. These are all represented in the Skyline set in the exact proportions that were used by ATF, with a total count of 220 pieces.
Pricing for the Alpha-Blox Boxed Set is $295.00. Purchasers have the option of adding a second full set of type, packed in bulk, for a total price of $495.00. (Due to the amount of time and labor involved in fabrication, there is a limit of one boxed set per person until we’re sure we can keep up.)
Skyline is closed while we’re on the road to the St. Louis Wayzgoose, and hauling in a couple of truckloads of type metal after that. Orders and emails sent during this time will be attended to promptly when we reopen. Meanwhile, several worthy casting projects are well underway, and we’ll have news when our regular first-of-the-month announcements resume on August 1.
And this just in from David Wakefield (great info, thanks David!):
Border U-14 is from the original 3-piece (Rose) ‘Flower’ No 6, engraved in the Double Pica size at the Fry Foundry in Bristol during the latter half of the eighteenth century. It descended through several acquisitions to Stephenson Blake where eventually, in 1922, it was revived as unit No 502 in a collection entitled ‘Eighteenth Century Flowers & Borderings’ made up mostly from their inherited matrices. It survived into the 70s as Miscellaneous Border 326/502.
We are indebted to the inimitable Graham Moss for this month’s new gem, Border No. U-14. Quite some time ago, Graham very generously sent a set of three antique foundry matrices to Skyline for us to evaluate for casting. It was determined that they would have to be re-engineered in order for us to cast them. After lengthy consideration of all possibilities, this was carefully accomplished, and 50 fonts were produced. It may be that there were other elements to the design besides these. The source of the border and the mats is unknown, but Graham does have some type from them bearing the Stephenson-Blake pinmark. If you can make a positive ID, do let us know and we’ll publish it.
But wait, there’s more! By special request we present the Granjon Arabesque Fleurons in 18pt. These six versatile ornaments have classical beauty and can be combined in as many ways as you can imagine; we have shown just a few here in the form composed to print the box label:
Our third and final new casting for this month is Border No. G-20 in 24pt. Back in stock again are Dresden, Tangier, Umbra, Border U-9 and Collection No. 10. So get printing, and we’ll see you soon at the APA Wayzgoose in St. Louis! (See http://2016wayzgoose.apa-letterpress.com/ for details.)
Here’s a new 19th century revival that’s a must-have: Thunderbird Extra Condensed in full-face 36pt. Dating to about 1860, it was the quintessential type of the Civil War and the Old West. Imagine all the fun you could have
with a font (or two).
Now jumping ahead seventy years, Monotype came out with a new variation on one of their existing faces, with a name that exemplifies the style trend of the day—Streamline. We are pleased to offer a new casting of this eye-grabbing type in 36pt (the only size ever cut). The design consists of only the 26 capitals.
And we’ve saved what may be the best for last: we are proud to present as Collection No. 36 the complete set of all 22 Primula Ornaments in 12 pt. These lovely decorative elements were designed by Typefoundry Amsterdam about 1950 and cast in three sizes; this is the second-largest. Use singly, use in lines as border, use in creative combinations. Do not overuse.
All of the above are on the shelf and ready to ship—and as always, we’re busy working on more great projects this month. Press on.
Good, bad, or ugly, it was a historic type face: released in Germany by Bauer Foundry in the 1920s, it was met with acceptance in the USA and arguably triggered the subsequent rise to primacy of the plain gothics–Spartan, Airport, 20th Century, Helvetica. For April we present Futura in 18 point.
Ready for a shot of border euphoria? Pick up the new Border U-4, hot off the caster! The origin of this striking and refreshing 14 point design is unknown, but the unfinished electrodeposited matrices came from the estate of Paul Hayden Duensing. We finished them up by careful hand-lapping and took them into production. A European design, perhaps? If anyone can identify the source of this border, by all means let us know so we can give proper historical credit.
And while on that size we did up three new Monotype designs as well: Borders No. 117, 1424, and 1425. The first two of these are single-element borders, and we invite you to check out the different effects achieved in the specimens just by using multiple orientations of the type.
We were caught with our pants down (uh, typographically speaking, that is) last year when our 16pt Jessen Schrift sold out before it was even released. So we’ve done a second casting and it’s now back in stock—yes, with lowercase supplements available too.
And now it’s time to pack our box with five dozen liquor jugs and head for the Bay Area Printers Fair on Saturday, April 9. This growing event was excellent last year, and we’ll be there with plenty of new type for sale. For details go to the San Jose Printers Guild at https://printersguild.wordpress.com/. See you there!
In our never-ending quest to revive history’s rare, obscure, and unusual type faces, we’re proud to present a casting of Card Italic in its centennial year. This novelty face was issued in 1915 by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company as (according to McGrew) a copy of Amsterdam’s Ella Italic. We hope it will find a warm welcome in 21st century letterpress. Being a face that no reasonable person would set in all-capitals, the font scheme is biased toward fewer caps and more lowercase. (This is a Skyline innovation without precedent at any other type foundry, to our knowledge.)
By popular demand we have done another run of Jessen Schrift in 16pt. Full fonts and lowercase supplements will both be available (and of course will align with the previous casting). This is completed but not yet packaged, so it won’t be available for purchase until April—but we want to give you a heads-up and get the word out so you can plan accordingly. We’re trying to get ahead of the curve and do restock castings before an item is sold out, and several borders that were running low had proactive recastings in February.
The sun is warm here in Arizona, the sky blue, and the fruit trees surrounding the foundry building are in full bloom. We have exciting new projects planned for this year, as well as trips to four Printer’s Fairs. Happy Spring!
Last month we diverted a fair amount of time and attention to engineering
and repair of the machinery, but still got a couple of castings done. We offer Collection No. 30: a company or so of doughboys, and some flags, in observance of the centennial of the Great War. Have your own private army! And Cochin 24pt is back in stock.
Now the bad news. The US Postal Service implemented a fairly hefty price increase in January. About a decade ago, when Flat Rate Boxes were first introduced, Skyline adopted a flat rate shipping policy—any order, anywhere in the USA, for $8, which is what an FRB cost to mail at that time. Despite annual postage increases, we have NEVER raised our flat shipping charge. (International orders go at actual cost.) Our philosophy is to keep it simple for our customers and subsidize the cost, and that has been good business. Well folks, something’s gotta give eventually, and that time has come. Effective today the domestic flat shipping charge is $10.00—and that’s still several dollars below our cost. So take advantage of this subsidized shipping and
send us a big order!
The Mono-Blox we released in December has been extraordinarily popular. Stock is down to 24 fonts and may sell out, so don’t delay. And we have plenty more good stuff planned for this year, so stay tuned.
Our first casting for the new year 2016 has a story behind it. When I was a kid growing up in Boulder, Colorado, my father had a small store-front printing shop with handset type, platen job presses, and one small offset press. He sold it before I was old enough to do anything but get underfoot, but we had a Kelsey 5×8 and a few fonts of utility type at home, and in 1962 that’s where I began my lifelong love affair with letterpress printing.
One of the things knocking around the shop was some correspondence between Dad and a man named Charles Broad, who called himself “Mr. Antique”, and was casting revivals of old type faces from the 19th century under his business name Typefounders of Phoenix. Now in those days, typographical styles were very austere, favoring plain gothics like Spartan and Helvetica. I spent hours marveling over the dozens of elaborate, ornate and bizarre fonts on Charlie’s specimen sheet. In my daydreams, I imagined that if I could have just one, it would be Argent.
Dad never did buy any of the type. Charlie died in 1965 and Typefounders of Phoenix ceased to exist–but fortunately the matrix collection survived, passing to Los Angeles Type Founders and then Barco in Chicago. Now here it is more than half a century later, and in some kind of living fantasy, I find myself the de facto heir of Charlie Broad. Having established my own type foundry, and later succeeded in buying out Barco, the entire Phoenix matrix library is now in our vault. This legacy is something we have taken very seriously, proceeding to cast the antique type faces where Charlie left off. Meanwhile the Letterpress Revival has flourished, and with it a fascination with the type faces of old.
And so the fullness of time has come and Skyline is proud to present a casting of Argent in 24pt. Issued by Cleveland Type Foundry in 1883, no face more perfectly exemplifies the typographical trends of the late 19th century: elaborate, florid, and shaded, it includes logotypes and arabesque ornaments specific to the face. If this one doesn’t stir your interest, then you’re a typographical philistine!
But we didn’t stop to congratulate ourselves for long. Also new this month is Charcoal in 24pt, a novelty face released in 1899 by Keystone Type Foundry. You are cordially invited to view specimens and details of these and all our other Fonts, Borders, Initials and Collections in the newly updated Specimen Book & Catalog.
Sometime back in the 1930s, Monotype had the bright idea of offering a set of six (6) matrices to make 12 point type in geometric solids that could be combined to build rudimentary letterforms in 60 point. This project immediately disappeared into oblivion, but it may have inspired ATF’s later invention of Alpha-Blox, a product that was both successful and far more sophisticated. At Skyline we get regular inquiries about the Alpha-Blox, but alas, without the matrices, we are of course unable to cast them. It did, however, cause us to go back and look at the forgotten Monotype mats in a different way. The use of modular “blox” to build both letterforms and decorative designs seems to be growing in popularity right now, thanks in large part to the phenomenal letterpress artwork of Jen Farrell at Starshaped Press in Chicago. So we did a methodical search of the matrix vault, and came up with not only the original six mats, but 12 other compatible mats for geometric solid elements. Thus began a project that took the self-evident name “Mono-Blox”. Jen graciously agreed to collaborate with Skyline on this, so once casting was all completed, the project was handed off to Starshaped to design and print the labels and specimen cards. Today we officially unveil Collection No. 29, Mono-Blox! (Orders are now being accepted, and will be shipped once fonting and packaging are completed, sometime next week.)
But wait, there’s more! We also present a new antique revival, Tuscan Ornate, in 24pt. This classic 19th century face originated in England about 1850. And back in stock is McMurtrie Title, 24pt. We did a capitals-only casting of this quite rare font some years ago, but now are able to offer the full title font of caps, points and figures.
October’s Los Angeles Printers Fair at the International Printing Museum was a great success, and Skyline enjoyed record sales! IPM is talking about expanding the Fair to a two-day event next year, so save the date—the first weekend in October.
It is with great pleasure that we unveil this month’s new offering: Troyer Ornaments, cast from nothing less than the original American Type Founders matrices. This is a series of decorative elements drawn by Austrian artist Johannes Troyer for ATF. They were released in 1953, and enjoyed enormous popularity. This spectacular series is now once again available, in 36pt, presented in Skyline Collections No. 31, 32 and 33. We’ve done a full write-up on Troyer and how the matrices came to Skyline; it includes ATF’s original showing and can be found on the STF web site, Type & Borders page.
And back in stock with a second casting at last is the long-awaited Arboret Ornament Suite. See our newly updated 3-volume online Specimen Book & Catalog for details on the above, and all our Fonts, Borders, Initials and Collections. Other noteworthy projects are already in progress for next month, so stay tuned—and don’t forget to sign up (at the right) for automatic updates.
New this month is Park Avenue, in 18pt, a standard face that should be in every printing office.
What–you already have it? OK, no surprise there. Just wait till you see what we’re casting up for next month; save your shekels!
Recast and back in stock is Border No. U-13, the delicate and lovely antique Spiral Rose; and Della Robbia in 14pt. (Also now available is a Lowercase Supplement for this font, which we have not offered before, so technically it’s a new item.)
New this month is Nova Script in 18pt. This delicate semi-formal face was designed for Intertype in 1937 by George Trenholm. We also present ornamental Border No. G-73, a two-element filigree that might just work very nicely with the Nova. Back in stock: Parisian, Nestor Script, and Border No. 121.
Don’t miss the 7th Annual Los Angeles Printers Fair coming up on Saturday, October 3! This event, held at the International Printing Museum, just gets bigger and better every year. Skyline will be there as always, with one of the largest booths and plenty of new type for sale. For further info: www.printmuseum.org/printersfair/general-information/
Many customers have told us over the years that they would like to be notified of all new Skyline castings. We haven’t had a mailing list as such up to now, but our new web site now has that capability. Just click on the Subscribe button to the right, and you’ll get an automatic email whenever we post something new.
We’ve been busy since returning from the great Chicago Wayzgoose! Two new fonts this month: Jessen Schrift in 16pt. This is one of Rudolph Koch’s designs, released in 1930 for the Klingspor Foundry, and intended for Bible printing. It’s an unusual hybrid of romanized capitals and blackletter lowercase with several stylized alternate characters and a handcrafted look. (The name is in honor of Peter Jessen who was a major figure in the book arts of 19th century Germany.) This casting was primarily a commission job, but many other printers expressed interest, so production was scaled up. Even with a substantial amount of extra type included in the casting for stock, orders have continued to come in. In addition to full fonts, a double lowercase supplement was also produced–and is already sold out. There are a few full fonts still available, however, and these will be sold first-come, so do not hesitate.
The second new release, Post Oldstyle Roman No. 2, 18pt, is a fine example of the “rugged” typography in fashion at the turn of the 20th century. The designer was E. J. Kitson, a staff artist at The Saturday Evening Post, who created this face in 1900.
And lastly we present Border No. F-816 in 24pt. It’s a bold, attention-grabbing byzantine design for which we just got the matrices.
The following type faces have been recast, and are back in stock available for purchase once again: Della Robbia 36pt, and Trocadero 18pt.
It’s long overdue, but we finally got a new and far better web site up and running! Skyline was established in 2004, and soon there was a need for internet presence—and unable to find anyone to take that on, I slapped together an el-cheapo site myself on a do-it-yourself host. It was rudimentary but served the primary purpose of making our Specimen Book & Catalog available by download. We outgrew that site years ago, but again, I could not find a good local source to build a new one, and didn’t want to divert my energies from typefounding to deal with all the intricacies myself. This summer things finally came together and the new site happened. Many thanks to Sarah H. and Troy G. (both are Phoenix-area letterpress printers) who had what it takes to redesign the site and migrate it to a new and better host. I’ve tinkered with it myself enough now to be able to make minor revisions and post the monthly update, and there’s plenty of room for growth and enhancements. We also are tied into the various social media now. Troy took it upon himself to create a Skyline Facebook page on his own time, and we’ll be going public with that very soon. Thanks for following us!
Our new antique revival for this month is Salem in 24pt. A rather rare face, first released in 1901 by the historic Keystone Type Foundry, its intentionally quaint letterforms make it a unique and versatile novelty face.
Back in stock: Lexington; Border No. 776 and Border No. U-8.
Skyline will be closed June 19 – July 13 for our pilgrimage to the APA Chicago Wayzgoose. This promises to be a grand event, open to all friends of letterpress printing. For full information, go to 2015wayzgoose.apa-letterpress.com
A comprehensive selection of fonts, borders, initials and Collections will be available at the Skyline sales table.
We are preparing to do a special subscription casting of Jessen Schrift. This romanized blackletter face originated with Rudolph Koch at Germany’s Klingspor foundry in the 1930s. Skyline has the matrices for four sizes of this face on indefinite loan from their owner; the largest being sixteen (16) point, which will be produced in this project. Other sizes may be cast at a later date. (Quads and spacing in this body size are readily available from our friends at M&H Type.) Fonts will be 9-A 18-a 5-1 and a double lowercase supplement will also be offered–Price Code N for either. Anyone wishing to reserve some of this type for purchase should contact Skyline via email by the deadline of June 6. Response will determine how many fonts are cast; a few extra will be made for stock, but availability is not guaranteed unless you contact us.
The graphic above, while rather low-res, is a description of the face and the matrices as published for the Mike Anderson Estate Auction, where the mats were purchased by their present owner.