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  • Naomi Kent

Carpathian Type Foundry

I met Andrew & Jean, the couple behind Carpathian Type Foundry (coined as ‘probably the smallest type foundry in the world’) back in May at the St Bride Wayzgoose. Fascinated with the intricate monotype caster in which metal type is made, I asked if I could pay them a visit.

As I arrived in the village of Hurst, I think I expected some kind of barn workshop that housed the monotype super caster among the various other presses. I certainly wasn’t expecting to pull into a regular housing estate! There wasn’t even a double garage. I was intrigued. This really had to be the world’s smallest type foundry.

I was warmly welcomed into the house by Jean and Andrew and within 5 minutes I was sat down with Andrew explaining to me how matrices were made – I had examples of UK, American and Ludlow matrices in front of me. 20 minutes later with that background knowledge our aprons were on and we headed out to the garage. Now, I’ve got to give it to Andrew, he sure knows how to pack a lot into a small space. In the garage there was a Monotype composition caster, Monotype super caster, FAG proofing press and a platen press. Not to mention all the thousands of bits & pieces like mats & moulds that come with owning and running such equipment. There were splatters of molten lead all over the wall and floor, even on the ceiling! Andrew told me that we would be casting on the super caster, making some ornaments and type.


The beautiful beast



Matrix upon matrix



Tools of the trade


It is such a beautifully intricate machine; there’s a tiny tap constantly flowing with water to keep it cool, and a small blast of air to cool the lead down after it has been cast. Andrew started by giving the molten lead a stir to a good consistency. What was mixed and poured off the spoon was the most opaque looking silver I had ever seen. It was beautiful.


OIL


Within the first hour or so my mind was completely fizzled with information on how to work the very complex and technical super caster. There were so many settings and adjustments to make, and it wasn’t easy – there was maths with fractions involved! Now, I like maths, but probably not as much as Andrew – accountant by day, caster by weekend.


Andrews workings out on the galley



This smile didn’t leave Andrews face all day


Each matrix requires a different setting on the caster. After Andrew explained how to work out the settings about 10 times I could just about figure out the equation (remembering to add 17 if the number on the matrix is not preceded by an asterisk!) Even after the type is cast we had to make sure the baseline was constant (with the help of a monotype microscope), the set width was correct (vernier gauge in hand), that they were 0.918″ tall and the lead was behaving itself so that there were no large air bubbles in the body. Andrew broke open a piece of type and showed me the granite like texture of quality that he works towards. To ensure that each piece of type is up to standard, they are weighed. Andrew knows off the top of his head what each piece should weigh given the point size, then quadruples it so he knows what 4 should weigh. So they are weighed 4 at a time and boxed up. Rest assured when you buy from Carpathian, you’re getting good solid type!


Looks simple, right?


After lunch (lovingly prepared by Mrs Carpathian), I jumped for joy a little bit inside when Andrew revealed it was my turn to cast some type. He asked me what I would like to cast. If only I could stop time and cast everything! I chose the manicule because if there’s anything the world needs more of, it’s manicules. And lots of them. By this point I knew how to insert the matrix into the matrix holder and into the caster. With a bit of guidance, I could also fine tune the settings according to the point size, pull a couple of leavers and I was away! The sweet, sweet sound of the mechanics of the caster churning out manicule after manicule was captivating. It’s what dreams are made of.


Every now and then Andrew’s ears would prick up as he heard air bubbles being created inside the body of type. We would stop the caster and give it a clean, then we could start casting again. I was very fortunate on my visit that the caster was behaving itself. I got the impression that it is very temperamental and things don’t go right all the time, resulting in a lot of time consuming maintenance.

At the end of the day I was taking home some treasured ornaments. I am eternally grateful to Jean & Andrew for their hospitality, opening up their home and giving up their time to educate me. Andrew’s all consuming passion and enthusiasm for casting type was oozing out of him the whole day, which made it all the more enjoyable. So a huge thank you to those guys, who made it an excellent Saturday. I just wished I lived a little closer so I could help out with casting. For now, I’ll put a super caster on my list to Santa.

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