Working with Wooden Type “Pass the Watering Can.”

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During my apprenticeship (1950 to 1955) most comp apprentices had to spend some time in the railways poster area which was behind the canteen on the Jobbing floor in King William Road. Also, there were racks of standing formes in double demy chases.
In setting the type for the posters a wooden poster setting stick was used which catered for the larger wooden type and the longer lines. Good fun when you’re trying to come to grips with hand setting 6 to 12 point type, Intertype and monotype.
I can remember one particularly hot summer when some of the standing chases full of wooden type pied because of the heat shrinking the wooden type, wood furniture, etc. No air conditioning in those days. If you wanted air conditioning it was a matter of opening the hopper windows in the middle of the building.
To overcome the problem of the formes falling apart the idea was to lift the formes onto the stone and if they did not pie during the lift, undo the brass quoins slightly and apply water to the type and furniture.
The normal method was to apply a little water with a sponge in a similar fashion when handling a galley of monotype. Sponge fights were common with apprentices on a hot day.
A rather novel idea was to use a watering can and then mop up the excess water. After the exercise, the forme was locked up and put back in the rack. It was the apprentice’s job to then mop up all of the water on the surface of the stone, dry it and then apply a coat of oil to prevent rust.
It was amazing how rust would appear after the event on some occasions.
Incidentally what happened to the wooden type prior to the fire sale at Netley?
I can remember cases of wooden type, some of it unused, stored in cabinets in the comp room.
When the cases of wooden type came up for auction at the fire sale the auctioneer pulled out a case and guess what; it was empty; as were all of the others.
Don (The Flash) Woolman

About Derwombat

My name is Rod Parham, Hot Metal Compositor. I was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1947. Single with two children and a grandson. I Love History, Movies and Words.

3 Responses

    1. Never mind the wooden type. Railway posters of yesterday now fetch a fine fortune. Cannot believe we tossed ’em out with no thought of the future. Shit I could have made a bucket load of cash. The Toff

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    2. Don Woolman (Flash)

      I attended the auction and asked the auctioneer. He told me to look in the type cases. I did as I was told but there was nothing there. He told me that it was there when he checked prior to the auction. He told me that someone/persons had stole the wooden type after his inspection as there was nothing there. Thanks

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