The Facer

(Facing Gauge, Flat-Gage, Equerre à polir)

For Hand Punchcutting in Steel

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1. Introduction

This is not a "gauge" in any modern sense of that term (it is not a measuring device). Rather, it is a work-guiding tool with which a punch blank or punch can be held vertically (and squarely to the stone) while its face is polished on an oilstone.

The naming of this simple tool is complex. I was first taught to call it a "Facing Gauge" in Stan Nelson's class in 2016. Moxon calls this the "Flat-Gage," which comes to much the same thing. Fournier calls it the "Equerre à polir," which would translate literally as something like "square for polishing" - a nicely descriptive name. Carter translates Fournier's term in blunt English as "Facer." In the circa 1919 Williams Engineering catalogue of typefounders' tools it is called a "Jointer" (presumably by a rather stretched analogy to the jointer in woodworking). Otto Furhmann, translating Paul Koch for an article in The Dolphin in 1933, calls it a "Facing Square." I like the simplicity of Carter's term, and will use it here (unless specifically referring to some historical tool called something else by its maker).

For as simple a tool as it is, it has also taken a wide variety of (admittedly similar) forms. I've been so bold as to add my own to these.

The Facer originated with hand punchcutting in steel, but it was also used for hand patrix cutting in soft metal. Additionally, Moxon used his in typographical mold making.

See also the Joynt-Flat-Gage in Moxon (used only by de Walpergen ("Walberger"); see p. 120 of the Davis & Carter edition of Moxon).

The Facer should not be conflated with the Face Gauge (in fixed or adjustable forms), which is a tool for an entirely different purpose. (Note that in his commentary to the modern edition of Carl Dair's film shot at Enschedé, Matthew Carter calls the Adjustable Face Gauge a "Facing Gauge.")

2. Moxon's Flat-Gage

Joseph Moxon, in the second volume of his Mechanick Exercises , shows the "Flat-Gage" in Pl. 10, Fig. A. That figure is extracted below, from the Wellcome Library digitization of the photographic reprint of the first part of this second volume published in 1901 as a supplement to Caxton's Magazine (online at The Internet Archive at:

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Moxon describes this tool first in his section " Of the Flat Gage" (pp. 83-84 of the original; p. 89 of the Davis & Carter edition).

"The Flat-Gage is described in Plate 10. at A. It is made of a flat piece of Box, or other Hard Wood. Its Length is three Inches and an half, its Breadth two Inches and an half, and its Thickness one Inch and an half. This is on the Flat, first made square, but afterwards hath one of its Corners (as h) a little rounded off, that it may the easier comply with the Ball of the Hand. Out of one of its longest Sides, viz. that not rounded off, is Cut through the thickness of an exact Square, whose one side b f, c g is about an Inch and three quarters long; and its other side b d, c e about half an Inch long. The Depth of these Sides and their Angle is exactly Square to the top and bottom of the upper and under Superficies of the Flat-Gage.

"Its Use is to hold a Rod of Steel, or Body of a Mold, &c. exactly perpendicular to the Flat of the Using-File, that the end of it may rub upon the Using-File, and be Filed away exactly Square, and that to the Shank; as shall more at large be shewed in §. 2 ¶3." [Davis and Carter note that the correct reference is actually § 13, ¶3 (pp. 110-111 of their edition)]

In his discussion of its use (§ 13, ¶3), Moxon observes that:

"The inconvenience that this Tool is subject to, is, That with much using its Face will work out of Flat. Therefore it becomes the Workman to examine it often, and when he finds it faulty to mend it."

Moxon's Flat-Gage is made of wood, not metal. He says it should be a hard wood, and I can agree from experience. Just to do it, I tried one make from pine. It wore so quickly that I was unable to finish even one punch (admittedly, I was using a very coarse carborundum stone).

But Moxon is not using his Flat-Gage on a stone, as we would today, but is applying it to the Using-File. (This is a very large, heavy file, 3 to 4 inches wide, 9 to 10 inches long, and 3/4 inch thick with one side bastard-cut and one side smooth cut. Such magnificent files are no longer obtainable.)

I find it interesting that the shape of Moxon's Flat-Gage, with its curved side to fit the hand, indicates that it was used to push the punch over the stone. Perhaps this is the obvious way to do it with any facer, but when I started out I did it the opposite way. That is, I held the notch toward me - in this way I could better see the punch.

Finally, it bears mentioning that Moxon used this Flat-Gage not only for punchcutting but also for mold making. Of course, he also had Using-Files at his disposal and we do not.

Just to do it, I've created a 3-D CAD model and an engineering drawing of Moxon's Flat-Gage. Click on the image below to get a PDF format version of the drawing.

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The model itself has been done in the "Onshape" (brand) "cloud-based" CAD system. You can view it in read-only mode without an Onshape account, at: If you have an Onshape account, the model is public. You should be able to copy it into your own workspace and edit it there, if you wish. If the link above doesn't work, search the Onshape public model space for: Facer - Moxon's Flat Gage

3. Fournier's Equerre à polir

Fournier, Pl. IV, Fig. 7.

The facers shown in Simmonneau's plates for Jaugeon's account and in Diderot are essentially the same.

While having the authority of tradition, this is a relatively imperfect version as it has limited contact area with the stone and can wear more quickly than other versions.

4. Bodoni

Photographed and drawn by Stan Nelson. Very curvy.

5. Williams Engineering


6. Paul Koch

The article by Paul Koch in The Dolphin (1933), translated by Otto Furhrmann and illustrated by Fritz Kredel, shows an entirely different form: a frustrum of a cone with one quarter notched out of it.

Interestingly, this conical version is quite different from the severely rectangular version illustrated by Kredel for the circa 1934 Klingspor Jessen Schrift specimen booklet. (see below).

Photographs taken of Victor Hammer now preserved at the Wells College library show him using a tool identical to this one. This is not surprising, given Hammer's path into typemaking.

7. L.T.C.O. 1937

One marked L.T.C.O. 7 / 1 / 37. Owned by Stan Nelson. Photographed by DMM at the 2016 punchcutting class; SHOW.

8. Klingspor / Koch / Kredel (Jessen Schrift specimen)

A rather rectilinear variation is illustrated by Fritz Kredel in the circa 1934 Klingspor Type Foundry specimen booklet for Jessen Schrift. It is not named individually, but is part of a group identified as "Schleif-und Meßwerkzeug," or Grinding and Measuring Tools (it is of course the grinding tool).

Interestingly, this version is quite different from the conical version illustrated by Kredel for Paul Koch's 1933 Dolphin article (see above).

9. Klingspor's Lehrtafel

A third version is also associated with Klingspor. In their series of "Lehrtafel" (teaching posters), No. 1, "Der Stempelschneider," they show a patrix cutter (not a punchcutter) using a rectangular block with a notch cut out of it.

10. Carter, Printing and the Mind of Man (1963)

shows a vertical cylinder affixed atop a square plate. It must be a facer because it's sitting on an oilstone.

11. Drost

This article does show Drost using a facer, but the image (which is a halftone made of a photograph of a video screen) does not show it well enough to make it out.

12. l'Imprimerie Nationale

Shown in Paput, La Lettre.

Drawn by Stan Nelson

Shown in photographs of worbenches at l'Imprimerie Nationale (FIND) and shown in my photographs of Stan's.

Very similar in form to the antique one I have (ILLUSTRATE)

13. Square Version of l'Imprimerie Nationale Style

[see my photo P1040075.JPG from the 2016 punchcutting class]

14. Machinist's V-Blocks

An easy and accurate alternative. Recommended by Stan Nelson for getting started without spending too much time building tools.

15. CircuitousRoot, TMF: Typemaker's Facer

A different style designed by me which is based on the watchmaker's screw-head polishing tool. In it there is no contact between the facer itself and the oilstone.