Talk:Type metal

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Suggest removal of flags[edit]

This page has been flagged as needing References and wikifying, but appears to no longer warrant the flags.

A general observation that may be of some assistance in understanding the dearth of references in articles dealing with the subject of typography and other obsoleted crafts when compared to more contemporary subjects such as computing: More than somewhat ironically, the cumulative wisdom of the typographer's trade went largely undocumented. It was passed down almost exclusively by oral tradition over a period of some 500 years.

However, that accumulated wisdom was largely tossed overboard by society in the short span of some two decades with the advent of computer-automated typesetting and composition methods. As an example, the International Typographical Union, at the time the oldest trade union in the U.S. and Canada, one of the most influential of trade unions, and one whose members were among the most highly paid tradesmen, became almost an empty shell almost overnight as typographers were displaced by automation allowing employment of less skilled workers. Because the typographers were displaced largely 'en masse,' rather than continuing the tradition of individuals progressing from apprentice to journeyman on a much more gradual basis, the oral tradition was irreparably broken.

This kind of phenomenon is not unique to typography. One might encounter similar difficulties, for example, in preparing articles on manufacturing methods for wheels on horse drawn wagons.

Problems posed by obsolete crafts and technology, in my opinion, deserve more attention among Wikipedia policy makers. For example, there are former hot metal typographers like me still living; their recollections will often be the only information available on particular important points. But Wikipedia's policy disfavoring information without published sources cuts against capturing such knowledge before it disappears as memories fade and people die.

Therefore, I suggest that the Wikipedia community consider options such as a more permissive policy toward unreferenced sources for information about obsolete technology, perhaps with an appropriate label such as "based on recollection by a participant." I'm sure that could be worded more elegantly. But the message here is that when the choice is between preserving reliable information before it disappears and citing published sources, I'd much prefer the preservation route.

There may well be more creative approaches to the problem, such as establishing a separate wiki for publication of information derived from oral tradition, i.e., a cleaner separation of referenced and unreferenced knowledge. A WikiMedia revival of the Dead Media Project anyone? Marbux (talk) 02:42, 31 January 2008 (UTC)

Metal toxicity hazards for the workers?[edit]

What were the health hazards of working with type metals? I would expect there were fumes from the lead melt pots and I have been told that the alloys would change over time from the alloy metals boiling off, which would need the alloy to be reformulated or the type would get too soft. What were the health risks of directly working with these liquid metals? DMahalko (talk) 06:25, 17 September 2008 (UTC)


RESPONSE: —Preceding unsigned comment added by 138.88.223.206 (talk) 20:31, 15 April 2009 (UTC) The minor offgas from the pot consisted mainly of tin and antimony oxides, the Sb being much more dangerous. Lead itself was, and still is, a minor safety concern in the greater context of typefounding. Type metal in a hardened state will not shed any metal through skin contact, or through contact with mucous membranes, but I would advise against eating it. The main source of harm comes from mishandled dross, which contains mainly tin and antimony oxides. Antimony poisoning is similar to arsenic poisoning, and can be thought of as basically equivalent.

With common-sense practices, decent ventilation, and an understanding that the dross layer, once formed, prevents continuing oxidation, the hazards are extremely minor for adults. As long as dross (antimony oxides) are properly handled & disposed of, there are minor risks.

Re-balancing the alloy is something that only really needs to be addressed when re-melting monotype or linecasting metal, or when recycling foundry metal. One doesn't have to continuously re-balance while casting. Usually, you can get away with a couple of remelts before the alloy becomes too unbalanced.

What is interesting is that all the fear about lead poisoning from type metals is almost entirely unfounded (excuse the pun). Of several dozen people still casting type who've gotten lead tests, they almost universally have lead levels equal to the typical levels of their geographic region. Personally, I know of only one caster (and I've met 75% of the people still casting in the US) who has an above average level of lead in his body. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 138.88.223.206 (talk) 20:28, 15 April 2009 (UTC)