Of course like everything in life just buying type is never going to be easy as there are several grades or hardness´s of type are available and often it is difficult to tell the difference between them to the uninitiated .
Once the type is made up as is required for the job to be printed and then the furniture has been used to fill out the chase, this all then needs to be secured into the chase, often by one of two methods. Either by tightening the grub screws that are often found on the base of the type chase with an Allen Key to lock the type tight into the chase (often found on Marshall hot foil Chases) or by using expanding metal wedges called quoins that you place into the chase and then tighten with the use of a special quoin key, this is often a quick and simple method to use, but it can sometimes take up precious area within the chase that may sometimes be needed for typeface. Blockmaster Hot Foil Machines are often sold with quoins for locking type into the chase as they don’t have the grub screws embedded in the bases of the chase as part of their standard design.
In order of hardness of type from the softness to the hardest are listed below:-
This is the softest of all the types available. Monotype was often cast out of hot lead either individually or in lines known as slugs for each specific job, such as for a newspaper article and used on letterpress´s once before being melted back down to be reused again another day (recycling is nothing new ). This type was designed for letterpress and not intended to be used for hotfoil printing.
This is the most common ´type´of type that you will find and it was originally intended for use on a letterpress machine. It is harder than Monotype and it is made up of Lead, Tin and Antimony . It can be used for Hotfoil printing on the understanding that it will deteriorate after a length of time and can not be used for ever. As you heat up and cool down it down the letters can start to misshape. As there are no large type foundries anymore the new type as I have earlier is hard to come by , but second hand type is available either through sales from members of the British Printing Society (BPS) in their monthly magazine or the phenomena that is Ebay, the online auction house. The only thing you have to watch out for when using something like Ebay is try and make sure you are getting a full fount. It is likely that you will find a few letters missing is as normal as long as it is not too many that makes the set totally unusable. This can be a cheap source of type, but you do have to take your chances. Failing that buy new from a reputable dealer such as Hubbard Type.
This is an Alloy type, which means it has been made up from metals that are harder than the previous 2 types mentioned above and was designed specifically for hot foil printing. When new it cost around 3 times more than basic founders type and was never made in such large quantities so by that it is rarer to find and often hot foil printers do hang on to their Mazak Type. Back in the 80´s and 90´s companies such as Creative Printers who predominately sold the DUT 21 machines would often sell with the machine two trays of type namely Diana Italics 18 pt and Granby Light 10 pt faces, these have now become the most common two sets to find in Mazak Type although lots of other varieties were made. It can be difficult to distinguish between Mazak and Lead. The too best ways are firstly if you have the name of the type it will be different from its Founders counterpart which will give you a clue to its origins. Secondly and far more difficult is the fact that Lead type when new tends to be shinier and when used for sometime darker in colour and Mazak Type when used has a dull grey appearance with almost like a white bloom across it. I have to say after many years I still have difficulty determining between the two and can get it wrong quite often as well.
I am not aware of this being made commercially any more, unless someone can tell me differently. It is the hardest type that was made and was intended for hot foil printing and also used extensively by Bookbinders in their trade. As for cost it works out very expensive indeed, but should outlive you if looked after. The last time I saw a price list for a new set of Brass Type, I think it was some 12pt it was around 200 pounds for a small set and then there was the cost of the spacers on top of that.
As a small subsection to Brass Type you may if looking out for type come across some Masseeley Type that was purposely made for a Masseeley Machine this is also Brass, but it will not be suitable to fit into most type chases that members currently use. If you do find some it will often be in larger size lettering I have seen it up to 200pt, but instead of being type high, they look more like tiles, thinner and flatter to fit the Masseeley Machine only. Masseeley made some interesting machines and several models came onto the market. I know some members still use them on a regular basis and they were very popular from the 1920´s through to the late 1960´s they were used for all manor of applications, but I was told several stories of them being used both in department stores to print up the price display tickets that would sit on the merchandising counters in the various sales departments displaying the prices of the goods for sale. Also I am told that the BBC had a whole department of these machines set up to print the programme details that would appear in the breaks between shows and were used in the early 50´s and 60´s in the infancy of the Television Broadcasting Industry. If anyone has further details about Maseeleys I personally would be delighted to find out further information so please let me know.
These are all the British types you will commonly find , but of course type was made all over the world and occasionally you will find some foreign type faces. Again the most common will be KIS type from France, this was imported mainly in the 80´s although with several machines in the range and although I am not entirely sure of the type composition it looks very much like Stainless Steel and is very strong and designed specifically for Hot Foil Printing. The type sizes tend to be a little different to the main British Faces and you will find 10pt, 16pt and 20 pt. The 16 and 20pt were not common British Measurements, the other noticeable difference is the fact that their height differs from the Imperial Measurement of 0.918 of an inch and conforms to the Didot Height system found on the continent which is marginally higher. This means you can not mix the two types together as they will print at uneven heights.