One of the great inspirations for designing the LetterMaker was my granddad's collection of stencils. As a part-time draftsman, he would use these stencils to inscribe everything from blueprints for a golf course to addressing an envelope. He was the kind of man who would write letters against a ruler — the bottoms of his letters would flatten out a bit at the baseline. His discipline, meticulous nature, and desire for consistency — traits he no doubt learned from his Air Force days — guided his daily life and work.
The following images are scans from his original toolbox.
This particular stencil, the "Speed-O-Print 3/4 Inch Plain", got me thinking about stencils and their individual modules as efficient tools for creating letters — particularly the O, P, Q, R section of the alphabet. Speed-O-Print Co. likely wanted to streamline the efficiency of lettering with the stencil and they probably wanted cut down on the length of the stencil, so they chopped up these 4 letters and made modules instead. This allowed the letterer to create all the letters they needed with a simple selection of shapes.
My granddad even kept the accordion-folded guides that came with the stencil. These guides offer tips and techniques for making a variety of letters — everything from how to make an 8 to "How to get bold, shadow and other unusual effects".
From a designer's perspective, this is a fascinating, historical look into how stencils can and were used to create lettering. From a personal standpoint, these sheets of plastic and folded papers are immensely valuable. They not only were possessions of my granddad, but they're heirlooms that represent both his character and his craft.