In this time of lockdown and social distancing, I’m pleased to present my Guide to Letter carving. What better way to spend some time than learn the basics of this practice? You can carve outside or indoors: because I live in Australia the climate is mild and I have a garden, so I choose to carve plein air. Do what you want – there are no rules! First, though, you need the right equipment – this short video will explain the initial step on your adventure and, possible, absorption into carving.
Nearly 10 years ago [December 2010], so not long after I commenced this blog, I wrote about the demise of the printed newspaper [see here]. I forecast that the print media did not have long to go, maybe 5 years [I was wrong], at the most 10. Here in Australia, the end of June 2020 saw a swathe of publications, most community-based, many with heritage spanning some 100 years, fall silent.
In my part of the world the print edition of the Tweed Daily News ended. Though the masthead proclaimed ‘daily’ to the bitter end, the paid-for print edition had been weekly [Saturday] for many years, with a free community weekly also hitting the front lawn on a Wednesday.
The end of print was longer coming than I first thought in 2010, but inevitable. I source my news mainly from the online edition of The Guardian where [still for free] I can read the latest from the UK, US and anywhere in the world, and access informed comment [if often not impartial].
Do I miss print? Hell yes – I was brought up on it, the smell and the sound of it, and for many years ran my own letterpress print workshop. But reflect more on the content of journalism today, than the production. Fewer news outlets, and the concentration of those in the hands of managements pushing a bias [which news ownership has ever been] can/does lead to misleading and inflammatory editorialising. Be mindful in the twists and turns of digital.
There’s this slim book on the shelf in front of where I sit typing away on the MacBook Air. Distracted, I pull it out. It’s approximately A4 size and titled Future Books, vol III. There’s no date but from advertising at the rear and the selection of articles I’d make a guess at 1946. The title page/contents page states: Published by Collins / Produced by Adprint / Distributed by Leathley Publications. Editor: Marjorie Bruce Milne.
I scan the contents. One takes my interest – From Hieroglyphics to Isotypes. Turning to the article I notice at the bottom the name PAUL ROTHA as author. Wow! I know that name. [Even if I don’t the inventor of Isotype, Dr Otto Neurath.] Why?
My career as a journalist [more exactly reporter] starts in January 1978 at a local newspaper [more exactly a community free sheet] based in Marlow, Bucks, UK. I am 21. I have no recollection of how this event unfolds, expect being present when Paul and his wife were evicted and somehow getting them into my car [more exactly my editor’s, I think a Ford Escort, yellow], then driving through country lanes pursued [I think] by what was then called collectively as Fleet Street.
Paul Rotha left this place in 1984. ‘He was a major pioneer figure in the British documentary film movement.’ Though I never knew that in 1978.
I have never carved an alphabet from A-Z. The pandemic and lockdown made me re-assess many things, including this omission. I have used this exercise to inform some short instructional videos for those starting out, and for those who have been following [also here] here’s the completed piece. It is far from ‘perfect’ but life is not about ‘perfection’ – it is about doing. [By the way, the slate was split from a single fragment, hence the mirror-like quality – look at base pattern.]
Continuing these flashbacks on 10 years of this blog, I present a post from 2013 about Roman letter carvers.
Here’s an example of my recent letter carving.
This is the third in a series of demonstrations about how to letter carve in a time of pandemic.
The letter Q is discussed in this video, so sit comfortably and listen out for my tips in this ‘guide to lettercarving’.
Here’s the video. You’ll notice I am carving upside down – this is not recommended for beginners!
Two years ago I posted about a film describing the Monotype works.
This photo is of the caster I owned in the 1990s, working from a workshop in Bromley, Kent, UK. I have written about my exploits here.
To finish off this tribute to hot metal follow this link to another video showing the machine in action and sounding wonderful.
This is the start of an exercise in carving an alphabet in salvaged slate. You’ll notice that I’m carving the letters [c40mm] upside down – this is because the straight edge of the slate happens to be at the top of the letters as I sketched them. [There are two panels to the complete alphabet.] This makes it easier to hold the slate [which is fairly thin – about 10mm] firm on the ‘easel’ or banker, which I also made. If you would like details of how to make your own banker please let me know. Subscribe for further instalments. [Note also the ‘printer’s hat’ I’m wearing – this is an optional extra! Details on demand.]