Visit to the Hamilton Wood Type Museum, Pt. 1

This blog post was originally posted on the Lost Type blog as part of their trip to Chicago this year.

On Friday morning, most everyone had left Chicago (Riley and Kenneth needed to be in Denver for TypeCon), but Kelly and I had decided to make the trip up to Two Rivers, Wisconsin to see the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. My good friend and mentor David Wolske is having a solo show of his letterpress artwork at the museum in September, and picked us up on the way from Indiana so that he could drop off his body of work in person. 

Vessel No. 1 by David Wolske

Vessel No. 1 by David Wolske

We arrived in Two Rivers just after noon, and were immediately greeted by the word “Hamilton” emblazoned in large dimensional script letters on the side of the museum.

Kelly Thorn & David Wolske enthusiastically entering the museum.

Kelly Thorn & David Wolske enthusiastically entering the museum.

Once we entered, we met the staff of the museum and helped dolly in David’s work.

It just so happened that for the past two days, a documentary film crew had been filming various aspects of the museum. That day, they were working on a shot of Dave Artz, who is a Wood Type Finisher. Dave Artz is one of only a handful of individuals with the knowledge and mastery of this process. As David explained to me, wood type is cut with a special router that translates the movements of the operator (who is tracing an original “pattern” using a stylus) to another piece of wood that is being cut with a router bit. After the wood’s surface is cut, it is the job of the type finisher to chisel out the sharp corners and tight spaces that the router can’t reach.

An assortment of patterns on display.

An assortment of patterns on display.

Drawings of Brylski by Nick Sherman to be cut into patterns.

Drawings of Brylski by Nick Sherman to be cut into patterns.

After observing this finishing process, I was able to film a brief interview with co-director Erin Beckloff about their project Pressing On: The Letterpress Film.

Thanks to Lauren Huber for her help with filming.

Erin invited Kelly and I to be part of a shot where Jim Moran, the museum director, was giving a guided tour. Right before the shot began, one of the crew member’s very politely asked Kelly to exit the shot. WHY do you ask? I’ll tell you why. Because the clown suit onesie she was wearing was deemed too distracting.

Is the world ready for the clown suit onesie? We may never know.