link-to-bauer-mahr-hand-punch-cutter-sf0Well, you can hardly see that picture — which is quite appropriate since the hand punchcutter working on a type punch could hardly see what he was doing. Imagine working all day with that magnifying lens in your right eye. A punch is a steel original used to punch an indentation into a matrix, so that many duplicates could be cast from the matrix. The punch had to be harder than the matrix, which in turn had to be harder than the resulting piece of type. Cutting a punch for a piece of type is incredibly finicky work, especially in the smaller type sizes. It would require a good eye, a strong arm, and lots of patience. Insofar as there are any short cuts in the laborious process, that would be represented by the counterpunch. In many characters the counter, the hole in the middle, is fairly regular: thus R and P might share a counterpunch as might p, b, q, d and g in this font, while A, a, e, o, D, B would need one each. By annealing the steel of the counterpunch it could be made hard enough to beat out a hole in the middle of the type, leaving the punchcutter free to deal with the outer edges only. The shape of the punch would need to represent the character in reverse (as a mirror image) so that the matrix would be right-reading, the cast piece of type wrong-reading, and thus the printed piece right-reading. These videos featuring Stan Nelson of Atelier Press of Ellicott City, Maryland, give an excellent overview of the handwork which lay behind the casting of type for about 300 years. Of course, once the punch was made, many matrices could be struck from it, and from each matrix many thousand bits of type could be cast. See a subsequent post for Mr Nelson’s demonstration of typecasting.

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