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 called The Junk Bin has 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 14 and 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.
Back in stock by popular demand: Keynote in 24 pt and Della Robbia 18pt.