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Is it possible to create control sequences in plain Tex to produce the (phonetic) symbols for eth and thorn, e.g., as used in the compacted spin-coefficient formalism?

  • Welcome to TeX.SE! – Mico Jun 30 at 1:27
  • 1
    Do you want them upright or italic? Are they to be used in math mode? – egreg Jun 30 at 10:18
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You can use the wasysym fonts.

\font\wasy=wasy10 at 10pt
\def\thorn{{\wasy\char105}}
\def\eth{{\wasy\char107}}

\thorn
\eth

\bye

enter image description here

2

If you use the standard Computer Modern fonts, you can take the symbols from the companion EC fonts.

\font\teniOne=ecti1000
\font\seveniOne=ecti0900
\font\fiveiOne=ecti0500

\newfam\tOne
\textfont\tOne=\teniOne
\scriptfont\tOne=\seveniOne
\scriptscriptfont\tOne=\fiveiOne

\def\definetOnesymbol#1#2{%
  % use the following two lines for Knuth TeX
%  \count255=\tOne \multiply\count255 by 256 \advance\count255 by #2
%  \mathchardef#1=\count255
  % it's simpler with e-TeX enabled, which is the case for pdftex
  \mathchardef#1=\numexpr\tOne*256+#2\relax
}
\definetOnesymbol{\meth}{"F0}
\definetOnesymbol{\mthorn}{"FE}

$\meth f+\mthorn f$

\bye

enter image description here

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