Hot-Metal at the Crescent Card Company

Just over a week ago I attended a Hot-Metal open day at the Crescent Card Company (Tiptree), where Len Friend and Dave Boden provided a hands-on Ludlow typecasting workshop. I came away having learnt a great deal about the process and proudly clutching the prize of a freshly cast ‘slug’ of type. I also managed to evade any surprise splashes of molten lead!

A Ludlow setting stick resting on a case of matrices.

A Ludlow setting stick resting on a case of matrices.

Hand-setting the matrices into the stick.
Hand-setting the matrices into the stick.

For the uninitiated, the Ludlow is a typecasting machine that produces type in the form of a slug (an entire line on one type body) as opposed to the Monotype system where each character is cast on a separate body. The brass matrices are assembled and justified by hand in the special setting stick, before being locked into place on top of the casting unit. A starting lever sets the mechanism in motion, the mould moves to the casting position and molten type metal is pumped into the mould and the slug is cast. It is not uncommon at this moment for a squirt of molten lead to be ejected vertically from the casting unit, in the direction of the operator, if the stick has not been correctly inserted!

The melting pot reaches 600 degrees Fahrenheit!
The melting pot reaches 600 degrees Fahrenheit!

The completed line of matrices in the setting stick (note that the letters are spaced slightly).
The completed line of matrices in the setting stick (note that the letters are spaced slightly).
The underside of the stick, showing the recesses in the matrices.

The underside of the stick, showing the recesses in the matrices.

The newly cast Ludlow slug, ready for ‘dressing’ (trimming away the rough edges).
The newly cast Ludlow slug, ready for ‘dressing’ (trimming away the rough edges).

Assuming no duplicate slugs are required, the stick can now be removed from the machine and the matrices can be distributed back into case by hand. After printing, the slug can be remelted into fresh type metal and reused. In common with hand setting of type, the method produces no waste and is a perfect example of recycling long before the term became ubiquitous.

The finished slug, ready for printing!
The finished slug, ready for printing!

Dave Boden (holding a Ludlow setting stick) and Len Friend (printing on ‘Heidi’ – his Heidelberg Platen) at the Crescent Card Company in Tiptree. Note the racks of angled Ludlow matrix cases in the background.
Dave Boden (holding a Ludlow setting stick) and Len Friend (printing on ‘Heidi’ – his Heidelberg Platen) at the Crescent Card Company in Tiptree. Note the racks of angled Ludlow matrix cases in the background.

2 Comments

  1. Sarah and Jon
    Posted October 30, 2008 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Ooo how lovely! Lucky you!

  2. Joie
    Posted December 17, 2008 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know of a good metal castings company that can produce custom made metal parts at a reasonable price?

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