The Pied Piper

lead type

Anyone interested in old school letterpress wants to hand-set lead type. The problem is that buying new or used type is expensive. That's why I was beside myself with joy when I saw an ad in a letterpress blog offering 200 pounds of unsorted (or pied) type for free...and I only had to drive 100 miles to pick it up!

buckets of unsorted type
The "type donor" helped me load up the back of my vehicle with bucket upon bucket of lead type. Oh, could this really be happening!
close-up of unsorted type
Back home my euphoria quickly wears off when I grasp the huge task ahead of me: sorting pounds of type, letter by letter (or sort by sort in printer's parlance). My wife, Christina, looks over my shoulder at the mass of toxic, dirty lead type and passes verdict, "Steve, you are out of your mind!" Could she be too far off the mark?
sorted type
No, she wasn't off the mark at all. My little sorting project took unbelievably long: I figure about 750 hours (and no, that's not a typo). Little by little my work surface filled with new fonts. Hey, this may just have been worth the effort!
type drawer or case
Over time I filled my type cases with new fonts.
new fonts in type cabinet
By the end of the project I could look with pride at what I had accomplished. Full type cabinets. How sweet is that!

Would I sort 200 pounds of free type again? Are you crazy? Well, then again I just might.