Copyright (c) 2008 by Rimmer Type Foundry. All rights reserved.
RTF Stern is a typographic first: it marks the first time a font is simultaneously released both digitally and in metal. Stern, named for the late printer Christopher Stern, is an upright Italic intended for poetry settings and numerous other uses. Colin Kahn has expanded the Pro digital version (originally designed by Jim Rimmer) for a variety of options. Four non-pro versions are included for applications that do not support OpenType. The set features Stern Aldine (Small x-height Caps with standard lower case), Regular, Tall Caps (with standard lc) & Small Caps with x-height caps in place of lc).
For nearly sixty years, Jim Rimmer, of New Westminster, British Columbia, has been working in the field of graphic design. He has performed the duties of pressman, compositor, typesetter, designer, lithographer, illustrator, bookbinder, and teacher, applying his skills to newspaper, advertising, and design work, and, not least of all, to his prolific one-man operation Pie Tree Press & Type Foundry.
The press publishes limited edition books that Rimmer designs all aspects of, but where Jim leaves his greatest and widest impression on the world of visual culture is through the type foundry. He has created over 200 digital designs plus ten that have been cut by hand and cast in metal. It is fitting, then, that his latest creation, a typeface named after the late printer and artist Chris Stern, will be a typographic first: it marks the first time a font will be simultaneously released both digitally and in metal.
The process Jim used to create Stern illustrates his remarkable approach to type design - using the same process for decades, all of his rough work is done by hand
before being translated into digital forms using the program Ikarus, which was introduced in 1973 to facilitate the digitizing of vast film (photo) type libraries. Ikarus uses a plotting pen that resembles a mouse with multiple buttons for specific kinds of points. Although there is nothing new about this part of the process, Jim's application takes it a step further by using it as the basis for his metal type design and casting.
A 36-pica master pattern is made by cutting forms from laser-printed proofs that are then mounted on bristol stock. These in turn are mounted to particle board substrate and, using a Taylor Hobson pantograph engraver, they are incrementally reduced, first to an 18-pica lead working pattern at half the original size and finally scaling it down to the appropriate point-size brass matrix - sixteen points, in the case of Stern - using a more modern Ogata pantograph. The matrix cutting is particularly tricky as the shoulders need to be cut away enough that the type will be able to be easily removed from the matrix when cast. The depth must also be precise to create type that is the appropriate height (0.918"), so measurements are done by the thousandths of an inch with less than .0005" leeway. Frederic Goudy used a similar engraver to the same effect in creating typefaces for his own Village Type Foundary.
This process, which Rimmer finds better suited to his needs than punch-cutting, which he has also done, is also the faster process of the two while allowing for a
greater deal of scalability - multiple sizes can be created from the same master patterns, although both an intuitive sense and an educated understanding of the translation of the char-acters to the different sizes are needed to accurately interpret the subtleties in the cutting process. Jim's years of experience make him quite adept at this.
Despite the mechanical aids, this is still a time-consuming manual process, so output is limited - Stern was cast on Rimmer's Monotype Thompson Caster one letter at a time. Working to metal is very different from working direct to digital, and, by doing both simultaneously, Rimmer has managed to cross over a century of printing technology by using digital means as an intermediate step. Both the quantity and the quality of his work and his own exacting standards are apparent: Stern is a landmark release that exhibits the full spectrum of Rimmer's type design work.