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Dafi Kühne‚ Alternatives to Wood Type in the 20th Century

Dafi Kühne in his studio, Näfels, Switzerland

Thurs., Nov. 5 | Dafi Kühne discussed his research on twenieth century poster type pantograph cut from plastic and light-metal and cast plastic type. From his spacious well-equipped letterpress studio in the Swiss mountain village of Näfels, Kühne explained that these synthetic types do not need finishing with shellac or linseed oil, nor do they wear out over time as wood type does. Kühne’s talk is available at https://vimeo.com/476621015.

Illustrating his talk with examples from his own collection, Kühne showed Plakadur, a plastic type cut from Trolon advertised by the renowned H. Berthold Co. in the 1950s. Then he described the cast plastic process developed by the brothers Wilfried and Hermann Diller at their company GEDI an acronym for Gebrüder Diller. GEDI became the German hub for poster type manufacturing in the mid-1960s including wood type as well as molded plastic type. Kühne is creating a prolifically illustrated book about these processes, and those who want to purchase a copy can email Hello@babyinktwice.ch.

So, why did synthetic type not replace wood type? Kühne cited two reasons; plastic and light metal type was much more expensive to produce than wood type, and the phenolic resin used by Hermann Diller apparently caused the lung disease that killed him. With these cautions in mind, Dafi Kühne began pantograph cutting type from solid plastic in 2013 and started casting plastic type in 2016, thus bringing ideas, but not identical processes from the 20th century into a new life in the 21st century at his Babyinktwice studio