I've been playing with the demo version of Font Creator which is an amateur font editor (Windows only I think) to reproduce a handwritten font of one of the maps I have hanging up on my wall at home. I think I may go for Font Forge after the demo runs out as it is free, but requires some funky installs as it needs to run from within a Unix shell. I'm also looking at another free online font creator called Fontstruct but I haven't tried it yet. From the gallery on the site it looks promising though. There is also fontifier which is an online pay as you go application that will convert scanned fonts into a font set at US$ 9 a pop.
What I discovered in the process is that with many font creation programmes you can scan your own handwritten fonts to create your true type fonts from that. The scan turns your handwritten font into vectors which you can then edit if you wish.
I went onto a highbrow typographer's site, called 'Typophile' but nobody answered my post (not as friendly as the CG to strangers!), but I found some interesting information there about fonts for maps. Interesting thread here. One of the most interesting titbits of info was the convention of using a font with a reverse slant (like Italics but slanting the other way) when naming rivers.
My aim with the font that am working on is for it not just to have all the letters and numbers but Cartography dedicated symbols too. Here is what I think is needed:
The more common 'fused letters' (not used in modern english) like OE AE etc.
Accents, umlauts etc (I think these are called diacriticals).
Swashes for Calligraphic fonts which you can 'attach' to the tails of various capital letters.
degree, minute and second symbols.
A compass Rose
Dedicated fancy letters for cardinals (N,S,E,W)
cities, towns, fortresses.
I have to say, that making your own font from scratch is a tedious and time consuming process. I have a new found respect for font creators. They must really love what they do. If you want to be complete in the font you create, you need to create at least 4 versions: Regular, Bold, Italic and Bold Italic. With cartography I suspect you probably need to create a Light version of the font too. Although software can 'fake' bold and italics, font perfectionists prefer to redraw bold and italics.
If you want to practice using the pen tool and bezier curves, this is the way to do it. If you are making a font family of 4 fonts, that is a LOT of glyphs.
Anyone got any more suggestions about what else could go in a cartographic font set?