REPRINTED FROM TYPE & PRESS / COURTESY OF APA
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It's Easy to Set Type in

Circles, Arcs & on Angles


It’s easy to set type in circles, arcs, curves or on any angle. No special equipment is needed. But most printers, unless they have a set of circular or angular quads, are timid about composing type in any other form than linear.

In addition to the above mentioned quads, various styles of mortised brass circles, ovals, triangles and other “frames” were available from ATF and other type foundries. But these niceties have all but vanished from today’s printing scene.

To print lines of type on any angle, set in the usual way with a couple of slugs on top and bottom of line. Proofread and place in the form at desired angle and position. Without disturbing the line, gently stuff wet newsprint, Kleenex or toilet tissue into the open space around the angled line. Carefully tamp the soggy paper down with the end of a pencil until the material is about ½-inch thick. Left undisturbed overnight, the paper will dry hard enough to support the line securely when locked up.

Another variation is to fill the area around the line o’ type with any form of patching plaster, plaster of paris, wood dough, modeling clay, plastic wood, etc.

If you are in a hurry and don’t want to wait for materials to dry, pour melted wax from an old candle into the empty space. Melted paraffin or sealing wax can also be used.

If a hot metal pot is available on a Linotype, Monotype or Ludlow, the space can be filled with a ladle of molten lead.

Or, on the kitchen stove, turn your scrap type into a molten state and pour into the areas surrounding the angled type.

A printers’ power saw with an adjustable single gauge will allow one to quickly cut lead spacing material or ¾-inch wood to supported the line. Or these wood wedges can be cut with any hand saw. If this material is saved, it can be used for future use.

Setting type in circular shapes is easy. Select a center “plug” (pill box cap, jar top, discarded wheel from child’s small tow or one cut from ¾-inch wood) the size you need for the inside diameter of the type circle.

In a composing stick set the type line to a measure the same length as the circumference of the “plug.” Letterspace to fill out the line.

Next apply a strip of sticky-on-both sides variety of tape over type nicks. Carefully remove the entire line with the tape from the stick and wrap it around the circular “plug.” Finally wrap the whole thing with several more windings of the tape and place it in the form. Viola! Your little creation is solid as a rock and it will “lift.”

Using this method, type can be wrapped around just about any shape imaginable—octagon, oval, diamond, triangle, square, etc.

For fashioning type lines into graceful arcs, use pieces of discarded metal strapping bands—the variety used to fasten large corrugated boxes are ideal. These bands are quite springy and a line of type set between a pair of these as leads will produce a graceful arc if an em quad is centered below the bottom band and matching quads are placed at the outside edges of the band at the top when pressure is applied by the quoins. It will be unnecessary to fill in the open areas surrounding the arcs.