From the earliest days of printing with moveable type, every size of type – in fact, every fount of type – needed its own mould. When I began to entertain the idea of making my own letters I knew that first I had to create a working type mould, but lacked specific information.
During a visit in 1971 to the Smithsonian's (then) Museum of History and Technology, now the Museum of American History, I was able to make measured drawings of a type mould and subsequently built a working tool based upon this device. [see photo] It is a 30 point mould lacking the nick wire and even wooden insulators. I just held the mould in a thick glove during casting. But it worked. So I could turn my attention to punchcutting.
46 and Counting:
Since 1971 I have made a total of 46 type moulds, with more on the way. Some of these were built for projects at the Atelier Press. Others have been made for museums and universities as pedagogic tools. And a few were ordered by individuals who were intent upon learning how to cast type by hand.
There have been a variety of structures, since type moulds have been put together in a multitude of ways – all casting type in the same manner. I tend to make either French or fitter's moulds as these work well and are manageable to build. A number of my moulds have been inspired by a very old mould in the collection of the Museum Plantin-Moretus that has a primitive form of mouthpiece. A few specialized moulds were made for a Japanese museum. These were based closely upon a form of 'trigger' mould introduced to Japan in the 1870s by the missionary William Gamble.
This 48 point mould was made for the International Museum of Printing, in Carson City, California, and is used there in regular demonstrations of type casting.
A 72 point mould, the largest I've made, was used in a special investigation of making large brass matrices. See PORTFOLIO.