How to determine the correct width for a Roman upper case slanted stroke, per Mr. Claflin, 1922?

I'm working through a project of drawing and inking all of the Roman upper case letters, using the instructions given in the 1922 edition of "Standard Lettering" by Roy C. Claflin.

Since this is a textbook from the Columbia School of Drafting, I find most of the instructions to be very clear, concise, and businesslike, except this one about measuring the width of the slanted, "heavy stroke or stem" of the Z (and N, M, W, V, A, etc.): 
  • "Rule 5. In laying off the heavy stroke or the stem of the "Z," its width--one unit--must be laid off at right angles. This applies to the heavy stroke of all letters. This is done by measuring from the upper right hand corner of the "Z" at right angles to what you can easily estimate will be the slant of the heavy stroke. Connect the point just laid off with the lower left corner of the letter and draw the other side of the heavy stroke parallel to the first line."
Some elements of this (for example, what constitutes a "unit") have been previously established by drawing the I, H, L, and T. I just can't decipher where the "right angle" Mr. Claflin is referring to is actually measured. 

Can anyone help me "see" what is being called for here, please? It's stopping progress, since about 8 of the next 10 letters require this measurement!

Thanks in advance!


  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,255
    edited December 2019
    I'd guess this is saying because it's diagonal, the distance between the contours should be measured perpendicularly to its direction, and not horizontally (which works for all the vertical stems). 
    If you draw three tall rectangles, then leave the first alone, skew the second 15 degrees, and rotate the other 15 degrees, you'll see that (leaving some optical illusions aside) the rotated one better matches the weight of the first one. I think that's what the directions are trying to get at. 
    That is, measure along the green, not the red.

  • Oh, that's the trick!

    To this I must say "I love my C-thru ruler!" Even working on graph paper with Mr. Claflin's assurance that the slant of the heavy slope can be "easily estimated," it's a challenging feat to get all of the points to line up without knowing angles in advance. 

    Thank you for unlocking the next set of letters! Off to pencil and ink!
  • Oh, I'm so much in agreement with you about that S. 

    It's funny, because as I read the text, I found myself really anticipating getting the exact how-to on building an S. His S is SO ugly in so many ways!! What a letdown.

    Just for the record, I've already set a plan to go rogue on that one letter, even if doing so ruins my "grade" in the "class,"  haha.

    Thanks again for your help today, Craig!
  • In a similar vein, it looks like the top and bottom section of his B are the same size. The top should be at least a tiny bit smaller in both height and width. Otherwise, it just looks subtly ... wrong.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,193
    @Thomas Phinney
    I wasn't sure either so I flipped the B. I flipped the S just for fun.

  • Ah! OK, there was some optical correction, since that is blatantly lopsided now.  :)  The difference was probably the minimum-adequate, then. Looks a bit odd to me, but not actually unacceptable.

    Looks like you flipped the S as well.
  • Now this S looks actually interesting, unlike the original.
  • It's funny, because as I read the text, I found myself really anticipating getting the exact how-to on building an S. His S is SO ugly in so many ways!! What a letdown.

    Of course, you have reminded me of Donald Knuth's difficulties as recounted in his essay "Mathematical Typography"...

    so this constitutes additional evidence that how to draw an S is one of the "great mysteries" of type design. That is, at least if one approaches it from a perspective of construction instead of freehand drawing.
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