Stamps and Punches as Tools for Typeface Design

Stamps and Punches as Tools for Typeface Design

Postby gjroehm » Sat Jul 25, 2015 4:37 pm

I've found a 1911 book of drop stamping, including die-cutting, which has some relevant techniques:
"Drop Forging, Die Sinking and Machine Forming of Steel"
This book can be downloaded free at: https://archive.org/stream/dropforgingd ... 6/mode/2up

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From: Thomas Conroy <booktoolcutter@yahoo.com>

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Subject: Re: [OldTools] Stamps
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"Counterpunch" is an absolutely brilliant book, built around a series of brilliant insights. It describes punches far more sophisticated than what is needed for punching down a background in wood carving, and techniques of punchcutting that require more skill, so it might be a bit intimidating; but it is also a great read on its own. And plenty of the information in it is applicable.

Smeirs is a computer type designer and was trying to convince software engineers that 250 d.p.i. wasn't enough resolution for a typeface. They, being engineers, wanted numbers. So he started studying historic typographic punches and soon found that there was no adequate description of how they were designed and made. In his despair he turned to his father, an industrial metalworker trained when Europe was rebuilding from WWII. He took his father to the Plantin-Moretus Museum in Amsterdam, which holds hundreds of sets of punches, some from as far back as the 16th century. "No one knows how these were made," he told his father.

His father laughed at him, said "I know a dozen men who could make these for you," he said. "I could make them myself." Then he explained the whole process: files, burins, steel, relief, counterpunches, striking, all still done by hand in the old way in the 1950s. Where Junior had seen typographic punches, Senior had just seen punches, just like the dies he had made for cutting out cigar bands and other things.

And now Junior could get his numbers. He made a few punches, measured the curls of steel that the graver took off. Curls that were enough to make the difference between a good letter and an ugly letter. The curls were on the order of 1/100,000 of an inch thick. -That- gave him a number for those 250 d.p.i. software engineers to chew on.


Once Smeijers was into making punches, he had the second epiphany the book comes from: 16th-century type design was better explained by the use of counterpunches than by using burins to dig out the counters (the white areas inside the letters). This is one of those stunning-obvious realizations, an application of the principal that the tools lead the design (which sounds deceptively like "form follows function," but which is actually quite different). In woodworking terms, you -can- make the same shapes with a belt sander and with hand planes; but in practice you -don't-. The best part of Smeirs' book is spent in explaining how counterpunches work and how they influenced the design.

Smeijrs' epiphany on counterpunching and type design is closely comparable to Edward Catiche's "The Origin of the Serif," which describes his realization that Roman inscriptional capitals were laid out by just writing them freehand with a wide, flat brush. For five or six centuries people had been trying to copy them with compass and straightedge, drawing the outlines according to increasingly complex rules and then filling in. Its all very simple when you figure it out. Another great read if your tastes lie toward letters.
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Re: Stamps and Punches as Tools for Typeface Design

Postby loyd » Sat Jul 25, 2015 5:36 pm

How about it Southpaw? Maybe this is a lead to the block making if you still don't want to try CNC. 8-)
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Re: Stamps and Punches as Tools for Typeface Design

Postby southpaw57 » Sat Jul 25, 2015 8:04 pm

I have to think about that one!!!!!!! :geek:
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Re: Stamps and Punches as Tools for Typeface Design

Postby sdunn » Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:21 am

You can do it!
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Re: Stamps and Punches as Tools for Typeface Design

Postby sdunn » Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:22 am

BTW Southpaw did you get my message about the soft maple?
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Re: Stamps and Punches as Tools for Typeface Design

Postby southpaw57 » Sun Jul 26, 2015 12:36 pm

Yes, I did get the message. Doyle & I went to Bob Reese's house and "harvested" some ambrosia maple earlier this week. Bob had a tree taken out by the storm. Thanks. :geek:
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