2018 ATF Conference—Day One

The first day proper of the 2018 ATF conference consisted of a series of presentations given in the gallery space at Arion Press.

The day started off with a continental breakfast, a Welcome and general comments and announcements, then on to the first presentation.

Ivan Gulkov, our slightly nervous first presenter.

Ivan Gulkov, our slightly nervous first presenter.

Ivan Gulkov started things off with a very interesting presentation entitled How Modern CNC Can Merge With 15th Century Technology describing his design and construction of a hand mould and matrices. In a space about the size of a kitchen table, he has a CNC mill which he used to shape the parts for the mould, as well as engrave his matrices (matrix, actually, as he had only one letter done). He has also made himself a “type foundry in a box,” consisting of a small melting furnace (a Lee Precision Melter from the looks of it), his hand mould, ladles, metal, and matrices, all enclosed in a small wooden box.

His long-term goal is to cast a Slavonic alphabet, which was used in traditional literary works of pre-revolution Russia (I hope I got all that correct).

At the M&H open house the next day, Ivan was casting type with his mould, and kept Stan Nelson (who had missed the original presentation) fascinated for quite a while. He seemed particularly interested in Ivan’s twist-open mould geometry.

Next, we had John Cornelisse presenting How Can We Preserve and Share the Skills We Need for Typecasting. His concern is that, although we seem to be doing a decent job of preserving the machinery for type casting, the deep knowledge that comes from years of experience is at risk of being lost as the few people who did this as their job grow old and pass away. This is even more of a concern with people such as Duncan Avery, who know not only how to use the equipment, but how to repair it and make new parts. He works (part time, now) at the Type Archive in England which has a set of tooling for making Monotype matrices, but he is pretty much one of only two people who knows how to run it all.

Just before the break, Mark Sarigianis gave us How to Turn A Composition Caster Into Display Caster. Mark explained how he muddled through this conversion using only an article from an old ATF Newsletter and an old copy of Casting Machine Adjustments. It turns out that the instructions for this can be found in the English Monotype Corporation’s book The ‘Monotype’ Casting Machine Manual but this book was not necessarily readily available to users of the American casting machinery. Even in this book, though, they don’t discuss the American 1T and 1U moulds and the display mat holder with its funny replaceable inserts.

Patrick Goossens presented The new ATF (Antwerpen Type Foundry), concerning the second stage of his acquisition of the Dale Guild type foundry. This foundry closed a few years ago, and Patrick purchased some of its equipment then, while Micah Currier moved the rest in a storage container out to Utah with the intent of reopening there. Now, a couple years later, Micah has given up on this project, and Patrick has moved the rest of the machinery to his location in Antwerp.

He also talked about a meeting he had where Ed Rayher, Greg Walters, and Theo Rehak (who ran Dale Guild), amongst others, came to visit him. Theo seemed quite pleased to see his former foundry machinery being set up for use. This trip also had several other destinations, including the Type Archive, the former Doves Press (now a restaurant) and the nearby Hammersmith Bridge, France’s Imprimerie nationale, and the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp.

In The Benton Matrix Engraving Machine. Ed Rayher first gave his perspective on the European trip, including having some matrices for Fabritius made while at the Type Archive and having a close look at the matrix production process.

The second part of his talk was about his project to use his “Benton” matrix engraver to cut a set of large composition matrices for 16-point Doves, a modern reproduction of the face used at the Doves Press before its legendary demise. He discusses the problems of cutter geometry and durability, and how it affects how closely the resulting type can be set: Matrices cut using a cutter with a narrow taper produce type with small beards which allows closer setting, but such cutters are much more fragile that ones with wider taper. Using what he learned at the Type Archive, he developed the processes he needed to cut the shape of the body of the large comp matrix including getting the cone hole just right. He finished off by showing his filled matcase and a proof of the cast type.

The last presentation of the morning, A Photographic Excursion to Typecasting Treasures, was Greg Walters’s memoirs from his trip to Europe to visit Patrick. We saw plenty of photographs of their various destinations, accompanied by Greg’s narration of the sights and activities.

After lunch, in Learning the Thompson Caster, Troy “TH” Groves described his exploits learning to run the Thompson casters at Skyline Type Foundry, where he is apprenticing under the watchful eye of the owner, Sky Shipley.

The second presentation of the afternoon was David MacMillan’s The Pantograph Demythologized. David showed how statements that Linn Boyd Benton invented the pantograph for cutting punches and direct-engraving matrices have about the same level of accuracy as the statement that Gutenberg invented printing (i.e. very little). What Benton actually accomplished was much more specific, and the rest is mythology and oversimplification. He also pointed out that most of the machines called “Benton” engravers or pantographs were styles never actually used by Benton, as this term seems to be (over-)applied to almost any vertical pantograph that relies on similar-triangle geometry, as opposed to the parallelogram-based geometry of machines like Deckels and Gortons.

We finished off with Rich Hopkins’s A Trilogy of Type, a sort of preview of a book Rich is producing which has turned into a three-part work. He originally started with an article by Steve Saxe in the 2016 Printing Historical Society Journal on the Bruce pivotal type caster—pretty much the first successful step in the mechanization of type casting. The Journal had edited Steve’s original article, and Rich felt that, being pretty much the only article on the pivotal caster, it deserved to be seen in its original form, and to get more exposure than just the PHS Journal. With permission from the PHS and help from Steve, the article has been dusted off and became the core of what turned out to be a trilogy.

The first part of the book will be supplied by Stan Nelson and will discuss the craft of typefounding up until the development of the pivotal caster, and the third part by David MacMillan, with contributions from Rich, on typefounding beyond the pivotal caster, which I would assume includes machines like the Barth caster and the Monotype.

After the last presentation we had rest of the day free. Rich Hopkins drove Greg Walters, Tom Parson, and myself, with Mark Barbour and Stephen Heaver following in Mark’s truck. We visited the Cable Car Museum (I didn’t mind a second visit), then headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner, eventually choosing Frankie’s Pier 43 for some informal fish & chips and such.

After dinner, we visited the nearby Musée Mécanique, which displays a huge collection of old arcade amusements dating as far back as the early 1900’s. Admission is free, but you have to put money into the machines to make them run so we took turns feeding quarters. Machines included animated dioramas, player pianos (most with extra instruments included), fortune-telling machines, short hand-cranked movies of then-risqué subjects, pinball games, as well as electronic arcade games. It was a bit funny to see a bunch of people who work with pneumatically-operated casting equipment having a diversion with pneumatically-operated music-makers.

After this we all returned to our hotel for a well-deserved rest after a busy day.

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