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Six new grants awarded to help save endangered crafts from extinction

Zoë Watson, trainee kiltmaker. Photo by Nikki Laird.

A kiltmaker, a clockmaker and a typefounder are among the recipients of the latest round of grants awarded to help safeguard some of the UK’s most endangered craft skills.

Heritage Crafts, which published the third edition of its groundbreaking Red List of Endangered Crafts last year, has awarded a further six grants from its Endangered Crafts Fund, which was launched in 2019 to increase the likelihood of endangered crafts surviving into the next generation.

This round of the Endangered Crafts Fund has been offered with support from the Dulverton Trust, with further support from the Pilgrim Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust. The six successful recipients are:

  • Katie Beard, from Gloucestershire, to apprentice to type founder Stanley Lane, to safeguard the history and craft of metal type manufacture and letterpress book printing.
  • Hugh Dunford-Wood, from Dorset, to create short films to support the teaching of the craft of hand-blocked wallpaper making throughout the UK and beyond.
  • Scott Jeffrey, from Hampshire, to fund the setup of wheel and pinion cutting in his clockmaking workshop, and offer wheels and pinions to the trade.
  • Anna Rennie, from Cornwall, to apprentice to master maille maker Nick Checksfield, to learn how to restore and preserve original maille, and to become the first female professional maille maker.
  • Karl Schmidt, from the United States, to reintroduce the critically endangered craft of tinsmithing to the UK through a specialist tinsmithing masterclass.
  • Zoë Watson, from Perthshire, to train as a professional kiltmaker at the Kiltmakery in Edinburgh, after doing an introductory course as a 16-year-old student.
Hugh Dunford-Wood, wallpaper maker. Photo by Derek Reay.

Hugh Dunford-Wood, wallpaper maker. Photo by Derek Reay.

These six projects follow 35 awarded in previous rounds, covering endangered crafts such as scissor making, sail making, damask weaving, boot tree making, neon bending, and concertina making, amongst others.

As usual the fund was oversubscribed, and Heritage Crafts hopes to work with many of the unsuccessful candidates to identify other funding and support opportunities.

HCA Endangered Crafts Manager Mary Lewis said:

“The survival of endangered craft skills relies on the people who make a positive choice to learn, make and teach these crafts. These projects will provide future generations with opportunities that they might not otherwise have, to become productive and healthy members of our shared craft community and to safeguard this important part of our national heritage.”

Since 2019, the Endangered Crafts Fund has been funded through generous donations from organisations including the Pilgrim Trust, the Dulverton Trust, the Sussex Heritage Trust, the Swire Charitable Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Benefact Trust, and the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, as well as individuals who have donated sums from £5 right up to several thousands of pounds.

Heritage Crafts continues to seek further donations to save even more of Britain’s most endangered crafts from oblivion. Donations are welcome at any time – for more information visit www.heritagecrafts.org.uk/ecf.

 

Type founding and manufacture

The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Type founding and manufacture

 

The manufacturing of type in metal and wood for letterpress printing.

 

Status Endangered
Historic area of significance Fleet Street, London
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK 15th Century
Current no. of professionals (main income) Hand casting: 0
Machine casting: 6-10
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Machine casting: 6-10

Hand casting for education or research purposes: 1-5

Part time wood type makers: 1-5

Wood type: 1

Current no. of trainees 2
Current total no. serious amateur makers
0
Current total no. of leisure makers
0

 

History

Letterpress printing was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century until the 19th century and remained in wide use for books and other uses until the second half of the 20th century. Letterpress printing remained the primary way to print and distribute information until the 20th century, when offset printing was developed, which largely supplanted its role in printing books and newspapers, but letterpress has survived thanks to small presses and artisan printers.

A significant barrier to the continuation of letterpress printing is the increasing scarcity of new type and the breaking up of sets of old type.

 

Techniques

When it was an industrial process, ‘typefounding’ referred specifically to the actual casting of the type; in the present day, it tends to encompass a number of different related disciplines (eg engraving matrices). In a letterpress context, ‘typefounding’ still means the casting of metal type, with the manufacturing of wood type being a separate practice.

Metal printing type can be made in a number of ways:

  • Metal type cast on a Monotype Composition Caster (maximum of 24pt)
  • Metal type cast on a Monotype Super Caster (maximum of 72pt)
  • Metal type cast on a pivotal caster (not currently possible outside museums)
  • Metal type cast in a hand mould (not currently possible outside museums, with one possible exception)

Monotype machines are still being used in some private presses and foundries in the UK. Other typesetting machines, such as Linotype, Intertype and Ludlow machines, cast slugs (single lines of type, rather than single letters), These are used for ‘typesetting’, not ‘typefounding’, as they can’t cast individual pieces of type that other printers can use in their cases.

Associated skills include:

  • Punch cutting – transferring letters from design to physical punch
  • Matrix making – striking the hardened punch into a  bronze or copper blank, and fitting the strike to become a matrix.
  • Direct engraving of matrices using an engraving pantograph

Hand processes – These include the hand processes of making type from punch cutting to type casting. They are practised by very few people in the UK (as a small part of their typefounding work),  but are still practised in France by only a couple of people.

Machine processes – This includes type produced by machine using Monotype equipment. There are a large number of Monotype machines in the UK but many not in use – they are heavy, take up a lot of space and require a long period of training to be used correctly. As with all industrial machinery, they are potentially hazardous when poorly maintained or used incorrectly.

Wood type (larger sized display type) – at present this is:

  • Made by hand (carved)
  • Made with a pantograph router following a guide
  • Manufactured using CNC routing technology with hand finishing
  • Manufactured using laser cutting (from single blocks)
  • Manufactured using laser cutting from composite (Perspex) then bonded to a base
  • Manufactured using 3D printer

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

Allied crafts:

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • It is difficult to make a viable living from letterpress or from type founding as the market is mostly limited to small runs of artisan publications.
  • Typefounding is a very energy-intensive operation, and it’s currently almost prohibitively expensive to cast type.
  • Entry routes are limited and there is little training available.
  • Many letterpress printers are now using photopolymer plates for printing, which replaces the need for metal type.
  • Availability of equipment and keeping the materials, presses and type together and in working order.
  • Monotype Hot Metal (housed at the Type Archive) is no longer operational, following the Science Museum’s decision to close the premises. This means that no new matrices can be made or sold, limiting the typefaces available to printers

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

Individual craftspeople:

Using Monotype

Hand casting

No longer practised commercially but there are some people who are practising for educational or research purposes. These include:

Stan Nelson is a US-based practitioner.

Punchcutting

It is no longer being practised commercially in the UK but is taught by practitioners such as Nelly Gable at the Imprimerie Nationale in France.

Richard Ardagh at New North Press and Nick Gill at Effra Press & Typefoundry have done some punchcutting using the Monotype system of patterns on a Pierpont pantograph.

Woodtype making

International woodtype makers include Ryan Molloy, Dafi Knhune, Guillaume Bétemps, Marko Drpić, Virgin Wood Type and Wood Type Customs.

 

Other information

The Type Archive (London) used to hold all the necessary machinery to create type using Monotype casters. It is now being moved to the Science Museum Group’s facility in Wroughton, and no new matrices or typefaces will be made. Russell Maret recently created Hungry Dutch (a new face inspired by the Fell types) with the Archive’s assistance.

There are accessible overseas resources (note, US type height is the same as the UK). There are active foundries (two or three) there along with individuals. In Europe, Patrick Goosens in Antwerp preserves typefounding. He has acquired the remnants of type foundries from the US and India and is actively restoring them to working states. He is keen to preserve the arts of punchcutting, both hand and with engraving machines.

 

References

  • Archer-Parré, Caroline, and Mussell, James, eds. (due 2021) Letterpress Printing: past, present, future (Peter Lang Ltd)
  • British Letterpress – Type Founders
  • The Type Archive – Collections
  • Ryder, John, Printing for Pleasure (Bodley Head/Private Library Association)
  • Lindley and Maggs, Basic Printing – Letterpress for the Beginner (British Printing Society)
  • Simon, Oliver, Introduction to Typography (Faber & Faber/Penguin)
  • Atelier Press making type on YouTube
  • Fry’s Metal Foundries Ltd (1956) Printing Metals (London: Fry’s Metal Foundries Ltd)
  • Huss, Richard E, (1973) The Development of Printers’ Mechanical Typesetting Methods 1822-1925 (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia)
  • Legros, Lucien Alphonse, and Cameron Grant, John, (1916) Typographical Printing-Surfaces The Technology and Mechanism of their Production (London: Longmans, Green, and Co)
  • Southall, Richard, (2005) Printer’s type in the twentieth century: Manufacturing and design methods (London/Newcastle: The British Library/Oak Knoll Press)
  • United in Isolation Festival