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Making Type by Hand

To create type by hand, the typefounder files and engraves the end of each steel bar (called a "punch") to the shape of the desired character. Once completed, the punches are hardened and tempered, then struck with a hammer into soft copper (called a "matrix"), leaving a sunken impression of the character. Molten type metal is then poured into the mold, where it solidifies almost instantly, creating an exact replica of the character. After some filing and finishing work, the individual characters are ready to be used for printing.


Printing Methods

There are four basic kinds of printing: relief, gravure, stencil, and lithographic printing.

Relief (letterpress) printing means printing from a block on which the image is raised. Relief blocks are inked with rollers and printed on platen presses, or by rubbing paper face down on the back with the back of a spoon. Examples of this type of printing include woodcut, wood engraving, linoleum cut, halftone, and finger printing.

Intaglio (gravure) printing means printing from a plate in which the image is depressed (as opposed to raised as in relief printing). Intaglio plates are entirely covered with ink; then the surplus is wiped off the raised parts. The ink remains in the grooves of the design. The plates are printed on a cylinder press with sufficient pressure to force paper into the grooves to receive the ink. Examples include etching, aquatint, mezzotint, line engraving, dry point, photogravure, and woodbury type.

Stencil printing means printing from a screen on which the image is permeable to printing ink and the rest of the screen is impermeable. The ink is forced through the screen to the paper beneath. No press is used. Examples include silk-screening, serigraphy, and pochoir.

Lithographic (planographic) printing means printing from a flat unbroken surface treated so that only the image areas will accept ink. The form is inked with a roller and printed on a cylinder or a scraper press. Examples include lithography, offset, collotype, and photolithography.



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