The instrument in which the letters are arranged into words and lines. It is generally made of iron, sometimes of gun metal, and long ones for large jobs occasionally of wood.
When made of iron it is formed of a piece of sheet iron, one side turned up nearly half an inch, at a right angle, which forms the back, and when that is turned to the workman at the right hand extremity an end is fitted to it, by screws, rivets, or dovetailing: this end is iron, considerably thicker than the bottom and back, and is soldered in its place to give it strength and stability.
There is a slide by which the length of the lines is regularly justified, which is fixed to the back by a nut and screw passing through a groove in it, and secured in its place by the screw passing through one of the holes in the back, by which means the length of the line can be arranged according to the size of the page. The end of the stick, and also of the slide, must form a right angle with the back, and be parallel to each other, otherwise the lines will be of unequal lengths, and cause much trouble. The English composing sticks generally hold from nine to eleven lines of pica. The French printers use much narrower ones, frequently not holding more than three lines.