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!
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!
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.