Printing/Typesetting Nostalgia Site

Metal Type

Registered Users
Hi, my name's Dave Hughes from York in the UK. I worked in pre-press many moons ago when molten lead was the name of the game. I was a Linotype Operator with asbestos fingers!

I now run a website called "Metal Type" that has hundreds of photos and videos of those letterpress days.


I'm always looking for new material to add to the site - most of the stuff on there has been sent in by the site's users.

Why not take a look!
Re: Printing/Typesetting Nostalgia Site

I'm Medric Magann in little bitty Billings Montana. I started in printing in 1974. I ran a hand fed platen, a Miehle Vertical and I melted lead for the Linotype operators. I still have my completion of apprenticeship certificate from the International Printing Pressmen and Assistants Union of North America signed personally by none other than Sol Fishko himself. I actually ran a four color job on the Vertical with zinc cuts. I sure wish I had saved one. Then in August 1977 I got tossed into the stripping room where I dwelled for twenty two years doing nothing else but that. Them were the days I'll tell you. I would have a pile of flats three inches thick for a sixteen page sig sometimes. It was a small shop and the boss would cry crocodile tears if he had to pay overtime. That said, sometimes I'd take the better part of a week stripping up a 48 page book or something like it. These new guys coming into printing in the digital composite film age have no idea at all what real pre-press work was like. Sometimes it might take a half an hour to burn one plate if it had twenty burns on it, and sometimes they did. I cut rubylith masks to trap pictures to screened areas, angled my own screens to build color and all kinds of tricks with room light film when it came along. Stepping jobs was a real "treat" sometimes. I like to think I know printing a little more intimately than these new guys just because of that experience. My old foreman always said that you had to know what you wanted to end up with before you could start building it. He was right and most computer stripping guys don't know what they are REALLY doing because the computer is doing it automatically for them. I could rant on forever about the good old days when things were bad but I won't just now. I'll close off here by saying that , as hectic as it was, I'd do it all over again without thinking. I met a lot of good guys and that's the important thing in life. Oh, and before I forget, I still remember the royal ass chewing I got from one old printer for running a scoring base across the broached form he spent two hours building.
Re: Printing/Typesetting Nostalgia Site

I started working in 1990. Yes twenty plus years after the death of letterpress.

However, when I came to work for my dad, we still had two Heidelberg 10x15 Windmills.
In in 1990, we were still running a lot of envelopes, crash print forms and all sorts of other imprint jobs, including numbering, perfing/scoring and diecutting. So I had the privilege to learn how to use the Windmill. Today we still have one Windmill and we do mostly post press work on it, except for imprints of signatures on photo prints or lithos using wood mounted magnesium cuts, similar to those used by Medric to print that four color job on the Vertical.

I also briefly learned how to strip and we still do some easy stuff today.

I greatly appreciate these experiences because it helps me be a better electronic prepress tech.
Re: Printing/Typesetting Nostalgia Site

"My old foreman always said that you had to know what you wanted to end up with before you could start building it."

This is so true. I'm one of the newbies you're talking about (yet feel like a veteran since I've been in electronic prepress since 95). Once I could visualize what I needed on the final printed piece, I could then make it happen.

Chemco cameras w/glass for halftones!

Chemco cameras w/glass for halftones!

I started in pre press in 1990 also, but my first job was at a newpaper w/a letterpress.

I thought I had it bad, using a Chemco Marathone camera! Lead plates. Wow.

I will check out the website--these kids today don't know what fun was..and the pay seemed better in those days, too. Wish there was a need for my old skills!!
Re: Printing/Typesetting Nostalgia Site

Ah I do so miss the stripping days I used to actually get excited about a complex stripping job and would spend about 10 to 20 minutes going over how i was going to do it in my head before I actually started.

And trying to explain what I did to people, you would see there eyes glaze over and just give up.

Now you just mention "graphics" "photoshop" or "adobe" and they nod knowingly.

The mystery is gone. Plus It was a great opener at parties when someone asked what you did for a living "i'm a stripper" was always funneh. Of course even if I still was nowadays I don't think that line would work as I'm a bit beyond the 175lbs I was back then :(
Re: Printing/Typesetting Nostalgia Site

I have actually been on the hotmetal web site, and it's really enjoyable to take a trip down amensia lane.
I started in the family business of newspaper printing over 20 years ago.
My grandfather used to have 3 linotypes (before my days here, but I still remember him melting lead and yelling at the machines from when I was a kid). I learned to make colour seps on ground glass with rotating screen angles, had coat plates, and rub them up by hand.
Those were the days that separated the men from the boys (or women from the girls). I am on of the biggest geeks you may meet, but I cannot agree enough about how the new kids today should at least have some kind of printing knowledge.
Go ask any of them what a halftone is (aside from the filter in Photoshop). They don't understand the nature of the beast, so they assume that the computer will solve every problem. We print newspapers, and the best thing to happen to printing is the computer.....
It is also the worst thing to happen to printing.
I refuse to go CIP3 (of CIP4) with our press, because I don't trust a pressman with clean hands.
I said pressman, not press operator. Printing, despite all technical improvements is still an art, and should be treated with that respect.
It used to take hours to strip up a 4 colour job (usually only 1 or 2 forms, since getting seps made was so expensive). Today, I can have 5 forms of colour on plates in less than a half hour. I must admit that our CTP device has made us somewhat lazy, but that allows my pressman and prepress staff to spend a little extra time checking out the plates. At least they know what the plates should look like, due to their experience in old school platemaking.

sorry about the rant, but ink runs in my veins, and while technology is a necessity today, It allows too many people who have no business being in prepress or print to be there. You used to be able to tell who knew how to strip if they had the touch......cutting a rubymask without touching the mylar I miss that!
Re: Printing/Typesetting Nostalgia Site

Check out

I've just acquired a Hohner 8 x 5 hand press and a couple of california job cases. The shop I work at still has a Heidelburg KS, an ATF Little Giant and a Goldding Jobber. Not to mention the tons of stuff that goes with it. Pretty much just numbering and scoring these days, but once in a while we crash print some form.

Brass City Printery Inc
RAMpage 9.4, EFI Colorproof XF
Avantra 30 • Epson 7600
Re: Printing/Typesetting Nostalgia Site

Hi, thanks for all your replies - It's nice to see some interest in the old letterpress heritage from people still in the trade.

I'm still looking for submissions to the [Metal Type|] website. If you have a story to tell, or perhaps some old photos please get in touch. The site covers anything letterpress and there are some users interested in the very early photosetting systems.

Submissions can be emailed to **

If you haven't got anything to submit and run a print-related website perhaps you would consider linking to Metal Type. I have a couple of graphics available:



To get the URL of the image right-click and select properties (I do allow them to be hot-linked) or you can download them and put them on your own server. The target URL for the link is

Alternatively, there's some copy-and-paste code available on [this page|]

If you have a print-related website and would like a reciprocal link please get in touch via the email above.


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